Fun at Winterthur, Week 3!

It’s hard to believe it’s already week 3! Over my weekend off, I visited Hagley and Nemours to check out the other DuPont estates (for free!) and spent the day in Annapolis visiting a good friend on Sunday. Nemours was really cool because it at first seems similar to Winterthur in its opulence and grandeur (although not all of Winterthur is opulent), but the closer you look, the more different they are. It really serves to illustrate how different Winterthur is, even though it appears to be just another huge mansion with beautiful rooms. Nemours is interpreted as AI DuPont’s home, so it is all decorated to his specific taste (or his second wife’s at least) and has a certain continuity; Winterthur on the other hand was designed as a museum, as I said before, and has none of the same continuity because it’s interpreted and laid out very differently. It made me think of how different museums operate and how they use their collections and layout to appeal to guests.

[Read more…]

Week 4: Troubleshooting

This week, we’ve been having some issues with our plasmid expressions, both when transfecting in cells, and in trying to prep them for purification. All of us in the lab have been having issues with some of our plasmids, so the other veteran members and I have been trying to figure out what the problem may be. For expressing in cells, we decided that we may need to alter our transfection protocol, because the DNA may be too toxic to express at such high levels. Talking with one of the other members, we decided to vary the amount of our transfection reagent, as well as the levels of DNA. It seems that we may have figured out how to alter our protocol, but we are going to have to do some more experiments to continue our optimization.

[Read more…]

Mongolia Week 4: Expectations

    The average age of Ulaanbaatar’s residents seems to be very young. Though I first arrived at this conclusion through simple observation and a general notion, this was a fact that was later confirmed for me by a cursory look at recent census statistics. Not only have births per year increased leading to a continuously younger populace, but upwardly mobile youths are more and more frequently leaving their home in the countryside of Mongolia to live and work in Ulaanbaatar. In my role of supervising the conducting of Gallup’s annual World Poll, I have gotten the chance to speak to and see how many of these young migrants feel about their decisions and the city they’ve come to inhabit, which in turn has colored my perceptions of the young metropolitanism that has come to define my experience in Mongolia.

[Read more…]

Mongolia Week 3: Anxiety

    On the fifth floor of my combined office/living space is a little fenced-off area on the building’s dropped rooftop, where someone had laid out several strips of astroturf and left behind a few rickety metal tables and chairs. While it is an area most frequently occupied at night by small contingents of teens and young adults huddled together smoking cigarettes, if one waits late enough into the night and braves the cold that is so typical of a Mongolian night even deep into the summer, they are treated to an uninterrupted and uniquely isolated view of the city and sky.

[Read more…]

Mongolia Week 2: Nausea

Travelling to the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar on a trip to verify myself to Mongolian Immigration Services, I felt sick. Our driver insisted on keeping the windows of his car open, and as the tiny, run-down Toyota bounced off of curbs and weaved itself in and out of the near-gridlock that had come to define inner-city driving in my mind, I became increasingly nauseous as exhaust belched from old two-stroke engines seeped into the cabin. Like increasingly-restricted arteries in an circulatory network, drivers moving out of the city found themselves jammed onto ramps and highways far too narrow to accommodate the sheer density of people. The sun filtered directly onto me, and with minimal movement, everything slowly became uncomfortably hot and stifling. In that moment, I wanted out of the car, out of the elements, and out of the city, into the vast, rolling foothills of the countryside that you could see peeking out between innumerable construction projects and towers that make up Ulaanbaatar.

[Read more…]