This Is It.

I’ve been thinking about what to say in my final Fontbonne blog for some time now. I’ve been trying to think of witty comments or good advice to give to current and incoming students. But, for the first time, I think I’ll just make it short and sweet.

These past four years have definitely been an adventure. I’ve cried and laughed. I’ve felt like I was on top of the world and stuck under a bunch of rocks. I’ve experienced triumphs and tribulations. The best advice I can offer to students at this point is to keep doing what you’re doing no matter what anyone else thinks. Go with what your heart tells you, even if everyone seems to be against you. You and only you know what’s best for you, even if others laugh and think you’re crazy.

So where will I go after graduation? Well, I’ll be working all summer, and then I’ll start my graduate education at Saint Louis University in the Core Biomedical Sciences Program offered through the School of Medicine. My goal is to join one of the many Molecular Microbiology and Immunology research labs because microbiology is, without a doubt, my biggest life passion.

Thanks for reading my blogs over these past four years and for following me on my life journey.

“Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way, no day but today.”

“Back to School” for the Last Time

This is my last semester at Fontbonne. Wow. Though it feels like I’ve been waiting for years to be able to say that, actually saying it feels strange.

I finished all of my courses required for my various biology programs in December, so now I’m just finishing up my theatre minor and taking a couple of independent study courses with two of my favorite Fontbonne professors. In addition, I’ll continue working for the Kinkel Center as a peer tutor for biology courses, and I’ll continue interning in my microbiology lab.

I’d be the first to say that this blog’s title may seem contradictory, since I’m hoping to go “back to school.” I’ve had aspirations to continue with my education at the graduate level ever since my freshman year at Fontbonne when one of my professors told me I’d need a graduate degree in order to pursue science and, in particular, biomedical research in the way that I want to. As of right now, however, I have no idea where I’m going or which type of degree I’ll be pursuing. For someone who’s as much of a planner as me, not knowing such important life details can begin to feel unbearable at times.

All of that aside, however, I’m hoping to have a relatively peaceful last semester at Fontbonne before I enter graduate school and the “real world.” Welcome back, Griffins, and a good semester to all.

And You Say I’m Not Competitive

I’m not athletic. I don’t relish in the idea of a trophy room. I’d rather see everyone who sincerely tries succeed instead of seeing the same few people being successful all of the time. However, all of that being said, I’m definitely excited to have taken home first place from my microbiology lab’s first Thanksgiving pie-off.

What started as a joke turned in to one of the biggest events of this fall at my lab. Test pies were made before the actual event. One of the would-be judges was disqualified because he knew who was making each type of pie. Even some “trash talk” was issued over lunch. (“You bake pies like your momma. Unless your momma bakes good pies, in which case you bake nothing like your momma.”) Yep, it got intense.

We started out the competition day with what one of my lab managers called the “pie parade,” which was basically just us bringing our pies into the building and putting them into our refrigerator. (Don’t worry – no bacteria or samples go in that refrigerator!) Then, at lunch, one of our scientists judged the pies. I was so enthralled to have won.

Want to make my award-winning pie? Here’s the recipe. If you want it to be more like my pie, use these modifications: I didn’t make my own whipped cream. I just used Cool Whip. I used one entire normal-sized (sorry, I’m not sure of the actual volume) container’s contents to fold into the chocolate mixture, and I used half of another container’s contents on the top of the finished pie.

Happy Baking!! 🙂

My Favorite Things

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not a big “Sound of Music” fan. It’s a classic – don’t get me wrong – but it’s just a little too “overdone” for me. However, with Thanksgiving upon us, I’d like to talk about a few of my favorite little things in life that simply make life all that much sweeter.

A lot of people I’ve met are shocked when they find out that I’m in love with music. I’m an extremely analytical person who’s going to be a scientist, so I guess they think that music doesn’t really relate to me due to its deep roots in the humanities. This, however, is a completely-incorrect thought. I could go for days without checking my phone for texts, but I couldn’t go without my iPod for more than a couple of hours. Music is this higher power that nothing else in life can relate to. Along with water, food, and oxygen, music is a vital for my life.

I’m a self-described germaphobe, but I want to devote my life to infectious disease research. (Paradox much?!) I relish studying a world that we literally can’t even see with the naked eye. From a microbiology standpoint, these tiny entities are amazing. In one sense, they’re simple, but, in other senses, they couldn’t be more complex.

I miss my friends. School just isn’t the same without them. I miss spending half of my Wednesdays watching movies while doing homework with my best friend in the biology seminar room. I miss getting into these long, drawn out discussions/arguments about biological concepts. I have friends on campus – don’t get me wrong – but I still feel as though my “family” has already graduated. I also have friends who are – literally – in other parts of the world that I barely get to talk to anymore. Photos bring me closer to all of these friends, especially since I don’t have Facebook. I have their pictures in my binder, locker, and bedroom. I read an article about how photos of good times make life better, and, though it’s hard to explain why, I believe that this statement is completely true.

Bounty Select-a-Size Paper Towels
Yes, this is an extremely strange thing to be thankful for. But these nifty paper towels are perforated so that you can use as much as you need. In a microbiology lab, you go through a TON of paper towels because you need to keep everything as clean as possible in order to prevent cross-contamination. Select-a-Size allows me to use the amount of paper towels I need while also feeling like I’m being responsible and eco-friendly.

I know that this list is extremely unconventional, but it truly is the little things in life that makes life whole.

I’m a Poet

Last week, while I was looking online for some microbiology information, I saw a blog-style article. Being interested, I clicked on the link to open the article and began reading. I’m a very opinionated person myself, and I respect others’ viewpoints so long as they have backing for those viewpoints, but I definitely didn’t like the tone in which parts of the article were written. For instance, at one point, the article talked about microbiology as a career in which you come home smelling like chemicals and whatnot every single day. It also said that you need at least an MS (if not a full-blown Ph.D.) in order to work in the field (which is very factual indeed).

At first, I was kind of upset by the article’s seemingly anti-micro tone. But then, I realized that I don’t mind what it said. I don’t mind coming home with the smell of nitrile gloves still present on my hands. I don’t mind having the lingering smell of autoclaved agar on my clothes. And, really, I don’t mind the thought of more school – sure, I’d love to be working full time out in the “real world” and coming home to errands instead of homework and studying, but, as I recently told my mom, I just don’t feel like I’m ready to be out of school yet.

Early this summer, as I was sitting with a friend and fellow intern at the microscope while performing a Gram stain procedure, he randomly said, “You know, we’re poets.” I looked at him like he was crazy. He said, “No, really, we are. We look at things that no one else sees. We try to understand those things. We’re poets.”

After considering his argument for a while, I realized that my friend was exactly right. Microbiologists study organisms that we literally can’t see without the aid of a microscope. We try to understand living things that many people place in the “out of sight, out of mind” category. We try to map out their genes and figure out how they’re going to mutate in order to protect our and other species inhabiting this planet. I knew ever since my first basic staining procedure in Dr. Thomasson’s microbiology course that I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else with my life; however, I never imagined that I’d become a poet at the same time.


It doesn’t seem like there’s that much difference between the phrases “I’m going to be” and “I am.” But, coming from my viewpoint, those phrases couldn’t be more different.

Two years ago in one of my theatre classes (because, remember, I’m a theatre minor amidst all of my biology programs), our professor led a discussion about being an actor. I remember that all of my classmates said that they had no problems saying, “I’m studying theatre” or “I’m a theatre student” or “I’m a theatre major,” but, when it came to saying, “I’m an actor,” they just couldn’t quite do it. Honestly, though I thought about what they’d all said, I couldn’t really relate. After all, though I’m a theatre minor, I’m not going to be onstage or backstage for the rest of my life – I’m going to be performing research in a lab.

Then last year, I was working at the Science Center when one of our younger guests walked up to me after my Amazing Science Demonstration show while I was still wearing my lab coat and asked if I was a “real scientist.” I was personally shocked by his question and, more so, by how long it took for me to respond. Finally, I mustered, “I’m going to be one day.”

That night, I emailed Dr. Homsi, our previous lab assistant who is very, shall we say, philosophical in nature and asked if or when I would be considered a “real scientist.” As expected, he quickly responded with an explanation about how an organic chemist at Sigma-Aldrich would be considered a scientist but a truck driver wouldn’t be considered a scientist. “But where’s the line of demarcation?” he asked. After a few great paragraphs, he ended with the following, “if you don’t think that you’ve crossed that line yet, then you certainly will do so once you’ve graduated from Fontbonne.”

Even just last year, I would’ve had a difficult time saying, “I’m a scientist” or “I’m a microbiologist.” I would’ve said things like, “I’m a biology major” or “I’m going to be a researcher, hopefully in infectious disease.” Now, however, I’m finding myself saying “I am” more than “I’m going to be.” Perhaps it’s because I’m spending half of my week working in a microbiology lab. Perhaps it’s because graduation is so near I can taste it. Perhaps it’s because all of my friends graduated last May and are already pursuing careers or graduate studies in the hard sciences. There are still times that I’ll say “I am” and then pause due to the striking thought, “Did I really just say that?” But overall, I think I’m becoming more and more comfortable with considering myself to be a “real scientist.”

Worth Every Penny

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!!

Back in Session

Hello, Dear Readers!

It’s been a while since I posted my last summer blog. And my, how things have changed since then! The weather is saying that fall is soon upon us, classes have been in session for almost a month, and my favorite holiday of the year, Halloween, draws ever closer.

This semester is definitely different for me. For the past two years, I’ve had eighteen or so hours of almost all science courses. I crammed courses like organic chemistry, cell and molecular biology, and anatomy and physiology all into one semester. Call me crazy, but that’s what I did, and I loved it, for the most part. Now, however, I’m practically finished with all of my biology courses, so I’m technically only taking one required biology course this semester (which, by the way, is immunology) in addition to a few gen-eds and a class for my theatre minor. I’m only on campus twice per week; I spend the other days of the week in my internship lab. I’m still interning in the microbiology lab where I started at last spring break, and I continually love it ever more.

But that’s enough about school. The memories of summer seem distant now, but who’s not up for a little reminiscing? I’ve been excited to designate the following as “My Summer Favorites” for a while now. So enjoy!

Favorite Summer Muny Show: “South Pacific”
This came down to a close call. I enjoyed the entire season, but it was hard for me to determine which show I liked better – “South Pacific” or “Les Miserables.” Though I’ve always loved “Les Miz,” I’d have to say that “South Pacific” was my favorite show of the summer season. The vibrant colors, singing, dancing, and classic Rodgers and Hammerstein storyline were all in perfect harmony. I’ve been voting for this show for at least the past five years, so I’m happy to say that The Muny’s 2013 production was worth the long wait.

Favorite Summer TV Show: “Whodunnit!”
“Whodunnit!” was my televised summertime addiction. A show on ABC, “Whodunnit!” was a murder mystery reality show. I often said it was a televised version of my favorite board game, Clue. In the show, Giles was the butler at the super-creepy Rue Manor, and contestants had to solve murder mysteries to determine who the “killer” was. I was so excited that my favorite contestant
won, and I absolutely loved trying to put all of the clues together and figure out each week’s crime before Giles explained how the crime had been committed. If anyone from ABC is reading this, there’d better be a season two coming up soon!

Favorite Summer Movie: “The Great Gatsby”
Okay, I’ll admit it – “Gatsby” technically came out in theaters right around exam week last May. However, I’d still consider it to be my favorite summer movie. I saw it with my mom and then again with a good friend, and I loved it both times. The director used amazing visuals to retell this classic story. It was haunting, exciting, and romantic all at once.

Favorite Summer Lab Process: DNA Extraction
In my internship lab, I performed my first DNA extraction within the first couple months of being there. However, I was working
alongside my friend David, who knew what he was doing. Right around the Fourth of July, I performed my first solo DNA extraction. It was awesome. I wouldn’t consider myself a DNA extraction pro just yet, but I would say that I have a much better grasp of how the process works and on what goes on in each specific step. Plus, how can you beat a technique that requires continual micropipetting?!

Favorite Summer Memory: Going to EPCOT
My family and I go to Disney World each June for vacation. This year, however, we were able to go to EPCOT on three different days because we had park tickets that allowed us to go from park to park. EPCOT, or the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” is my absolute favorite Disney park because it combines science, technology, and culture. Seeing the dolphins and manatees and riding the ever-funny “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” starring Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy made my vacation perfect.

All in all, I had a pretty good summer. But I’m happy that the semester has started because I’ll be able to devote more time to learning immunology and working and learning in my lab.

Tagged as: back to school, Biology, EPCOT, internship, Microbiology, Summer, The Great Gatsby, The Muny

It’s All Coming Together Now…

I just returned home after a day devoted to all things science. Today, the lab where I’m an intern hosted an open house/networking event at the Helix Center, a biotech incubator in Creve Coeur. “What exactly is a biotech incubator?” you may ask. Well, basically, it’s a place where small, start-up lab companies can begin their research. The Helix Center, whose Core Lab is sponsored by my lab, has many amenities for such start-up companies, such as permanent mailing addresses, shared lab equipment (such as incubators, laminar flow hoods, and incubators required for tissue culture), and a variety of offices and labs that can be leased by such companies.

Anyways, today’s event was two-fold. First of all, it allowed scientists and start-up companies a chance to tour the Helix Center, the Danforth Plant Science Center, and BRDG (which is adjacent to Danforth). Secondly – and, for me, most importantly – this day allowed for a lot of networking. There was a panel during which CEOs and other VIPs from the larger labs spoke about what their labs’ particular niches are, and then there was a more informal part of the program that allowed representatives from start-up labs to explain what they are trying to do and share the types of resources that they currently have.

For me, this day was a great experience. I got business cards and contacts from a variety of people, and I think I really realized that I’m going in the right direction with wanting to continue to learn about and eventually work in the field of clinical microbiology and immunology. Furthermore, I was excited because of the prospect of what seemed to me to be a “new wave” of interest in biology and the biotechnological sciences right here in St. Louis. That is, it seemed like a lot of the companies – both large and small – are interested in networking. To paraphrase one of the speakers, if one lab can’t do a particular job for a particular client, they want to be able to refer that client to another lab in the St. Louis area to keep the work here. Realizing that I’ll be needing a paid job sooner than later, and realizing that I’ll – hopefully – be looking for a full-time career in less time than it seems, I felt so relieved that the biology scene seems to be growing right here at home.

After a lovely morning full of speakers, lab tours, and the like, I returned to my lab, where I worked for a few hours. I’ll be back there tomorrow and then again on Tuesday. And do you know what excites me? I’m excited to go back again and again. I finally feel like all of the long, hard hours spent studying for tests in classes ranging from microbiology to anatomy and physiology to organic chem and perfecting my micropipetting skills in biotech I are finally paying off. As I’m waiting to enter into my fourth and final year at Fontbonne, I feel like I’m finally seeing everything coming together.

For Good

“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn. And we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them…”

The above lyrics are from the final song in my all-time favorite musical, “Wicked.”  I’ve been thinking about these lyrics in depth for quite some time now since many of my friends have graduated and are moving on to new chapters in their lives.  But even so, I’d like to devote this blog and these lyrics to a newer friend, one whom I’ve only known since spring break.  I’m talking about my good friend David, who is another intern in the microbiology lab where I’ll be spending my summer.  David is from Colombia, South America, and in the short time that I’ve known him, he’s taught me some invaluable life lessons.

1. “You Can Do It!”  Whenever I screw up in the lab or speak negatively about my chances of getting into a graduate program related to immunology or microbiology, David always reminds me that I can do it.  We put restrictions on ourselves.  Yes, I may not get in to the program of my dreams, and yes, I may – and most likely will – stumble along the way, but with a positive attitude, practically anything that you truly put your mind and heart into will happen.

2. Invest in your education.  I’ll admit it – sometimes I feel completely burnt out on school.  I absolutely love learning, but when I realize that I’ve been in school since I’ve been six years old, it begins to feel redundant.  But as David reminded me, the only thing that can truly never be taken away from you is your education.  This reminder will become ever more beneficial as I continue my education during my final year at Fontbonne and beyond.

3. Be patient!  Life is a process.  Things take time.  Whether it be the process of micropipetting a particularly viscous soap sample or the process of becoming your true self, always remember to be patient. 

4. We are young.  Sometimes I literally freak out.  (Okay, that’s incorrect – I freak out more frequently than “sometimes.”)  But that’s okay.  Even though the future is super important, I don’t have to have everything figured out all at once.  Going back to #3, life truly is a process, and, though I’d like to know what lies ahead, there’s no way that will ever truly happen.  Therefore, it’s more beneficial to worry about doing my best in school, in work, and in my personal life now because doing so will help me to prepare for what lies ahead.

5. “La vida está llena de cosas interesantes.”  (“Life is full of interesting things.”)  No words could be more honest.  Sometimes we forget how awesome life is.  We get so dragged down by worry and responsibility and day-to-day madness that we forget how truly blessed we are to even be alive.  We need to take time to partake in the famous cliche of stopping to smell the roses.

I’ve learned so much from my new friend, and I’m sad that he’ll be leaving all too soon.  I’d like to think that he learned new things from me; at the very least, I know that he now has a better understanding of American terms such as “cougar” and “freaking out,” and he is much better at pronouncing similar-sounding words such as “both,” “boat,” and “bought.”  So here’s to our last few days working and laughing together in the lab, and to the many future endeavors that we will share with each other via email and other virtual communications that make our world a much smaller place.

“And now whatever way our stories end, know you have rewritten mine, by being my friend…”