Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shattered Expectations. In a good way.

The past few months have been really educational for me, although the lessons have only come indirectly from school. Most importantly, the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity life throws at me has been made very apparent. Surprisingly, even the ones that are disguised as week-long marathons of research and sleep deprivation can help illuminate possible paths in life. It's almost like natural selection, with the difficulties in life either molding us to better achieve the task at hand or making us cry like a two year old mad that it can't figure out something simple like walking.
Being blessed with the tendency to really only enjoy myself while running from one class/club/group meeting to the next, I've had my fair share of both molding and frustration. However, I don't cry. My face just leaks from time to time, and that's what spackle is for.
When my face is not leaking, I'm busy not having much of life anyways. It turns out that when you find things like comics, Chemistry, and Chinese entertaining, research is a great direction to go. You get to be surrounded by like-minded people who, just like you, also have no time for anything. It's surprisingly comforting, and the dividends of your investment are fantastic. I went into working with my PI's zebrafish heart failure model only expecting to get good resume fodder for my medical school application. It turned out to be some of the best learning experiences I had had throughout my undergraduate degree, and once I re-established which way was up it was a lot of fun. I didn't ever expect to get as involved in the work as I did, eventually becoming paid to research full-time during the summer as well as part-time during my final semester. Most of all, I would never have believed that I could travel to Taiwan for my research. The thought never crossed my mind until my PI asked me if I was interested.
Before going to Taiwan was even an option for me, I was simply excited to collaborate with researchers at the Chung Shan Medical College so as to tie up some loose ends from my summer research. I had been working on characterizing a compound (For I.P. purposes, lets call it "Coolstuff") that had shown great promise in the heart failure model, but there was evidence that Coolstuff wasn't working as well as we all originally thought. Basically, all of my work over the summer looked like it might be totally useless. While that is just how research goes sometimes, it would still suck. My plan was to hit up the researchers in Taiwan and ask for help using the antibody assay they had designed to detect Aristolochic Acid (AA) in traditional Chinese remedies. AA has been known to cause kidney damage in people who accidentally ingest it - thus the antibody assay. Our model depends on AA to induce heart failure in zebrafish embryos, using the anti-AA antibodies would allow us to to see exactly how the AA was working. More importantly, it would allow us to see if the AA was binding with Coolstuff. I had assumed they would just send us the antibodies if they wanted to help us at all and then we would go on our merry way doing science.

Now I'm really tempted to assume other things, because instead of mailing anything to us, we're going to them. Something has to be amplifying my assumptions, this all still doesn't seem real. I'm waiting to wake up on top of protocol sheets with a micro-pipetter stuck to my face.

Assuming the fantasy is real, the work with the anti-AA antibodies is my main reason for going to Taiwan.

I think I'll start assuming that there are lizards under my couch, because I don't care about how much damage it will cause. A stegosaurus in my living room would be worth every penny of security deposit.

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