Blog Posts

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 the journal. (Chances are you’re still only just beginning…)

[Picture credit: PHDCOMICS]


After weeks/months of waiting, you will receive reviewers’ feedback. If you are lucky your manuscript will be accepted ‘as is’ (congratulations, this is one of the biggest accomplishments and I suggest you immediately buy a lottery ticket!!!). However, most of the times the finish line is within your sight but still further away. You may feel writing/editing fatigue but soon you will realize that editing will rather raise the standard of your work. You persevere and make all of the revisions suggested-strengthening your own work. You go through few more rounds of edits with your colleagues/PI (perhaps at this point you would have developed a thick skin). You submit your FINAL, FINAL draft and hope for acceptance. When your manuscript is accepted, you will be very relieved and exhilarated. But wait, there’s more!

As you continuously refresh the google search of your name to see your manuscript online, you will realize that it is not over yet!! You still have to proofread!! This is one of the important steps as you read the ‘FINAL, FINAL, FINAL” version of your manuscript. While the reviewers seem to have pointed out everything, there are bound to be some minor typos that leak through. Once you submit your edits, no further changes are allowed to be made so you need to read absolutely EVERYTHING. And voilà, your work has been published- yay it’s party time!!

Writing and editing a paper can be extremely exhausting, however the sense of accomplishment and relief makes you come back for more. While I learn many things in the process of writing/publishing, the most useful assets I learned are patience, perseverance and persistence.


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 found my personal active site in the major of Biological Sciences, and I plan to never unbind from this substrate of knowledge. Although I am one of few African-American students in the world of STEM, science has provided a channel of comfort. No matter if I am learning about the denaturing of enzymatic proteins under various pH environments in the classroom, or implementing mutations to Phosphotriesterase Enzymes sequence for computational research from the comfort of my home, my passion for STEM continues to break down the obstacles I confront being the an underrepresented minority student. There’s something therapeutic in studying science, and in doing so, I’ve discovered a very important theory: I already embody a protein.

To test this conjecture, I’ve decided to create an experimental design comparing me to two of the main types of proteins (Membrane proteins already have enough going on). Since I am a “scientist”, I thought I would provide to you with a detailed representation of the rigorous complexity of my testing.



Experimental Test 1: Globular Protein- Phosphotriesterase Enzymes


Like the Phosphotriesterase Enzymes I work with in the lab, which are globular proteins crucial in the enzymatic activities of the metabolic reactions all throughout eukaryotic organisms, I’m motivated to be a catalyst for change. Whether I’m volunteering at the soup kitchen during school holidays, or simply helping my sister with her biology homework every night, I relish in helping to activate positive change throughout my community. My pursuit to catalyze these outcomes has also propelled me to actively advocate against the detrimental impacts of climate change and environmental racism on underrepresented minority communities. Pushed by my power of service over self, I plan to use my “protein-like” functions to effectuate beneficial transformations greater than myself.


Experimental Test 2: Fibrous Proteins – COMPcc and Elastin Proteins

Cartilage oligomeric matrix (COMPcc) proteins and elastin proteins are fibrous proteins that play a key biological role in structural support in the body. In ways alike, I parallel their important responsibilities on the basketball court. As a point guard, I consistently provide foundational support to my teammates through signaling defensive play-calls and pointing out directions to initiate our offensive strategy, all while making sure our team-chemistry stays optimal. With my voice, I am able to bring the important directives of my coach to my teammates in quick fashion, carrying out our key plays in order to beat our opponents. The significant functions of these fibrous proteins is exemplified by my basketball identity, and I plan to add more qualities to this identity to create better victories not just for me, but my teammates.



While interning in the Montclare Lab, I have found that my “protein” aspiration extends far beyond myself and these three proteins. Through my protein computational design work, I’ve developed quite a remarkable hypothesis: we should all be proteins! With the twenty-one essential amino acids there exists hundreds of thousands of diverse protein structures, and I’ve theorized that there is a protein molecule to symbolize every one of our diverse characters. Through these protein identities, we will find new connections among each other stemming from the unique backbones we hold. We all hold a piece to a puzzle, a substrate to an enzyme, an important responsibility to another person, so let’s link our diversified personalities together like amino acids on a peptide chain to synthesize ravishing multi-dimensional complexes that will never denature. After, we can all share my dream of becoming a protein, and I can make my fourth grade teacher proud.

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 unknown. Although my biggest dream is to one day become an Optometrist, I am happily realizing that just like my dentist, I too have chosen to become a scientist first. Slowly, yet proudly, I am beginning to identify myself as a real scientist.

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.

Science kit

One of my first science kits

While my own lab will still have to wait, I eventually got that lab coat in my high school AP Chemistry class. In high school, I took any science class available to me and focused on doing as well as possible. Anything less than an A was a failure in my eyes, even though my parents were always proud of me for trying my best. I knew that if I wanted to have a career as a scientist, I would need to push myself. Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to find motivation. Learning more about the world was exciting!


Though my goals have changed over time, I still find myself wanting to do scientific work in any capacity. My current goals are to get a bachelor’s degree (or further) in chemical and biomolecular engineering. Ideally, I’d like to specialize in protein engineering. While I’m not taking part in hands-on experiments right now, I’m working towards my goals by doing computational protein design as a part of the Montclare Lab. It has been amazing! While my journey is nowhere near finished, I never could have imagined that I’d be so well poised to achieve my goals. From mixing soaps and perfumes to working on proteins which can be used to help others, I’ve made big steps towards reaching my childhood dream. However, I’m not going to stop here. Who knows, maybe that six-year-old experimenting with everything will end up with his very own lab after all!

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 of finding a cure for patients like my friend. I feel great studying science because I am applying my studies to help people. While I have not yet made a direct impact on patient health, I can appreciate that I’m reaching my goal step by step. With science, my life is meaningful.

Connect with me on Twitter @Laplata1021