Another academic accomplishment!

A new paper that I’m an author on has just been published in DNA and Cell Biology!

It’s a slightly atypical paper, though. When I was a senior undergraduate at Purdue, the Department of Biology staff nominated me to help develop the curriculum of a new NSF-funded, research-based, freshman honors biology laboratory course called CASPiE (Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education). That description is a mouth-full, but it basically means these freshman Biology majors were doing real research for a semester, instead of your typical cookbook lab experiments where the outcome is already known. The class was taught by a professor, a graduate student, and me. I like to say that my main duty was making sure the students plated their bacteria on the correct media and didn’t set themselves on fire*, but I also got to give a lecture on evolution and help out with general concepts throughout the semester.

And now that research has been published in a special undergraduate research edition of the journal DNA and Cell Biology. And it’s atypical because the subject matter is vastly outside of my normal field and interests: Isolation and Preliminary Characterization of Amino Acid Substitution Mutations That Increase the Activity of the Osmoregulated ProP Protein of Salmonella Enterica Serovar Typhimurium. That is going to look bizarrely random on my CV.

But the main congratulations go to the undergrads. They’d be juniors now, and having a paper published by then in a major accomplishment. So kudos to them!

*Though one somehow managed to set the rubber tubing connecting to the gas source on fire. I had a moment of “WTF” and then calmly turned the gas off, and the fire went out. Yay lab classes!


  1. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    my main duty was making sure the students…didn’t set themselves on fire*

    Folks like you never let people have any fun. :-þ

  2. Bill Door says

    I like to say that my main duty was making sure the students plated their bacteria on the correct media and didn’t set themselves on fire.

    I don’t think there’s enough selective pressure on undergrads, so when I’m TA-ing I just make sure the fire doesn’t spread to the rest of the room.

    Anyway, congrats. And don’t be concerned with what looks bizarre on your CV, you want your name on every paper you possibly can (within the bounds of academic honesty, of course).

  3. pramod says

    Awesome. Congratulations!

    On a completely unrelated topic, I can’t wait for all the pretty graphs you’re going to plot from your survey.

  4. Bethany says

    I’m always impressed with the creative and resourceful ways undergrad manage to come up with to be wrong, set things on fire, and generally create mayhem in a lab.

    Major kudos to you and to the undergrads. I think the best thing we can do to improve science is get more undergrads hands on experience doing real studies. Even if they end up not going to graduate school they still come out of undergrad with a much better understanding of how science works and can take that into the “real” world.

  5. Eric says

    Congrats, Jen!

    Brings back memories of nearly setting myself on fire in high school. It was a long time ago, so details are fuzzy, but I apparently hadn’t connected the hose to the burner properly and, after I lit it, the hose popped off and the fire jumped to the hose. After a brief moment of panic as I watched the hose flop around with fire coming out of it, I managed to turn of the gas and all was saved, lol. I remember being relieved that nobody seemed to have noticed the incident.


  6. DaveD says

    There’s always room for creativity. My dad told me about someone in his college chem class who managed to connect his bunsen burner to the water tap, then turned the tap on. The resulting fountain may have been inadvertent, but was reportedly quite impressive.

    My sister was in chem class with a guy who managed to put so much torque on the hose to a suction flask that when he let go of the flask, it flipped over a couple of times, fell into the sink, and broke.

    And congratulations to Jen for her publication. May it be extensively cited.

  7. Masha says

    I’ve seen a lot of academic articles but I’ve never seen one with so many authors! Very cool, by the way :)

  8. ischemgeek says

    I have a fun story:

    Back when I was in undergrad my (very nice but utterly senseless in a obliviously-unable-to-think-things-through, dangerous-to-have-in-a-lab sort of way) lab partner decided to put a graduated cylinder of heat-sensitive, shock-sensitive explosive that goes kablooey at 70C in physical contact with the heating surface of a hotplate on max. I was off getting an IR spectrum at the time – normally I hovered around the fumehood on his chemical weeks because he’d done a few other dumbass moves before that and I didn’t trust him with chemicals as a result. I walked by at the same time as the prof. Prof’s eyebrows nearly reached his hairline, and I glanced to see what had alarmed him.

    “Holy shit!” I exclaimed as I dived across the aisle and carefully-but-firmly snatched the graduated cylinder away from danger.

    “What?” The Clueless One asked me.

    Seething, I pointed at the graduated cylinder. “What is this?”

    “That? It’s [our chemical].”

    “That’s right. And what safety info did we have to memorize for it?”

    He blinked. “Erm, it’s explosive and flammable?”

    “Correct. And what temperature does it explode at?”

    He blinked again. “Erm, seventy degrees, right?

    “Yes. What was this touching?!

    He blinked a third time. Paused. Then the lights went on. “OOOOOHHH!”

    I nodded emphatically. “Yeah. You get it.”

    “I didn’t think-” he began.

    “No, no you didn’t,” I snarled. And forbade him from touching the chemicals for the rest of the course, even though we were supposed to alternate chemical and instrumental experimentation week-by-week according to the prof. Yeah, I might’ve been harsh, but damn it, he nearly blew us up. Plus, our department has a blanket policy that any preventable lab incident is worth an F in the course and a bar from lab courses for one calendar year (or, as my prof explained it, if you’re a dumbass and blow up the lab, don’t expect to pass this course, and don’t expect to be doing lab courses until you can prove to us you’re not gonna be a dumbass anymore). It was academic self-preservation.

    He dropped the course shortly after that (switching into music, which is what he should’ve taken in the first place, frankly – he’s a damn good musician and he actually likes music), and my grades went from Cs (because his incompetence tanked our experimental so much) to A+s, even though I was doing all the work for a partnered lab course on my own.

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