23 year old girl scientist, happily married to a man in uniform. In my 2nd year of my PhD, new home owner, and owner of 1 dog and 2 cats.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Cleavage, caspases, crying, cathartic

Presentation is FINALLY over! It was a little nerve-wracking. I headed into my presentation with my eyes still red from spontaneous crying spell.

I actually brought cookies to the presentation. I figured, if I was going to shock my audience with dead lung tissue and fetal pictures, I should enhance their blood sugar. OK, it was all Chriss's idea, and she brought soda. But it was still a good idea. :)

The second I began talking, my mouth lost absolutely all moisture and cottonmouth began. Luckily wonderful-girl-scientist-friend Chriss was there to save the day and pour me diet cranberry soda. But, still, in my mind, I looked like a cow chewing and was totally unable to recall any of the eloquent dialogue I'd prepared.

It was more along the lines of, "Um, OK, so these people like really wanted to discover which cellular pathway is involved here, so they looked at... uhhhh... the caspase-8 and TNF alpha inhibitor?"

And my professor kindly said, "What is a TUNEL assay? Why didn't they look at Bcl-2 or Caspase-9 or Fas ligands? What inhibitors should they have used? What kind of a journal is this, anyway? Why didn't they compare smooth muscle lung tissue? Do you KNOW what is in this picture here with all these dots? ALV-EE-OOO-LII. And why do we really care about apoptosis and proliferation in human fetal lungs exposed to chorioamnionitis?"

Me: "Well, Dr. Know-Everything-About-This-Subject, that is a great question, which a.) I unfortunately am not familiar with the area, b.) they really liked caspase-8 and probably had it laying around their lab, c.) I don't know, I don't know, I don't know." (My answers varied according to questions).

I finished and wanted to cry, mainly from exhaustion and mental stress and worry about how I did. I joke about being a terrible scientist, but I really busted my butt on this, learning extrinsic pathways of cell signaling, various proteases and peptides, cellular cleavage (not the CLEAVAGE like boys enjoy, but cleavage as in cell binding and activation). I worked so hard, and was still unable to answer 30-40% of his questions.

But, then again, many people in this field are years older than me, came into their PhDs with Masters degrees, and have been doing this a lot longer than me. Plus, this is their field of expertise, whereas I work in a much broader and psychophysiological field. So, now, at the end of the day, I am really proud of myself for learning all that I did, and not completely fumbling and embarassing myself.

*pat on back*

And my good girlfriend Chriss, who convinced me to take the class by telling me there was no exam (she was wrong), sent me a very nice email this morning saying: "i can't imagine how hard it would be for me to present out of my field, as you have. I think it was good that you told us up front that you were not from IDP. Your talk had a different slant to it, and it provided nice insight. Good for you for stepping up and trying something new!"

It's funny how these little things, something that probably took her 10 seconds to write, can brighten your entire day. At least I know my friends still stand by me, even if I do stumble over my words and look a bit stupid sometimes.



  • At 1:32 PM, Blogger An American Dante said…

    Sweetie, I'm sure you did fine! But I'm sure that any skepticism (is that how you spell that?) that you recieved is just because people are confounded by the fact that such a gorgeous girl can be so smart and involved in such a difficult field. What I am saying is major jealousy issues, most likely. I know I'm jealous of my smarty friend!!! Hee hee. Your professor was probably just testing you to see how you handled being on the spot. Maybe he has some major project in mind for you. . . you never know what people's motivations are! Just keep your chin up and don't give up. I know you wouldn't anyways. So anyways, loved the entry!


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