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immunology

Back in high school, about a year before I had this huge revelation that I was meant to major in biology instead of in English and communications in college, I had an awesome biology teacher who gave us various fun assignments that were meant to help us figure out major concepts. One such assignment was a brochure in which we had to relate cellular organelles to some sort of organization. Being the, shall we say “eccentric,” person that I am, I decided to relate the cell to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Oompa Loompas were the lysosomes that clean up the factory floors and keep the factory in tip-top shape. The chocolate waterfall was the mitochondria, constantly churning and producing energy. Willy Wonka himself was the nucleus; he knew all of the recipes that made all of the delicious sweet delicacies and all of the information about how to make the factory run. As you can see, I had a little bit of fun with this project.

Since the Cardinals’ win over the LA Dodgers last night in the National League Championship Series, I keep thinking about how Saint Louis resembles a cell as well. As Dr. Sheldon Cooper says in one episode of “The Big Bang Theory” to which I can easily relate since I don’t like football at all, “Football is ubiquitous in Texas.” I’d definitely say that baseball is ubiquitous here in Saint Louis. Busch Stadium is always packed with people for games, tours, and photo opportunities. Even after a loss, you can still hear people in the stands shouting, “Let’s Go, Cardinals!”

So how, do you ask, does this relate to the cellular model? Well, for starters, since I realized that baseball is “ubiquitous” in Saint Louis, I related the word “ubiquitous” with the protein “ubiquitin,” which, by its very name, indicates that it’s present nearly everywhere in the cell. I also thought about ubiquitin’s role in immunology; in immuno class, we recently talked about how ubiquitin protein tags certain cellular proteins for destruction during the process of macrophage activation. Going back to the overall cellular model, then, we could say that the Arch grounds are like the nucleus because, being located right along the Mississippi River, they sort of form the blueprint for what Saint Louis is, was, and will become. Busch Stadium (especially during Red October) would serve as the mitochondria, producing energy that powers the city and all of its inhabitants (figuratively speaking, of course!). Forest Park, the crowned jewel of Saint Louis, would be like the cytoskeleton that binds Saint Louis together by bringing together all Saint Louisans for nice weather, picnics, and trips to The Muny, Zoo, and Science Center.

So here’s to a World Series that will act as a mitochondrial energy source for this great city until the 2014 baseball season begins.


Click here to read about my personal experiences at Game 7 of the 2011 World Series!!

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I’m not going to lie – whenever I purchase greeting cards, I usually look for the value cards. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?! However, this past summer, I went into my local Hallmark store in search for the perfect card.

Much to my dismay, my favorite Fontbonne professor, Dr. Thomasson, retired. He was one of my very first college professors. I’ve known him since – literally – my first day of classes. He taught me general chemistry, microbiology, tissue culture techniques lab, and one of my semesters of department research. For me, Dr. T was so much more than a professor. Because of him and the passion he had for his work, I want to go into infectious disease research and attempt admittance into a graduate microbiology/immunology program.

I’ll always remember working in the hood on our cancer cells and talking about Cardinals baseball the whole time. And I’ll never forget the micro lab during which we stained bacterial cells for the first time and he completely raised my confidence in both my lab technique and myself when he said I had a “textbook perfect, textbook quality slide.” And how could I ever forget getting my first general chemistry test back and asking him if I was doing well since I’d never before gotten an 88% on a chemistry test despite having taken chemistry at the honors level in high school? Dr. T definitely left his mark on me and all of my friends.

A couple weeks before school started, we had a small retirement party for Dr. T. It was so great seeing all of my friends who just graduated this past May, but it was even more inspiring to meet some of Dr. T’s students from the ’90s who came back just to wish him well. He obviously impacted a lot of people.

So you’re probably curious about the Hallmark card I finally decided on. It said, “Some people make more than a career out of their work. They make a difference.” As soon as I read that line, I knew that that card described Dr. T to, well, a T. And it was worth every penny.

Good luck, Dr. T!! We love you!!

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Don’t get me wrong – I’m overly excited about the upcoming American tradition of stuffing our faces with turkey, pie, and everything else we can get our grubby hands on.  However, this past week has been enlightening for me, so I’d really like to talk about that before you as my readers return to my fellow bloggers’ more-normal Thanksgiving blogs.

As most of you probably know by now, I’m a biology major.  I’m actually doing both the biotechnology concentration and the physiology concentration offered at Fontbonne.  What I knew before is that I wanted to do biomedical research; what I didn’t know, however, is what specifically I wanted to do in the field of biomedical research.

Before coming to Fontbonne, I had really been intent on going into neurological studies in order to study diseases such as muscular dystrophy.  However, I took microbiology with Dr. Thomasson last semester and absolutely loved it.  I still talk about my micro classes on (almost!) a daily basis.  This put me at a crossroads: should I do neuro or micro?

Last week, I was on Barnes Jewish’s website, and I found this really cool webpage entitled “AIDS Neurology/Infectious Diseases.”  I almost screamed in delight.  After months of confusion, I finally figured out what I want to do with my life – I want to study the neurology of infectious diseases!  How cool is that?!  I later spoke with Dr. Paine-Saunders (my advisor) and Dr. Rayhel (the chairperson of the bio department), and both agreed that this would be an excellent field for me based on my interests.  Dr. Rayhel said that I could earn my doctorate in immunology in order to be prepared for this field.

I was so excited to have finally figured out what I want to do with my life.  And, on top of that, the BSO (Biological Sciences Organization) took a field trip to the Genome Institute at Wash. U. on Friday, and after seeing real, “official” labs, I could totally see myself working in that setting.

Now that I’ve figured out my life path,  I can get back to studying for my organic chemistry test, cleaning out some beakers which are currently holding some old solutions that I made in the lab, and taking a taste of everything on my family’s Thanksgiving table.  Have a great break, everyone!

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Students writing for Real Life at Fontbonne are paid a small fee for each post by the university.