And now for something completely different…

Hello all! Mandy Baxter here. I’m a bit new to this whole blog thing, so bear with me as I figure it out; I’ve never so much as kept a diary before. I’m a second year here at Santa Barbara, currently balancing 21 units, academic clubs, research and keeping up the pretense of a social life. My major is Aquatic Biology, my department is Earth Science but I work in the Marine Science labs studying “methantrophic benthic biofilms”. Say that five times fast. Don’t worry, I can’t either. The graduate student I work for is probably going to read this and correct me on what I’m actually working on. Basically we’re looking at the DNA of the little creatures and viruses that live on the ocean floor and eat methane. It’s a tad bit more complicated than that, but the goal of this blog is not to make you google every fifth word like I was when I was trying to read the first few papers I was assigned to get an overview of the research I’d be starting.
Since I’m going to be referencing him a lot I should probably introduce my graduate student mentor. His name is Blair Paul and he recently got major cool points in my book for quoting Mission: Impossible when emailing my last ‘mission’. I wish it was Mission: Moderately Difficult, but there you go. Let’s give him some credit, he’s got a good sense of humor and has been very patient with my limited (read: nonexistent) background knowledge on the subject and is always willing to explain what I don’t understand and what he needs me to do. I’m getting quite a crash course of background knowledge because his field is pretty specific, but incorporates many different subjects – marine biology, a little organic chemistry, mostly microbiology, and lots of genetics (note– lots of overlap among those). I’m also getting some exposure to new computer programs, which is a slightly intimidating concept. Computers have never been my strong point.  The main problem currently seems to be finding a computer program that can do everything we want it to (which Blair assures me, doesn’t exist).  The use of computer algorithms to address questions in biology is generally known as a bioinformatic analysis.  According to Blair, in bioinformatics we tend to develop “workflows” or “pipelines” that include a mix of programming code, some freely available tools, and hopefully not too much ‘black-box’ magic to crunch our data (in this case, DNA code). 

Once we settle on a process, I will hopefully be able to give a more coherent picture of the kind of research I’m actually doing.  Now however, it’s quite late and I have a lovely round of lectures starting at 8:00am tomorrow – one of the few forms of torture that is still condoned in the modern world. Happy researching!

Currently Should be Reading: Organic Chemistry – Paula Bruice

Currently Shouldn’t be Reading: Last Chance to See – Doulgas Adams

Currently on Pandora: Lover’s Wreck – Gaelic Storm
“This message will self-destruct in 10 seconds…  (just kidding 🙂 )” – Blair

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Posted in 2010-2011, EUREKA

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