Friday, September 26, 2008

Holy Fudge Monkeys!

"Holy fudge monkeys" was a term I used to use instead of phrases like, "Oh shit," or "Fuck," or "God damn it." I kind of stopped using it by the end of my freshman year at university here. Anyway . . . I hope you get the jist of what that term means.

I had a revelation today. I will not be an epidemiologist. Along that line of thought, I will almost certainly not finish my MPH in Hospital & Molecular Epidemiology. When I go to med school next year, that's it, no turning back. I realize that epidemiology is far more impersonal and statistical than I had thought. Practically everything is on the population scale (obviously enough) but I would find myself craving that personal interaction with someone - the kind of interaction where you know you have influenced someone's life or made someone's life better (that's the ideal anyway). Also, I don't much like statistics. At all. I mean, the formulaic terms like "risk/incidence proportion" and "incidence rate" are easy enough to calculate, but practically, what does it all mean? It's somehow slipped by me. And what's with this concept of "person-time" with calculations? That's just so weird to me.

I also realized that I made a good call not to go into the Toxicology program at the School of Public Health here. While I like my toxicology course so far, what we went over today made me wince a little inside. We were doing "biotransformations." Yeah, that blank stare is the same thing I gave about 24 hours ago. In a nutshell, biotransformation is the metabolization of a drug/toxin into a less toxic form so it can be excreted from the body safely. In any case, it brought me way back to orgo, and those were dark days for me.

But, I did learn something interesting from biotransformations, haha. There's this compound called "trimethyl amine" that's found in choline, which is in a lot of foods from vegetables to fish. Your body normally metabolizes it into its oxide form to be excreted. But in people who can't metabolize this substance, they end up smelling like dead fish all the time.

Interestingly, the ability to metabolize this temporarily turns off in some people during puberty, or when they exercise too much, or when they eat too much of a particular kind of food. Man, it would really suck to smell like dead fish all day.

And here's the real "Holy frudge monkeys" part of my day. I picked up the GSI (graduate student instructor, many places call them TAs) application form from the Biology Program office today. And then it hit me . . . next semester I'd potentially be taking up to 18 credits of courses, have at least 10 hours/week of research, and then GSI for up to 20 hours/week. That's about 18 hours/week in class and up to 30 hours/week working. I'm going to die. T.T

But it's worth it. A GSI position would get me free tuition for the semester and an $8000 stipend for the semester. I've narrowed my choices down to 4 courses that I may want to GSI for: Bio 118 (Biology of AIDS), Bio 207 (Microbiology), Bio 226 (Animal Physiology Lab), or Bio 305 (Genetics). I'm kind of obligated to apply for the Bio 305 position because that class has traditionally had bad GSIs, and I kind of told one of the professors who'll be writing me a letter of recommendation that I'd certainly choose that class as a possibility (and I'd be kick ass at GSI-ing for that class). I'm also somewhat obligated to try for Bio 226 because my friend is a GSI for that lab this semester and she really wants me to GSI with her next semester.

There are pros and cons to lab and non-lab courses. Lab courses are great because they almost always end early, but you still get paid for the whole time. So I'd be working well below 20 hours/week and still get paid for all that time. As long as the undergrads aren't inept it'll all be fine. But I swear, if someone spills 100% ethanol and lights him/herself on fire, or licks a plate, or drops a rat, I will raise hell. Non-lab courses allow me to have more interaction with the people I'd be teaching in discussions. I could see how they're doing, get a good idea of where they're are, what level of understanding they have, etc. But, I'd likely work that 20 hours/week, which I'm hesitant about (as I'm going to die of exhaustion next semester anyway).

Now, I just have to make sure none of the EEB/MCDB PhD students take up all the GSI slots. I'll arm-wrestle them for the position. XD


Joshua said...

Haha my last phrase was "crapjacks!"

Now it's "shit."

You should totally do GSI/TA, it sounds like a lot of fun. Plus one free semester?!?! What kind of research do you do at your University? Is it like biochem or just chem or just bio or biomedical engineering or something? Because I was thinking about taking biomedical engineering, but the lab I work in is biochem/chem engineering and pharm. science or something like that...

You sound slightly stressed. I hope you unstress! I hate myself when I'm stressed because I gain weight like crazy, but I don't know if that's what you do. Just don't be stressed! :D

naturgesetz said...

It's great that you were able to realize that you didn't want to be an epidemiologist before you pursued it any further, and your attitude about interacting with the people you want to help is great too — just what we want in physicians.

Good luck on getting a GSI spot.

Aek said...

joshua: I don't know if you'll read this response . . . I'm totally GSI/TA-ing, because hey, I'm willing to sacrifice some of my sanity for free tuition and $8000. I've done a lot of research, from neurofibromatosis to breast cancer to human genetic deafness. I'll be (eventually) working in a lab researching genetic epidemiology of colorectal cancers. So for me, it's all been biology. Just do the research that interests you, if you can, work in a few labs to see what you like best.

naturgesetz: Thanks, I can only aspire to be a good physician that people would like. I'm not TOO worried on getting a GSI spot, I mean, how many PhD students can there be? XP

Mike said...

I don't know where you find the time to do all of this... good luck on getting the GSI position!