Friday, October 26, 2012

Chiming in with a #ChemCoach entry

Here's my contribution to the ChemCoach Carnival, for what it's worth.

Your current job.

I am a postdoc in an actual chemistry department on the East Coast (USA) doing a mix of physical chemistry, biochemistry, and spectroscopy, along with dashes of molecular biology, computation, and misery. 

What you do in a standard "work day."

No such thing as a standard work day for me -  I'm presently slogging through heaps of molecular biology in order to validate a protocol for producing uniformly 13C/15N labeled protein (mostly since my PI isn't yet comfortable with how we do things in the 21st century).  Earlier this year, for example, I was doing everything from NMR on inorganic solids (after effecting some probe repairs on my own) as well as some p. chem. of lipid mixtures, in addition to protein NMR (solution and solid state). 

What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there?

 I was a biochem/chem undergrad (did my undergrad research in a biophysics lab - lasers and magnets, what more could one wish for?) and did my Ph.D. in an honest-to-Buddha chemistry department, doing biophysical chemistry.  I was briefly diverted into a year at a cancer research institute doing biophysics/soft matter-oriented work (that was a trip, let me tell you), but returned to my chemical roots. 

How does chemistry inform your work?

Just the other day I was trying to get this horrendous mix of inorganic chemicals to go into and stay in solution, actually - and people say there is no chemistry in biochemistry!  Heh.   My perspective on many of my scientific interests is rooted in my chemical background - for example, signal transduction could be translated as essentially controlling the rates of chemical reactions across interfaces, after all.  It's a rather essential component of what I do on a daily basis.

Finally, a unique, interesting, or funny anecdote about your career

I was at a conference where I spoke to the colleague of this scientist who had written a paper I had read and digested multiple times, as it was extremely germane to my interests.  He noted that said scientist had never followed up on this particular aspect since they found that obtaining reproducible data was far too tricky.  I should have realized then that my project might have been a bit ambitious, but I persevered and did manage to get reproducible data.  It just took another 2.5 years on top of the 2 years I had spent working on said project..... 


Wavefunction said...

Good luck. I have heard from others that making 13C/15N labeled proteins can turn into a character-building experience.

MJ said...

Thanks - I haven't prepared uniform 13C/15N protein in a very long while, as I've been working with more selective schemes or just uniform 15N labeling, which is pretty straightforward. The payoff is if you can prepare enough 13C/15N protein to last you for the next two years or so of experiments.

Post a Comment