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Science Center

Out of the four spring breaks I’ve had while in college, I’d have to say that spring break 2014 is, by far, my most memorable. Yes, last year’s spring break was pretty memorable; after all, it was when I took the GRE for the first time (yippee) and when I started my internship at my lab. However, this year’s spring break included an unforgettable trip to Louisville, Kentucky, with my Special Topics course that centered on the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre.

The trip was everything I had expected and more. I roomed with Angela and LaToya, two graduate theatre students, and we had a blast. On the drive there, Angela and I stopped for lunch at a yummy Evansville, Indiana, Amish buffet, where I had the most delicious whipped peanut butter pie. (Yes, I’ll totally agree, it sounds pretty gross, especially since I don’t like peanut butter. But, luckily, it was amazing and left me wanting more!) Once in Kentucky, we were able to see five plays. I loved two of the plays (“Brownsville Song” and “Partners”), liked two other plays (“Steel Hammer” and “The Grown-Up”), and only really didn’t understand the concept of some parts of the last play (“Remix 38”). In addition to the plays, we were able to attend some special workshops for college students, so a group of four of us went to workshops about all of the work put into each annual Humana Festival and about how you can incorporate everyday experiences into theatre and vice-versa. We also went to some great local eateries while in town, my favorite of which was Down One Bourbon Bar, which seamlessly combined the 1920s flair of “The Great Gatsby” with the elegance of Britain.

On Sunday, we didn’t have any plays to see, so Angela and I went to the Kentucky Science Center and the Louisville Slugger Museum. The Science Center was definitely the edgiest science museum I’ve ever been in, and it had a whole floor focused on human health and anatomy, which I adore. There was even this computerized game that allowed visitors to “be” a macrophage, T-cell, or B-cell and “kill” bacteria in manners relative to how their chosen cells worked. (For example, a macrophage could “eat” bacteria all by itself, but a T-cell could only kill bacteria that had been tagged by B-cells, just like in real life.) As you can see, I really enjoyed the Science Center.

Our trip ended after a trip to the Louisville Slugger Museum, where we purchased our own personalized mini bats and took a tour of the factory, where retail, minor league, and major league bats are created. Though we weren’t allowed to take a picture due to our presence in the factory, Angela and I were super excited because we had the opportunity to hold a bat that belonged to Cardinal Baseball’s Matt Holliday.

All in all, this trip was awesome. I really would like to go back to the Humana Festival and Louisville again. Maybe next year…

Want to see pictures of my trip? Just click here

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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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To begin with, I’d like to offer my readers an explanation as to why my blog last week was so short. As you may have read, I had my third test within the timespan of a week coming up, and I was trying to learn all about photosynthesis and the citric acid cycle and glycolysis regulation. I took a break to write my blog, but while typing, I accidentally hit a wrong button, therefore deleting all of my words except for those in my first paragraph. If you return to my previous blog and look at the comments, I’ve commented on my own blog and filled in some details.

Okay, now on to this week. Once again, I’ve miscounted the weeks until the end of school.  I thought we had four weeks of classes left. Oh, no – we have 2.5 weeks of classes left, and then a week of exams. (I don’t know how I always miscount.  I’m really not that terribly bad at counting…) Anyways, I feel like I still have a lot to do for school and otherwise. This past Friday, a few of my friends from the Biological Sciences Organization (BSO) and I went to the Science Center to celebrate DNA with Science Center visitors. Next week, on April 25, it will have been 60 years since Watson and Crick published their groundbreaking paper in the scientific journal “Nature” that described the structure of DNA. That determination has literally changed and affected all areas of biological sciences, ranging from cell biology to molecular biology to biochemistry to biotechnology to genetics. At the Science Center, we had a big DNA birthday card for visitors to sign, and we had spin-the-wheel trivia. We also had a fun craft activity that allowed visitors to make-and-take their own DNA strand, which they made using two different colors of pipe cleaners. (And boy, was I exhausted afterward. That night, when I was explaining to my mom what we had done, I said that we used “pipettes” to make DNA strands. True story.)

Next week, the BSO will be celebrating that monumental day in style with a party for biology majors on campus. Be sure to look for us, as we’ll be wearing our “DNA Is Life. Everything Else? Just Details.” shirts around campus. And the week after, BSO will have a very big Wednesday. We will be having our annual seniors’ graduation party in the morning and then going on an Owl Prowl in Forest Park that night. (Our new librarian, Mark Glenshaw, works in conjunction with Forest Park Forever and the World Bird Sanctuary, and he offered to take a few of us to Forest Park to show us owls’ nesting and habitat. We’re all really excited about it.)

So, for once, my social calendar is actually full. What about my school calendar, you may ask? Well, yes, my planner is chock full of due dates and the like. However, for the first time ever, I don’t feel like I’m completely panicking about finishing all of my work. Just give me a couple more days, though, and I’ll assure you that the panic will have begun…

~ With Carly and Kaniz at the BSO table at the Science Center! ~

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Since my very first blog two and a half years ago, I’ve been talking about the facts that I’m majoring in biology and that I want to pursue a career in biomedical research. However, it recently occurred to me that I’ve never actually explained how I got into this major.

If you would’ve told me that I’d be a biology major when I was a freshman, sophomore, or even a fall-semester junior in high school, I would’ve told you that you were crazy. In high school, I loved English, Spanish, and communication classes. I took as many honors and college credit English and Spanish classes as I could. I remember loving my sophomore-level biology course; however, I had that purely American stereotype of science: if you go into science, you’re going to be a doctor. Since I can’t stand the sight of blood coming out of a human body, I thought that science was a field I’d never enter.

During my junior year of high school, I took an honors chemistry course. As it turned out, I was pretty good balancing chemical equations and performing titrations in lab. However, I still had that American stereotype of science. I did NOT want to be a doctor.

Then, right around Halloween of my junior year, my chemistry teacher took us on a field trip to the Science Center for SciFest, an event during which scientists from around the globe gave presentations on all aspects of science. I saw a presentation about the manufacturing of medicine that was given by a local pharmaceutical company. The entire time, I was fascinated by the entire process of bettering people’s lives by bettering the medicines that they take. A few months later, when I got serious about looking for colleges, I looked not for English and communication programs but for biology programs.

There are definitely days when I wonder what my life would be like if I’d never gone to SciFest and see that presentation that inspired me to completely change my mind about the field that I wanted to go into. I think about what it would be like to study British literature instead of the relatively-high rates of genetic HIV resistance found in Northern Europeans. But then I think about how blessed I am. I think about how I’ll be able to change the world by helping to advance our knowledge of medical treatments and cures, and I think about my work at the Science Center and about the potential I have to inspire younger generations to go into science due to my presence there.

All in all, I guess you could say that life is a full-circle trip. Do I actually know where I’ll end up? Definitely not. But I’m excited to find out.

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An Exciting 48 Hours

by Courtney October 27, 2012

A lot can happen in 48 hours.  Being overly interested in microbiology and bacteria, I can tell you that a visible colony of E. coli can grow on an agar plate in as little as 48 hours (although 72 hours would probably give you more to work with).  But anyways, as I said, 48 hours [...]

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Born to Be Wild

by Courtney October 13, 2012

As those of you who’ve read my previous blogs of this semester know, I am a St. Louis Sciene Center volunteer.  I absolutely love the Science Center, and I’ve been all excited about two of the newest limited engagements.  One of those is a traveling exhibit called “Wildlife Rescue,” which is an awesome, interactive exhibit [...]

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From “Cool – It’s Cryogenic” to “Cool – We’re Back at School”

by Courtney September 10, 2012

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to school! For those of you who remember me, I need no introduction. And for those of you who don’t know me, here’s a little background. My name is Courtney, and I’m a junior at Fontbonne. I’m majoring in biotechnology and physiology, and I’m minoring in chemistry and theatre. As [...]

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Some Final Thoughts…

by Courtney May 11, 2012

Wow.  I’m exactly halfway through my time at Fontbonne.  I just finished my last final this morning, and I was out the door by 10:05.  It will take me a while to realize that I’m actually on summer break, but I’m happy for my newfound freedom. This year was definitely far more challenging than last [...]

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Summer So Soon

by Courtney February 24, 2012

It kind of creeps me out how close summer really is when you sit down and think about it.  We are just a mere 16 school days until spring break, and Fontbonne’s summer class schedules are already out.  (By the way, kudos to whoever designed the covers - I was talking to some friends about the [...]

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