Sunday, March 28, 2010

3/24/2010 Moving on in time and space

It's been a while since my last post, but I've been working on several things for you guys. Before I start rambling about science, I'd like to share the fact that I have been accepted to the University of Iowa's Biology Ph.D. Program, complete with a $24,250 yearly stipend, tuition, and healthcare. It feels good to know that others don't think I'm a complete schmuck. If all goes according to plan, I will be in Iowa come August, doing three, ten week lab rotations to find a good match. I wish to thank everyone at UAHuntsville, my friends, and especially my family for helping me get this far; hopefully in six years I'll have "Dr." in front of my name. Thanks!!!!

Now, onto business. I've been involved in several things lately: Western Blots in the Neuro lab, controlling white flies in the greenhouse, seeking out asteroid Vesta, and fixing up my Dactylogyrus manuscript. I've already talked about white fly control, so I'll not bore you with more of the same—I'll just mention the fact that we've now started control with a Mycoinsecticide. Essentially this stuff is a metric ton of spores suspended in solution. Spraying it on the plants creates these terrible little landmines of slow, painful fungal metabolism of the fly's exoskeleton until the fungus erupts, killing the fly and making it into a landmine factory for more white flies. The best part is—this type of treatment is hard for the flies to become resistant to. We're onto something! For your entertainment, here's a nice picture I found on Google:

Next Up: Western Blotting. A week before Spring Break started, I gave Taito the run-through on Western Blotting. We used an abridged protocol that Dr. Curto devised, which allows us to use the specificity of the antibodies to test many more samples in the same amount of time. For those of you who have no idea what a western blot is, let me run you through it.

Essentially, a western blot is a type of immunoassay (that is, a test that measures concentration of something using an antibody {that is, a protein that attaches to a specific protein, derived via an animal's immune system}). During a Western Blot, you take a tissue sample and force the cells of that tissue to release their protein-rich contents, and then you determine the gross protein concentration of the sample. Then, one would run a known amount of that sample on a electrophoresis gel, which separates out the proteins based upon their weight. When you've done this, you are able to transfer those separated proteins onto a nitrocellulose membrane—simply a piece of paper with lots of electronegative nitro groups, to which to proteins will covalently bond—binding them to the paper. To avoid further protein binding, you must "block" the membrane with some other protein, like casein found in milk. Finally, you get to the interesting parts: you add a first antibody that is specific to the protein of interest (in our case, N-Methyl D-Aspartate Receptors). This first antibody will bind to the protein of interest, allowing you to add a second antibody that binds to the first—but this time your antibody carries a colorimetric tag that can be visualized when "developed". Ta-Da, you have a piece of paper that took you two days to make, with various spots that correlate to the amount of the specific protein you are looking for (See the following figure). This is a really powerful technique, that has allowed us to quantify levels of NMDARs in breeding and nonbreeding fishes. We've found so far that highly sexually dimorphic fishes, and especially males, show much increased levels of NMDAR. Cool beans!

And now, If you're still awake, it's time to look up! The last several nights I've been going outside and futilely searching the great abyss for a 6th magnitude spec, representing Asteroid Vesta 4. Vesta is currently around the Constellation Leo, and is supposedly the largest object in the asteroid belt. This is the asteroid that some people would like us to visit someday, and is probably not a bad idea since it probably contains a large amount of material that has been undisturbed since the creation of our solar system. You can call me a bad amateur astronomer for not being able to locate 4 Vesta, but I still would like to blame that fact on the obnoxious amount of light pollution around my apartment complex: there are seven or eight high pressure sodium lamps that almost completely destroy my view of Leo and everything around it. Hopefully I'll be able to get out and take some pictures of Saturn to impress you all soon. Wish me luck!

The last the on my mind is my Dactylogyrus manuscript. I'm trudging ahead and got some good work done on it today. If I only had more weekends to devote to its construction, it would have been completed already. Soon, though! And my final though: Our publication in American Midland Naturalist is set to appear on April 1st....everyone pick up your copy today!



1 comment:

haley said...

It may seem weird, but when you're in the area I bet my parents would let you use their backyard to stargaze. They still live in that really isolated neighborhood, and their new house is on the brow, so there are fairly few obstructions. The only potential drawback would be that they might want to participate. :)