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MIT student blogger Michael C. '16

Champagne, pistols, and my new UROP by Michael C. '16

blogging in a power outage. that's hardcore. though anna beat me to it.

There are many legendary stories of perseverance in history.  Custer’s Last Stand.  The Battle of the Alamo.  That one time those buff Spartan dudes kicked lots of people into wells.

And then there’s this guy:

I salute you, Dedicated Green Building Dude(tte).

As you may know, legend says there is always a light on in the Green Building.  That’s because those nocturnal diurnal (what’s the term for “does not sleep”? not-urnal?) creatures known as grad students never stop working.  And if there ever comes a time when there are no lights on in the Green Building – then you know the world’s about to end.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that means that one poor soul in the Green Building, tooling on in the face of a massive power outage, keeping that one light on, is the only person keeping this world in balance.  He’s kind of like the Avatar, except that being an MIT person he probably has some lame power like wifi-bending or something.

(yes, we had a Korra-watching marathon over Thanksgiving and it was totally awesome.  Makorra all the way, btw.)

Anyways!

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been absent from these blogs for the past few weeks, and that’s because I’ve been super busy.  One might even call this past week a “Heck Week”, if one were following the advice of one wholesome blogger alum.  Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to:

 

UROP in Langer Lab 

I’ve been dying to tell you guys about this, but I only recently got all the applications done and didn’t want to blog my chickens before they hatched.

I GOT MY DREAM UROP!

It’s in Langer Lab, of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.  My research group is working on a siRNA-based treatment of liver cancer and it has huge, huge potential.  In a nutshell: siRNA (short interfering RNA) is part of a natural gene-regulating mechanism called RNA interference, where siRNA is used to stop specific genes from being translated.  siRNA does this by binding to and destroying mRNA molecules before they can be translated into proteins.

What if you could find siRNA that shut off the genes that cause cancer cells to go haywire?  That’s the exact idea behind this siRNA-based therapy.  Langer Lab has developed siRNA that can shut off 10 genes at once in the livers of mice, and they’ve also developed nanoparticles to deliver the siRNA (although this is very much still an ongoing field of research).

It’s really, really exciting. My specific role in the project is to work with my postdoc to find novel targets in liver cancer cells for the siRNA to attack.  The UROP involves all sorts of stuff I’m interested in – wet lab, molecular biology, cell cultures, and computational biology (!). After taking Intro to Python this IAP, hopefully I’ll be able to apply it in some lab work.

This is going to be awesome.

Right now, though, I’m still in training – all Langer Lab training is quite comprehensive, and mine has to be even more so because I’ll be working with lab rats and that involves extra animal protocols.

Also, for those of you who don’t know about Langer Lab – it’s the largest biomedical engineering lab in the world, with around $10 million (!) in annual grants.  Professor Bob Langer is legendary – he’s the most cited engineer in history, winner of the Draper Prize (engineering’s equivalent of the Nobel), and all-around nice guy (he’s known for replying to emails under two minutes, whether it’s the President of the United States or…a lowly UROP student).  The New York Times did a great profile of him a few days ago, and Langer Lab used some of its massive budget to throw a celebratory champagne party.  Which I was not invited to.  Sad face.

 

 

Pistol

After seeing our shooting results today, our instructor said that with a few more weeks of practice we'd probably be able to storm a small airport or something. whoops, did I just get put on every FBI and CIA watchlist? IT WAS A JOKE

At MIT, we do a lot of things differently.  PE is one of them.  You can forget running laps and all that lame stuff you did in high school (unless you like that stuff, in which case we have a track and field team).  MIT’s got a lot of awesome PE classes, from badminton to archery to sailing to fencing.

I’m taking pistol right now, and this is the most fun I’ve had in PE ever.  Mike Conti, the instructor (he’s the guy on the left, with the gray hearing protection), is superb – he’s former military and a former Massachusetts SWAT trainer.  We’re shooting a .22 LR round, with the Ruger MkIII.  Our Top Gun competition is coming up – this Tuesday, actually – and I am in it to win it.

 

Psets.  Lots of psets.

Fun and games and pistols and siRNA aside – yes, I still have to pset.  Only three weeks left before winter break, though!

Speaking of which…

 

IAP

I cannot wait for IAP.  For those who don’t know, Independent Activities Period is a month-long vacation in January that MIT gives us, separate from winter break.  Some people choose to stay home, but most people take advantage of the awesome fun classes and activities going on.  For example, I’ll be taking blacksmithing (just one step closer to my ultimate goal of making an Iron Man suit!), and also will be taking MIT’s Intro to Python class.  There’s also a lot of non-academic stuff going on – chocolate truffle-making classes, wine tasting, coding competitions, robotics competitions, etc.

As one upperclassmen described it to me – IAP is basically all the awesomeness and passion of MIT, crammed into one month, without psets.

 

For now, though – adieu!

[EDIT: HALLELUJAH THE LIGHTS JUST WENT BACK ON]