Monday, August 11, 2008

Back To Work

This week I was back at lab – no more vacation! Unfortunately, I came down with some sort of virus over the weekend so I was unable to attend our Monday night panel where PRISE Fellow alumni talked about getting into graduate school. Luckily, I was able to attend the Distinguished Speaker Series on Thursday, and I had a great time listening to Professor Sarah Stewart-Mukhopadhyay. The title of her talk was “NEW FLASH: Robot finds ice on Mars (Martians on Earth Rejoice).” Although this has been all over the news lately, on July 31st, 2008, NASA announced that the Phoenix Mars Lander had found water on Mars: “We have water”. Professor Stewart-Mukhopadhyay talked about what Mars and it atmosphere were like, and then delved into her work on impact craters. Pretty much, she uses a 40-mm gun that fires projectiles (plastic cylinders with metal plates) with gunpowder or compressed helium that reach velocities of up to 2.7 km/s (that’s 6000 mph!), and these experiments are over in a microsecond (but take days to set up). She does all of this in her Shock Compression Lab, and while she joked that it would be nice to have undergraduates manning the gun 24/7, after hearing what can be done with liquid nitrogen over dinner, she decided that probably wouldn’t be a good idea :). This was personally exciting for me because I’m from Tucson, and I’ve been excited about the Lander since I was in high school and we would get posters and sticker to put on our Chemistry lab books from the University of Arizona (I considered having my mom dig up my Honors Chemistry book and take a picture of it. It was blue and shiny with a huge Phoenix sticker on top).

Thursday morning I had a two and a half hour lab meeting, which was slightly longer than normal, but it was in our new meeting room with super-comfortable chairs (at least I think so). Of course, we have a really nice system where the two people presenting bring in breakfast foods (normally bagels and donuts from Dunkin Donuts and some sort of fruit or pie) and the rest of us get to eat. Later I had a meeting with my PI, Dr. Sanes, to update him on my project because he is going on sabbatical fall semester to Cambridge University.

I also did some more exploring in our new building, which will eventually house Life Sciences 100r, IGEM, labs for MCB 52 and 54, and other classes.
Looking up the stairs from basement level one (there are apparently four basement levels)

Friday I was really excited because it was 8-8-08: the start of the 2008 Olympics. PRISE fellow Jack ’11 had set up a liquid nitrogen ice cream making session right before the opening ceremonies started at 7:30, and we all crowded into the G-Tower common room to watch the opening ceremonies together. Continuing with my Olympic coverage, the Men’s 400 Freestyle on Sunday night was amazing! “We’re going to smash the Americans. That’s what we came here for.” Yeah, that didn’t work out for the French so well. :) (Picture of Phelps courtesy of

Finally, there have been lots of other PRISE fellow-initiated activities going on. This weekend, there was a trip to Six Flags New England on Saturday and a hike in the White Mountains on Sunday. Since I am rather afraid of roller coasters and don’t know if I would have survived the hike, I wasn’t able to participate in those, but here’s a picture of the group at the ridge (from PRISE fellow Brad Seiler).

What I did do was head over to a lab party on Sunday with the two other undergrads (and PRISE fellows) who work in my lab – Jenn ’09 and Iris ’10. Our PI is going on sabbatical to Cambridge (the one across the Atlantic) fall semester, so he had a party at his apartment for our lab. There was a buffet with ribs (everyone’s favorite), chicken, mashed potatoes, corn bread, and lots of other goodies - and a lot of laughing. It was really nice to finally meet all the people who make my lab the great place it is and hear a little about their lives.