Thursday, April 23, 2015

With the Setting of the Second Module

I have to say that sophomore year has been more taxing than freshman year, although I do feel like I'm learning and experiencing a lot more. The Mod 2 report was time consuming and there were times that I doubted that I would even finish.

What I thought about DNA Repair:
I was impressed by how much work had already been done in the field of DNA repair. When Professor Samson first introduced us to non-homologous end joining and homologous recombination, I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the mechanisms and the range of enzymes needed to fix damage caused by sunlight. I often enjoy the feeling of warmth that standing in sunlight can bring, but when I realize that ionizing UV radiation could be causing a great amount of DNA damage. Thankfully, cells are equipped with proteins that work to repair damage in DNA, although it's interesting to note that within the population, different level of repair can be seen across people.

How I felt about the experiments:
Having had only a few instances of working with cells, I knew that cell culture would require care in ensuring not to contaminate or confuse different CHO-cells. Although they were "immortal" cells, they would not be too happy if bacteria were introduced into the media. There was always a lot that needed to be done in each day of lab, but I realized that there was also a lot of work being done in the background by the teaching staff and others (cell splitting, preparing aliquots of solutions, treatment of cells with IR, etc.). While I greatly appreciate the care and work that goes into creating the 20.109 experiments, I sometimes feel like I'm missing out on some of the experiences. For example, I was excited to see the setup of the machine that ran LiCor Western Blot Analysis, but my partner did not have an opportunity to see it (and I missed out on some parts of gel purification of cut DNA). I also was a little curious about the flow cytometer because I read about the set up in pre-class notes, but never got to see it in person. Maybe it's just my slightly curious nature, but I would really like first-hand experiences of working with all parts of an experiment because I feel that it really adds to my understanding of how systems work.

Working on the report:
For the second round of practice in scientific writing, I thought the schedule was well made in that we developed several parts of the paper as we were experimenting. This way of splitting the work over a period of weeks seems very beneficial and I would like to utilize it more in the future because I have a bad habit of wanting to finish in one sitting (and often failing to complete something in this way). I realize that one of the hardest parts of writing for me is really knowing where to start with data presentation. I have a difficult time deciding what information is superfluous and what might be necessary; I believe this is due to the fact that I can get really nit-picky and feel that every little detail has some significance in the complete understanding of a topic. I find that the best way to overcome this obstacle is to write without being to particular about everything I have to say. Once I put my ideas in words, I can work on fixing errors on something that has structure rather than something abstract in my mind.

20.109 has been one of my more enjoyable classes in my MIT career. Although I feel under a load of pressure, I've gotten to better understand my major (and myself). One more module to go, can't wait to see the great lengths that I have crossed since the start of this school year.

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