With a full day of benchwork planned, I try and wake up at 5 am, but the nauseating breach of sunlight through the blinds often send me back under the covers for another 5 minutes. Or maybe 50. Given the former, I head to the gym briefly, shower, and hustle it to lab to consolidate the day’s different goals into a precise schedule and starting it before the BSURF meeting. Given the latter, well, might as well round 5:50 am to 6 am, which is essentially too late for a whole workout routine, so might as well conserve sleep until 7 am, but I don’t actually need breakfast, so 7:45 am works, but construction is bothersome, and therefore, I hope my 8:40 am alarm catches me in time for the BSURF meeting…Maybe 8:41?
After BSURF, I drift back to the Bryan Research Building at around 10:20 am. Christine, the only other undergraduate in the Colton lab, is hard at work preparing and reviewing her PCR data on ground squirrel brain tissue but doesn’t hesitate to glance up and greet anyone who walks into the lab. Joan, a technician, is mysteriously working on the other side of the bench, somehow switching constantly between benchwork, lab management, and mice care. Three coffees, some slight joking, and one lively Dr. Colton visit later, the day officially starts. What I do depends on where I am on the experiment. Some days are laborious: passage the cells, treat the experimental lines, prepare buffers, read articles, prepare the next experiment. Other days are lazy, and I might sneak in a nap for my typically brisk lunch break, although 2 more hits of coffee will suffice before bugging Huifang and Stuart, another two techs in the lab, for guidance or just because. They’re really cool, and also somehow do the things that take me a day in an hour. And then some.
If I haven’t clumsily destroyed something (it’s only happened once or thrice), then the day is done! Which is usually around 5 pm because although precise, efficiency evades me on the best of days. *looks nervously over at all 8 BCAs I have done sans knowledge of the glorious multi-channel pipette* *furious glance at Western blot gel that blew up and had to be meticulously jigsawed back together* *desperate groans as water/bead bath takes an hour heating up a singular media for a one-step protocol* *flies into hysterics at all the reagents that have conveniently run out right before the last sample* Although sometimes, I just stay in lab a few extra hours just to peek at some IHC slides Angela, another tech specialized in churning out hundreds of these things (it’s really quite amazing), has prepared under a microscope for different stained proteins or cell types. Past 4 pm, most everyone has left besides Stuart or Huifang, and so, I pester them a bit more because they are awesome, and try and get the next day worked out. After 6 pm, everyone is most definitely gone, and if not, woe to them because their only remaining company would be me! I spend around 30 minutes to an hour completing my lab notebook and reviewing calculations or data from the day, and if I am still awake, I glance through some more articles to see what I want to do next. All this makes me feel productive, which is comforting because as soon as I get back to my room, I eat and sleep. Rinse. And repeat. I cannot imagine fitting this into a semester of classes and extracurriculars, but nights are long and I really enjoy it here so I’ll make it work. It better work. Usually, something works.
“This is Dr. Colton’s place!”-Joan Wilson, proceeding to turn into a forest
“What”-Dang Nguyen as the next half mile is spent driving through straight gravel to get atop of a hill
“I prepared the cells!”-Dang Nguyen
“What? You prepare the cells the day before transfection.”-Huifang Dai
“Oh. Uh.”-Dang Nguyen ruining his weekend plans right before heading home on a Friday afternoon
“Now we’re finally done!”-Huifang Dai at 6:11 pm after a long day of Westerns
“Huzzah!”-Dang Nguyen as he turns around to head home just a tad too violently, merrily spilling the last drops of antibody dilution they had just finished
“We’re here!”-Joan Wilson breaking into Dr. Colton’s backdoor and walking straight in
“Happy birthday guys!”-Dr. Carol Colton with a birthday cake
“All [f]our birthdays were weeks ago”-Stuart Sundseth
“…It’s America’s birthday”-Dr. Carol Colton