Thursday, November 13, 2014

Module 2 in Review

   Probably the scariest part about module two was the results. As far as I know, no single group was definitively able to improve the photographic bacteria system, much less my own, and I know only one group which obtained a mutant that may have worked. The results were somewhat disappointing; and, I was initially very confused at how I could turn them into a compelling paper. In fact, this one dilemma kept me from even beginning to write until I realized that this is 20.109, and I had to write something. I sought help from Agi, and with her and Shannon's guidance I managed to pull off the paper, and module two itself.

   Module 2 overall was much more enjoyable than the first. Not only had I become more accustomed to the format of the course, but I also feel that having accomplished the first data summary, I improved greatly as a scientific writer. I had never been so temporally strained with an assignment, and perhaps the shock of completing it permanently burned my accrued writing knowledge into me. I feel the difficulty of the first module made it comparatively easier to handle the assignments given out in the second.

   The first big assignment of the second module, the oral presentation, initially posed a challenge to me. But having done the module one data summary and given a journal club presentation with only one day of preparation (my schedule was crammed due to the data summary) to members of my lab at my UROP, I realized that this assignment was not so bad, and it wasn't. As I am writing this I am not sure exactly what grade I received, but I felt confident in my preparations and during the presentation itself, knowing that I had been through worse. Also, the paper I was presenting was pretty awesome. It pertained to using proteins which dimerize in the presence of light to control biological pathways, and I particularly enjoy papers like this which propose novel and fundamental methods, since not only are they interesting research in themselves but they can help increase the rate of interesting discoveries. Therefore, this assignment was exciting overall, despite my initial fears.

   Moving on to the next and final big assignment for the module, I was initially uncertain. I did not know from what angle I should attack my paper, but the instructors gracefully incited an epiphany in me: the best thing to do is be blunt and honest. The mutants we isolated diminished the contrast obtainable with the system, but we can still obtain valuable information on them in designing future optimization experiments: this was the essence of my paper, and it is the truth. This realization was crucial, and writing became very natural and enticing. Writing the paper, and watching it come together was like watching a sculpture slowly take shape. The creation of each new feature propels the artist to follow through, and in the case of my paper, the creation of each new figure and paragraph compelled me to write further. My paper was a self-sustaining fission reaction, and it progressed all the way to its completion.

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