Today was spent doing outreach – Thursday 10th Sept

A very busy and varied day to tell you about today.

I arrived at the lab at 8:30am and my first job was to make some fresh agarose. Yesterday I ran PCRs and so today I needed to look at them. Unfortunately you need to let agarose cool a little before you can use it. I poured gels and loaded them as soon as they were set. I then jumped ahead a little and digested these samples before being able to see the gel. Normally I wouldn’t do this and it’s a little risky that it’s a waste of reagents but I was pressed for time so I took the gamble. I set the digest up just before 10am and then headed over to my morning activity for the Dynamic DNA outreach day. I was stationed on Jurassic Genes, this is an activity where the kids get to look at fossils and bones (and some photos to represent things we don’t have like mummies) and work out if they think we’d be able to extract DNA from the samples. They also get a chance to look at human evolution by ordering skulls from different human related species. Just before the kids arrived at 10:30am I popped back to the lab as my gel was ready, my gamble paid off all 48 samples had PCR’ed successfully 🙂 .

Dynamic DNA ran from 10-2pm, after a lunch break at 12:15-12:45pm I moved onto Wear a Chimp. This activity lets kids see how DNA bases pair (A-T, C-G) and they use coloured beads to represent the different bases and build a double stranded bracelet. They can then turn this DNA bracelet into a protein bracelet by translating the DNA sequence. This activity is really popular and always absolutely manic! Beads tend to go everywhere but the kids always seem to enjoy it a lot and most of them proudly head off wearing their bracelets.

At 2pm we quickly packed up and then it was back to a normal working day. I went back to my desk and spent about 30mins recovering from Dynamic DNA, with so many kids (almost 600 in 2 days) it’s an exhausting thing to do (but a lot of fun!). Once I’d recovered a little I went and set up my samples for their final analysis and left my plate in the freezer. I got a little confused as our order book, which lives in my drawer, was missing and I couldn’t find it. We were at the end of an order so I assumed the boss had “borrowed” it to place a new order. Unfortunately the boss was now on a plane and his office was locked. To cut a longer than necessary story short it had been in his office but was then put back in someone else’s drawer. Anyway I was just very happy to have it back.

After my plate was safely in the freezer I went back to my computer for some more work with my model. Now I have a working system I can process data I’ve already generated to give me the output I’m looking for. I ran data from 4 mutants through the model and made some new graphs, I did some stats and overall I’m really happy with everything that came out. Another new figure for my presentation next week 🙂 .

That took me until about 5pm when I decided it was home time. Unfortunately my train was a little delayed for technical reasons but I was still home by 6pm so I’m happy with that. To sum up today I think it was a varied day where I got plenty of useful PhD and outreach things done. Sometimes I worry that my lab work suffers when I do outreach but today I really managed to fit the two together and should have some fresh data to analyse tomorrow so until then everyone, thank you for reading.

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