Monday, May 05, 2008

FOUR months absence

wow, i really can't believe it's been four months!!! a whole semester of no blog activity... this just shows how preoccupied i've been this semester (my final semester as a Biochemistry degree student)

however, i must say that this has been the busiest, most stressful semester ever! the fact that i had 3 biochem lab sessions per week with all the lab reports to write, contributed alot to the 4am sleep regime... and for some reason, my piers (referring to those 3 other intelligent girls whom i hang out with all the time) decided to produce QUALITY lab reports this semester. what i mean by QUALITY reports is that "thou shalt not reproduce thy senior's report and hand in as thy own report"... as is the common practice among many public uni science students (i have no idea of the situation in private colleges etc... perhaps it's the same?) therefore, one report would take at least 1 day for researching the topic and and at least another day to actually physically write out the report and i almost forgot, the use of excel to analyze the data and print out the graphs!!!
as busy as i've been this semester, i believe i've learned alot this semester... especially in the use of MS office suite (in particular: words, excel, powerpoint) and DNA analysis programs such as chromas pro, MEGA 4 and geneious pro... plus my image editing skills have finally come into good use in the production of my thesis and oral presentation slides... not that i want to brag or anything, but i really think that first impressions are very important when you're trying to present something... from the way you present your data to the uniformity of your presentation slides and the aesthetics of your slide organizations to the language you use... it all plays an important role in how your audience will perceive your presentation or work. unfortunately, many science students (from what i've observed among my course mates and through the intervarsity biochemistry seminars i've attended) fail to recognize the gravity of first impressions.

so now, i'll commence on to the major item which took up alot of my time and concern for the past few months... my final year project... i can't remember whether i've blogged about this before... but my final year project was giving me alot of problems since i started on it... and all the results finally came tumbling in when our dateline for ending the lab sessions was way past its due and when the thesis writing dateline was approaching at break-neck speed... but THANK GOD for that!!! Really truely praise God!!! a specific instance would be during one of our (me and my lab mate) overnight stints in the Antarctic Lab... we were trying to optimize our PCR conditions, conducting more than 10 runs on that night itself, but not getting any results... multiple bands, multiple bands but none with the size we desired... my partner (which is the brilliant one among the 2 of us) with sleep-deprived swollen eyes had already expressed her defeat and since she was out of ideas, i suggested we try a PCR profile which i pieced together using the "mini mini miney moe" technique (a.k.a pin the donkey's tail blindfolded)... and after we put the PCR tubes into the thermal cycler, i prayed and prayed and prayed (silently) that we'd have a band at 1.5 kbp... and at last, my prayer was answered when we saw that beautiful band at 1.5 kbp (amongst multiple bands) on our ethidium bromide stained agarose gel!!! it was our eureka moment! (although it wasn't a break through discovery or anything important in actual fact...) but yeah, that was a really miraculous event that can only be attributed to God answering my prayers!!!

after that miracle, the project progressed in quite an uninterrupted productive flow... with an occasional stumbling block here and there. but evidently, the project went quite well as i've gotten through my oral presentation and have finished my thesis (to be submitted tomorrow). for the first half of the duration, we (my partner and i) were so worried and our mentor (a PhD student) and supervisor were already thinking of changing our project title... and one really 'encouraging' PhD student (not our mentor) told us not to worry, we could always extend our project work to the special semester (which would delay our graduation)... however, thankfully everything went well and to completion.

at first i thought since i wasn't 'the one who made the big decisions' in this project, i would have difficulties writing my thesis... so i just wrote what i understood and could think of... but to my surprise, i received positive comments (among some criticism) on my results and discussion section (which is the core of the thesis) from both my mentor and supervisor. however, this led me to think whether they thought it was well-written because of the content, or because of my writing style... again, i'm not trying to brag but i'm more confident in my writing skills than with my scientific thinking skills... so lies the undecided balancing scale of content and writing style over my head... (i'm actually having the "timbang" image in my mind!) therefore, i really cannot gauge that the positive comments will get me an A... i really hope i can get an A, since it's an 8 credit hour course!!! but my supervisor is not known to be a lenient evaluator... so i shall have to wait and see and receive my grades gracefully.

as for my oral presentation, i somehow lost all my concerns when i went up to present... it was really weird... since i have a very real phobia of public speaking... but my 'matter-of-fact' behaviour caused me to accidentally skip mentioning an important point in my introduction on PHAs and also i finished my presentation before the 8 minutes bell (we were given 10 minutes to present). so i'm not sure whether they will penalize me on that... anyway, i think it went quite smoothly... Praise God!!!

oh, i think i forgot to say what my project is about... the title is 'Genetic Characterization of the Polyhydroxyalkanoate Synthases in Two Pseudomonas Isolates from Antarctica'. so basically we ran PCR to amplify the PHA synthase gene and then we sent the fragments for DNA sequencing. since the DNA sequencing only can sequence around 500 bases in one run... we had to design a primer to conduct gene walking (which is the process where primers are designed so that we can sequence an entire gene step by step). we did not sequence the entire gene, but we managed to sequence the 1.5 kbp and part of the 1.3 kbp fragments ampilifed using primers designed by Solaiman in his 2002 journal paper. i know it doesn't seem like much but the sequencing and PCR reagents were really expensive, in fact our project has exceeded the rm500 per person budget which was allocated to all project students. i think i can safely say that our project cost could have even exceeded rm2000... but thanks to the generosity of our mentor, she used her grant to pay for the DNA sequencing etc.

hmm... as can be seen, my final year project has been a major part of my life for the past few months... my last exam of my final semester was on saturday... i only had 3 papers this semester and 'post-exam pre-results' comment would be that i didn't come out of the exam wanting to cry... so i know that i won't fail and probably could get at least B's for these papers... but of course it would be better if i could get A's (pray, please pray, pray...)

i haven't started looking for a job yet... i'm kind of worried since i'm not too sure about what i want to do... ads and writing really interest me, but i don't have the formal training in those fields... however, sometimes i see myself doing postgraduate studies but i fear i lack the discipline to work on my own schedule to finish masters by 1 year and PhD by 3-5 years. and i don't know much about finance and investments to determine whether i'm suitable for that field... this is bad... too fickle

in the meantime, i'll be taking a computer course on web designing using flash and dreamweaver... it'll be starting next week and i'm really excited about it... since i've always wanted to learn flash (whether i'll be good at it is another story)... i think i've blogged about this before...

gosh, i'm so hungry now... i think i'll stop here... i don't know when i'll blog next... my blogging pattern has been pretty erratic... maybe i'll blog tomorrow or it could be 5 months time... i don't know.

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