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Week 1: A Whole New World

    As the only incoming sophomore, I am the youngin' of the group and that was pretty intimidating at first. But all of students and staff have been very welcoming, so it has been relatively painless so far. As a freshman, this opportunity became available to me when I was awarded into the Johnson Fellowship Program through Oregon State University. It basically means that I was chosen, along with 27 other freshmen out of our class, to receive a scholarship (graciously funded by the Johnsons) to pursue a summer research internship. So I'd like to thank Pete and Rosalie Johnson for allowing me this amazing opportunity! It's only been one week, and I've already learned so much.

      Monday was orientation day; It was all about getting settled in. We had a meeting with our primary contact, Vanessa Green (who is awesome, by the way =)), about what to expect over the summer. Along with our lab work, there are also seminars and field trips that we get to go on, which will be pretty fun. After getting everything figured out, we were dismissed to meet with our frontline mentors. Mine, however, was out at a conference until Wednesday, so I was introduced to the other lab staff and given some reading my mentor had left for me. 

      Tuesday was pretty low key. Since my mentor was not there yet, I didn't have to be there until the afternoon for a lab meeting. However, I thought I should get a jump on all of the reading she gave me, so I came in early and read for a few hours, went to the lab meeting, and then read for a few more hours. It wasn't the most entertaining way to spend a day, but it's extremely important to gain that baseline information about my project. And although they were difficult papers, I understood most all of it, which was exciting for me. 

      On Wednesday, I was able to get busy. I finally got to meet my mentor! Her name is Kati Geszvain, and she is a microbial geneticist. She got me busy right away. We talked about our project for the summer: The possible role of bacterial manganese(II) oxidation in lignin degradation. The point of researching it is to find out why and how the Psuedomonas Putida oxidizes manganese and whether lignin degradation is a factor or effect in this process, and (in the future) if we can utilize this mechanism to enhance industrial uses. She then taught me the ins and outs of the lab equipment, and we actually created a spectroscopic control curve for lignin to use as a sort of tracking device to measure the concentrations of lignin.

      On Thursday, we narrowed down a smaller range for our spectroscopic control curve, and took more data. I figured out what the "re" in "research" means - lots of do-overs and repeating of experiments. Lastly, we set up some bacteria to grow overnight. We used both solid and liquid medias to grow a wild type and mutant form of our bacteria for tests on Friday. The mutant had the DNA segments that are suspected to be responsible for manufacturing proteins that oxidize manganese deleted from the total DNA strand, not allowing it to oxidize manganese at all.

      I started off Friday with an intern "brown bag seminar". The seminar was by Elizabeth Furse, a former US congresswoman, on the Native American rights and their relationship to issues pertaining to natural resource management. It was very interesting, becaust I had never really thought about that before. After lunch, we delved into our experiment. We isolated colonies on other streak plates, and used our bacteria from the liquid media to test whether it will degrade lignin and/or oxidize manganese in several differing liquid conditions over the weekend. My mentor has been really open and welcoming, letting me do most of the experiments. She is very sweet, and great to work with. It should be an awesome summer!