Debbie Knight

A Day in the Life: October 25, 2011

In research log on October 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm

From time to time, I will give a glimpse into the “glamorous” life of a research associate and talk about what I’m doing in the lab on a particular day. These entries I will call “A Day in the Life…”

Once a week, we have a meeting with our collaborators – a chemistry professor, two chemistry graduate students, and a chemical biomaterials engineer. (Sounds like the makings of a rather corny joke.)

While we communicate pretty well now, it did take a while for us (the biologists) to understand the chemistry side of things and vice versa.

One of the chemistry graduate students is preparing for his qualifying exam which involves writing a mock grant proposal and defending that proposal to his committee members.

So, Andrew presented his idea for his mock grant proposal. He wanted to get feedback from the biologists in the group – a biology professor, a research associate, and a graduate student. And he had some pretty cool ideas (which could even result in a real grant proposal). (Note;  I’ve known one graduate student whose mentor submitted her grant proposal to the National Institutes of Health and it was funded! Quite a spectacular feat for a graduate student and a great feather in her career cap!)

The chemistry graduate student managed to stump the biologists in the group for a few moments when he started talking about cancer cells and an enzyme they overexpress. The details don’t really matter here, but what does matter is that this chemistry student who synthesizes nanomaterials in the lab (pure chemistry) knew more about this enzyme (a biological protein) and its relationship with cancer biology than we did.

Now to give us credit, we aren’t cancer researchers. And what we do know about this enzyme, my boss and I learned  in passing — a mention in a journal article we were reading or a quick reference in a scientific presentation – nothing formal. The biology graduate student? She may have heard about it in one of her classes.

I’d also like to mention that my lab’s research covers a few human viruses as well as immunology relating to the viruses and to the nanomaterials. Our knowledge about cancer biology is not nearly as extensive.

But still!  A chemistry student showing up a biologist on his or her own playing field?  Tsk. Tsk.

We’re not proud! And we know we don’t know every last thing about every last thing. Which is good because this could have been embarrassing!

Score one for the chemistry graduate student! Good job, Andrew!

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