Protein Expression

In my previous entry, I mentioned that we would move on to actually expressing our protein constructs. The procedure for protein expression was filled with its own issues – finding the ideal conditions to get the bacteria to express our plasmid has been very slow-going, and involved a lot of trial and error.

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The Hajj Mural in Jerusalem

Before my last, summary post, I thought I would go in depth about what I think is the most interesting thing I found on my research, the practice of painting Hajj murals in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are obliged to make once in their lifetime (finances permitting). Michael Wolfe, in his memoir The Hadj: an American’s pilgrimage to Mecca, describes the Hajj as “an act of obedience, a profession of belief, and the visible expression of a spiritual community. For a majority of Muslims, the hadj is an ultimate goal, a trip of a lifetime” (10). Not only is the Hajj a deeply personal religious experience for the hajji, it is also has great social significance. For example, once someone completes the pilgrimage, he takes the title Haji for the rest of his life.

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Sequencing and troubleshooting

Our goal this summer was to create fusion proteins of thyroid hormone receptor alpha with GST and His tags, which I described more in depth in my last entry. In order to do this, we had to insert the gene encoding TRα or its domains into an entry vector (plasmid), before moving on to later steps in the project.

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Summary, Conclusions

My project in Catalonia was a success. Although the results of the interviews are showing a different situation than I before expected, what I discovered has shown me the value of field research as well as in depth analysis of a situation. Not only carrying out elite interviews but also observing my environment acutely allowed me to dive deeply into the grievances shaping the secessionist movement. I observed the primary grievances responsible for the growth in sentiment to be related to recent changes in the devolved power of Spain to Catalonia. Most interviews and conversations I had in the South evoked the 2010 ruling of the Spanish constitutional court as a major source of contention. The economic argument, which I had hypothesized to be the leading explanation for rising secessionism, proved important but not the sole or dominating opinion expressed in the interviews. The economics of the relationship between Spain and Catalonia is certainly not to be ignored.

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Perpignan

We left Spain on Thursday, July 11th. After an unforgettable experience in South Catalonia my interpreter and I made our way into the foot of the Pyrenees to cross into France. Having traveled across European borders before, between France and Germany for instance, I noticed something shocking about our crossing. Our slick renfe high speed train took us first to a frontier station near the French border. At this small station, officials asked all passengers to leave, cross the platform, and board a French SNCF train. I had discovered a few days earlier that no train lines connect Barcelona with Perpignan, the Catalan region’s second largest city. This to me seemed off considering the European Union’s free travel area, drafted in the  Schengen agreements, which includes these two notable European states and the high demand there must be for this line of travel.

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