Every morning this summer I take the bus and walk to French Family Science Center and report to my lab, Hargrove lab. I usually walk into the office before the lab itself, where I drop off my backpack in my designated workspace (I have my own one!) and greet all the other members of my lab. I then always meet with my mentor, and I show her any data I analyzed the night before and we have a discussion about where we should proceed next in our experimentation. Now that it is week 4, these discussions are very interesting and my understanding has improved so much that my mentor really values my input!
Next, I proceed to take out all the materials I need for the assays I am going to run. We keep everything in freezers to help preservation, so I always have to brace myself as my hands reach into -20 degrees Celsius freezers and even -80 degrees!
Once I take everything out and let it thaw, the chemistry begins! I usually begin by taking my RNA samples (which vary depending on what assay I am running that day) and nanodrop them. Nanodropping gives me a value of purity for the RNA (RNA purity changes on the daily basis!) which I use to make calculations on how much of each reagent I need to make the solutions I will need that day.
Once I have made all my calculations, I prepare the solutions. This can take a while, as I often need to heat up and ice the RNA solutions. Once the solutions are all made, its time to pipette!
As I am testing whether small molecules bind to specific RNA targets or not, there are usually 2 things that must be added to wells in a microplate for every assay. First, the small molecules are added. I sometimes do this manually, and other times my mentor uses a robot in the medical center to do this. Next, the RNA solutions are added. I always do this manually, and have become faster as time goes on. No matter how fast I get though, this is quite the process. Sometimes I pipette into over 2,000 wells in a day!
Once everything has been added to the microplates, I spin the plates in a centrifuge and leave them sitting for a while to let the reaction play out so that it reaches equilibrium.
Finally, I read the plates on a machine that detects fluorescence. The plates are read one by one, and I always save the data on a flash drive so that I can analyze it later.