Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I don't normally blog from work, but when it's after 6:30 PM and I'm alone in the lab with at least a 45-minute wait to see what's going to pop out of the gel, the guilt level drops to nil.

I'm starting to really enjoy myself here, in a nice parallel with the experience so recently mentioned by Maribeth. I really did have the option of heading out earlier through the freezing parking lot to my car and putting off the gel run until tomorrow morning. But I happen to be doing something that no one has done before. No matter what the results are, they will not rock anyone's world -- it's merely a routine genetic screening that just hasn't been done on this fly species before. It might not even work. But I have the lab facilities all to myself right now, and I really want to see the results before I go home for the night.

Anyway, I got a chance to do something even more fun earlier today. Part of the grant involves a high-school outreach project, so I had a chance to sit in on part of an insect-ID demo with two faculty members, a high-school teacher, and several students. The really fun part was that the insect collections used for the demo came from the South American tropics.

Wow. The bugs. The bugs! They were big ("Julie-rific"), they were colorful -- they were an exercise in legal psychedelia. There were shiny little tortoise beetles, spindly spiders with huge fangs, colorful true bugs, and at least three subfamilies of ants (including a winged virgin queen). The only thing that would have made it even better would have been if they were all alive.

Note to self: Must travel to the tropics.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I've recently been isolating DNA from the reproductive organs of Drosophila. This is easiest to do if the material is fresh -- e.g., if the fly is essentially still kicking. A practiced hand can remove the appropriate tissues deftly from a carbon dioxide-anesthetized fly and deposit the critter into a vial of 100% ethanol before the poor bug ever knows what hit it. I'm not in possession of anything resembling a practiced hand yet.

Since I really don't like my partially dissected insects still kicking, I've figured out that moving them from a carbon dioxide-laden environment to a dish chilled on ice keeps them anesthetized and vastly reduces the trauma to all involved. Maybe it's just that I like my bugs so much, but it seems the least I can do. Of course, I've been through a gonadal dissection myself, and the person performing it had the good sense to make sure I wasn't kicking during the procedure either. So, I guess to me, it's just common courtesy.

Anyway, the DNA was beautiful (the fly DNA -- I really don't know whether anyone bothered with mine), and I'll be doing some interesting things with it tomorrow. Oh, and Rick's coming up for the weekend. I'll have someone with whom to explore the city at leisure. Best of all, no flies will be harmed in the course of these activities.