Wednesday, August 6, 2008


(This entry is two weeks late – I apologize!)

You’re probably wondering what NWL stands for. Well, like I mentioned in previous entries, my lab (Dr. Josh Sanes) as well as some other labs (Dr. Jeff Lichtman and Dr. Takao Hensch) are moving to the new Northwest Building and hence the Northwest Labs (NWL). I have never worked in a lab that moved while I was there (although my high school lab partly transferred to Cambridge University), so I found this pretty exciting. Of course, I didn’t really have to pack anything, but the last couple of days before the move involved a lot of maneuvering around piles of boxes and crates :)I said goodbye to my old desk and looked on the blueprint to find my new desk ("Alissa" between "Lilley" and "Valdez" - note that only the undergraduates are referred to by first name :) )

Monday night we had a wonderful panel on “Careers Off the Bench” – scientists who received their PhD but then went into the private sector. The panel was composed of Mary Lynne Hedley, the Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer for MGI Pharma, Incorporated; Stacie Weninger (who received her PhD from Harvard in ’99), the director of science programs at Fidelity Foundations (and previously a senior scientist at Neuron (!)); and Brenda Jarrell, a partner with Choate, Hall, and Stewart who “practices intellectual property law specifically for scientific enterprises” (Brenda is the daughter of Nobel Laureate Dudley Herschbach and Dean Georgene Herschbach, both of whom also attended the talk!). Although I was pretty tired, I was captivated by the stories of these three women, especially their choice to stray from the typical path and their difficulties with balancing their careers and their families.

Three days later, our Distinguished Speaker Series continued with Dr. Thomas Michel, the new Dean of Education at Harvard Medical School, who came and talked to us about his work on NO (nitric oxide) and ended with a very interesting explanation of why fireflies light up. The title of his talk (intended to keep us awake) was “Nitric Oxide: a key signaling molecule in sex, death, and vascular biology”. He preceded the main portion of his talk with 5 key points on how to do well in science: ask important questions, don’t think about it – just do it!, believe in your hypothesis – create your own luck, don’t be afraid of new approaches, and, most of all, have fun! We all laughed when he said, “I like to use drugs in lab,” (of course, not in the illegal drug sense), and he ended with what I felt was an important remark: “Beware that things can sometimes be even more interesting than you may imagine.”

Walking around Cambridge and Boston, it’s very obvious that there is a lot of Red Sox spirit – whether in the form of hats, foam fingers, shirts, or banners. However, as I was walking back from lab the other day I saw this car’s license plate and had to pull out my cell phone to take a picture of it.

I have also noticed that Harvard Square is home to some giant dogs. The first dog, whose owner had a hat out for tips, I saw on PRISE move-in weekend. The second dog I stumbled across just last weekend, and its owners were in the process of convincing worried parents that their toddler would be safe petting it.

My favorite part of last week was definitely dinner with my PI, Dr. Sanes. Since PRISE encourages the Fellows to invite their PI’s to dinner at Dudley House, Iris, Jenn, and I (the three undergrads and PRISErs) in the lab, wanted to invite Dr. Sanes. However, he took us out to dinner at Chez Henri, a really good restaurant between Harvard and Porter Squares! It was great to get to know Dr. Sanes better, and we spent 2 ½ hours talking and laughing over our dinner before Dr. Sanes biked home and the three of us ran back to Leverett House in the rain :)