مرحبا عليكم!

I study languages.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Today I surgically separated both hind legs from a mouse fatally overdosed on Avertin, cleaned them of all fascia, snapped off the fibulae, separated the femurs from the tibias, centrifuged the bone marrow out of the long bones, cleaned and isolated the bone marrow cells, and plated them for live tissue culture at three different concentrations of cells per well, half with culture media spiked with glutamine and half without. I worked inside an impossibly sterile tissue hood with an air barrier and spray ethanol and diluted, mixed, and counted cells on a hemacytometer under a microscope before calculating cells per microliter and milliliters per well from trusty (if optimistic) formulae.

Did I mention I performed this experiment all by myself?

On my way home from work today it rained cats and dogs. I don't think I've ever had cause to use that expression before now, but its incredulity is comparable to that of this rain. I was soaked through in minutes as I waited at the T stop, shielding my hair with a purple umbrella that later betrayed me by turning inside out as I hurriedly boarded the bus. I laughed and laughed as the waves of angry wind and water rolled over me, drenching my umbrella and filling my shoes. I don't know what I found so funny. My hair looks like an old mop now.
I still have that huge canker sore on the very tip of my tongue and it's still torturing my life. As if I'm not quiet enough, let's add a speech impediment.

Word of the day: inchoate (in-KO-uht); imperfectly formed or formulated; a misty, inchoate idea

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dear Disney/Pixar,

I was five years old when "Toy Story" came out, so Buzz, Woody, Rex, Slinky, Hamm, the Potato Heads, and the rest of the gang made up an integral part of my imaginative consciousness as I finished kindergarten. "You've Got A Friend in Me" still echoed in my ears as I turned to face my next frontier--elementary school--and I was nine when the sequel made its way into my heart, lassoing Jessie and Bullseye to the plastic dream team. I was especially partial to Jessie. What can I say? She shares my name. And not my real name, either. My little-girl name, the name only my family calls me. The music, the magic, the characters--every aspect of your brilliant, simple series drew me in and hugged me tight simply because I was a little girl with toys, and your appeal to my demographic made me feel special.

But years passed and, like Andy, I grew up. I'm interning as a stem cell researcher at Harvard now, but when I got home from the last installment of your trilogy I made sure to hug the stuffed blue lizard that makes its home on my bed extra hard.

Thanks for everything,


Monday, June 21, 2010


Cat got my tongue?
Kind of. It's called aphthous stomatitis, and you probably know it by its common name: canker sore.
After finishing off my Sunday night with two Otter Pops, I woke up this morning with a tiny canker sore right on the very tip of my tongue. It's amazing what one tiny sore can do to your desire (and ability) to speak. This morning I had to explain the experiment Dana and I performed on Thursday to David, and I tried to do it using as few words as possible so I didn't have to speak much...I'm sure it didn't contribute to my image the way I might have hoped. I'm trying to be smarter around here, but the fact remains that I'm unfamiliar with the equipment, the area, the protocols, and the subject matter; I work with an MD/PhD, a PhD, and a master's degree student; and we're at Harvard. I'm a 19-year-old Utah girl with no experience in tissue culture and not even an undergraduate degree. The "fish out of water" thing isn't new for me (England, the Philippines, Jerusalem, figure skating lessons, Arabic classes...), but it's hard all the same.

I give everything a valiant try, but that's all I can do, which is frustrating. I finish the tasks given to me efficiently and (hopefully) correctly and always leave my area clean and organized, but that's really all I feel I can do to help my case. I can't join in discussions about secondary antibodies, ubiquitous protein expression, or frozen sectioning, and I feel like I can't share anything from my little collection of knowledge, either, because it doesn't overlap with anything here. I like my work here. It's just that it's completely new to me, so I feel like I don't bring anything to the table. Bring me on in your effort to stain proteoglycans in the intracellular matrix of a knee joint or TMJ, and I'll have some ideas. Ask me to read a blood sample for parasitic diseases or prepare a restriction enzyme digest, and I can help you out. But ask me to culture bone marrow stem cells or perform immunohistochemistry and I'll putter around nervously with the protocol in front of my face, grabbing at tubes and putting them back, looking around for the right centrifuge, shaking as I use the pipettes, etc. It's frustrating. But I'll learn, I guess. That's comforting.

P.S. Ravioli? Holy cannoli! I had the most delicious cannolo (yes, that is the correct singular form) in the world (pictured above) at the iconic Mike's Pastry in Boston after going hiking and seeing a movie with some kids from the ward (yes, this does mean I'm finally making friends!). It was a combination TO DIE FOR; sweet ricotta cheese and homemade pastry, chocolate dipped and chocolate chipped. And I didn't think I even liked cannoli.
P.P.S. Will Smith's little boy in the new Karate Kid movie is the most adorable little boy on the face of this planet.
P.P.P.S. I'm currently obsessed with the "Married Life" score from Up and the main title theme from Finding Nemo. My life is more comfortable and far happier because of this obsession.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I barely see my roommates here, but the more I talk with them the more I like them. Three of us had an interesting conversation on the couch last night before the final NBA Finals game (Game 7; Boston lost, so I'm sure much of this city mourns today, but I feel like the game could have taken place in Oklahoma for all the hype I see at my insulated research job). I live with a 23-year-old Air Force Academy grad who just finished her master's degree at Harvard and owes ten years to the armed forces as a fighter pilot (she starts training next May); a smiley, crazy double-master's degree girl headed to England for her PhD in language computing; a dark-haired Texan undergraduate completing an internship in graphic design; and an extremely thin environmental advocate who spends her days and nights as a militant field manager campaigning to save Massachusetts' trees. Among us, we speak French, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Arabic, and German.

Something I've found interesting here, much to my smug surprise, is that trashing your college town is not unique to Provo students. I've put up with out-of-staters moaning about the failings of my city for years and it never fails to annoy me, mostly because I find the vast majority of students who complain about Utah to be narrow-minded and even more narrowly traveled. I've been surprised to observe the same phenomenon here in Boston. People put down the weather, the lack of *insert whatever item your town has and this one doesn't*, and the culture the same way they do in my home city. The funny thing about the people who participate in such trashing is that they're always confident it's a singular phenomenon. To them, whatever place they're in drains the dregs of all the earth, so whyyy are they stuck here? Because Indiana/New Hampshire/Texas/Colorado/or the trump card, California, is soooo much better. I've met people from tiny rural towns in Northern California almost as far away from the fabled "bounce" as I am who milk their shaky claim to the golden state for all it's worth. It's ridiculous. So I've been almost happy to hear people whine, "I haaaate Boston!" I feel justified for a lifetime of defending my own city to small-minded losers. I love Boston, Jerusalem, Cambridge (England), Stockton, Lansing, and all the other places I've lived for their own reasons. And I love Provo, too.

Monday, June 14, 2010


&& also, enjoy some pics that currently grace my desktop.
{sources: the best TV show ever, Jorge Garcia's blog, Tavi Gevinson's tumblr (I love Disney princesses! And feminism.)}


Yep...I'm changing my major.
Again. :-)
And just like that, Microbiology becomes Ancient Near Eastern Studies.
Crazy? Maybe.
I've had a lot of time to think about my academic future, and these are my conclusions.

1) I love science. Ardently. I love the atmosphere here at Harvard; I love attending endocrinology conferences, stem cell presentations, and journal clubs hosted by the best scientists in the world. I love medicine. I love research. I love scientific vocabulary. I love scientific culture (except for the fact that I can't find ONE other person who cares about the NBA Finals...I mean, it's in Boston! Aren't you psyched?).
2) I don't love the way science is taught at my university. Think classes of 300+ anxious premeds crammed into tiny, windowless rooms in underfunded buildings where the professor reads from Powerpoint slides and some kids still. don't. get. it. Think useless labs and professors who consider you a number even though you excel, because the classes are just that huge and that impersonal. My time at Harvard has solidified my opinion that science programs at BYU are both way too big and not very good. See, when I entered my freshman year and began deciding on a major, I made the mistake of asking myself, "What would you like to study?" I should have asked myself, "Which programs are successful at this university?" and "In which programs can I obtain valuable professor-student interaction?" It isn't worth studying something your university doesn't value, no matter how much you love it.
3) I love Egypt.
4) I love writing.
5) I love languages (next up for me: Biblical Hebrew!).
6) Ancient Near Eastern Studies is a small major.
7) Medical schools like diversity.
8) I definitely still want to go to medical school.
9) I'll still take some science courses. I'll just take my pick of senior capstone courses without having to drag myself through the ambition-choking mud of immense, impersonal, insultingly simplistic basic courses. FINALLY I WILL BREATHE FREE AIR!
10) It might take me a while to graduate. I'm already a year behind schedule. I need to talk to a counselor. I'm young for my grade, though, so I think I'll cross those bridges when I come to them. I feel good about this choice.
In other news, the bone marrow stem cells I'm culturing are coming along nicely. I've heard things grow better when people sing to them, so I'm considering singing to my little cells the next time I'm in the tissue culture room. :-) I did three different kinds of PCR today--two for GFP and one for beta-catenin--and things seem to be working out very well on that front (knock on wood!). This evening, I went to FHE, played their "speed friending" game, and actually had a good time (and some good conversation!). And--achievement of the day--I actually went to dinner alone. Yep, you heard me. I'm not talking about take-out. I went to a restaurant. I sat down. I ordered a meal. They brought me rolls and water. I ate my food. I paid. And I tipped very well. Alone. While walking back from the shuttle that takes me to Children's Hospital every morning, I pass Grafton Street Pub and Grill, a local restaurant a friend of mine recommends for its baked lobster macaroni. Lobster? Bread crumbs? Cheesy macaroni? Of course, I just HAD to have it. I went tonight and it was every bit as divine as it sounds. I took a picture with my phone camera and would upload it here if I knew how. Suffice it to say, !الأكل كان لذيذ جدا
 original. this is what mine looked like, but with bread crumbs all over it. mmmmm.
It's empowering to know that I have the courage to eat at a restaurant on my own. It takes more guts than you'd think.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sing it.

(I know exactly where this was taken, too. I take the bike path alongside this bridge all the time when I'm home.)

"You oughta go north," somebody told us
Cause the air is filled with gold dust
And fortune falls like snowflakes in your hands
Now I don't recall who said it
But we lived so long on credit
So we headed out to find our promised land.
Just poor smoky mountain farm folk
With nothing more than high hopes
As we hitched our station wagon to a star
But our dreams all fell in on us
Cause there was no land of promise
And the struggle is keeping sight of who you are.
Oh and these Northern nights are dreary
And my Southern heart is weary
As I wonder how the old folks are back home
But I know that they all love me
And I know they're thinking of me
Smoky mountain memories keep me strong.
You know I've been thinking a whole lot lately
About what's been and what awaits me
It takes all I've got to give what life demands
You'll go insane if you give in to it
Life's a mill and I've been through it
I'm just thankful I'm creative with my hands.
Oh and these Northern nights are dreary
And my Southern eyes are teary
As I wonder how the old folks are back home
But I'll keep leaning on my Jesus
Who loves and guides and leads us
Smoky mountain memories keep me strong.
I'll keep looking to the Father--
Keep my head above the water
Smoky mountain memories keep me strong.

I'm partial to this song these days. It's more relatable now.
I only know one version, though...so don't corrupt me by sending me others. I like the one I have.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day one.

(Nemo: "First day of school! First day of school!" "Five more minutes..." "Not you, Dad, me!"--yeah, I can quote that ENTIRE movie thanks to Baby.)

First day of internship! First day of internship!
After searching all over Cambridge, I finally located the Lamont Library, where the M2 shuttle picks me up. I took the shuttle to the Longwood Medical Plaza, where I successfully located Children's Hospital Boston and the building where my research lab is housed. It's a beautiful building, tall and clean and professional, and my lab is well equipped, bright, and modern. We have a window that looks out over all of Boston. My professor, Diana, met me at the elevator and I was relieved to find that she is extremely approachable and nice (as well as intelligent, of course!). I met Dana, our lab technician, who is kind and happy as well. We talked for a while about the research (it's a tough learning curve--molecular biology, embryology, stem cells, and histopathology!--, but hopefully I'll master it!) and I met the doctor in charge of our lab, David. I'm afraid I didn't sound too intelligent when he asked me to describe myself, but hopefully I'll be able to shine as soon as I get a handle on things. My lab colleagues were happy to learn that I'm familiar with DNA isolation and PCR, and I was able to perform both processes with my own reagents later in the afternoon. Hopefully my PCR works out...or I'll feel bad. My first time should go well! My hands were a little nervous as I was pipetting because Dana was watching to make sure I did things right, but I hope I got everything under control.

The day was good, but long! I worked from 12 to 5, and it seemed like forever. Usually, I'll work 9 to 5 (tomorrow's my first full day!), so I'd better prepare myself. :-) I'm sure I'll get used to the schedule. It might help if I ate something, too. I pretty much survive on Starbucks' tall-nonfat-no-whip-vanilla-bean-frappuccinos and the occasional piece of fruit or protein here, but today I bought a delicious little cinnamon-sugar-and-jelly-doughnut-flavored cupcake (weird, I know, but good!) from a cute little bakery near my apartment I'm sure I'll come to frequent. See, at BYU I can survive on Lean Cuisine, granola bars, and frozen peas because that's really all I buy (and all I see), but here my apartment is surrounded by a myriad of different food places, and I want to try them all! There's an Indian place right on my corner that looks especially good. I might have to eat out on my own, as I have no friends yet, but I'm not scared to do it! I think my best source for potential friends is my ward. I'll be working all day, and my roommates are nice, but not really here often (and neither am I), but I go to church on Sundays and tonight I even went to FHE. I didn't want to go, but I promised myself I wouldn't have to talk to anyone, sucked it up, and went. And I even talked to two people. Surprise.

Cambridge is pretty. My bedroom is cute and clean. I'm all right here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


One year ago today, I was at the Biblical Zoo in West Jerusalem. Afterwards, we hung out at the Jerusalem Hyatt Regency to get chocolate lava cake.

Today I am in Boston, Massachusetts, in a little apartment in a tall, thin, blue building near Harvard Square. I have my own room. My walls are burnt red, my bedspread is brightly flowered, my rug and pillow are blue, and all my things are unpacked. Last night was hard; I missed my family and didn't know anyone here, but today I woke up serene and happy and things have been better. I found the student singles ward and met the members, who seemed friendly and invited me to FHE tomorrow night, for which I am excited. I also experienced torrential rain today, which surprised me. I mean, this stuff was tsunami-worthy! And it came on so suddenly. The humidity is also something to get used to. My hair has more volume because of it, for which I am grateful, but there's no point to my using my straightener anymore and my skin is more dewy than is cute. I start work tomorrow and am incredibly nervous. I don't understand what I'll be doing yet, and I'm scared to meet the pediatric endocrinologists I'll be working with and to learn about my new job. Hopefully all goes well; hopefully I will be able to navigate the public transit services and arrive at Boston Children's Hospital without a hitch. Hopefully. :-)