Hello! My name is Chloe and I am a first year PhD student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department at the University of Miami. As a first year, I am just setting up the basic of my project, but overall my lab is focused on characterizing amyloid bodies. Most people have heard of amyloid bodies as they relate to Alzheimer’s disease, but my lab looks at all the things amyloids can do such as sequestering important proteins for cellular processes like translation and cell proliferation. Amyloid bodies are these dense fibrous, immobile structures found in the nucleolus made up of misfolded proteins. While lots of labs look at amyloid bodies in disease, the lab I am in is unique because we take a step back to characterize amyloids so that later we can use this knowledge to better target disease.
I was inspired to go to graduate school from all the great science people I have met, both in labs I worked in and through Instagram science pages. Now I have started grad school I want to give back, so beyond writing for Dr. of what I have my own blog at chloeckirk.com and share my scientific life on my Instagram page @chloe.the.scientist. Go check me out! And I am always happy to talk about anything grad school or science related. 😊
My days are all over the place depending on my to-do list of experiments, but here is a random Wednesday!
I start off my morning waking up, working out and then meditating, but normally I am in a fog that early in the morning so I forgot to take pictures of it. My fully-awake day started on the metro to work. While I’m on my morning commute, I love to read something not science related to get my brain functioning in more facets than science! This is my book club’s pick of the month that I just picked up from the library.
Once I get into lab, I started right away in our cell culture room. My lab is primarily focused on cell culture which is an easy and reliable method to test our experiments. My series of experiments for the day was adding different drugs to my cells, letting them incubate before putting them in stress conditions to create amyloid bodies, and then staining and imaging these cells.
After I add the drug, I have to let my cells incubate before putting them in stress, so I write up all my experiments for the day in my lab notebook. I keep two notebooks, a hand written one and a typed one. My hand written notebook comes with me for every experiment and I write down every detail, any mistakes, and all the outcomes. My typed notebook is where I put the final products of a typed out protocol and key findings.
Time to stress those cells! Amyloid bodies form in states of stress, and one of the most physiological ways to induce stress on cells is by putting them in hypoxia, aka lowering the pH of the cells. Here I am, in our hypoxia chamber that keeps our cells at a specific pH and adding acidic media to the cells.
While the cells are forming amyloid bodies, I like to prepare all the reagents I need to stain my cells. In order to see whether amyloid bodies formed in each drug condition, I have to stain the cells with certain dyes before I image them under a microscope.
Switching mindsets, once I had prepped the solutions I needed to stain the cells, I needed to miniprep a different plasmid I need for a separate set of experiments. If I wasn’t doing this, often while I am waiting for my cells to form amyloid bodies I like to read papers to stay up to date on research in the field.
I removed my cells from hypoxia and now it’s time to stain and image these bad boys! The first step is aspirating the media and fixing the cells on coverslips so I can put them under the imager later.
Once the cells are stained, I load the cover slips onto glass slides so I can stick them under the microscope. This is a fiddley process trying to get the tweezers to pick up a tiny glass cover slip and, without removing any cells on the coverslip, flip the coverslip over and place it face down on the glass slide.
Imaging all my cells takes a LONG time. But it is very cool to see how the cells react to different drugs. I also had class from 3-4PM so I had to take a break from imaging, but it was a much needed break for my eyes to not be squinting at a computer monitor for 5 hours straight.
Finally heading home! What a day. I am always super tired heading home and my brain is still running at hyper speed so I use this time to think about everything I saw today and what that means for future experiments.
Home. The best part of the day for me is walking in and remembering to take a break from science again and recognizing everything I have accomplished for the day. It is easy for me to get wrapped up in the day and getting anxious about future results and potential experiments, but as soon as I walk in the door I actively remind myself to stop all that. I really believe in the importance of work life balance, and generally try not to do work in my apartment for that very reason so I am not always thinking about my project. I know it sounds odd especially since I am a scientist, but like any of us if we spend too long thinking about one thing we will start to get burned out by it. I normally end the day by making dinner, watching some TV, and then finally reading a book in bed.
Thanks for reading this and, again, if you want to hear more about my life, go check out my Instagram @chloe.the.scientist or my blog chloeckirk.com.
Until next time xx