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Journey to my white coat


Deku
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Days until SF Biofreeze: 304

I don't really consider myself a believer, but today marked the first time in my life that I said a genuine prayer.

We were dissecting pregnant mice today in Stem Cell lab to harvest embryonic fibroblasts. Full disclosure, I'm a huge animal lover so it's really hard for me to work with mice in the lab. Some people can look at their mice and just see tools for science, but when I look at a lab mouse I can't shake the knowledge that it's a living being that spent its entire existence caged, hurt and abused, forced to copulate and die for the sake of an experiment. I know that animal testing is necessary for scientific progress, but even so, it's difficult for me to have a good feeling about it.

Maybe that's why I decided to pray today. I had sterilized my hood, set up my tools, prepared my dissection board, and adjusted my chair. The mouse, killed not five minutes ago, was floating in a jar of ethanol, ready for dissection. I was ready to go, but I was NERVOUS. I'm very clumsy, my lab technique is terrible, and I'd only get one mouse to work with. The embryos we were supposed to harvest were the size of jelly beans and extremely slippery, making them difficult to cut properly. If I didn't do the experiment well then Shane and I would be short quite a few fibroblasts, which would set our project back yet again. Not to mention that I would be cutting into actual living tissue, a far cry from pipetting reagents or feeding cells.

It was in this situation that I was inspired to bow my head, clasp my hands and say a couple words in respect of the mouse that had lived and died for my experiment. It wasn't anything fancy. I simply thanked God for providing the mouse and asked that he give me the opportunity to learn as much as possible from this experience so that its life would not have been spent in vain. And suddenly, all my nerves and doubts vanished. I calmly nailed the mouse to the dissection board, picked up my tools and started cutting. Working slowly and methodically, I teased various layers of skin and membrane away from the internal organs, until I found the uterine horns, and the long string of mouse embryos inside. One by one, moving as slowly as possible to avoid a mistake, I cut the embryos off the string and harvested them. Before I knew it, I had a sizable pile of pearly white embryonic tissue ready to be turned into a fibroblast culture.

"Beautiful job," Dr. Abramson said as she passed behind me. 

So that was my first ever mouse dissection, and it ended up being a great experience. I still can't say I'm a believer, but I definitely would like to thank God for giving me the strength to make the most of my experiment today. Maybe I'll be inspired to pray more in the future.

Edited by Deku
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I could never do mouse work either. The first lab I ever worked in used like 2+ mice a DAY and one student was doing vivisections (to inject saline into the heart so that it cleans out the brain of blood for brain slides). When I saw a beating heart out in the open, I nearly passed out.

Good on you for praying. It's a good principle with anything: to understand why you've been given something and to use it for that. In the Islamic tradition, the definition of gratitude is "to use a blessing for what it was created for". So what you did was an exercise in gratitude ?

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Damn dude, you are kicking ass currently. I read your intro post and a decent amount of your journal entries. You've gone over a month without gaming! Focus on how far you've come and how far you are going! Not every day is going to be the best or most productive, but every day is 100% more productive when you aren't playing or focused on games. You're "Post Rachel Era" post made me laugh, You can still be friends with a girl who doesn't want a relationship with you, rarely is someone ever rejecting you as a person, the same with the girl you rejected because you only thought of them as a friend. Keep focusing on improving yourself and the rest will come

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 301

Oof, haven't posted on here in a while. I'm up to my chin in schoolwork, so trying to put in the necessary hours over the weekend to trim down the workload. I'm in the process of rewriting all my lab notes over the course of the semester (probably collectively at least a hundred pages by now), and every single one of my classes is having a midterm/big evaluation in the second or third week of October, so preparing for those with a sense of urgency right now. 

Life is pretty stressful, but I'm actually kind of happy right now (crazy I know). A lot of good things are happening right now: I'm doing well in school, my classes/professors are great, and I'm making a fair bit of friends. I think the biggest challenges moving forward are going to be avoiding complacency, and finding time to add in other commitments into my schedule. I'm really only doing school, bible study, and marathon training right now, but if I want to get into medical school that just won't be enough.

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Nice, man. As long as you're keeping busy with what matters, it's all good!

Also, while the desire to do a lot is there, don't overwhelm yourself. In my experience, pushing myself too hard has been a recipe for a relapse.

Btw, what's the SF Biofreeze? I think I missed this earlier in your journal.

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4 hours ago, karabas said:

Nice, man. As long as you're keeping busy with what matters, it's all good!

Also, while the desire to do a lot is there, don't overwhelm yourself. In my experience, pushing myself too hard has been a recipe for a relapse.

Btw, what's the SF Biofreeze? I think I missed this earlier in your journal.

Thanks man! And the SF Biofreeze is the marathon I'm training for right now. 20,000 runners, getting to run through the neighborhoods and famous spots of San Francisco, should be a good time.

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 300

Powered through the suck yesterday and finished redoing all the notes for Stem Cell lab (still need to paste in some pictures, but that's the easy part). The notebook is looking a lot better now--I've partitioned my notes by cell line, thrown in a bunch of figures, and just made everything a lot neater in general. I also read the paper "Mapping the Pairwise Choices Leading from Pluripotency to Human Bone, Heart, and other Mesoderm Cell-types" for Stem Cell lecture on Monday (and took notes, of course). 

Next on the docket is rewriting the notes for Mol Bio (13 labs worth of notes, totaling about 50 pages...yay...). I am seriously not looking forward to it, and I can literally feel my anguished brain trying to rationalize pushing it back, but I know I have to get it done. Just gotta focus on how much better I'm going to feel once it's out of the way. 

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 299

Finally finished rewriting my Stem Cell lab notebook. Pasting all the pictures I took over the course of the semester took a RIDICULOUS amount of time. Despite it only being the start of October, my notes ended up taking up 75 pages over two notebooks. They look beautiful though, and since Dr. Abramson has started to do surprise checks on peoples' notebooks it feels like a huge load has been taken off my back.

I still need to rewrite about half of the Mol Bio notebook, but as notebooks aren't collected until the end of the semester I'm not feeling as much of a sense of urgency. I figure if I knock out one entry every day I'll have it done in no time.

Got lunch with Clarisse today (and she even paid, so I'll make a mental note to take her out sometime in the future), and I'm happy to report that for the first time in my life I've met a wonderful woman that I'm totally not interested in dating. She's a really great person but she reminds me WAY too much of my mother, and that scares the living crap out of me.

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On 9/30/2018 at 8:43 PM, Deku said:

And the SF Biofreeze is the marathon I'm training for right now. 20,000 runners, getting to run through the neighborhoods and famous spots of San Francisco, should be a good time.

That sounds amazing. SF is gorgeous... been to the Bay Area once, totally fell in love with it.

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 298

Finally got back on track with marathon training today--been dropping the ball recently because of all my academic commitments. Ran 3 miles at an 8:30 pace on the treadmill, changing the incline every couple minutes to simulate running a real course.

I would like to write more, but there's really not much else to say. It really was just business as usual today. I guess the highlight of my boring-ass day would be the fact that Clarisse walked me to my next class after bible study, and we ended up having a great half-hour long conversation while waiting for the class to start. Turns out we both have the same favorite bible verse (Romans 8:18!!), so that was pretty awesome. Again I dunno if I find her attractive, but I definitely like spending time with her and having our conversations. I feel like I always learn something new, and get a lot of weight off my chest at the same time.

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 295

Upping my bible studies from 2 to 4 hours a week--there's a free evening class that's opening within walking distance of campus, and I've decided to give it a shot. The weird thing is that even though it won't really help me get into medical school I still have a good feeling about the class. Maybe that'll be a sign of things to come ?

Academics are still good--right now a lot of professors are dialing the load back, and it really feels like the calm before the midterm storm. I've been working hard to stay with the course material for every class and take detailed notes before/immediately after lectures, so I feel good about my position roughly 7-9 days out from midterms. Just have to review my notes, come up with some questions and hit office hours next week to get 'em answered.

Lastly I've been spending a lot of time with Clarisse this week, and it's been nice. I'm definitely not crazy about her or anything, but I can see what @karabas meant when he said that the best relationships come from friendships and not some hot chick you bumped into in class. Since we have a lot of the important stuff in common (labwork, medical school aspirations, animal lovers and volunteer enthusiasts) I feel like she's pretty easy to talk to, and I feel pretty comfortable telling her about the stuff going on in my life, like my gaming addictions. It doesn't have to be Clarisse, but if I could one day find a partner I feel this way around that would be pretty nice.

Overall life is good right now. We'll see how it is in a week or two though, when the midterms make landfall.

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 294

Excited to announce that Shane and I have decided to take on a research project with Dr. Abramson as our principal investigator/advisor. I'm not really allowed to go into the details of it on a public forum, but I think it'll be a great opportunity for me to advance further along on the road to medical school. The first and biggest hurdle will be obtaining a certain stem cell line that we'll need for the project. It's not sold online, and there seems to be just one reputable source for them, which is the lab at Columbia University that created them. Spent an hour today drafting a bunch of emails to the head of that lab, as well as anyone and everyone that has published a paper using these cells in the last few years. I hope these efforts bear fruit. I would love to have them for the project of course, but even more important than that I would like to get them for Dr. Abramson's use. If we can get just one vial we'll be able to create a working culture that generations of stem cell students at the school can use for learning and experimentation (I get chills thinking about how much good can potentially come from my efforts today). It could be my contribution back to the school that has already done so much for my development.

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The director of the lab wrote back! They're sending a vial of the cells, and we can start as early as next week. So excited! 

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 292

I apologize for the disorganized nature of this post, I'm running on fumes and really just want to hit the bed.

It was a very tough day today. Had to get up at 5:30 to get to campus by 8 in order to start an experiment for Stem Cell lab, only to have Dr. Abramson cancel the experiment at the last moment. The work didn't stop, though, as I basically spent the rest of my day finishing classes, studying for midterms and attending bible study.

Sent the lab director my shipping information, and haven't heard back from him since. I hope he hasn't had a change of heart about sending me those cells.

Slowly but surely I think my feelings for Clarisse have gotten stronger, to the point where I realized (while texting with her today) that I actually think I like her that way. FUCK. This is NOT how I wanted things to go. With the midterm storm just around the corner I can't afford to lose control of my mental state, and I don't want to complicate or jeopardize the amazing friendship that Clarisse and I have. I don't know why it's so hard for me to just keep my head down and work. 

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That's incredible how you managed to fill your time so much that you remain productive all the time, especially because there's a lot of interacting with other people. Just one thing I don't understand - you're obviously studying a biology programme at a university, working with stem cells and such, but you mentioned you wanted to get to medical school? Do you just want to change degrees or is the structure different from what I imagine?

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27 minutes ago, JustTom said:

That's incredible how you managed to fill your time so much that you remain productive all the time, especially because there's a lot of interacting with other people. Just one thing I don't understand - you're obviously studying a biology programme at a university, working with stem cells and such, but you mentioned you wanted to get to medical school? Do you just want to change degrees or is the structure different from what I imagine?

Murrica is unique from the rest of the world in that you can't just test to get into medical school; they consider everything from grades to volunteer to test scores to research and clinical experience.

It's a big pain in the ass.

Because I didn't do much in college I have to get my grades up and get some more research experience, volunteer time etc. Hence why I'm doing a master's degree in Stem Cells right now.

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To me, a master degree in stem cells sounds much more badass than a medschool graduate ? Is it uncommon to go to medical school right after high school? In Europe, the admission exams tend to be the hardest for medical schools as well, but it's not like you require lab experience or research. 

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1 minute ago, JustTom said:

To me, a master degree in stem cells sounds much more badass than a medschool graduate  Is it uncommon to go to medical school right after high school? In Europe, the admission exams tend to be the hardest for medical schools as well, but it's not like you require lab experience or research. 

It's almost unheard of getting into medical school without a university degree over here, and I must say I definitely like the European system more.

Welcome back, by the way ?

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15 hours ago, JustTom said:

To me, a master degree in stem cells sounds much more badass than a medschool graduate ?

Trust a guy who worked with stem cells for a living: medschool grads make a ton more money.

That's the problem with research (at least in the US): it's fun, but you get paid crap. An engineer with a B.Sc. from a good university makes more money than a Ph.D. in biology does in research.

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 291

Like its irl cousin Michael, Hurricane Midterms is making landfall right now. The next two weeks are going to be the most critical point in the semester,  and my dreams of medical school could very easily go up in smoke if I'm not careful. Here's the rundown of the madness that's about to ensue:

-Stem Cell Lab Midterm Friday 10/12

-Mol Bio Midterm Tuesday 10/16

-Stem Cell Journal Club Midterm Wednesday 10/17

-Understanding the Biotech Industry "Midterm" Thursday (55 minute presentation) 10/18

-Stem Cell Lecture Midterm Monday 10/22

-Stem Cell Journal Club Presentation (~90 minute presentation) Wednesday 10/24

Fortunately, I've largely finished studying for this Friday's midterm, and went to Dr. Abramson's office hours today to get all my questions answered. I know all the stupid Stem Cell pathways, every media component, every step of every procedure we've ever done (rewriting my notebook was totally worth it), and I'm ready to get that sucker out of the way.

Tuesday's Mol Bio midterm is the one I'm most nervous about. Because of the whole Rachael arc I haven't been giving that class its due diligence, and I'm hurriedly trying to make up the lost ground. I've reviewed about a third of the material so far.

I've taken extensive notes on every paper that's ever been presented in SC Journal Club (only 4), and we'll have access to the papers for the exam. I'm not too worried about it, and I know that just one evening of solid preparation should be sufficient to memorize the research question, hypothesis, and main findings of the four papers, especially since I've already done most of the legwork. This one shouldn't be a problem (knock on wood).

Biotech Industry's presentation is stressing me out more than it should, because I am stuck with what has been by far the heaviest team I have ever encountered (and I am including all my years of League of Legends Solo Queue in that statement). Not to be rude, but these guys have somehow managed to prove in just a few short months that primates really are capable of human speech. Because of them I've had to micromanage every detail of this presentation, and I've attended office hours for the last three consecutive weeks to get all the help I can. Hopefully our final presentation doesn't end up being a massive dumpster fire.

Stem Cell Lecture should go the same way as Journal Club. I've really worked hard to read content before class and take good notes, so I'm not too worried about it. The weekend should be more than enough to go through the material.

And I finished my journal club presentation slides last night while procrastinating on Mol Bio studying (~30 slides, so should cover the 90 minutes), so thank God I don't need to worry about that.

Alright, y'all know what's coming up, so don't be alarmed if I don't post on here for a few days. I promise you I'll still be alive and working hard, even if I don't write about it.

Back to work...:'(

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Days until SF Biofreeze: 289

Oh dear.

The stem cell lab exam was very hard. Dr. Abramson started the exam at 9 and gave us 2 hours to finish, and by 11 not a single person had turned their paper in. I reviewed all the tiny details of the lecture powerpoints even though I figured it would be overkill, and I'm truly glad I did or I would have been beyond fucked. Even though she said the exam wouldn't be very hard, Dr. Abramson really didn't pull her punches this time around. 

Anyways, no time to dwell on that one. I know I came pretty close to giving it my all in my preparation, so even if I failed I have no regrets. Got Mol Bio on Tuesday, so have to reset and start preparing all over again.

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On 10/11/2018 at 8:06 AM, Deku said:

because I am stuck with what has been by far the heaviest team I have ever encountered (and I am including all my years of League of Legends Solo Queue in that statement

Nice meme. Much appreciated.

Are you also including your mom? Ohhhhhh..!

Edited by JustTom
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Days until SF Biofreeze: 286

Scores for the stem cell lab exam came back today (see below...)

IMG_1038.jpg.6cf10eb31efd3515be9ff82a2bbac4c1.jpg

Frankly I'm less happy than disappointed because I know I could have done better. I guess it's a good day when your professor writes "Wow!!!" on your exam though.

Maybe I'll be a little more excited once all the midterms are over and done with.

Back to studying folks. Mol Bio tomorrow and there's still a ton I have to do for it.

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