I spent today playing with yeast cells, and I couldn’t be happier.
Let me back up. As you may already know, this summer, I’m working with Professor Angelika Amon of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Today was my first day and I decided to come in at 8:00 – which, in turn, meant waking up at 6:30 in the morning.
Let me repeat that. Six-thirty in the morning. If you haven’t been to college yet, that might seem like a quite reasonable time to wake up – and, really, it wasn’t that bad. But compared to my usual wake up time of 9:00 last semester, in order to make it to my first class at 10:00, that’s a pretty big switch. Just pointing that out.
As I was saying, though, I showed up my lab at 8:00, rather proud of myself for making it on time – only to find that I wasn’t even the first one there! I suppose there’s a lesson in here somewhere: no matter how dedicated you think you are, at MIT, odds are someone else is just as committed than you are. I think this is actually a good thing, in the long run.
Anyway, almost soon as I walked into the Amon Lab, I felt surrounded by friendly and helpful faces. The first person I met, a grad student named Ilana, was all too happy to help me find Eduardo – a post-doc and my primary mentor for the summer. After introducing me to a number of other grad students, post-docs, and technicians, Eduardo taught me a few basic but important techniques: pouring agar plates (growth media) and dissecting yeast spores.
Pouring agar plates is about as exciting as it sounds, but dissection is actually really important. In the Amon Lab, dissection doesn’t mean cutting apart a yeast cell and examining the organelles; rather, it refers to separating different genotypes of yeast from one another under a microscope using a needle…which is a lot easier said than done. As everyone in the lab keeps telling me, becoming skilled at dissection requires a bit of patience and lots of practice, practice, practice. Which is why I’ll be working on my dissection technique even more tomorrow.
I’m not sure what Eduardo would think if he knew I considered this “playing with yeast cells,” but I certainly enjoy it.
Heading home to my fraternity, as I was walking through Lobby 7, I happened to glance up at the famous inscription, and discovered that the words “Established for the Advancement of Science” suddenly held an entirely new meaning for me.