Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q-Dragon Interview

So I had the very cool opportunity to be interviewed by Q-Dragon from the youtube atheist community. He is starting a new theme of videos for his channel called "Brainstorm". His goal is to bring breaking science news and research discoveries to light for the public. I was his first interview and we talked a little about my blog, job at the NIH, and biomedical engineering in general. The video is embedded below. :)

Here is a link to Q's channel. Watch and subscribe!
Thanks for watching. Hope you enjoyed it!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Well, hey there. I apologize for my less-than-enthusiastic greeting. I hope it's not misleading though, because there are quite a lot of exciting things going on, leaving my exhaustion evident. In the past two weeks I have driven from Cincinnati to Maryland to Cincinnati and back, learned a new area, learned a new language (computer), learned a new field of Biology and Medicine, and learned a great deal about myself. I still have much to learn.

In my last blog I released the news that I would be moving 500 miles away from my home, school, family and friends to work at the National Institute of Health for six months. I have been here now for two weeks and am finally finding the confidence and energy to burrow deep into my work. I've gotten the majority of the basic concepts down in Python from going through two books: Bioinformatics Programming Using Python and Practical Computing For Biologist. I'm not finished with either, but having never done much programming work past a single course in MATLAB, I am enjoying it rather thoroughly. There is something rewarding about telling a computer how to do trivial and not-so-trivial tasks that would otherwise be impossible or too time-consuming otherwise.

Hopefully by the end of this week I should be analyzing some ChIP-seq and RNA-seq data. The objective, as best I comprehend it at the moment, is to find long non-coding portions of RNA. Previously considered 'junk' genomic material, these transcribed portions have a signature sequence pattern that we may be able to link to functional epigenetic mechanisms. I know most don't, but I find it all very interesting. My submersion into Immunology has been overwhelming, but drinking from the fire hose sure makes it obvious how important all this information is to saving lives and improving well-being. I think it is the pursuit of pure understanding that excites me the most--that is, comprehending at the most basic level how our molecules interact to make us impervious, resistant, and wholly vulnerable to assorted pathogens. The foreseeable accomplishments of the up and coming generation of scientists are encouraging.

Everyday, I get to go into work and feel absolutely stupid. I say, "I get to" because it is truly an honor and privilege to be surrounded by such brilliant and experienced scientists. They pull back my scalp and expose the nothingness that is my ignorance without even trying--completely unintentionally. I am the youngest in the lab by at least 10 years, and most of the time I'm absolutely dumbfounded by the shear quantity of information retained in my superiors' craniums. Everyone has either an M.D. or Ph.D. from an Ivy League, is a postdoc or PI, and has already published numerous papers. I am but a second-year engineering student, and I have no publishings, but I try not to be embarrassed. I would really like to get published while working here, though.

I know, I know, I'm pathetic...I'm a lovesick dope. I drove 9 hours home already to see my girlfriend, and was elated to find the drive not so taxing as expected. I listened to the second half of "The Moral Landscape" by Sam Harris on audio. It was the first time I've listened to a book, but I really liked it. It's very convenient to rewind an eloquent passage and just absorb. It makes the act of re-reading something seem like a chore. I think Sam Harris is a wonderful scientist, thinker and writer, and would recommend the book to anyone--Atheist, Christian, or anything else across the spectrum. If universally embraced, I think pressing towards the moral peak made accessible by science could absolutely change the world for better. Such things are beyond my lifetime, I'm sure. I also used the down time to catch up on some music and listen to a really good Christopher Hitchens debate. I'm a nerd. What other 19 year old do you know that listens to debates and audiobooks on long drives? If you do know one, let them know that I'd like to be friends with them. All in all, I had a wonderful weekend with my beautiful girlfriend. It was just what we needed.

Now that I'm finally settling down into my work and area, I should begin to write more. I wish I could have kept this blog at the pace it was going, but life seems to have intruded. My sober mood has risen from my realizing that I'm really growing up. It's happening. The sun-bleached-haired kid that used to be so happy to just ride his bike around the cul-de-sack is standing in the back of my mind, waving his goodbyes. It's not a sad feeling, but more, I don't know, real and accepting. It's happening, and that's that.

Be looking for another post tomorrow. I'll be embedding an interview I had with Qdragon from youtube. Here's the link if you just can't wait: