Monday, September 1, 2008

Jet Lag's a Bit**

Asterices (pl) - asterix + more.

So, travel one way works OK, but travel back seems to always throw me. The funny thing about it is that, unlike anytime you're having trouble sleeping, you're not even tired, it's impossible to even think about going back to sleep. The funny thing about it is that in this structured environment, my mind runs at orders of magnitude greater rate of randomness than usual.

Between remembering every stressful thing I have to take care of, and figuring out how to do any new experiments, and worrying about what I'll do next year, I pretty much don't even have any desire to sleep.

So, here's my break down from my trip:

Week 1: Arrive late, miss roundtable discussions. These had little purpose for academic furtherment, but would have been fun (I think). The rest of the week is a blur of information, which I am attempting to formulate into information that I will keep with me in my brain, rather than hear, think about and forget.
I would like to take this time to discuss the state of microbial ecology. There appear to be 3 fields in microbial ecology:
1) If you don't have money, you do the old school, low input, high statistical analysis intensive experiments, and display your statistics. This can sometimes include good old old school sequencing, q-PCR, qRT-PCR, T-RFLP, clone libraries, etc. When you're done, if you're lucky, you'll get the ability to compare your results between eachother, and a good idea of how much conditions change microbial communities. This can be colloqually described as "I can't afford to do the expensive high data work, so let me do this, instead, maybe nobody will notice."
2) If you do have money, you do pyrosequencing. Sometimes, you to Reverse transcription, to find out what the signal is, other times you do protein sequencing as well. This is what I call the "Let's sequence the shit out of everything, and see what I can find out." This method is the next, sexy thing, but I'm sometimes sceptical about what we can actually gather from this approach. Who knows, maybe I'm just not cut out for the ecology part.
3) Microcosms, phage work, isolations, stable isotope probing, etc. These are all methods for generating specific data about some subsection of the group. They fall into the category of "I think I know what I want, but I need something to fall back on". Not to mention that it's still boring.

Everyone there is so excited about metagenomics, and about what they can find out with 454, and how cool this is. Of course there's also the fact that everyone is apparently focussing on the nitrogen cycle. I'm not sure I understand either of these trends, but we'll see.

So, back home. I'm apparently supposed to go to a regional meeting in a month, so my life will continue to be interesting. Hopefully In the meantime, I'll be able to harness the jetlag to get work done. One way or another.

Days back home - 3
Bags lost on the plane ride home: 3
Total bags lost (out of 3 in either direction): 5
Naps taken: 4-5
Average hours slept in a row: 3-4
Average time of awakening: 4:30 Am.

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