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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Neurony goodness by Mollie B. '06

More lab, because that's what I do.

This week has been mostly dedicated to lab and cooking, since that’s mostly what I do in the summer. Oh, and Adam and I went to Friendly’s with Mark ’07 last night for some awesome sundaes. It was fun and delicious.

On the lab front, this week I started writing a paper about the project I’ve been doing for the past year and a half. I started with the materials and methods section — explaining all the experiments I’ve done and the specific ways that I did them. It’s the easiest section to write, because I don’t actually have to think about the implications of anything I discovered, I just have to cite old papers done by other members of my lab and note the differences between our protocols.

I’ll be the first author on this paper, since I’ve done basically all of the work on it; my postdoc Albert, who has helped me through all the (many) glitches, will be second author. Morgan, the professor in charge of the lab, gets to be last author, because he’s the boss. And he pays my salary.

I’m going to finish up a few more experiments by the end of July, and hopefully I’ll have the bulk of the paper written by then, too. After I finish the paper, we’ll send it to a journal (Morgan hasn’t decided which one yet); the journal’s reviewers will look at the paper and decide if it has merit. It’s possible that the reviewers will send the paper back and ask us to do another experiment or two. If that happens, Albert will do the experiments and write the revision, because by then I’ll probably be well into my first lab rotation for grad school!

I’ve been doing a few experiments at the bench this week in addition to writing the paper and making figures; mostly I’ve been doing stuff with mammalian cells cultured in dishes in the incubator. I transfect the cells, which means that I get them to take up a plasmid DNA and make copies of my protein. Following the transfection, I harvest the cells for a Western blot or stain them with fluorescently-labeled antibodies.

I get to go into lab tomorrow (SATURDAY) and transfect some COS7 cells, which are cells derived from a monkey’s kidney. At least there’s a long (5 hr) incubation, so I can mix the DNA in with the cells, then go to Fire and Ice with Adam, Mark ’07, Dave ’07, Steph (Dave’s girlfriend, Northeastern ’08), Kate ’07, Stephanie ’08, Jomar ’07, Jay ’08, Kjell ’09, and Tal ’09. It’s all-you-can-eat for $10 on Saturday afternoons!

I thought I’d leave you with some sweet pictures that I took on the microscope. They’re neurons that I stained with antibodies, then came in at 8 AM to image on the scope.


Aren’t they hot? Those are some damn good-looking neurons.

7 responses to “Neurony goodness”

  1. Arun says:

    So I have a question rather tangential to some of the things that you have been writing about. Mainly, I was wondering how much social responsibility do you think scientists have and whether that is enough. It seems to me that many scientists (including myself) work on making molecules or explaining phenomena which are certainly interesting but have little application to many of the world’s problems–HIV/AIDS, the refugee and displacement crisis, etc. In a time when it would seem that science and technology are so sophisticated and are really the methods by which to address many of the world’s humanitarian crises, many labs seem to focus on issues which are interesting to scientists but will have no effect whatsoever to the outside world. I was just wondering what your take on that is, and whether the situation now, as I perceive it, needs to change.

  2. John says:

    Your neuron pictures make great desktop backgrounds!

  3. Christina says:

    I. love. those. neurons. so. much.

  4. thekeri says:

    That really IS neurony goodness.

    A friend of mine took up half a page in the back of my senior yearbook with an elaborately detailed drawing of a neuron, because she knows that I am in love with them.

    These – these are gorgeous. Desktop background it is. (John’s right, by the way.)

  5. Jon says:

    Desktop backgrounds? I was thinking the same exact thing!

    I must say, those are awesome pictures….you should post more pictures from the lab if you can/if that is allowed. I’d like to actually see some of the stuff you do and the place you work.

  6. Nathan says:

    Those really are great pictures!

    What are you working on?

    I’m really interested in neurons, and I was wondering if you’ve heard of the theory that neuron density is associated with intelligence or comprehension.

    Is it true that the activity of a neuron is proportional to the length of its dendritic tree?