Which Lab for Grad School?

This is the microscope I use to inject DNA into nematode worms.
This is the microscope I use to inject DNA into nematode worms.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about which lab I should work in for grad school.

As it turns out I get to choose among a few different options.

The folks at Sacramento State are okay with me doing my research at either of my labs in Davis.

I’ve been with the rice lab for almost three years now and feel I’ve gotten what I wanted to out of it.

I’ve already written some goodbye/thank you letters, but have yet to hand them out. I’m just ready to leave the rice lab.

Yesterday I looked up some information on what exactly I’d be doing if I joined the new professor’s lab at Sac State.

The professors old students finished their theses which are then stored in the school library.

Recently the library has started putting digital copies of the theses online. I read a few of the more recent ones that were uploaded.

While the research is interesting, there was nothing that I wanted to do more than the intron research I do currently.

Part of it was the occupational hazard of working with food pathogens. Most food pathogens are collected from raw food samples or from poop.

The idea of having to collect poop samples and work with them… Let’s say its not on my bucket list and leave it at that.

Continuing my intron research would be awesome though. The project has room for expansion and it fits better with what I want to do on a grander scale.

I want to create tools for people to use in other laboratories. Enhancing introns could be used in any laboratory to fine-tune the expression of a gene to the exact level required for an experiment.

I want to create tools like that when I get an official job as a researcher, so it would be best if I did my Master’s Thesis on the same topic.

So it looks like I will be attending Sac State next year but performing my research at UC Davis on introns!

-Mister Ed

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Rice Genomics

My lab bench at the rice genetics lab I work in.
My lab bench at the rice genetics lab I work in.

One of my jobs is working with introns in C. elegans and the other is working on rice genetics.

Above is a picture of my lab bench in the rice genetics lab where I do most of my work.

The rice are kept in three separate greenhouses spread around the western fringes of the college campus. The furthest greenhouse is a little over a mile from the lab.

The technology and staff at the greenhouse complex essentially takes care of the rice for me. They’re checked on once a week by someone in the lab.

About once a month we collect leaves from the rice plants.

I grind the leaves up and extract the DNA from them.

The DNA then gets sent to the Joint Genome Institute to be sequenced.

Sequencing is when the genetic code is read in its entirety to see each letter within it.

The entirety of an organism’s genetic code is called the organism’s genome.

JGI reads the rice genome, then uploads it to the internet for researchers around the world to use.

The rice genome has already been sequenced, so why are we doing it again?

The first time the rice genome was sequenced there were a lot of errors in it. Rereading the sequence now will hopefully rectify those errors.

There’s another project going on at the same time as that though.

I am not isolating DNA from “vanilla” rice, but over 2500 different mutant varieties that were created in my lab.

The sequencing will find a bunch of little errors within the rice genome.

Researchers who are interested in specific errors can then ask my lab to send them some rice seed of that particular mutant variety.

Those researchers get what they want easily and my lab gets a little bit of money for selling the seed.

The mutant varieties don’t “taint” the overall sequence because they only contain errors in a few places. The consensus sequence between them will remain the same.

I’m just a little part in that sequencing project that’s taken almost a decade at this point. I won’t be the one to finish it either, but I’m moving the ball closer to the finish line!

-Mister Ed