Featured Day in the Life of: Nina, Molecular and Cellular Biology Masters student

Hey! My name is Nina and I’m in my second year of my Molecular and Cellular Biology Master. Currently, I’m doing a 6-month lab rotation at Yale, where I’m working on developing tools to characterize a class of RNAs called lncRNAs, to investigate their role in cancer. I use cas9 (a gene editing tool) to introduce new genetic material in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to alter the expression of certain lncRNAs, and observe the effects it has on signalling pathways involved in cancer. My day-to-day varies quite a lot, depending on the experiments I’m doing, but usually look somewhat like this:


7:00 am – Rise and Shine! I usually wake up around seven. Today I (really) couldn’t get out of bed and I ended up dozing until 07:45am.


7:58 am – Coffee! I’m a coffee lover, and a good coffee tends to set me up for a good day. I usually prefer coffee from an espresso machine, but I switched to chemex for the time being, as its lot cheaper and still quite good.


8:14 am – Breakfast: I really like to take my time in the mornings and have coffee and breakfast with my housemates, since the rest of the day will be quite hectic and It’s often the only time I see them during the day.


9:51 Labwork: I just finished my first experiment. I usually come in between 9:00 – 9:30 am. Today I just have some cloning to do. In the experiment below I set up a restriction enzyme digest of the plasmid I work with and let it incubate for 1 hour.


10:08 am – Coffee break: With the incubation going on, I went for a quick coffee break with my colleague. I usually don’t drink a second coffee in the morning but felt like I could use the extra one today.


10:31 am: Ultramers arrived! I’ve been waiting on some genetic constructs to arrive and was excited to get them delivered today. I’m back in the lab now, setting up my next experiments to prepare for a vector ligation with my insert.


12:29 – Lunch time: My lunch time usually varies quite a lot, depending on the experiments I’m doing. Right now, I have another 2-hour incubation going and use this to grab a salad from our café and have lunch with my colleague outside, making the most of the last sunny days in New Haven before fall sets in.


3:11 pm – LabLabLab: I’m running a gel to see whether my digestion worked, and my vector is linearized. Simultaneously, I phosphorylated and annealed the oligos that will be my insert. The upside in cloning Is that its relatively little lab work, but on the downside, it entails a lot of waiting time.


3:59 – Coffee break #2: I imaged the gel and was happy to see that everything worked out. I set up the ligation and used the incubation time to grab a quick snack and coffee at one of the good coffee places close to campus.


5:17 pm – Back to the bench: The last experiment involves incorporating the plasmid into E. Coli cells, where DNA is physically introduced into bacteria. Although the experiment itself is quite simple, the underlying biology is pretty fascinating.


6:03 pm – Office work: In my lab i’m responsible for organizing Lab meetings and Journal clubs, and with the new semester starting, there is some organisational work to do. I use my last incubation period to  finalize the schedules and send some info about the upcoming semester out, while finishing my (now watered down) iced coffee.


6:48 pm One last time to the bench: I plate my transformed bacteria on agar plates and place them in the incubator at 37C to grow overnight. By this point im a little brain-fried, and tend to work a bit slower so I don’t make any mistakes.


7:15 pm – Done for the day! I leave the office and get a glimpse of the sunset. The walk back through campus is really pretty and relaxing after a long day.


8:13 Gym time: I usually go straight to the gym from the office and do different workouts, mainly weights. Working out is a nice “de-stresser” for me and I tend to do 2 days gym followed by a rest day – today was leg day!


9:00 pm – FOOD: I’m pretty tired now and don’t have the motivation to cook at home, which usually means Chipotle. It’s my favorite go to lunch/dinner, especially after a work out. Double chicken and extra guacamole 😊


9:40 pm – Dinner: My housemate was home and joined me while I devoured my chipotle and we caught each other up on our days.


11:04 – Bed time: I showered, unpacked my things from today and tried to read a couple pages. I was really tired at this point and couldn’t focus nor enjoy the book so I ended the day with a quick meditation before going to bed.

Overall lab work can be very exciting, but also tends to be draining. I try to take 1 day per weekend completely off to get some distance from my project and maintain my mental health, while also exploring the New Haven area and enjoying the last days of summer outside. I have a blog called Scieneandcoffee (without the second c in science), where I post about laboratory methods and the underlying biology of the techniques we use in molecular biology, combined with some less “sciency” topics related to overall health. I started the blog a couple months back as a fun outlet for everything science-related!

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