Blog Posts

Why do I write as a scientist?

Alara Tuncer

Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop. 

Perhaps I was three, maybe four, sitting in a tub, soaking in bath water. The first memory I have of my existence is one where I am sitting surrounded in bubbly splendor, holding tiny little tubes filled with color. My already large eyes grow in the reflection of the glass bottles as I hold them closer, observing the color and viscosity changes as the contents drip, drop, drip, drop. I remember it so well; the photographic evidence taken by my parents has likely helped. I’ll spare you the sight of seeing baby me—in my birthday suit. Feeling like something between a magician and a cook, it was then that I realized—sitting and mixing little hotel shampoo bottles—that I was going to become a scientist. Now that I’ve lived enough to have strong and informed opinions, I hate people thinking of science as magic. All I want is to write about how science—completely un-magical—can solve all our problems and shape the world we live in for the better.

A few months ago when President Trump was asked about climate change after the California wild-fires he stated comfortably: “It’ll start getting cooler, you just watch.” The corresponding officer responded, “I wish science would agree with you” to which Trump replied, “I don’t think science knows, actually.” The group of experts laughed, tittering nervously. What can you do when the President of the United States—one of the few people in the world who has the power to dramatically alleviate the world’s climate change problems—doesn’t trust science? The urgency of the situation has become crystal clear, even Pope Francis gave a TED talk, calling for action on [...]

January 9th, 2021|

Help! The Tricky Task of Communicating to a Broader Audience

By: Jay Kang

“This is it! This is the moment I have been waiting for!” I thought loudly, as I waited in front of my research poster for the Montclare lab. I was finally ready to present my work at the 52nd MACUB Research Conference. Looking around, I saw students standing in front of their posters, each displaying interesting results, schematics, and graphs. As attendees began to mill about, I was excitedly preparing bits of what I might say to an interested viewer. I got my hopes up as someone seemed to approach, but at the last minute they settled into conversation with a nearby presenter. I tried, but failed to wait patiently in front of my poster.

Finally! After what seemed like half of the session, a woman holding a clipboard approached my poster. Suddenly, I was concerned. My thoughts started running, “How do I explain so much information concisely?” I was comfortable explaining my work to colleagues, but had absolutely no experience conveying my message to someone outside of my specialty. My stressed stream of consciousness continued, “Does this person understand amino acids? Do they know the objective of circular dichroism experiments? Do I have to explain part 1 of the schematic, or should I skip to part 2?”

Wanting to start simple, I began by explaining blindness, how it can be treated using a drug called DENAQ, and the obstacles faced in delivering this drug. Then, I transitioned into the specifics of our research. As I was explaining how we genetically engineer novel protein Q, I noticed that the viewer was still reading the abstract of my poster. She stopped me and asked, “What are rods and cones?”. I was [...]

December 8th, 2020|

The Not So Final Version !

By Priya Katyal

After months and months of performing arduous experiments and data analysis, the time finally comes when you turn a disorganized pile of results to something orderly and beautiful. You sort and group results and put together all your scientific discoveries, piece by piece. And after multiple writing sessions that includes writing, rewriting, revising and writing again (and again!!), you get a full draft of manuscript ready. As you read through the draft, you feel pretty darn proud of yourself. This is it, the time is now to submit the final version to your PI.

Your PI reviews the draft with a critical eye and sends you a collection of edits. As you go through the comments, you start to feel that:

“Oh, how did I miss this?, and that too”, “did I send the wrong version?”

You too realize that there were some key concepts that you thought you explained, only to find that important pieces of explanation were missing; in next round of edits you realize that you forgot to refer a critical article, next you observe examples of redundancy.  As weeks pass by, you come across new literature article that needs to be included in your manuscript. As you are going through multiple rounds of edits, you start creating new names for your doc. The nomenclature includes various adjectives, short phrases and even time of the day as you are continuously editing the draft. A personal favorite of mine was “2018mmdd_manuscript_430am_livingroom_coffee3_HereWeGoAgain”.  After endless rounds of edits, you finally chop off the jargon and replace it with “FINAL” and the manuscript is ready to be sent out to [...]

November 9th, 2020|

Livin’ Like a Protein

Livin’ Like a Protein

Joshua Senior

Would you believe me if I told you that during Career Day in fourth grade, I told my homeroom teacher I wanted to be a protein when I grow up?

 

Neither would I. That is why I’m saying it now.

 

Don’t worry, you read that correctly. As a seventeen-year-old, I currently dream of becoming a protein when I grow up (even though I’m ‘grown’ in my sister’s eyes). Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “This kid’s absolutely insane.” My answer? Maybe. See, this isn’t the typical profession you would fill out a job application for, yet this hasn’t inhibited my imagination from chasing the impossible.

 

Sadly, my career aspirations of becoming a fully-functional protein don’t involve physically interacting with DNA histones or translocating across numerous cellular membranes. In fact, my fascination with becoming this macromolecular complex rests not in the specific operations of the protein molecule, but simply in its multifaceted nature.

 

Similar to proteins, my intellectual building blocks significantly contribute to my profound attachment to science. Since the age of eight, I’ve always been captivated by science. It wasn’t the vibrant school science fairs or the endless Bill Nye episodes in science class that caught my interest. No, my love for science came in the form of storytelling. Equipped with her daily experiences in the OR, my mother’s “bedtime tales” were engaging recounts of hospital cases she handled. Her medical sagas not only intrigued my sprouting scientific imagination, but her soothing voice always put me fast asleep.

 

As I grew older, this budding curiosity for science soon flourished, folding like proteins into an extensive love for Biology. During high school, I have [...]

September 14th, 2020|

Using Science as a Foundation

Lizbet Rodriguez

If I had been asked to categorize myself before this summer, I would have responded, “student” or potentially “intern”. I wouldn’t have dared to define myself as a scientist. During my summer internship with the Montclare Lab, my mentor often referred to my lab partner and me as scientists. I was uncomfortably aware of my feeling as an imposter. However, being labeled as a scientist did get me thinking about who can be a scientist; I was reminded of an experience I had years ago.

When I was seven, I remember my dental hygienist asking my dentist, “What made you want to become a dentist?” Contrary to what I had imagined he would say, the doctor responded, “Actually, I chose to become a scientist first”. As many do, I overlooked doctors as scientists. Doctors might have a different specialization, but they are first trained in the field of science. Some doctors even dedicate their time solely to scientific research! I had defined too narrow a scope for scientists, both excluding my doctor and myself.

 

            

                  ARISE participant Lizbet Rodriguez presenting her virtual poster

 I never imagined I could possess the knowledge it takes to become a scientist. However, as I explored deeper into my lab assignments, I came to the beautiful realization that being a scientist does not necessarily mean being the most brilliant. Being a scientist means having the patience to conduct thorough research and experiments. It means having the ability to persevere despite setbacks or flaws. It means being an inquirer about the [...]

August 26th, 2020|

My Journey Into Science

 

My Journey Into Science

Jakub Legocki
Editor Eliza Neidhart

 

“Hey!  What are you doing in there?!?!”

        my mom yelled, muffled outside the bathroom door

“One second Mom, I’ll be right out!”

         I belted in my six-year-old soprano

I was racing to mix every possible soap, cleaner, cream, perfume, you name it, into a plastic cup. Why, you might ask? Well, I had to see whether I’d be able to get some bubbles, smoke, or even an explosion! Of course, nothing happened with the exception of a bubble or two, but my experimenting wasn’t done there. I placed the cup into the freezer to see whether freezing would have any effect. Again, nothing particularly exciting occured. As one last roll of the dice, I left the cup out in my sunny backyard. Maybe now something would happen! Again, nothing. Though these “failures” might set back many young scientists, not me!

My test-everything phase would continue; eventually, my parents became sufficiently frustrated to encounter emptied cleaning bottles that they got me a science kit from Toys R’ Us to use instead. Unfortunately, I don’t have too many memories with that kit, though I know I did end up using it. Meanwhile, my hunger for experimentation and discovery continued unabated. I explored perfume-making kits, gemstone and fossil discovery kits, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. My long-term dream was to have my own lab coat, and having my very own lab would be pretty cool too.

August 19th, 2020|

Finding Meaning in Science

By Yifei Wang

 

A few years ago, my best friend was diagnosed with medullary sponge kidney, a condition which currently has no effective treatment. Medullary sponge kidney is a rare disease causing frequent kidney stones and urinary tract infections. In rare cases, like my friend’s, the patient gradually loses kidney function, ultimately resulting in kidney failure.

At the time of my friend’s diagnosis, I was an undergraduate student majoring in biochemistry. I struggled with my major because it was not what I expected. I had imagined I would only need to understand biology for my major. Instead, multiple subjects including chemistry, math, and physics, were needed to build up appropriate knowledge to fully understand biology. Some subjects were boring, or even frustrating to learn. I wasn’t enjoying my courses and considered changing my major. But, once my friend was diagnosed, I suddenly had motivation to continue studying biochemistry. I set a goal to one day find a cure for him.

I continued to push through my unexciting courses and began working in the lab where I started to enjoy science. Hands-on research made the conceptual knowledge of textbooks tangible and easier to understand. In the lab, I could solve problems incrementally, though many small jumps in understanding.

I loved science even more upon designing a prototype system in my Anatomy class to help patients such as my friend improve their quality of life. After completing the project and presenting it to the class, I felt for the first time that my science could truly help people. This gave me the courage to continue with my coursework.

Hopefully in the future I can complete my goal [...]

July 27th, 2020|

Getting Comfortable

By Michael Meleties

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When I was first applying to graduate school, I initially wanted to remain at the institution where I completed my undergraduate degree. It was a good school, close to home, and I was comfortable there. When my professor suggested that it would be difficult to do that, I was stunned. It just didn’t make sense to me. After my professor explained that the conventional thought in the engineering field is that students shouldn’t do their graduate work at the same place they do their undergraduate degree in order to “learn a different way of thinking”, I relented in my pursuit to stay where I was comfortable.

Fast forward a couple of months and I was starting my graduate studies at NYU. I was excited as I was joining a growing department that looked poised to become a powerhouse in engineering and I was able to stay in New York. Of course, along with my excitement came an air of nervousness, natural when starting somewhere new. Eventually, with time I became more comfortable and everything was going smoothly.

At the end of my second year at NYU, I was given the opportunity to do research at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Dayton, Ohio for one month. I knew this opportunity was too good to pass up and that I would have to be well-prepared to make the most of my time there. I spent the weeks leading up to the summer testing different conditions and trying to find the ideal parameters for my experiments, eventually arriving to what I thought were ideal conditions. I had all the work I would [...]

July 17th, 2020|

My Scientific Summer with the Navy

By Joe Thomas

Academia or industry? This is a question that every grad student is asked at some point regarding their career plans.  As tenured academic positions become incredibly difficult for the bulk of life science graduates to obtain, industry is an attractive alternative that provides a wealth of different opportunities. These jobs are an obvious choice to apply the skills accumulated over the course of a PhD, but there are even more opportunities available outside of the traditional academia/industry dichotomy for those looking for something a little different. PhD scientists are trained to be highly technical leaders, a skill set that is in high demand in many defense/military positions. The Department of Defense (DoD) is always looking to recruit highly specialized researchers to work on projects of national importance. These roles allow researchers to be involved in cutting edge work that has a direct, near-term impact while serving your country.

Since starting graduate school, I have had an interest in working for/with the military as a researcher but was never able to interact with anyone who had direct knowledge of how to break into the field. Scholarships such as the NDSEG are widely publicized and allow graduate students to work on topics of national importance, but I was looking for something more involved with day-to-day military operations. A chance Google search revealed that the Navy uses numerous internship programs as pipelines for new hires. I applied for an NREIP internship and was fortunate enough to be selected to spend the summer at a Navy lab. NREIP internships are available to undergraduates and graduate students alike and involve working alongside a [...]

July 2nd, 2020|

A Shift in Perspective

Xiaole Willy Wang

When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, my professor at the time told me that one type of polypeptide of naked oats has a hypoglycemic effect. There is even an existing patent advocating the same conclusion. I was then challenged by my professor to conduct the same experiment.

“Check the results,” he said, “and if the results come back the same as the patent, you’ll have a chance of investigating further and write a research paper.”

I was so excited since having a published research paper is extremely helpful for an undergrad student, who plans to apply for grad school in America. It would give me more of an advantage among other applicants and be more likely to achieve my dream of being admitted to grad school. With that in mind it became the driving factor, and so I began my experiment.

First of all, I took for granted everything that happened during the experiment process including inconsistencies between my data and what was reported in the patent. My way of thinking, because the published patent is considered “right” and anything that is incongruous with it should be wrong. The right thing can be defined as something repeatable in practice, while the wrong thing is the opposite. What I did was take those inconsistencies as an operational miss, instead of the “wrong thing”. Even though I modified my experiment plan, I still could not repeat the so-called “right result”. With the increasing amount of failure, I became less and less confident and began suspecting whether the result could ever be repeated, I still insisted that it was my fault for [...]

June 9th, 2020|