Monday, June 30, 2008

We are the Hands . . .

. . . of research. It's true. AG-F and I occupy one of the lowest tiers of in the lab hierarchy - freshly graduated lab technicians. The only people lower than us are high school students and undergrads. We are thus subject to the whims of lab politics. It's somewhat amusing really (to me, though AG-F hates it). We do whatever someone wants us to do.

In any case, I've learned to love pubmed as much as one can possibly love it. Actually, I don't love pubmed. It can be annoying to use. In retrospect, however, it has allowed me to look up medical journals without having to actually seek the physical copies of those journals. In all my four years of undergrad, I've only checked out a book from the library once, and that was in my first semester freshman year. Everything else I needed was from either pubmed or some online biology journal. I still printed these articles though, as I can't stand reading them on a computer and I like to highlight and write notes in the margins.

I gave up on my own project and lately have been helping AG-F with hers (and doing whatever bidding people higher up the hierarchy want). I've been assigned a new project, except I'm leaving the lab in 2-3 days and this project takes at least a month to complete under optimal situations. So again, I just help AG-F. A few months ago she showed me how to extract the cochleas (the snail shell looking thing, for those who aren't biologically inclined) of the inner ear from the heads of mice. I don't know if I've blogged about this before, but here it goes again if so.

Today we had to kill 6 mice and extract their cochleas - 4 wild-types and 2 mutants. The mutant mice are so cute! They're "dwarves," so they're tiny. They have cranio-facial deformities that actually make them look cuter. Too bad their mutations also make them deaf, unable to keep their body temperature up, and thin their bones. I felt a bit bad killing them. I don't like to kill things (except spiders, ants, flies, most other insects, and bacteria, they don't count). After the mice were dead, I decapitate them, skin the fur back on their heads, then bisect their heads length-wise with scissors. I then scoop the brains out on either side to expose the cochleas, and then pry the cochleas out with sharp forceps. Even though I was wearing gloves, my hands smelled like dead mice for a couple hours afterwards.

To a non-biologist I'm sure all this probably sounds inexplicably gruesome, gross, and intense. It is rather gruesome, but not as intense as it could be. At least the mice weren't alive as we did all this. I think there's some weird psychological thing that makes it way more bearable to do all this when they're dead than if they were still alive. Even though I don't have a problem doing this, I know I cannot be a surgeon. I don't care about the money; never did. For one thing, as I mentioned before, these mice are already dead when we dissect them. In surgery, a person's still alive and you want to not harm/kill them. I don't want that kind of burden - the thought of making a mistake that could be costly beyond my imagination is a kind of stress I do not want as a future doctor. I think I would often refuse to do even the "simplest" procedures involving cutting unless it were an emergency or something.

On something completely unrelated, my brothers have got me looking at the webcomic Questionable Content. Here are two recent strips:

The nerd in me rejoices. At some point I will go back and read all of them. When I have time . . . if I have that much time.

Oh, I just thought of something randomly. About 2 days ago my roommate DvF-M invited 3 of his Physics Club people over. They were watching Battlestar Galactica. I didn't think it could exist, but there were effectively 4 DvF-M's in the living room at once. One was enough!!

So, DvF-M is very loud. He doesn't have a "quiet/whisper" mode. And he doesn't know when to stop talking. And here they were, 3 other people who were equally loud and each kept trying to talk over the other to be heard. Eventually I couldn't hear the TV anymore as their voices drowned it out. They put the episodes on closed captioning. Seriously?!

And they weren't even paying attention to what they were watching!! They just sat there loudly criticizing what they were watching and the actors. Seriously?! I had to leave. Note to self: never watch a movie with one of them.

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