Thursday, September 30, 2010

This is why my brain hurts.


Welcome to my job.  So you know that DNA thing that people talk about?  That's what those red/blue/green peaks are---signals to tell me what the DNA is in my sample.  And I do all sorts of data matching and things to figure out if what I got is what I want ("Life is too short so love the one you got cause you might get runover or you might get shot"  ..anyone?  Bueller?). 

Well, even on the large-screened computer in our lab, this gets a little insane.  A little hard to read, perhaps.  Okay, a lot hard to read.  But, believe it or not, there is good news in them thar peaks.  A happy Thursday, indeed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

happy duck!




I got to hold a baby today.  He wore cute pink and blue and purple striped pants, and had the most wonderful scrunched up grandpa face.  Adorable.


In other news---the Niles Lab has a website!  Check it out here.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Barney Frank and I have something in common.

Both of us have been accosted by this woman here:




Remember her?  She's the one with the Hitler mustachio'd (mustached? mustache-ed?) Obama at a Town Hall this past August.  She is a member of the LaRouche movement, which defines itself by several characteristics:

--Abandoning floating exchange rates and requiring countries to keep their currency within a few percent of that margin

--Increased federalized infrastructure projects

--National banking system and regulation

--Massive high speed railway across the Bering Strait

--implementing Verdi tuning in all classical music (normally, when you hear the tuning pitch, it's at A440 Hz, which tells you what wavelength the sound is...this guy apparently wants it to be 8 Hz lower and stay at A332.  Which is kind of nutty, in my opinion.)

--Mars Colonization in order to ensure "territorial diversification"

--Using directed energy beams to solve the crisis of AIDS

--A defense system composed of directed beam weapons against missiles


Now, I think the best part about all this...seriously...is the Hitler stache.  How I am supposed to take you seriously when you obviously have something to say that is worthy of debate?  I could see that the sheets they were carrying were all about fiscal responsibility, and I totally completely tuned them out because of the way they approached this conversation.

"Would you like a..."

"Sorry, I'm not interested."

I go to wait for the chirps that signal the "Walk Now" cue at 77 Massachusetts Avenue, and suddenly someone comes up behind me.

"So.  Why exactly do you not want to talk to us?"

"Well, I completely support your right to be out here talking about what you will, but the posters are in extremely poor taste.  And that's why I don't want to talk to you."

"But Obama has been killing and murdering ever since he came to office!  His economic policies, the health care bill - murdering.  That's all."

---saved by the chirp, chirp, chirp---

I look back, shrug, and the guy next to me says, "Don't listen to them; they're nutters."  I sigh..."It's not that...I am so glad to live in a place where people like that aren't rounded up and shot; it's a testament to the first amendment rights of this country.  But that doesn't mean I have to listen to them."

True. 

So---the even funnier thing happened when I got to my office and looked up a little bit about the LaRouche Movement (printed on all of their signs).  Then I saw them implicated in that fantastic comeback where Barney Frank called a LaRouchite a dining room table.  Then I watched the video and thought "Wow.  I just met her."

And now she is now running against Barney Frank in the democratic primaries here.  Ridiculous.  Oh democracy...you never cease to amaze me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

early morning experiments

...and I'm freezing holy cow. MIT, why do you turn on the air conditioning when it is 55ºF out?

But thank you Ok Go for brightening my morning:



Every morning should really start with puppies.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Radiolab, parsnip muffin for breakfast and laundry

....all taken care of before 8 am! I am so ready for work.

(WNYC's Radiolab is fast becoming on my rotation of podcasts to listen to while I do dishes, while I plan for the week, when I need a distraction. Check it out).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Finding my Kd"

I stand there, poised and ready. Suddenly, a ball whirrs past my face. “Ha!” I think. “Missed me!” Suddenly, as though I’m in the receiving end of a batting cage, balls start going and going and going. I do the “try-not-to-get-hit dance” ---one that is ultimately doomed to failure, not necessarily because my dancing skills are all that bad, but because there are so many coming so fast from all different directions. Suddenly, the balls start to…stick. Some stick better than others, latching onto me as if they’ll never let go a la crying-toddler-with-death-grip. Others stick weakly, falling to the ground after the slightest movement. I feel like I’ve become a human velco-coverd target, akin to that game you play with a soft ball and the Velcro paddles (wow, am I ever dating myself here—my set was neon green and screaming pink brand new, but then after copious amounts of oops-I-left-it-outside it matched the dress on Totally Hair Barbie. Thanks, 90s. You’re pretty rad).

Totally Hair Barbie. God, that pouffant.


Anyways, there I am, in the midst of this mess, when I start thinking, “Man, something is going on.”

Something is going on. And although I don’t go around trying to sound like a tagline from a commercial from a made-for-TV movie on the Oxygen Network, what is going on is life.

Things are thrown at you every day of every week of every year. Some stick around (family health issues, for example). But others fall off in the time it takes to process and forget about it (oh, I screwed up the concentrations in the buffer I'm making..I'll have to redo it!). And there is enormous spectrum covering everything in between.

Sometimes I feel completely drowning in these problems…so much hits me in so little time that all I want to do is lay down in the fetal position, so at least they don’t hit me so hard. I feel like there’s no other option, but then I realize well, duh…even if I can’t change the magnitude or velocity of these challenges, I can influence my response to them. This starts by changing my own behaviors, the trifecta of sleep, exercise, and eating. It puts me in the best place to defend against the 90 mph fastballs ready to implant themselves in my left shoulder. But there’s also another way. And it’s as simple as asking for help. I can enlist friends to come and help me out in my batting cage; hit these problems away before they even reach me, or knock them off me entirely. I'll get back to this concept later.

But, at the core of it, my problem has to do with affinity…in this case, how well these balls stick to me. In science, this affinity is described by a constant called the “Kd” or the disassociation constant (when you say it in conversation, you actually just say the letters “K” and “D”). In effect, instead of describing how long it stays, it describes how soon it leaves. But, these are used to describe the general biochemical “stickiness” of molecules for one another. This stickiness this is based on phyisco-chemical properties of those molecules.

[Physico-chemical encompasses all of the physical and chemical things that define a given molecule; how electrons interact, the shape of the molecule, the interactions inside the molecule, all that. It also includes the sequence of amino acids in a protein to the actually topology…as in, what it looks like in 3D. In person-speak, we'd be describing this person's personality and physical attributes; tall, blonde hair, sarcastic, etc].

One of the goals in biology is to gain a better understanding of how two molecules interact, which is done by measuring the affinity the two molecules have for each other. In the same way, two very strong magnets have very high affinity to each other (thinks neodymium magnets), and two weak magnets have affinity to each other but a kind that unsticks easier (think cheap refrigerator magnets).

[As a quick primer, we all know protein as the stuff that’s in meats, legumes, all that. But when I describe protein in a biological sense, I’m not thinking about a lean chicken breast pureed in a test tube…I’m talking about a chain of amino acids folded in a particular way to function in a particular way; in building up our fingernails, in making our muscles, in digesting food, in detecting foreign particles in our blood. These chains of amino acids are different for every protein, and they’re determined by the genes in our DNA. Your DNA is most similar to that of your parents, or your twin or siblings if you have siblings; which is why you have the greatest chance of looking like them; DNA encodes all those different proteins that help us grow, give our hair shape and pigment, etc.]

Anyways, it is possible but not necessarily easy to measure the affinity between two molecules to produce what is known as a binding curve....when there are, say 30 molecule 1's and 100 molecule 2's, what number of those are together in a pair? I'm not going to turn this post into lots about crazy maths and graphs and such (you know how me and the Maths get along) - but this concept of stickiness in biology impacts a lot of your everyday life: development of new drugs to treat diseases like cancer, your ability to taste different foods, digestion of food, transmission of hormones throughout your body...all sorts of stuff! As my favorite chemist would say, "It's really all just chemistry!" And it really is.

Which brings me back to my life. If you bring the world back into this concept and say, "Okay. Let's pretend Bridget is Molecule 1, and a problem registering for classes is Molecule 2. What happens?"

Well, if it's me, I'd say, eh, something to deal with, but not something that stays around for awhile; it's an interaction that happens and falls off rather quickly....an interaction of low affinity. But what if Molecule 2 is something like, say, a problem in designing an experiment in lab? Well, if this keeps giving me trouble, it's something that I'll need help with...and that's where friends come in!

In molecular terms, these friends can be enzymes, other proteins, all sorts of things. But they are all working in this situation to help remove the offending Molecule 2. In the case of my labwork, it would be someone helping me solve a problem. In the case of molecules, it could be that another molecule comes by that actually sticks to molecule 2 even BETTER than I do...so it switches to that other molecule!

The point is, in the very microscopic world of biology in your cells to the very macroscopic world of your life, affinity rules interactions with the environment. The help a TA can give you governs how you spend your time to meet with them. The fun you can have with a friend because they make you feel calm and happy---well, that gives you that incentive to be near them, drawn to them, almost as north and south poles of magnets are drawn to each other. Yes, you can most definitely have affinity for people in your life. They're the ones who defend you from the onslaught of neon pink and green sticky balls, trying to shield your face and protect you.

And that's why I named this blog "Finding my Kd." I'm trying to find the things in my life that stick; a job that I absolutely love beyond measure, a group of people that I feel completely at home drinking champagne and eating nutella with a spoon, recipes that make me feel healthy and happy, interesting hobbies that keep me excited to learn---all that. I'm trying to find my affinity. For life. And that is a process that takes time, care, and dodging a whole lot of velcro balls.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

off trying to fly away from the gray moments of life.
be back soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"happy pellet is happy"


from here

This just makes me grin. Oh biology. On those days when nothing works, you are there to help me out.

And wow have I ever missed orchestra. I can't wait til rehearsal on Thursday!

Monday, September 13, 2010

whew.

[blast from the past, ha]


Kitchen is so not clean. Table is littered with papers. Bed is completely mussed. But all are signs of a new cadre of girls, taking up my time, sitting on my bed and talking, and I love it. My home is a home again.

Speaking of---I got a four month calender white board from the reuse listserve and had it put up next to my door! The absolute nerdery of a four month calender, wow. I also just had to order four different fine tipped white board markers to go with it (I know, I know, give a Bridget a whiteboard...if I'm not careful this logic will end up with me buying something really ridiculous, like a TV because the girls want to watch Glee. Whoops. Too late.)

And now that I have a bike helmet, I am so taking Boston by storm. Or JP thrift stores. Probably the latter. Bee-utiful.

Okay--I am off to deliver muffins--cinnamon pecan this week! And then try and make some semblance of clean in this place. Ha.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

cabin!

I want to go back, to be under the biggest sky I've ever seen, just being alive. Next summer. Oh yes.



[after-dinner fishing]


[my brother boy scout pyro extraordinaire]


[downtown Walker; can you see the pelican?]


[whoever said lakes can't give oceans a run for their money has never been to northern Minnesota]


[public dock, Walker, MN]


[monarch]


[pines]


[chapel turned thrift store]


[Lucette, Paul Bunyan's paramour, standing, er, tall, in Hackensack]


[my friend Dave, the Backus, MN butcher]


[setting up the fire]


[fairy ring predicts good fortune]


[sunset at the dock]


[around the firepit at dusk]


[sunset]


[what a beautiful place]


[the dog, cool and happy]


PS Did you know that Peeps made the most perfect roasted marshmallows? The sugar coating caramelizes, leaving you with an almost hard crust that gives way to ooey gooeyness inside. Poor man's creme brulee, if you will.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

annual summer Chicago trip!

a day late, but the perfect thing to do after a long day of lab and bbqing....


[watch out for the dangerous Lake! it's scary!]


[me in Lake Michigan]


[the beautiful view of the coast up Lake Michigan]


[the bean!]


[designed by a woman architect who was a bit annoyed at the phallic nature of most skyscrapers. use your imagination to figure out what this building is...]


[lunch at Puck's in the Museum of Contemporary Art]


[giant log mobile at the MCA]


[art]


[art. pig petit fours?]


[pigs! still art.]


[art in the everyday]


[a wall of plastic flowers painstakingly sewn together to form a long sheet]


[pyramid and glass art]


[friends!]

[Mahler concert at the Pritzker Pavillion]


[storm's a comin'!]


[at the races!]


[hot and happy]


[the horses! they're coming!]


[but one convertible ride later (my first ever!) ---and I had to leave. Next summer, Chicago]

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Maseeh Hall

I now have a name to call the building next store! At GRT training a few weeks ago, I asked if it had a name. It used to be Ashdown, but then the new building that I lived in became Ashdown...and this building was called Old Ashdown. The presenter laughed and said, "Well---it depends...do you know someone with 20 million dollars?" Fast forward a couple of weeks to this press release: "MIT Alumnus gives $24M to expand the Institute's undergraduate student body" - an honor which comes with the naming of a new building. Almost all academic buildings on campus are known by number, but the dorms are actually referred to by name (Simmons, Bexley, Baker) ---instead of my building, which while it is named the Dorrance Building, is always called building 16.

"Maseeh Hall, which will open in September 2011, will accommodate 460 students and will form an important new center of student life at the Institute. The renovation of this historic building — which opened as a grand hotel on the Charles River in 1901 — will add another undergraduate living and learning community to MIT’s residential options. The renovated facility will include a dining hall designed to encourage informal interactions and to support a full meal plan for residents and dining for other members of the larger MIT community."

All right Maseeh Hall---hurry up and finish so I can see trees out my window again. Thanks in advance!

summer reads and distractions


I've been watching quite a bit of Miss Marple this summer (thanks PBS!) -- they're set in post-war Britain, and just fantastic. If you like mysteries or period films, they are definitely your kind of thing.

PBS also has been wrapping up the Agatha Christie series with Hercule Poirot, and David Suchet's portrayal (and his costar mustache) are worth watching.

As far as reading goes, I just finished a book called "The House at Riverton" ---which I'm pretty sure is destined to be a movie. It screams screenplay, with the narrator telling the story from a nursing home, in and out of consciousness---the story of a suicide of a young writer in a very wealthy affluent home.

Next up is reading Little House on the Prairie---I found a mint condition set of all the books at the thrift store last weekend, all with most stunning baby blue colors:


Ah to be back to the days of pig bladder ball games and Almanzo Wilder. What a gentleman cowboy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

music Wednesday!



I love the full choral quality of the intro to this song; gorgeous.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

more Minnesota love


[here's what I need. A Minnesota pillow. No pictures on their website of my state though...I wish.]