Offbrand Cereal: A Chronicle

It was either the sixth or seventh time I took a shower using hand soap before I realized I was probably doing something wrong. The whole living on my own thing was not going quite as I had planned. Living on roughly $50 a week has been a brutally humbling experience that has altered my appreciation of pretty much everything. Somehow the absence of wifi leaves even the most furnished house feeling like some shack in a rundown shanty. Even without wifi I would settle for just a furnished house, but after sleeping on the hardwood floor for the past three weeks my back has probably suffered the full extent of irreversible spinal damage, so I think I will hold off on buying a mattress for a little bit longer. With my spine in the shape of an S, I hobble from place to place. I had a truck but that was before it died on me, right before I was going to see Finding Dory at the drive in with my friend, Sarina. Bummer. Although it’s not really as bad as it sounds. The past three weeks have been filled with a lot of redeeming upgrades. I no longer eat cereal straight out of the box with my bare hands. Nowadays I eat my tootie fruities (no not Fruit Loops, off brand has quickly become my go to brand) with a fork. My favorite memory though has to be using the open flame from my stove to toast (burn) my bread. Don’t worry Berta I will not burn down your flat, and that reminds me, thank you. As much as my difficulties may disagree, I’m grateful for the last three weeks in their entirety. If I had the ability to opt out and move to the Bahamas, I would still choose to stay in Isla Vista nine times out of ten. Why? Because Isla Vista has quickly become my home in a way I never thought possible. The community here is unmatched. A paradise filled with beach bums and beautifully intelligent people is not supposed to exist, but it does, and I get to call it my home.

Not only have I found my home in IV, but I have also found a pretty stable job out here. For summer sixteen and throughout my second year, I’ll be working in the Daugherty Lab hoping to revolutionize diagnostic medicine. Our goal is to develop a method by which we can use antibodies to diagnose disease. If antibody antigen combinations are specific, and antigens are also specific to their disease then by the transitive property or something antibodies are relatively specific to different diseases. Rather than looking for the foreign invader hiding throughout our entire body, we want to start looking for antibodies, the location of which is more well known. We do this through a process called bacterial display. With a bit of protein engineering, some nutrient filled broth that bacteria like, and some FACs analysis, one day we will reach our goal, hopefully. In reality what I do is a lot of pipetting and a lot of babysitting bacteria. During my short time in the Daugherty lab I came to the realization that the cure for cancer is not locked behind some unlockable door, or even behind some immovable mountain. The cure for cancer is behind hours and hours of pipetting. So until that day I will pipette. I will pipette and I will babysit bacteria and feed them a broth that probably has more nutrients than my current diet. Joking aside research is serious work. It can be seriously fun work too, but at the end of the day there is a goal and there is funding and those are the two most important things in a lab. You can’t work on a project that doesn’t have any funding and you have to make sure you’re always making progress towards the larger picture. Research labs live and die by their ability to earn grants. You could have a Nobel prize worthy project but without any funding it will never come to fruition. I say this not out of any spite but to give a clearer picture of how labs work and what drives them. Money drives research.

Working with Joel this summer has been one of the single greatest most gratifying things I have ever done. This experience has affirmed my desire to pursue an MD/PhD (the degree Christina Yang has, so I’ve been told) and think of research as a life-long career. Genentech here I come. With all that being said, I believe my first blog update has reached its conclusion. I’ll let you know all about interrogating e. Coli and using enzymes to separate and sequence DNA in a future update. For now this is Rafael signing off.