Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's been less than one week and I've already learned so much.

Remember all of those mechanisms from O. chem? How about all of those metabolic pathways covered in biochem? Oh yes, they are relevant, and they are exactly what companies want to know if you know. I hope to perform my first real experiment tomorrow now that orientation is over and all of the required documents are in their place.

Most of the days here in Cambridge have been cloudy and comfortable, quite the opposite as I am told by friends and family still in El Paso. Weekdays are not filled with as much sightseeing as I had anticipated but the material and topics in lab are truly enticing. There are so many new concepts to grasp and every bit of information is vital to the drug development process. By the end of the 10 weeks I hope I will still have the will to tackle such daunting courses as P. Chem or Cal 3.

In closing, however, here's hoping for a Celtic win tonight, a USA win tomorrow and an eventful weekend on the town.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

(June 15)

Most of the past couple of days have been spent at the Novartis buildings on Mass Ave, as the locals call it. Orientation is required for all of the new summer interns, most of whom are themselves aspiring biologists, chemists, chemical engineers and biochemists. It would seem many of the peers attending this summer program also have the same questions that I do; what is it like to practice science in an industrial setting? We have all spent three, four or more years learning mechanisms, understanding pathways and cramming for tests just to get the grade, yet this time its different. There is no dean, no professors, no curve, only results. If you succeed, the rewards are great, with the very real possibility that your work will most likely save many people's lives...

It kind of puts the whole pharma scene into perspective.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Museum of Science

(June 11)

Everyone I talked to, especially those at NIBR, said I absolutely had to go visit the Museum of Science in Boston. So I got a day pass from NIBR and walked my way over to the museum.

Needless to say, the place was absolutely great. There were exhibits on the human body; lectures on energy and our growing need for sources of fuel to propel the growth of our societies; exhibits on electricity; an exhibit on human evolution; and
among many other things, activities intended to get kids thinking about science and asking questions! I loved it, and am only sorry there wasn't enough time for me to see and do all I wanted to do.

But!!! I couldn't help it...

There were several groups from elementary schools in the
surrounding areas, and I could not have lived with myself had I not done this: I had a teaching moment. For a good hour or so, I used one of the exhibits to teach the kiddos about torque, weight, simple machines, and forces. At one point, I even made a game of it and was "beat." It cost me a bit, but I'm glad some of the kids learned something from working with two weights of the same mass - or two masses of the same weight (depending on your linguistic preference), and then from balancing the "seesaw" working with entirely different masses on either side of the fulcrum. Of course, I was tickled by the fact that several of the kids already knew what was going on behind the scenes, and even more so by the fact that a good number of them seemed actually interested in what we were doing!

I hope I didn't irritate any of the people who work at the museum. And if I did: oh well, at least some kids learned something interesting.


(Photograph of "Museum of Science" by Lyos)

First Bostonian/Cantabrigian Day

(June 8)

I arrived in Boston Monday evening, wide-eyed and excited to get to know the area, the people, and the research.

The first thing that absolutely blew my mind about this place - the experience that I'll write about in this post - went thuslywise:

It was my first day on the streets of Cambridge/Boston. I took the red line of the subway system to Massachusetts Avenue, hoping to keep my sense of direction (it was very cloudy, I was surrounded by buildings, and had only a vague sense of North).

I climbed the stairs winding up to the sidewalk thinking about the path I needed to follow, and the address I wanted to find. I stopped for a moment to look around and noticed a group of joggers coming my way. I didn't want to be a bother, so I moved aside a bit. I was surprised, as they went by, to hear what they were talking about: molecular orbitals! Some small talk, eh?

I felt right at home!

For those of you interested, molecular orbital theory is a really cool way of understanding molecular structure and bonding. Traditionally we use tools like Lewis structures which allow quick recognition of shape and composition. But Lewis structures depict electrons in a molecule, no matter how large a molecule, as being around one (or two) atoms.

In molecular orbital theory, you do away with that, and you start to think about electrons as "averaged out," or "spread out" throughout the whole molecule.

It's really very interesting.

How cool is that? The first thing I hear coming out of the subway station is a concept of physics and chemistry? Neat! It might just be one of my geek moments, but that just blew me away.


Apologies and Introduction


Sorry. I haven't posted anything. I've been extremely caught up with preparations and such, but I'll shortly be posting up some entries which I intended to put up before. So, here we go...

I'll start off by posting on some things I did the week before the internship begins, just for the sake of continuity of time, etc.


My name is Robert Viña-Marrufo. I study microbiology and chemistry at UTEP, and I'm a peer leader for general chemistry under Dr. James Becvar and Dr. Mahesh Narayan. I'm interested in all things science, teaching science, piano, and history (I just read about the Crimean War) - among other things. On the non-academic side: I recently took up racquetball.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hello World ;D