Sacramento Underground Tour

This weekend my wife and I went to Old Sac to take one of Sacramento’s Underground Tours.

Old Sac is a historical neighborhood in Sacramento that has turned into a bit of a tourist trap.

All the old buildings from the Gold Rush in the 1850s and 60s are still there, converted into restaurants and gift shops instead of hotels and supply stores.

(I also feel a personal responsibility to warn you about La Terraza restaurant in Old Sac. Food’s bad! Don’t be tempted by the spectacular view! Stay away!)

Bunch of old buildings, right? What can we learn from the tour?

Tour comes with everything you see here!
Tour comes with everything you see here!

Our tour guide, Schoolmaster Mrs. Appleton, told us the basics of Sacramento history first that every Californian knows. Continue reading

Foot Urinals

Sac State has a lot of things that are different than UC Davis.

Smoking is allowed at Sac State. More of the students drive to campus than bike or take the bus. The professors are encouraged to focus on being successful teachers instead of successful researchers.

The student body is a little more diverse as well. There is more minority representation and more LGBTQ people at Sac State than UC Davis.

One of the weirdest differences is in the Sac State bathrooms.

I’m talking of course, about the urinals.

Behold! Flush by foot!
Behold! Flush by foot!

Davis urinals are almost all automatic. You never need to touch anything. Some of them will even beep at you while you’re peeing prompting some funny bathroom graffiti, “Penis Detected!”

Sac State decided that hand flushing toilets were still too unsanitary, but that automatic ones were too expensive (I guess). Thus, we get the foot flushers.

This has been a little weird, but I managed to not shout out, “What the hell is this?” and thus avoided embarrassing myself in front of the janitor cleaning the bathroom at the time I first saw a foot flusher.

Otherwise the Sac State bathrooms are a dramatic improvement over the Davis bathrooms.

Some of the Davis bathrooms are without any ventilation, resulting in them smelling like a stable. Not surprising considering that its an agriculture school, but going into those bathrooms will always be a hideous experience and I’m glad I don’t have to anymore.

One of the bathrooms at Davis has three urinals in a small corner behind the sit-down stalls. This seems fine until you try to leave one of the back two urinals while someone else is using the front one. There is no polite way to push past someone who is peeing. And I can tell you that waiting for them to finish isn’t any better.

The final advantage that Sac State bathrooms have over Davis is the paper towel dispensers. The Davis dispensers have such a tight grip on their towels that you’ll rarely leave with a towel in one piece. Sac State’s dispensers are much better, dispensing one complete towel everytime I’ve used them. No more, no less.

Isn’t that funny. I go to a school for a Master’s of Science degree and I end up talking about bathrooms.

-Mister Ed

First Day of Graduate School

Woo! Yesterday I had my first day of graduate school and it was amazing!

For awhile I’d been worried that I wouldn’t like going back to school once the semester started. All of those worries went away once I stepped out of my car onto campus.

I unfortunately arrived late to my first class. I live in Davis and driving to Sacramento has never taken this long in the past.

I thought I’d budgeted enough for rush hour traffic. I guessed the time accurately except for the time to leave the freeway.

Everyone and their mother wanted to get off the freeway at the Howe Ave exit right by Sacramento State.

Next time I go in the morning I’ll get off at an earlier exit and dodge all that traffic. Hopefully that will get me to school with time to spare.

Anyways! I got approved to be a TA in a lab course which meets Tuesday mornings. This semester I’m in training, but in the future I’ll be paid.

The lab class is a GE fulfilling course, so its filled with students who are not biology majors.

The course is also taught by my graduate adviser, which is a huge plus. We’ll get to know more about each through teaching together which will help a lot later in the graduate school process.

I assisted the students with a simple discussion lab which tried to define what life is.

After the discussion each student took a sterile swabbed and rubbed it onĀ something before rubbing it on a petri dish. Whatever they rubbed onto it will grow over the week and we can take a look at it next Tuesday.

When the lab finished I walked around campus. I found the bookstore, the activities fair (no I don’t want to join a fraternity), the student union, and the library. I at my lunch on the quad and then went to read in the library til my next class.

I have two other classes on Tuesday. The first was about how to be a better TA. I met the other students and the teacher told us a little bit about herself, her teaching style, and some resources we could use to improve ourselves as teachers.

My last class, Molecular Biology, was in the same room as the class on how to be a TA. I was surprised when the teacher walked in because I recognized him!

The teacher for my Molecular Biology class is also the post-doc who works in the same worm lab as me at Davis!

It was a pretty cool coincidence. Apparently he had already known for awhile, but hadn’t told me yet.

I was unfortunately the only person who consistently raised my hand to answer questions in his class. I’m hoping that will change in the future. Maybe everyone else was just shy because they hadn’t met the instructor yet.

At the end of the day the instructor and I discussed carpooling together.

Turns out that won’t work because he lives in Sacramento and I live in Davis. At the end of the day we want to be in different places.

Altogether it was a great day. I loved being back on campus as a student and as a teacher. I love learning and helping other people learn. I’m looking forward to the next two or three years at Sac State!

-Mister Ed

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