So far through this summer, I have discovered that the stereotypic perception of the routines of a researcher is mostly false. Each day there is usually a new challenge, concept, or method to try, creating an experience very much different than the monotonous routine everybody is seemingly attaches to research. It’s true that a simple task of pipetting or waiting for a culture to grow may seem repetitive, but all these things ultimately build up to contributing towards a larger goal which makes even a daily routine exciting. As I move further into my project, each day is new as there is a new step to be taken in ultimately solving a structure for my protein of interest. The things done in the lab are often determined by the results received the day before, as I have had a wide range of different days in the lab. However, here is a slight look into a possible day in the lab.
If I was just starting a new experiment or starting from the very beginning to express a protein and eventually solve a structure, I usually start off with checking my bacteria cultures from the night before. After checking the cell density of these cultures, most times I dilute them and wait till they grow toward the preferred density for the experiments of the day. While that is happening, depending on the day, I will either prepare needed solutions or samples needed for the rest of the day. After the bacteria has grown to preferred density, I usually will conduct an inducing experiment and attempt to express the protein of interest in different conditions. Often times there are time conditions involved in these different conditions so some of the day does consist of waiting. After waiting (this could be actually be done the next morning, depending of the conditions), I run an electrophoresis gel to see the results of the conditions. Analyzing these results will give me indication for what my next few days will look like. If there is significant protein expression, the next few days will consist of creating large cultures of the same strain of bacteria with the protein of interest in order to attempt a purification process. The purification process is generally consists of lysing the cells and running a column to ultimately elute the cells. If not, then it is back to the drawing board, trying new strains or methods in order to express the protein needed. I would create new cultures and grow them overnight to once again begin this process all over again.
Often times it seems like my “day” is actually three days in total as these three days is what it takes to usually complete a cycle of experiments (growth, expression, gel/purification). With results, my following day would be quite different than the preparation days. In addition, because I am now helping with a project analyzing the protein MprA, my days now also consist of ITC and other purification methods. The exact details of a day are often driven by the results of my previous experiments, leaving every day up in the air and adding an element of excitement.
Till next time,