Barbados Battery progress 2014

Well, it seems that somehow I’ve managed to lose the earlier post I made this year, so I’ll start from the beginning.

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After reading the first paper to begin my preparation for my study. My jaw dropped to the ground. My brain is doing jumping jacks trying to understand all the dense information carefully placed in published papers. After two weeks of reading papers to prepare for the lab aspect of the project, I now go Germany to make everything work. I am here in Frankfurt, arrived this morning and I will travel down to Freiburg by train to start work in the afternoon. WOOO. I will be learning, taking notes and setting up my experiment. It finally all comes together. It is really thrilling to see all that I have learned in class  in action in past papers. From the moment I learned about epigenetics in Molecular Biology, I fell in love. A big shout out to all my professors at W&M for their inspiring lectures!!!  

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Lessons from Dar

Concluding the second week of life in Dar, the amount I’ve learned is incredible.

On Day 1 Mama, my new landlady, scooped me from the airport and made me feel at home before letting me chat about my research.  (To refresh your memory, the research is the impact of mobile phones on women’s empowerment.)  She wonders aloud why they need foreigners to come and do this work – why not Tanzanians?  I wonder the same.  A thought pricks – aren’t I very glad and lucky to be here?  One could argue that I am here for my own benefit (to learn and live new things), rather than to add value to people’s lives.  I hope this is not true.  Privileged people like to travel to developing countries, ostensibly to help, but bringing neither the dedication nor skills necessary to do so, only to return home with fond memories of the cute children they posed with along the way (see the Onion: 6 Day Visit to Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture).  I wonder if I am part of this dance; cynicism creeps in.  The goal of this research is to produce information that arms development efforts with strategies that work, i.e. that lead to quality of life improvements for the marginalized (in this case, women).  Is it arrogant of me to think that there is a difference between this and the voluntourism that smacks of superficial beneficence?

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Second Post!

Hello Friends!
I hope everyone’s summer has been going well. Here in the ISC I have been productive in synthesizing my new unnatural amino acid protyro. This UAA has the ability to “click” onto other molecules, meaning it has an alkyne group that is able to link to other alkynes, azides, etc. Creating protyro has been an adventure by itself. The actual synthesis is six steps, that involve a variety of organic reactions such as brominations, reductions, nitrations, and deprotections. I have attempted the synthesis twice now. The first time the reactions were going well until the second to last reaction, which was a malonic ester synthesis done via a microwave. When doing a microwave reaction, one needs to add a stir bar to allow a thorough microwaving, but I had forgotten about this fact. After finishing the microwaving, my professor informed me that I had forgot the stir bar, so I added the stir bar and re-microwaved. It is tough to know whether this is what caused the reaction to fail, but after I ran a column, I generated very little product. I decided to start over with precursor that I saved. This time I successfully completed (or thought I had successfully completed) all six steps. I tried to take a H NMR of the final product, and even though they say twelfth time is the charm, all twelve of my attempts were to no avail. This may be due to the fact that I had created very little product, or that the UAA was just difficult in general to read. I tried to NMR in various solvents: CDCL3, Methanol-D4, and even D2O. I decided to go ahead and insert protyro into GFP Waldo, a dimer GFP hybrid, where the UAA was inserted into the 151st residue. Despite having an “iffy” product, my confidence in this insertion lowered once our lab realized our comp cells were tainted. Comp cells are cells whose plasmids are easily edited, and this insertion and selection is done via inserting  antibiotic resistance, namely Ampicillin and Chloramphenicol. Without going into too much detail, we found antibiotics inherent in the bacteria, which means many of our bacteria colonies could be contaminated. Over the course of the next few days, my goal is to successfully synthesize protyro, which means having high yields for each of the synthesis steps.
My time with Florence the fluorimeter has been intriguing, yet tiresome. I have done over a hundred scans of different proteins with my AzoBenzene compound, many of these with varying solutions such as PBS buffer and 1X tris buffer. I have seen many interesting traits from the fluorimeter, but handling the data can be overwhelming. Each scan produces several hundred data points, all of which have to be transferred onto a separate excel sheet and compiled. While this is a very necessary part of my research, I have become weary of the constant scans, and I’m worried I have become inundated with graphs on lines.
I have much more information and results to come in the next few days so stay posted, and thanks for reading!

Researching in Italy, the Terme di Diocleziano, and the Laudatio Turiae in person


Almost a full month since my return from Italy, I am finally settling in to begin the second phase of my research. To remind anyone reading, my summer research focuses on a laudatio funebris commonly known as the Laudatio Turiae, looking at both the importance that it represents as transitional document and the importance of the information on gender roles in the beginning of the Roman Empire that it carries. During the second part of my project, I will focus my efforts on the epigraphy of the inscription, especially the language itself. The third stage of my research will deal with the content of the document, particularly its representation of Augustan womanhood.

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