Even though I had nothing really planned for the Labor Day holiday, the evening ended on a delightful note with a short-notice get-together put on by my landlords. Got delightfully intoxicated, met some new people, had fun chatting with said new people, and slept blissfully in the cool comfort of 50˚ overnight temperatures! Tuesday morning was a whole whizzbang of craziness, unfortunately.

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02. August 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Grad Life, Rant, Work · Tags: ,

I try not to pick out individual coworkers specifically for their asshole-ishness on a regular basis. However, one of them really just struck a nerve with me today.

One of my coworkers (#1 for this post’s purpose) in the lab had been ragging on one of the newer graduate students (#2) in the lab for his inability to ask questions. This was primarily done in the context of describing his chronic ability to set himself up for failure by not preparing enough for the experiment/activity/event. I would have to agree with this, as it is often the case. I have offered advice in the past, and it usually goes the wayside until things aren’t working properly. Then, he either realizes (or someone else suggests) that my recommendations were valid and worth considering. So he could save himself some trouble by asking in varying degrees of uncertainty about stuff.

Cue to this afternoon, while I’m finishing up my preparations for tomorrow in the lab, and I have my iPod running in my ears. Coworker #2 is pissed to all hell, half-yelling at coworker #1 that he’s an asshole and he can’t give a straight answer. Coworker #1 is also just laughing at coworker #2, throughout all this visibly-pissed off ranting. I find out it’s because #2 has been trying to ask #1 for advice on submitting something to another location for analysis, and #1 just kept telling him “have you read the instructions?” Coworker #2 obviously (and stated as such) read said directions, and was asking for supplemental information beyond that. This renders #1’s response as moot, because #2 is obviously asking what #1 does beyond the regular instructions for this protocol.

Coworker #1 often does this regarding questions asked of him. He thinks it’s funny, cute, obnoxious, or lord knows what else. I really don’t know; he just gets a kick out of it. What really pisses me off regarding this now is for as much as he’s stated/bitched #2 never asks questions for help on stuff, here #1 is being an utter jackass by not answering the question, now that #2 is asking.

Seriously? Who the fuck do you think you are to first criticize someone for an inability to do something, and then throw it back in their face when they finally do it for you? I can’t wait to see him function on his own in a post-doc somewhere. This mentality will never cut it.

In other related news…the other three regulars in the lab have started to take a slightly more proactive approach to cleaning the lab. The dish drainers were entirely emptied a week and a half ago (shock!!!), all three of them collectively emptied their vast uncleaned reservoirs of glass culture tubes, and coworker #1 has been remarkably proactive about removing the autoclaveable waste, and even did a run himself and immediately took it down to the dumpster (instead of letting it sit in the lab over a week like the last batch he took down just prior). I can only hope that this is a change to stay (so I can return to the shared cleaning responsibilities), but only time will tell. My ranty tweet that also ended up on Facebook (without restriction on who saw it amongst friends) probably served as a more obvious kick in the ass about it.

Oh well…oops (not really).

P.S. I cannot wait until I’m finished with this lab and have left, despite how much I love the work…

I’m keeping tonight’s post relatively succinct in nature. I’m struggling to stay awake at the moment, and I got some people1 to impress tomorrow with my poster!

    Highlights of the day:

  • There’s a running joke now about how project/research X has been ongoing/started/joined/left since Y’s administration (even including a jab at the “Lewinski administration”)
  • Considering the quirks I’ve heard about Marians’ ability to socialize, he gives a very good talk; I’m less apt to believe said remarks about his socializing skills
  • Was surprised and pleased by the incorporation of G-loop/G4 structures into this meeting, albeit for perhaps only a singular talk; this was awfully popular in the repair and mutagenesis fields, so I wasn’t quite expecting it here
  • Someone thought the food here at the meeting was relatively terrible; I’ve just been ecstatic to have salad with every meal except breakfast (the couscous and quinoa salads were delightful surprises as well)
  • Next meeting (2013) may be in Italy…Italy!!!
  • Voted to recommend applying for the Gordon Research Seminars for the next Chromosome Dynamics meeting; I hope to be attending it, if my soon-to-be post-doc research interests align then!
  • Freakin’ amazing animation of mitotic chromosome pairing…I’d swear it came out of a professional 3D-animation studio from the looks of it
  • Intrigued by some results being seen, where it appears recA isn’t acting like expect…at least not responding like one would expect it to in response to UV DNA damage
  • Related to that, wondering what the hell is up with obgE…originally identified as a ribosome-binding protein, it seems to affect replication, chromosome partitioning, and god knows what else!

1Sue Lovett, David Sherratt, James Berger, Ken Marians, Alan Leonard, Julia Grimwade (although I think I have her taken care of after talking with her at her poster today) for starters!

Third day of this conference got a bit rougher. I did not wake up nearly as refreshed1, and I tried to cut back on my coffee consumption. It’s certainly not necessary, but it does help. That made the morning session a bit more difficult to stay awake through, but I did just fine! An earlier bedtime tonight will fix that issue.

I attempted to hike up Mount Snow during the free afternoon block. I only got about halfway up the mountain before I lost the quadricep/knee strength to keep climbing2, but it certainly was better than I had hoped after the poor attempt to climb Whistler Mountain two years ago. A quick immersion in the pool prior to the poster session, and I realized just how sore that climb left me. Yikes!

I’m getting more and more excited for my time at my poster on Thursday afternoon now. I talked with Sue Lovett again about my work and ß-clamp related stuff after lunch, and had a couple more people asking me when my poster would be up to look at and discuss. Apparently repair and mutagenesis conferences are not the place to be presenting my work!

Unrelated news: Netflix just drove their rates up. Streaming plans are no longer included in their DVD plans, so I’m promptly dropping the streaming plan, if not dropping them altogether. There are still a few older movies I want to see again, and some older TV series I’d like to rewatch, but I have no substantial use for their streaming. Their selection for streaming is too variable most of the time, as well!

Exhaustion and muscle fatigue are winning me over. I’m determined to keep up the blogging nightly during the conference, mostly for the principle of it, and less for the context. I’m still irked and torn over the ‘please don’t share/email/record/tweet/etc data’ principle of the meeting3, so I try to refrain from going into details. BUT, much to my surprise, I found another tweeter (or more accurately she found me) at the media! How hip are we?? I can’t wait until the walls come down a little further on this sharing of research data. That’s altruistically what research is all about, is it not? (o.O)

1Monday morning I woke up with the sun; the alarm did all the work this morning!
2My knees are surprisingly weaker than they used to be back during my high school years. I used to do quad extensions at an easy 150lbs for both knees. I think I’d be lucky to do 100lbs with ease on both knees now. Really considering getting them checked out for the weird squishy noises I hear from them as I climb stairs daily!
3Mostly because of the sharing nature of the conference, yet we can’t tweet/blog about it, despite the fact we’ll be discussing it with our colleagues later regardless? Seems a bit…moot, perhaps? *shrugs*

The second day of the conference has me finally suffering (or moreso meandering) through the entire mirth of what a typical day is going to entail here. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I was thinking it would be, so I definitely need to cut back on the coffee consumption. I thought I would need more; I was sorely mistaken. It’s fairly good coffee, but I just don’t need it!

James Berger led off the morning session with a lovely talk that did not disappoint, much like his publications. I thought he had fancy figures in his papers. It certainly extended towards his presentation of the material in a talk! I have been a bit enamored with his work for a few years now, simply because he’s done a lot to contribute towards understanding of how DnaA setups up the oriC complex to promote initiation of replication in E. coli, with a very structure/function styled approach. Interestingly, he may be the only structural talk I see this meeting, from the looks of it.

I’m shocked at how much real-time microscopy and single-molecule studies are being done in this field, egad! I mean it makes sense…visualization of chromosome partitioning/segregation/migration makes it substantially easier to examine was is defective with mutations in related genes. Some of the results being done with those kind of experiments is just amazing (and kind of beautiful too, when you look at how mitotic spindles pull the chromosomes to the daughter cells during mitosis).

I’m nearly flabbergasted by the similarity of interest of other labs to my own work. When I attended the ASM Conference on DNA Repair & Mutagenesis, I really had very little interest at my poster. In fact, I think I only had one individual come to talk to me about it when I was manning it. So far at this meeting? At least five individuals1 have expressed their desire to come talk to me about my work when I’m presenting my poster on Thursday. On Thursday! They’re excited to hear about it now! What the fuck! Obviously, my work is totally in the right conference this time!

Also, meeting a lot of interesting people with intriguing work! I met a graduate student from Sue Lovett‘s lab2 who (with the exception of the post-doc who also came up with her) is one of the only ones in her lab doing ‘chromosomal dynamics’ related work in the lab (similar to myself in my lab). I also met a post-doc from Elliott Crooke‘s lab, and he and I talked through all of lunch about our work and more. Randomly, I chatted up a post-doc from Antoine van Oijen‘s lab who found that UV-induced damage in E. coli at 23˚C apparently does not induce UmuC/D foci. Blows my mind!!! UmuC/D are the proteins known in E. coli to repair UV-induced DNA damage. Egad!

Also, interestingly, I met a young PI, Wiep Klaas Smits, who is transitioning his post-doctoral work in Alan Grossman‘s lab on Bacillus subtilis to a new model system, Clostridium difficile. It was interesting to learn how proximal oriC in B. subtilis and C. difficile to their dnaA loci (basically adjacent to), whereas in E. coli the oriC has been mapped to ~45kilobases away from the dnaA locus.

Uffda. Okay, I’ve really rambled enough. I need to get my ass to bed so I can indulge in more great talks, and attempt to hike up Mount Snow! Well, at least as far as I can get…

1First one of which was actually the conference chairwoman, Sue Lovett! Wow!
2Sue’s work is highly touted by my own mentor for much of her lab’s work in DNA repair.

So, I’m in West Dover, VT, for the week for the Gordon Research Conference on Chromosome Dynamics. It was about a seven hour drive out from Buffalo, with a very scenic (albeit secluded) drive through Green Mountain National Forest on Kelley Stand and Stratton Arlington Roads. Definitely gave the Jetta a nice workout, between the hefty inclines/declines1, and the dirt/gravel-only stretch that is Kelley Stand Road. I have to admit, I love and miss the smell of big forests!

The first keynote was pretty awesome. David Sherratt provided some interesting data about chromosomal segregation in E. coli, and even a shout-out to Hda (my favorite protein)! Susan Gasser‘s keynote about chromatin migration in budding yeast after was also really interesting, but left a lot of speculative questions unanswered. They actually had to cut the post-talk discussion to an early end because they were out of allotted time. It also reminded me how eukaryotic systems are going to kick my butt in the talks. However, I’m pretty enamored that they chose a prokaryotic talk for the first keynote of the conference!

Also, I have a bunch of 4th of July pictures laying around from last weekend. Go take a look, if you haven’t seen them already. I got some fairly nice fireworks pictures, and a couple of great shots of a Roman candle war.

Lastly, Google+ is going to be my technological crack for a few weeks. I got an invite over the weekend, and am slowly learning the ins and outs of it. Bad time for that, amidst a scientific international conference!

1Some of those inclines/declines were pushing 20-25% grade. Uffda!

This year is the first year I didn’t volunteer to help out with our interdisciplinary program‘s recruitment weekend. I think I have gotten far enough along in my program that I’m sufficiently disconnected from what the coursework is like, let alone what the rest of the departments are like these days. As much as I enjoyed interacting with the potential students for our graduate program and helping to see what the program is all about (and graduate school life as a whole), it’s time to pass that torch on to the younger class members more permanently. Besides, I think I’ve already had my last say in the program in some sense of the phrase. 😉

My mentor told me the roster for this year’s incoming students looked very good on paper, with a strong set of credentials behind most of them. When the email was sent out to the usual crowd of volunteers, I committed to not helping out this year, despite wanting to. To some extent, it was because the more obnoxious of the two new graduate students in my lab decided to invite himself early into the volunteering crowd. I wasn’t pleased by this, but my own altruistic aspirations aside, I felt I was getting too old for the crowd as well. I am somewhere around a year from finishing (for sure this time), so there’s only so much mentorship I can really stick around to provide. With most of my classmates graduated now, I’ve lost most of my connections to the other departments, so I have less of an idea what’s currently going on in them. But man, if you want to know some stuff about the Department of Biochemistry (and sometimes even the Department of Microbiology and Immunology), I can get you info!

I was really put off last year by people who just seem to abuse the program and/or recruitment. There was a younger fellow in the program who volunteered to help, and was all about exploiting the free meals and drinks from the two dinners. Word through the grapevine was he did the same thing this year, to no surprise of my own. There was also another individual who just gushed about how awesome bioinformatics was, because you can just code all day and not do any real benchwork. I was rather appalled he openly suggested that, basically degrading the entire graduate education experience in my personal opinion. I suppose I can’t do much about it; the program directors keep bringing these people on board for the recruitment weekends, so at least the remainder of the volunteers are able to exert a positive and reinforcing environment to encourage the new students.

All in all, it is probably better for me that I didn’t participate. My weekend ended up being far more exhausting and busy than I had anticipated, plus it’ll be unlikely I see any of these students actually come into my lab except for rotations. On the rare chance I stick around for some post-doc time before moving on, then perhaps I’ll actually be around long enough for that, but I don’t anticipate it at this point.

Tangentially related, I just served on a standing committee to formally revise and suggested a new set of guidelines for how the interdisciplinary program is handled and operated (and named…surprise!). It was very interesting to see how the University politics function, so I’m thankful for the recommendation for me to serve on the committee. It was basically a couple of graduate students (myself and two others) to ensure that everything would be kosher from the perspective of a student in the program, as opposed to the faculty that serve to administer and recruit into the program. So recruitment or not, I got my last glimpse into the full operation of the program as a whole. Watching it in action makes me yearn for involvement in instruction more. Ugh! Such decisions!