|Juliette's Learning Adventure||
So yesterday when I was at the lab we were in lunch and Dr. Pixley, who is the head of the research, starting talking about getting me started on a project to work on during the school year. She even said that she thought I should apply for the SURF program for next year - the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship! She said that she would be more than willing to write me a letter of recommendation for it. This really caught me by surprise! A very nice offer, something that I hadn't thought too seriously about. I don't know too much about the SURF program currently, or even if I was going to be able to continue my work at the lab during the school year, since I will be quite busy with my class work. It's definitely something to think about, though! This could definitely turn into a pretty good opportunity. We'll see!
Boy, I've gotten bad about updating! But that's because I have been so busy with my Organic Chemistry II class - doing a semester's work in 5 weeks is insane.
But as for what I've been doing in the lab recently... not too much. Although I did end up going to a sacrifice in the necropsy room, which caught me by surprise and I was consequently quite depressed. I mean I know that they had to kill the rats eventually, but when I didn't know what that you had to kill them twice, first by gas then by some other method..ours was stabbing. Then to make it easier to access the leg muscles, the legs were simply cut off with a guillotine. I just pretended not to hear and looked away. Thankfully I don't have my animal certification, so I couldn't touch them!
So yeah, that wasn't very much fun. Lots of other people came in too, and what really got me were two batches of newborn mice being gassed then chopped up - they couldn't have been more than a couple of days old, with their eyes still closed and tiny little pink bodies. That made me particularly sad.
Yep. Not so fun, I'm no animal killer, even if it is in the name of science. I also had to steel my nerves to handle the cut muscles and nerves and put them in a paraformaldehyde solution - ick! They felt disgusting!
Anyways, other than that I haven't been doing much. We are starting to analyze the nerve growth and regeneration, so part of my job in these past few days has been to circle the nerve cells in the pictures that were taken.
Sounds easy, except for the fact that the quality of the pictures were terrible. Like, total crap terrible. It made it extremely difficult to trace the nerves, when half the time I wasn't even sure what I was looking at! Then, after I had finished tracing by hand, I found out that technique was found to be inaccurate....so I had to redo them all on the computer. Frankly, looking at the finished product (using a mouse and magic wand tool on photoshop) I think it's even less accurate. But oh well, what do I know? I'm just the unpaid volunteer.
Until next time~
I think this image pretty much accurately describes the past few weeks at the lab. The entire lab had to be moved from one location to another, and to put it simply, it was a fiasco. All I seemed t one doing was packing an unpacking boxes, and by the ned of it all I was covered in cardboard cuts. Ouch! I am very frustrated that this is all I'm getting to do, but I understand that it has to be done. Hopefully I'll be able to do real science soon and get back to learning.
Today Alex and I also filled two culture incubators with about 11 gallons (or was it liters?) of water. Talk about NOT fun. I'm so thankful I was wearing a t-shirt and tennis shoes. My arms definitely got a workout, too!
Well days have been slow at the lab, but today I at least got to learn a new technique - taking pictures of slides through microscopes. It was pretty cool; first the microscope was used just as any other, but it was hooked up to a computer so that you could see what was in the microscope on the computer screen. Then you could change the exposure, color, and other things to get the image you wanted! Today we were taking pictures of the nerve cross sections, and then the diameter of cells was analyzed. That was pretty much all that went on today, other than emptying the freezer for the 3rd time. Good grief!
Well, today I viewed my first surgery.
Looking back on it, it was pretty cool. But at the beginning of the procedure, I was very upset that two rats were killed so that their nerves could be "donors" for the allograft rats. I know that it was in the name of science and there are five trillion other rats out there, it just made me sad because I don't like to harm animals. For this part of the day, I mostly didn't watch and tried not to faint. Boy, I felt like a wimp.
Once the icky part of the sacrificing was over, the real work began - as controls, a few rats had their nerves cut and then the donor nerves from the sacrificed were put in place as an allograft, which is known to work well. Then, the remaining rats had their nerves severed and instead a magnesium conduit was placed to see if it would stimulate better nerve regrowth. Once I got over the fact that they were all being sliced open, it was actually pretty cool to see the surgeon doing his work. It actually wasn't as bloody as I expected it to be, and it was amazing how the surgeon knew exactly where to cut so that he could find the proper nerve in the rats' legs. During this process I had the task of writing down the times of the various steps in the procedure - when the rat was anesthetized, when it was dissected, when it was sutured, etc. I'm glad I had something to do, because I was able to take my mind off the goriness of it all. I'm glad that these guys, on whom the experiment was being performed, get to live a little longer. Hopefully I won't be around when they get sacrificed.
At least from today I learned a little bit about myself. One, I actually found surgery interesting which surprised me. I'm surprised that there really wasn't that much blood and that I was able to watch the surgeon cut the leg open and place the conduits. That being said, however, I know that I could never be the person to sacrifice a rat. Even if they just die by falling asleep essentially, I don't think I can do it. Hopefully I'll never have to!
How cute is this little fella? Today we took a field trip down to the Rat Room, where a bunch of rats used for experiments were kept. It smelled pretty good actually, considering they were rodents, and my boss Tracy laughed and said that these rats were probably cleaner than we were! Sad, yet true the place was so clean.
Anyways, we were in there to weigh several of the little guys for an experiment to take place within the few days. In fact, tomorrow surgeries are being performed where magnesium will be inserted into cut nerves! Too bad I have class, but I should be able to witness one on Friday.
It made me a little sad seeing all of these rats and knowing their fate. To me, they seemed so trusting and not fussy at all when being held to put on the scale and back in their cages. I even saw some mother rats with their little pink pups suckling in a few of the cages. Knowing that they were all going to be used in experiments did break my heart a little, but at least they are all being used for a good cause, and were all housed and sacrificed very humanely.
Speaking of rat sacrificing, I had one of my more unpleasant surprises thus far in the lab today. While I was defrosting one of the freezers and transferring stuff from one freezer to the other, I found a whole bag of dead rats! Yuck!!!! Goodness knows what those guys were doing in there, or what they were for.
Ah summer. While it is nice to be back in Cincinnati, and in my very own apartment, I have to say that I was not ready to start classes! Thankfully, I have been able to get a part-time volunteer/internship position in the Pixley lab on the UC Medical Campus. This summer I am hoping to gain real-world experience seeing what life is like as a medical researcher - that's what this honors experience is all about! Fantastic work is being done, finding the role of magnesium in neural conduits and regrowth, and finding ways to use magnesium to stimulate recovery. I hope to be able to partake in some of the research being done!
I started working at the lab last week, and at first it was not the glamorous job I envisioned; I wasn't looking at slides, seeing the remarkable changes in the cells, finding new discoveries - nope! Instead I created some graphs and placed over 2000 pipette tips into containers. Wow, talk about a boring start.
Thankfully, I didn't quit then. The next day I learned to stain tissue samples so that spies could be analyzed for tissue growth. That seemed much more exciting to me! I'm glad that I was able to finally learn a useful and practical lab technique, one that I will be able to use in the future, I am sure. It was also nice to do something with my hands, instead of clicking away on a computer. Here's to the rest of the summer!