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research

I got confused just writing the title for this blog post, but it’s true: this is the last post I’ll be making for the first (blogging) week of a semester at Fontbonne!

Which, frankly, is crazy.

Then again, this semester will also be crazy, and I suspect I’ll be ready for the end when it comes.

(…Who am I kidding. I love Fontbonne, and I expect to be bawling when things start to wind down in May. I’m currently accepting donations for my Kleenex stash.)

The gen-ed Biology class I’ve successfully avoided for the past 3 years has now caught up with me, and Life Science is coming at me with a vengeance. (I knew I couldn’t evade it forever, but I thought I could at least try…) I’m also taking my last undergraduate Computer Science class, Operating Systems.

Then I’ve got two senior projects, one for my Applied Math major and one for my Computer Science major, which amounts to two 15-page papers and two “deliverables” besides the papers.

-For C.S., I’m making a device with a microcontroller that sits on top of a washing machine and sends a text message when the load is done.

-For Applied Math, I’m going to construct a mathematical model based on statistical study of the population migration out of Saint Louis City and into the County between 1950 and the present.

I’ll also be working as a Programming Intern at an area brewery, helping the Fontbonne IT department for a few hours a week, and doing a bit of cryptography research with the Computer Science department.

The semester has lots of work in store for me, but I consider myself really lucky: I get to take on some very neat things and work with some very neat people.

So as the semester is off and rolling, my final words of my last first blog of the semester are:

Good luck, everyone! Here we go!

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Courtney

Perceptions

by Courtney on October 12, 2013

in Academics,After College

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.”

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I love inspirational quotes. They bring a smile to my face on a dreary day, they make me laugh, and they remind me to keep believing in myself and progressing toward my life goals. Generally, I find inspiration in quotes from movies, books, plays, and musicals. However, I just recently found an inspirational quote located on a rather unconventional medium: a Taco Bell hot sauce packet. The packet said, and I do quote, “If you never do, you’ll never know.” How true these words are! Thinking back over the major decisions I’ve made since high school, I can’t help but reflect upon how these words relate. I liked biology, but I didn’t know if I’d like it as my main, focused study. I was hesitant about contacting the lab where I’m now interning because I didn’t know if I was prepared enough or good enough. I am skeptical of people, so it took me a while to trust in the people whom I now consider to be some of the best friends I’ve ever had. All in all, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs as a biology major, just as anyone else in any other major would have. However, if I wouldn’t have made the choices to go into biology and send the questioning email to my lab and talk to various people, I would’ve never known how rewarding all of those choices currently are. I’m not going to lie – I’m not one to live on the edge. I generally think a while before taking any great risks or making any major decisions, but, in the cases described above and in a few other instances that come to mind, I’m glad that I did what my heart was telling me to do. Who knew that hot sauce packets could be so influential and inspirational?!

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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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Waiting on the Trypsin

by Courtney April 28, 2013

Pour off old media. Wash twice with Hank’s salt solution. Add 5 milliliters of thawed trypsin and pour off. Wait five minutes. Use 5 milliliters of alpha-10 to quench the reaction. Add 1-2 drops of liquid culture to each of two new flasks, which should each contain 20 milliliters of alpha-10. Add 20 milliliters of [...]

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The Fall

by Courtney March 17, 2013

I guess you could say that I hit the ground running as soon as I began as a freshman at Fontbonne over two and a half years ago. My first semester, I took 18 credit hours, with classes such as general biology, general chemistry, and intro to statistics. Since then, I’ve never taken less than [...]

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Ribbons and Cupcakes and Research, Oh My!

by Courtney March 3, 2013

Tomorrow, Monday, March 4, the Biological Sciences Organization will be hosting our semesterly bake sale. Usually, we donate a portion of the proceeds from our sales to animal adoptions. And, though we absolutely love animals and strongly support and promote saving their habitats, we have decided to break from tradition in order to support another [...]

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Fridays Are for Biotech

by Courtney September 21, 2012

As many of you who’ve ready my previous blogs probably know by now, I came to Fontbonne for the biotechnology program.  This program helps to prepare students for life in biotechnology and biological research careers, which is, of course, the profession that I want to enter one day. It’s my third year at Fontbonne, and [...]

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You Know You’re a Nerd When…

by Courtney April 20, 2012

Last night in orgo lab while vacuum filtering our recrystallized products, I asked Carly if she wanted to play a game.  It had been featured on “The Big Bang Theory.”  Essentially, one person says the name of an element; for example, let’s say “magnesium.”  Then, the next person has to say an element that begins [...]

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Science Poster Day!

by Courtney April 13, 2012

Tomorrow, Saturday the fourteenth, the Fontbonne biology department will be hosting the First Annual St. Louis Intercollegiate Undergraduate Science Research Poster Session (lovingly called “Science Poster Day” for obvious reasons).  If you’ve been walking around campus, you’ve probably seen sidewalk-chalk announcements everywhere about this awesome event.  (My friend and fellow blogger Carly calls it “science [...]

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