Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"What does Kd even mean?"

Greg and I agreed to meet at the Student Center Saturday, March 12th at 11 am to finish our Protein Engineering Summary due 5 pm the same day. That's 6 hours of non-stop working. Solid, right? Especially if we have some things done (sort of) (kind of) (not really)?

To be fair, we weren't completely in the dark. We had great ideas, a few bullets here and there, and a few graphs ready (credits to Matlab). But we still needed to come together to make something out of all of this. We needed a story, a clear start and a clear finish. That was the goal of that Saturday.

We met at 11 am full of hope and motivation. I had never been in the reading room of the Student Center on a Saturday before. I was shocked at the amount of people occupying the desks and study rooms. Turns out, people do study on a Saturday! Note to future self I guess?

Anyways, we sat down ready to work. We opened the shared document, and... blank. What's our game plan? How do we start? How to squeeze weeks' worth of information into these tiny blank spaces?

Just as we were figuring out how to get about to start, we ran into Ada and Ann from our lab section, who had -wait for it- worked with the same mutation as ours!!!!  Just like that, the reading room of the Student Center turned into a D23H party. They joined us in our study cave to work on their project, and we were ready to begin.

Greg and I decided on a sound game plan: division of labor, high efficiency, fast output. Like a small factory of scientific knowledge. Edit figures, write captions, make sense of the data. Slide after slide.

To be honest, progress was slow. As it turns out, looking at pretty pictures of graphs and gels becomes much more complicated when you actually have to account for what they mean and why they're important. They're just individual pieces of the puzzle, essential but not worth much unless they're linked together in a logical way. Only then do you get the big picture, the whole story.

Sometimes, we hit existential crises like "Why are we here?" or "What's the point of all of this?" or "What does Kd even mean?" but thankfully we had each other overcome these difficult times.

There are no words to explain how the last 30 minutes passed. We were trying to do 10 things at once: fix the bullets, check the text, fit the figures, subscript all the d's in the Kd's, send Snapchats... a real struggle. By 4:55, all four of us in the study room were simultaneously laughing and shouting and praying to the universe that we would be done on time. Once we were at the point of no return, we saved our file, gave it the correct name, and sent it to Noreen I don't know how. This was us right after submission:

However, this was us after we realized how this experience had brought us closer as friends than no other project ever can:

Long story short, my 7 hours in the reading room of the Student Center showed me that science does not end at the bench. You can have all the gel images, Matlab plots and titration curves you want, but at the end of the day, it's all about what you make of them. It's about paying attention to details, knowing what you're talking about, and keeping the big picture in mind at the same time. And, in that one moment when nothing makes sense and you forget what Kd means, it's about having labmates nearby to remind you again and again.

(Everyone in the photograph gave consent to having their names in the blog.)

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