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Nature’s Struggle

August 27, 2009

So for the past 2 weeks, I have been… Moving. And watching TV. And moving. And not the fun moving like running around a beautiful park or playing some kind of physical activity. Picking up a box, and moving said box. But after 2 weeks of driving, shopping, unpacking, organizing, one and a half seasons of LOST, cleaning, exploring an unfamiliar city, not getting mugged, and a whole summer of Cheers, Frasier, Conan, Big Brother, and countless other trashy reality shows, I am finally running again. To hopefully stand in place.

I haven’t actually had my first real day yet. I spent this week trying to get settled in and find out what I need to start doing. I chose to make my first lab rotation something completely new. I liked the prof’s background: Histone structure. Big deal prof in the world of biophysics is exactly what I need to get a good grasp on something I’ve literally never studied. And I know about histones: they form a protein octamer that together with the DNA wrapped around it forms the nucleosome and activation and repression all have to do with modifications to the histone that may make the DNA looser or tighter or more or less accessible. But seriously, I have no idea how to crystallize a protein. Or do… that’s actually the only technique I’ve even heard of…

But even luckier for me, the professor told me in my first meeting that I may end up doing a joint rotation with another professor. And guess who, another big wig biophysics guy who probably also knows everything there is to know about this field I know nothing about. So after reading 4 papers from the first professor and now another 4 papers from this professor, I am now utterly confused, have no idea what is going on, and tomorrow I will be learning a technique I heard about for the first time yesterday. Awesome.

But what everyone keeps telling me is that this is all worth it. I am literally learning from the best. And even though more sensible people will advise to make the first rotation a bit easier, maybe in something you have some knowledge and background in, I like that I’m being thrown in head first. I like that these professors aren’t giving much regard to my safety as a student. Because that’s exactly what I need. I don’t want to be given an easy project where I just quickly relearn a routine and repeat over and over and get a handful of results. I want to LEARN! This is my chance in life to see the world. To experience science I may never get a chance to see again. So what if I suck. So what if I have no clue. How I adapt and the techniques I learn will make it all worth it, results or no results, happiness or no happiness.

That seems like an overly dramatic thing to say. The lab is actually kind of fun. People are nice. So I should have fun, but do you get what I’m saying? I need to take this time, this year, to learn about biology. I don’t want the easy way out.

In one of my favorite episodes of LOST, The Moth, Locke teaches Charlie about moths. Moth make silk and wrap themselves in a cocoon in which they develop wings and become winged moths. Locke says that he could help the moth get out of the shell by cutting the cocoon open. But the moth would come out of the shell and quickly die in nature. this is because the struggle the moth goes through to pull itself out of that cocoon makes it strong enough to survive the obstacles of life and nature. “Struggle is natures way of strengthening” says Locke. This year is my cocoon. I need to struggle. I need to feel the challenge. It will only make me stronger.

And I can’t help but bring this all to the perspective of evolution. Because that’s really what evolution is all about. Nature throws obstacles at you. And you must struggle to make it out. The weak don’t succeed. And the tough fight to the end. In the end, the moth that breaks free will produce babies that will break free. Now while I doubt grad school is going to leave me with a thousand biologist babies, I do know that if I am not strong enough to make it out of here, I never would have made it as a biologist anyway. But as I sit here, about ready to go watch Big Brother and then go to a gym that I’ve never been to before where I’ll have to fight an old lady for an elliptical, I know how important it is that I keep running. Because like the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, I have to keep running to stand in place.

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One comment

  1. Struggle may be good, but you may not need to transform yourself completely along the way, you know…



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