As my summer winds down, I have to say goodbye to this wonderful journey. What was originally three to five pages double spaced is now nearly two hundred pages of typed interviews, thoughts, and outlines. Colorful photos of vineyards, gardens, and smiles fill my computer. My stories have prompted laughs, arguments, and interest among my friends. I’ve spoken to restaurant owners, farmers, lawyers, shop owners and tour guides and visited cheese factories, vineyards, schools, and butcher shops. Despite all this information, however, I’m left with more questions than I started with! All my remaining questions provoked me to change my class schedule in hopes of gaining some insight into the areas that still interest me. What I found most fascinating throughout this summer was Why do we eat what we eat? and Why can fresh, local, organic food be the cheaper option? Because of this, I have signed up for a Biological Anthropology class in hopes of gaining some knowledge about cultures, traditions, and the history of our species. I’ve never taken an anthropology class but it sounds interesting! Also, I signed up for two economics classes. Throughout the summer, the one consistent theme I found was that people’s finances heavily influence their decisions. I would love to do some more research on the government’s role in subsidizing commodities as well as how international trade affects the price of goods sold domestically. I’m finding more and more that although there are some dedicated foodies out there determined to always eat local and fresh produce, the majority of individuals just buy what is cheap, available, and convenient. It would be fascinating to learn more about how all these things numbers take effect in the market. Along with my new classes, my school job consists in increasing Aramark’s procurement of local goods, so I know that this will not be the end of visiting farms and looking into these questions! I truly hope that I will find the support, through friends and teachers, to continue pursing this project that I have come to love. Finally, I’ve included some photos that I took while my mother and I went to visit Benziger Winery, a biodynamic vineyard in northern California. I’ll be showing photos from everywhere that I went when I present my project to William and Mary in the fall. To anyone that read my posts, I hope you enjoyed them and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any comments or are just a mutual lover of food! I also would like to thank William and Mary for providing the support needed to pursue this project. I couldn’t have done it without the donations of generous alumni parents and I am grateful that they made this memorable summer possible.
I finally performed my yeast two-hyrbid screen a few days ago!
I crossed my bait, the protein E6-AP, with my prey, the human fetal brain cDNA library in it. I had to prepare a concentrated overnight culture of my bait strain. The next day, the library strain was combined with the bait strain. Then the cells were put in a shaking incubator over night. After 24 hours, I plated my mated culture. Plating the mated culture was an ordeal, because I had to pipette 100 μl of the mated culture on each plate. Mind you, I had plate fifty 150 mm plates. These plates were missing certain amino acids, in order to select for true interactions. The yeast will take 5-8 days to grow. In my last blog post, I will let you know how many colonies grew!
Last time I blogged, I had successfully made my clones to work with! So as a review, I have my gene of interest, inserted into the plasmid that contains the binding domain and that construct is now in a specific yeast strain. I then looked through our lab’s database to see what genes people have cloned into the activation domain. After finding around 20 genes that others have cloned into the activation domain, I performed a separate transformation for each of the 20 genes, into the yeast strain containing my gene of interest, UBE3A (Also called the bait). I then plated the transformants onto selective media and put the plates into a 30 degree incubator, where they will grow for 3-5 days. After the 3-5 day growth period is up, I will take a single colony from each plate and streak it onto another selective plate. If colonies grow after 3-5 days on the new selective media that indicates that a TRUE PROTEIN INTERACTION is occurring! I made a diagram that shows what I talked about, unfortunately, I could not get it to go directly on my blog post, but if you go into my gallery and click on “Pictorial Explanation of 3rd blog,” you can see the diagram! Here is the link- http://ccsummerresearch.blogs.wm.edu/files/2012/08/In-Yeast-Strain1.pdf
Despite the fact that my love of food brought me to this research, some of my findings are pushing me away from the foods I’ve always loved. During a conversation with some family friends in New Orleans over genetically modified foods, I was begged to read Wheat Belly, a book that our family friends claimed had changed their lives. I borrowed the New York Times Bestseller and took it with me on a beach vacation to New Jersey, hoping that I would have some valuable time on the beach to knock out a few books on my list. Despite the novels emphasis on weight loss, there are some scary truths hidden in these now sand-ridden pages. In Wheat Belly, cardiologist William Davis details the changes that science has brought to modern wheat over the past fifty years, namely changing the fourteen-chromosome wild grass that our bodies are used to into a forty-two chromosome dwarf-sized excuse for wheat that is unable to survive in the wild without human intervention. This new wheat, he argues, is uniquely responsible for causing harms to our digestive system, blood sugar, pH, skin, heart and brain. This new “wheat” grew out of an effort by Dr. Borlaug in hopes of relieving world hunger by manufacturing a wheat that produced a higher yield (hence the shorter “dwarf” stalk). The scary evidence is that this new genetically modified wheat was introduced to the public market without any human or animal testing. It is only now, as celiac disease is on the rise (fourfold over the past fifty years) that individuals are beginning to question the potential complications that this “wheat” brings. I’m having a difficult time eating all the pasta dishes that I learned how to while in Berkeley! I hope that soon this book will go along with Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, and The Jungle into the category of information that managed to influence my diet but then eventually allowed it to return to normal. Part of research is reading the other side of the argument, even if that means not being able to stomach a hamburger for a few days. What is fascinating though, is the criticism that the author brings to our praised notion of “eat more healthy whole grains”. By claiming that the obesity problem in America is a result of this fake “wheat” that we are eating, Dr. Davis’ assertion mocks the advice of the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wheat Belly may not be the Bible as moms are praising it to be, but it certainly adds another lens with which to look at the death of the agrarian lifestyle and obesity in America.
Today is an exciting day because I finally have some concrete results to share! These revelations have been hiding among large spreadsheets of MATLAB output matrices for the past couple of weeks, but only after plotting up over 100 graphs of various model parameters (channel slope, width/depth ratio, vertical erosion rate, minimum and maximum erodibility, and others) were Dr. Hancock and I able to understand why the graphs of times to equilibrium I posted last time differed so significantly between weathering and non-weathering model runs.