U dub life

I am officially a University of Washington employee this summer! I will be working as a lab assistant this summer in Ferric Fang’s lab at University of Washington until early September. I am stoked. I’ve been working in the lab for exactly a month now and it has been nothing but positive.

First, I’m very excited to be in Seattle. I weigh location very heavily when choosing a school or establishment to work at, so, naturally, Seattle was a top choice for my destination this summer. I came to Seattle for a few days in November for the ABRCMS conference. Yes, I was a totally noob tourist, but I instantly knew this was a place I could fit in. Seattle is beautiful—so much green everywhere, such a cool city, so much to explore, moody vibes. I love it. Very similar to the bay area in California.

Second, I’m really looking forward to the research I’ll be doing this summer. My previous project at UCSB involved searching for peptides that can permeate bacterial outer membranes in order to facilitate antibiotic delivery. I learned a ton from that project, but I wanted to get more involved in some basic microbiology research. My current project at UW is just that. I am currently working on characterizing nitric oxide targets in Staphylococcus aureus, a Gram-positive bacteria. I’ve also never worked with Gram-positive bacteria so it’s been eye-opening learning how to handle different types of bacteria. We’re studying the target thymidine kinase, an enzyme involved in the salvage pathway of pyrimidine synthesis. It’s pretty cool because I just learned about this exact pathway in one of my courses, which means I’m actually applying what I learned in class, in real life. Imagine that…

Lastly, I love UW. The campus is gorgeous (see photos), the people are incredibly kind, and the microbiology program is ranked fourth in the nation. There are some amazing researchers here!! It feels great to be connected to so many resources and be a part of a school that is so heavily focused on research.

In a nutshell—really enjoying my time here this summer. I’m growing as a person and a scientist. I’m feeling more confident than ever that a research career is what I’m working towards.



IMG_4607 IMG_4638 IMG_4624 IMG_4515 IMG_4489^^^the magical house I’m subleasing at this summer

Spirited Away (Microbiology edition)

My first experience with undergraduate research has been like one of my favorite movies, Spirited Away. Like the main character Chihiro, I’ve entered into a dreamlike world with fantastic things I’ve never seen before. My parents did not transform into pigs and abandon me like Chihiro’s so I’m not nearly as scared as she was, but I, like Chihiro, initially felt nervous and a little lost.

I entered the spirit world (lab) not knowing a lot about spirits (microbiology, bacterial genetics, lab techniques) and I needed a mentor. Luckily, a post-doc, Zach Ruhe, agreed to guide me. I like to think of Zach as Kamaji, the bath-house boiler man/spider. He has six arms that are always busy in his work, yet he still has given me the chance to work and learn in the lab. I’ve already learned so much from my mentor–how to present ideas, how to express myself in technical writing, how to handle lab skillz with finesse, how to work harder than you think you should, how to play Black & Yellow on Google talk–and I am greatly appreciative.

I also have other helpers in the lab. August, a UCSB 2015 graduate, is a noble role model like Haku. He checks in on me, gives me good advice, and kindly offers zucchini bread snacks to me. Interestingly, Haku and August are both spirits controlled by tyrannical forces: Haku’s being Yubaba, August’s being the medical school application process. My other helper is Jing, a lab technician. I liken Jing to Lin, a sister-like co-worker who comes in from time to time to help out Chihiro and guide her in her journey.

This journey has just begun, but I am beginning to gain more confidence working in the spirit world. The coming-of-age theme of Spirited Away definitely resonates with me through this experience as I’m gaining more responsibility and starting to become a “real” scientist. I’m excited to continue working on our brand new project about antibiotic resistance and I am eager to report back when we’ve gotten more data. Thanks for reading.


Here’s a picture of me slaving away at the lab:

Bianca in the lab