Sharks and Mad Scientists
Hello and Good Day!
First and foremost, I am not a blogger. I do not read blogs, nor do I have much interest in such things, but I feel that it may be a great way of conveying my thoughts to the world (but in truth probably only the 1-2 people that just happen to stumble into this domain on accident). So, I apologize in advance.
A little introduction: my name is Prahi Thirkateh, and I am an intern at the Pritzker Laboratory this summer (June through July, 2011). I am working as part of the DNA Residency Program under Erica Zahnle, Dr. Kevin Feldheim, and Dr. Shannon Hackett. More specifically, I am working under Dr. Feldheim as part of the Great White Shark Project, along with educator Tom Champion, and student Griffin Harris, both fellow interns part of the DNA Residency Program. The Pathogens Project is comprised of Dr. Shannon Hackett along with interns Evan Martin (an educator), Simona Krifman, and Kit McDonell (both high school students).
The research that Dr. Feldheim’s team is doing is largely associated with short tandem repeats in the Great White Shark genome known as Microsatellites. The analysis of these magical Microsatellites lets us deduce changes in the shark populations in the past 50-60 years; more specifically whether there was a bottleneck in the sharks which may have caused a drastic decrease in shark population, as well as variability of the organisms.
Formalities aside, the work here has been awesome. Last summer, I worked in a similar lab, but with the model bacteria Escherichia coli (commonly referred to as E. coli), so the experience is new, but very familiar.
Today, we DNA interns were lectured by the esteemed scientist Dr. Urs Schmidt-Ott, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago. His work is largely concerned with the Evo-Devo (Evolutionary and Developmental Biology) side of fruit flies, and like he says, he’s a “fly guy.” To say that this guy knows about his flies is an understatement. I mean, he’s mega smart. And halfway through, I realized that this man was so knowledgeable about his material that any ordinary human, not exposed to the topics that we are used to, would call this guy a “mad scientist.” In fact, if any ordinary mortal had seen the PowerPoint presentation that we were shown, we ourselves would have been referred to as mad scientists. And so, another thought came to my mind. I remember pretending to be a scientist as a little sapling, mixing various household liquids (making the "toxic stuff" that all scientists play with, of course). I remember thinking, a couple years later that this may never happen; that I’m not smart enough, or that I have no idea how I can even become a scientist. I mean, no one’s surprised to hear “I’m a businessman,” or “I’m a computer engineer.” How often do you hear “I’m a scientist?” Now, here I am, living the dream that was locked back in my mind for epochs.
So remember this: never let go of your dreams. They will take you far, but only if you cherish them.