Thursday, June 23, 2016

Keeping a Lab Notebook

Here's an example lab notebook page I made for my undergrads. It's the general format I use for experiments and thought it might be handy for some of you too.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thoughts and updates and recaps

I've been wanting to write a post about how much harder it is to blog as a postdoc than it was as a
I have spent a LOT of my downtime watching Netflix. It is 
perfect for turning off your brain. Might I recommend Buffy 
the Vampire Slayer?
grad student. It boils down to this:
  • Working down to the wire to get experiments finished before leaving for the conference
  • Finishing the poster on the plane or in the hotel room (I'd never done this before!)
  • Printing the poster at the conference center... having it reprinted because they screwed it up
  • Trying to keep up with new fields AND old fields for posters and talks
  • Networking in new fields AND old fields at socials and posters
  • Interviewing researchers about their research in order to write the blog posts (always interesting and fun! but takes time)
  • Writing the posts, proofreading, sending to the author for approval, publishing the post, and promoting on social media
  • Sleep
I've been wanting to write a recap post about my first year as a postdoc. It boils down to this:
  • OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE??? I don't know anything about anything in these fields of research and I'm an imposter and I suck!
  • Oh yeah, I do know a lot of stuff (usually reminded of this when undergrad and grad students ask me questions).
  • I'm an expert in these techniques from grad school.
  • OMG I've never done this really simple assay before and I'm going to screw it up and everyone is going to know I suck!
  • That was easy.
  • My project is based on me being really good at this technique but it's really hard and I suck at it and my mice are dying WHYYYYYYYYYY??!!!
  • Oh hey, I figured that out.
But in between each of these bullet points...
  • I broke my ankle and my humerus (not funny) and shattered my radial head over Labor Day weekend, had to get a shiny new radial head, spent most of September in an opiate-induced haze, and had to do PT several times a week for MONTHS.
  • My mom's boyfriend died and there were other factors that made this a really horrible hard time for her.
  • My dad came to see me but there was a whole boatload of drama because my son hasn't completely matured yet and was having a rough time with the whole adulthood thing.
  • More drama and difficult times for my son.
  • More health issues for me.
  • And in the last month...
    • My mom fell and injured herself and for this and several other reasons we no longer felt she was safe living alone so she is now in assisted living and her apartment needed to be emptied of a gigantic amount of stuff because her new apartment is tiny.
    • My dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer and we all thought it would be terminal and that he would refuse treatment even if it wasn't. He didn't and starts chemo next week but... he starts chemo next week. This is going to be a rough road.
    • My best friend of all time is moving to Hawaii and for many reasons I don't think I'll be able to see her again for a long time.
There have been good things. 
  • I really like my mentor, labmates, institution, officemate, city, and new friends. 
  • My project is really cool and I finally feel like I'm getting a good grasp on things.
  • I wrote a fellowship that got scored really well! Twice! (But wasn't funded.)
  • My best friend is following her dreams and moving to Hawaii! And I incidentally got to see her before she leaves.
  • I got to go home and see family for my favorite holiday (Thanksgiving).
  • My kid is doing better.
  • Keeping in touch with my close friends from grad school via Skype has been AWEsome. 
  • I was diagnosed with asthma and now take meds and I can BREATHE again. And I don't feel like I need to sleep a million hours a day.
  • One of my sisters is buying her first house and getting married! 
  • I have a job and mentor flexible enough that I was able to come and be here for my family to help out during this nightmare of a month.
  • My background in pharmacology, physiology, and neuroscience has come in really handy for understanding all of my and my family's health problems and explaining them to family members without that background. 
Is being a postdoc harder than being a grad student? The answer will vary depending on like a million factors. For me? It depends on the day but mostly I have enjoyed it more. (Partly because I don't have a dissertation and defense looming over my head.) (But the defense is probably going to be easier than you think it will be, grad students.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

#expbio APS Program: Chronic intermittent hypoxia suppresses adult neurogenesis and disrupts synaptic plasticity in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus through a pro-oxidant state

Figure 1: Sleep apnea occurs slightly more often in men 
and causes substantial daytime sleepiness and can 
impair cognitive function. (Source: geralt)
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs in over 3 percent of people worldwide and is slightly more common in men. It occurs when the upper airway collapses during sleep, decreasing oxygen delivery to the brain, and causing disruptions in sleep. As you might expect, people with obstructive sleep apnea can have severe fatigue during the day. What you might not know is that cognitive functions, like short-term memory, can be impaired. The lab of Nino Ramirez at the University of Washington in Seattle and Seattle Children’s Research Institute is examining the cognitive aspect of sleep apnea. Dr. Alfredo J Garcia III (Senior Scientist) and Chelsea Pagan (graduate student) supervised this project, which also involved Maggie Khuu (post-bac research assistant) and Alexi Christakis (high school volunteer). Chelsea in particular was interested in the memory difficulties and overall cognitive impairment seen in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. She wondered the impaired memory could be due to a decrease in the number of new brain cells being created in the adult, a process called adult neurogenesis.

Monday, April 18, 2016

#expbio ASPET Blogging: Social defeat stress in males and females: Role of kappa opioid receptors

Figure 1: A California mouse that is OMG cute. 
(Sarah Laredo)
Most currently prescribed anti-depressants are neurotransmitter reuptake inhibitors. That means they work by keeping more of certain molecules, called neurotransmitters, in the spaces between brain cells. One-third to one-half of people with major depression find relief from symptoms by taking one or more anti-depressants of this type. Women tend to respond better to those of the serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class, which suggests there could be differences in how depression occurs in women and men. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with major depression and yet most scientific research on depression is done using male rodents. Dr. Brian Trainor at the University of California, Davis uses both male and female animals to better understand how depression and the response to anti-depressants is different between the sexes. He is studying a different type of anti-depressant treatment that works through the opioid system in the brain.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

#expbio ASPET Blogging: Chronic Antagonism of p38α MAPK Normalizes Serotonin Clearance, Serotonin Receptor Hypersensitivity and Social Behavior Deficits in a Genetic Murine Model of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Figure 1: Serotonin synapse. (Source)    
Autism is a disorder with a high level of heritability, meaning it is passed down through families genetically. There are hundreds of gene mutations associated with autism. Some of these affect the chemical and neurotransmitter serotonin. Previous work from the Blakely lab has found five genetic variants in the serotonin transporter (SERT) associated with autism. In about 30 percent of autism cases, there is an increase in serotonin in blood platelets. This effect stems from SERT activity on the surface of platelets. Neurons in the brain also contain these transporters and the gene mutations associated with autism pull more serotonin into the cell, similar to the transporters on platelets in the blood. In the brain, this leaves less serotonin in the gap between neurons, called the synapse. Dr. Matthew Robson, a postdoc in Dr. Randy Blakely’s lab at Vanderbilt University, is studying one gene mutation implicated in autism. He is also using a drug that may help relieve some of the symptoms of autism, such as impaired sociability, that are untreatable with current medications.