Although life in graduate school can be boring for some people, where my schedule is: go to lab and do research, teach and grade assignments, exercise/work out in the gym, attend meetings and seminars, play volleyball, bike around town, check with my brother, talk to my parents, and then repeat…I always try to make myself occupied with tasks to do and people to see. Many people would therefore view me as a workaholic, but I just prefer to have a fulfilling day before getting back to my place to read National Geographics, listen to music, cook dinner, watch movies, and sleep. Even though life can be a drag with repetition, I aim to continue moving forward and make progress while feeling blessed to have so many good folks around me.
After meeting with my committee members and finally getting certified as a doctoral student, I began searching from a strain of mice recommended by one of the faculty members to include in my projects. After constant communications with my faculty advisor and the committee member whom bumped into me in seminars and knows me, I received the mice two Fridays ago.
My faculty advisor initially requested me to see if those knockout mice are available commercially since it would take me months to create the murine strain from scratch. However, phone calls with staff from Jackson Laboratory led to a negative, and soon I was thinking of Plan B. Luckily, the committee member was contacting a professor in Tokyo who created the murine strain on my behalf, and I was permitted to use those mice without breeding them. Since the committee member only has a few old mice left, I soon searched and heard from a German researcher here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who bred the mice and needed to eliminate or move those mice to prevent housing costs from increasing. After emails and phone calls, I got to know the German researcher and discovered that he is pretty close to my advisor and my advisor’s wife…He has a deep voice, portraying humor with his heavy accent. Haha perhaps I do have a thing for Germans! Anyway, I was glad for him to help me and to offer me some guidance regarding these mice too.
I received twenty mice that I requested with two extra, and ’twas a great Easter gift. These knockout mice used in immunological research typically costs more than $150 for one, and boy would I not be able to purchase twenty of these mice with my own lunch money. These knockout mice also look identical to the wildtypes since they have the same background, but a wildtype mouse from Jackson Laboratory would cost merely $17 in contrast. With the help from so many people, I am then responsible to put these mice into good use and to advance on my research. After this experiment, ’tis possible that I will be in contact with the Japanese professor and German researcher to set protocols and agreements on breeding so that I could maintain my own colony.
Many individuals, including some of my students, think that a graduate student in the biosciences or a researcher would wear lab coats with thick glasses, have messy facial hair and some quirkiness, and reside in a lab building (and even sleep there)…from one of my co-teaching assistants, one of my beloved students even came into the zoology building last Wednesday hoping to see me and talk to me…and I am only in that building on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays when I have to teach or attend TA meetings. Horror stories about postdocs and graduate students from Boston locking their lab notebooks and being mischievous in sharing equipments and details would fascinate me since I would apply to postdoc opportunities in Boston and since my observations of labs in Taiwan, California, Germany, and Wisconsin are quite the opposite with an emphasis on collaboration. Being able to communicate with faculty across the Pacific Ocean and obtaining free mice from a German researcher increased my faith that scientists should communicate and collaborate with one another, and that we should not be hiding inside the closet the entire time but share to gain feedback. That was how I “used” my committee members too. Instead of completely ignoring them, I do my best to obtain feedback from them and meet with them. Hopefully things will pan out and that I can continue making progress to attend a conference soon.
One of my co-TAs Michael told me that his birthday, 19 April, has been a day with calamities in history. Since we would be proctoring an exam with other co-TAs that evening and one other co-TA Emily would have defended her Master’s thesis that morning, I used my happy planning skills and informed my colleagues about meeting at around 6:55PM to celebrate so that Michael would not become a Debbie Downer. I knew that Michael would be back by then from his run and that Emily would be there too. Unfortunately, we could not imbibe alcoholic beverages prior to proctoring, so I preordered a cake from Lanes Bakery, another great bakery in Madison with many cake selections, donuts, party supplies, and other baked goodies.
‘Twas raining on Thursday, and I walked around town to pick up the nine-inch cake. I hid the cake on a cart with candles in a different room, and eventually wheeled the cart into the room at 7:05PM when everyone was there. ‘Twas great to be able to make friends and people you know smile, and ’twas great to see people eating cake and loving it. Somehow, words got into Michael and Emily that I was the one who bought the cake, and they both offered me gratitude at the end…which was unexpected since I did not want to take credit for the entire celebration. The thanks with a pat on the back from Emily and a “Thanks joe, really appreciate it. total surprise. way too generous. thanks” text message from Michael did make me smile in my heart though.
And from here, one can see that Michael is pretty rough for cutting cake. Maybe ’tis in the genes of civil engineers or people who study water management…but ’twas funny to see people coloring outside boxes, not drawing straight lines when connecting dots, and not thinking about symmetry but bringing out the au natural, free self when cutting cake for the fourteen in the room!
I spent time with three lovely folks of the same age for four hours last Sunday evening over healthy comfort food and great conversations. From the group, I knew two of them really well since I lived at least a year with them. Peter though, was someone I never got to know but he caught my eye as being a great guy. I first met him through another friend who was present on Sunday a few years ago, and Peter left me an impression of being a brewer with shiny earrings since we bumped into each other at his house party with his home brewed pumpkin ale and later around campus with minimal conversations. Having to interact with each other over four hours made me appreciate him a lot more too, for he has traits of an ideal man (or as I called him, a ladies’ man). Whenever someone is speaking, Peter would always remain eye contact to the speaker with his bright smile and portray interest in any topic with questions and/or comments. When he speaks, he also looks around the room to make sure that no one was left out…and since I sat directly across from him, I got to see him smile more! He also would compliment and thank people frequently i.e. on a dish that was cooked or a conversation piece, but not in a ass-kissing or superficial way. He would also ask the hostess if he could offer to help, and he is extremely good at chopping strawberries. He is also well-educated and has goals to achieve in life. Overall, he is a gem in my eyes who is just not too desperate and is comfortable with himself.