Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All the Detail

Working on the research proposal with Audrey, it's become more and more apparent just how much detail and thought goes into the development of a new project. We decided to delve into the field of plant engineering, which I had absolutely zero experience in, so the initial learning curve was steep and involved skimming papers on papers. I thought that once we narrowed in on the subtopic of pesticide-producing plants everything would be simplified, but that wasn't the case. There are so many opinions on Monsanto's Bt crops, both scientific and moral, and sifting through them to determine what developments have been made and what is actually known sometimes felt like I was going in circles. 

Once our research idea had crystallized - we proposed expressing a toxin harmful to the European Corn Borer in only the somatic cells of maize - everything became much more detail-oriented. We started high-level (can CRISPR/Cas9 be used in plants? What part of the plant do European Corn Borers attack?) and gradually shifted into the specifics (Where and how is pollen produced in maize? Is there an ELISA kit for recognizing Cry1Ab toxin?) until we felt that we knew as much as we could to present and defend our idea. One weird moment happened during this fleshing-out-the-detail mode, when I was attempting to find an image depicting the corn reproduction process and discovered that searching Google images for "corn mating" results in some very unexpected pictures (turns out there's a species called the corn snake...I'll leave it at that).

But aside from that one worrisome search result, finding and compiling information for our project went relatively smoothly. I had an awesome lab partner (wooh Audrey!) who is even more detail-obsessed than I am, and I think we both learned a lot more about the agricultural industry and the specifics of experimental methods involved in plant engineering than we expected to. I really enjoyed developing this proposal, and am still surprised that we managed to complete it within a couple of weeks. Only in 109!

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