Sunday, November 27, 2011

Break, Games, and Biochemistry

This Thanksgiving break was SO relaxing. Nicole and I spent a lot of time relaxing with family, which was desperately needed. I learned a new game from my brother-in-law Jd (yes, I have my own secret way of naming people on here who I'm not sure how they would feel about me using their name) called Dominion. It is kind of like a mixture of Risk, Monopoly, and Magic the Gathering - all cards (no board) but the object of the game is to own all the property. INCREDIBLY fun, and definitely worth a look if you're trying to find a good game for someone this Christmas. I liked it so much, I immediately put it right at the top of my Christmas list... And the following day my mom may or may not have gotten it for me... And Nicole and I may or may not have played it with my mom and stepdad that night... Yeah, it's that good. The deal was that I could get it and we could play it that night, then I could decide whether or not to go without it until Christmas, unwrapping it on Christmas day. I actually decided to go without; I love opening presents, and I can't wait to essentially get that game as a gift a SECOND TIME. Awesome, it will be.

I also spent a ton of time over the weekend going back through glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, and metabolic regulation. That last one gave me a bit of trouble in lecture last week, but I've got it figured out now. I also just finished reading through tomorrow's lecture on the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA and the Citric Acid Cycle (CAC), and I'm feeling pretty pumped. Yes, it is tremendously nerdy to describe oneself as "pumped" about pyruvate conversion and the CAC. I'm ok with this. Note: I am on the cusp of another detailed review/explanation of something awesome that I am learning, so now is the time when anyone not interested in Biochemistry should zone out. We have already memorized the entire process of glycolysis, as shown here:
See at the bottom there? The product of glycolysis is pruvate, which is where we left off. Below is the reaction for converting pyruvate to acetyl-CoA in preparation for the CAC:
Seems simple, right? Well, you see that blue "pyruvate dehydrogenase complex" under the above reaction arrow? That's an enzyme composed of three protein subunits that act together to take a carbon dioxide molecule off of pyruvate, then smack on a CoA complex. Here's the AMAZING reaction mechanism for what happens at the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex - something without which we would be unable to function at the most basic of levels:
Now, CoA stands for Coenzyme A, and given that the below image is the actual structure of CoA, I'd say this is the most dramatic abbreviation I've seen so far.
Now that we've formed that useful little guy called acetyl CoA, we can actually start the CAC (remember, Citric Acid Cycle), given that it's the starting reagent:
Please note: every time you see a blue name on the inside of the reaction arrows, that is an enzyme. Grey boxes show the name of the process that is occurring at that step, the pink highlighting shows the atoms from the acetyl group (which originally came from glucose), and the orange shapes show the electron carrier molecules that will be used in the electron transport chain. That is what the next few days will be spent memorizing - all the enzymes, substrates, reaction mechanisms, and stoichiometric product ratios involved in this amazing process.

I just had a thought. You know how people play football for the fun of it, yet sometimes the training (and even in-game getting hit and such) process can be pretty painful? Even though they really do have fun with the strategy and skill involved in the game, there are unpleasant aspects too. I guess that is how I feel about this; it can be horribly tedious to memorize all of these tiny little details, but doing so is what let's me see how all the parts fit together later on and "play the game," if you will. Painful, but it prepares me, and when I get to the end, it feels good. Even though I know it is probably going to be pretty rough, I still get excited about the challenge, about the rewards, and about the fun that I can have with the right attitude. Tme to let the "fun" begin...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview Invitation!!!

So, today's good definitely outweighs the bad.

The Good:

After The Bad (see below), I opened up my inbox to find an invitation for an interview at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison! I'm super pumped because I didn't really think I had a shot at this school. In 2009 they only interviewed 496 out of a total of 3,137 applicants. Since I'm OOS (out of state), my odds were even slimmer; they only interviewed 130 out of a total of 2,504 OOS applicants. Wow, I'm such a stats nerd... Surprising, considering how little I enjoyed statistics... Anyway, let me just say that I'm very pleasantly surprised and honored to receive this invitation to interview. The extra bonus is that this time around it won't feel like my entire future is riding on that one interview, so I think I'll be able to relax a bit better. Maybe I won't forget my interviewer's NAME this time around... Yeah, I did that, and I was too embarrassed about it to say anything until now. Luckily it was my student interviewer and he reassured me that he didn't care at all - but that I should definitely not do that with my faculty interviewer.

The Bad (which doesn't seem so bad in the face of The Good; hence, the title of this post):

Got a Biochem exam back today - very poor performance. My first truly embarrassing performance on an exam since I went back to school in pursuit of this whole medical school thing almost three years ago... Yikes. I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but about 14% of the exam was on specific plasmid DNA structures and characteristics, particularly their roles in gene replication. We had (in my opinion) hardly covered it (maybe 15-20 minutes of one class period), so I had reviewed it just enough to be able to leave everything on that section of the test blank. I mean not even any good guesses - pure blankness. Terrible. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Suffice it to say that, from the class average, I should have studied that material more than I did; I underestimated its importance and spent my time on things that weren't covered. Such is life. That, plus the Analyt quiz that I took today was abysmal - thumbs down... Overall not a good day for tests / quizzes, but a GREAT day for med school progress nonetheless.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Glycolysis, Like Today, is Awesome


My wife is away in Chicago for the day, which means that I've had an entire day to do with whatever I wanted. I actually was incredibly productive! Here's what my day looked like:

1. I walked downtown and ate breakfast at a counter seat of a local diner while watching an episode of House M.D. on my iPad. I had an egg sandwich with bacon, and I spoke with a man named Tom who was mentally handicapped. When he noticed my iPad, he marveled. I was using bluetooth headphones at the time, so no cords. He was amazed at how the sound could travel to my ears without any cords.

"Are you listening to what's on the screen?"
"Yep, sure am." Patience. I took off my headphones and gave him my attention.
"Is it like, on cable or something?"
"No, actually, it's downloaded to the hard drive. It's saved on here."
"Ohhh, ok. How can you hear it without any cords??"

I rarely stop to think about how awesome something like this is, so I explained it to him as best I could without going into much detail. For those who know me, that was quite a feat. Regardless, he seemed impressed.

"You know lots about this stuff, don't you?" It wasn't really a question, but I answered anyway.
"I guess I do..." I smiled, not knowing what to say, exactly. He got a very pensive look on his face, furrowing his brow as he thought very hard about something. I waited for a bit, then almost turned back to put my headphones back on before he whispered softly, beckoning me closer.

"Do you think it would be possible to, you know, get all of someone's information, like their social security numbers and all, and put them into your - what was that, an iPad? - into your iPad and then hear everything that they're saying?" He was dead serious, but I played along, whispering my assurances that no, what he was suggesting was not possible.

"Are you sure? You're listening to them [gesturing at the paused screen] without any cords, so maybe they're listening to US without any cords..." He looked around warily at the walls. His simple, direct logic made me want to smile, but I wanted him to feel better, so I pointed out that there was nothing around us that could record what we were saying - nothing that could send "them" our words. I don't think he quite believed me, but he laughed anyway and we finished our meals. As I got up to leave, he said that next time, he could tell me about the new bathtub that he was having installed at his house. It's a real bathtub, not one of those FAKES. I honestly hope I bump into him again, as I'm very curious about what a fake bathtub is like, as well as what separates it from the "real" ones.
2. I got back home and vacuumed the apartment. Hooray, no more drifting dead brown dog cells piled up behind the doors!
3. Gave the dog a VERY thorough cleaning. That's two sudsings, mind you.
4. Took the dog on a long walk.
5. Ate dinner, played Halo Reach for a couple hours (first time in MONTHS - sue me), then hit the books. And that's where I've been for the past four hours - holed up in my school's science center. Here's a shot of my actual surroundings as I write this post:



Warning: do not read the rest of this post unless you are very interested in Biochemistry. If you don't like Biochem, this post will bore you terribly. I mean it. If that is you, please stop reading now and salvage what you can of your opinion of my blog. If you choose to continue reading... Well, I warned you.

Glycolysis is good stuff; it's the beginning of our cellular metabolic pathway. Another personally defining characteristic of glycolysis is that I have to memorize it up through pyruvate (no need for gluconeogenesis this time around) for my Biochem quiz on Monday. Those of you that have ever memorized metabolic pathways before know that the key is pure repetition. For me, that means going to a room with a whiteboard and doing it over and over and over until I can do ALL of it from memory. For glycolysis, taking glucose to pyruvate, this took a total of six repetitions. You'd be surprised how hard your brain will work to memorize something if it means you get to quit earlier.

Below is a 4x-speed video of me going through my sixth write-out of the pathway. Just for fun, and this statement may be my crowning glory of nerdhood, I did a voiceover talking my way through the pathway post-recording. And then modulated my voice to sound ridiculous. I don't know why; I guess I was just feeling goofy. Oh, how the levels of my reckless abandon reach new heights at 10:17pm...

I know I put it up here, but please don't watch this video. Come on, just do yourself a favor. I don't even know why I'm putting it up here. Guess it just seemed a waste to leave it sitting on my hard drive (or even worse, to delete it...), so why not share it with the world? Eesh.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Twenty Minute Lab = Perfect Morning

This is Naiya. She wonders why I was home so early today, and why I have had so much time to spend tugging on a rope with her. Well, it's because my Analytical Chemistry lab was only twenty minutes long today!! That's right, just twenty minutes of GC Mass Spectroscopy peak analysis, and I was out the door. As a result, I've gotten to spend an awesome morning with the pup. I was also able to do a bunch of dishes for the wife, which made her extra happy when she stopped in between classes. Follow that up with making and eating six cheesy scrambled eggs with toast and strawberry jam, and you've got a morning as close to perfect as they come.

Time to go to work soon, but I'll leave you with Savant Syndrome Fact #4:

In the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks wrote about twin autistic savant brothers named John and Michael. Even though they were unable to take care of themselves, they could intuitively calculate the day of the week for any date over a 40,000 year period.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Terror Is When Your Wife Gets Kidnapped.

My wife Nicole is 5 feet 0.5 inches tall. She likes to say she's 5' 1" but she's fooling nobody. She also weighs only about 102 pounds.

She's very small.

With that in mind, sit up and focus on the harsh glare of whatever screen holds my words as I tell you about how I learned the feeling of terror.

--

We live close enough to my work that I can ride my bike home for my lunch break. Sometimes my wife is home when I get there and we can eat lunch together. Yesterday, I arrived home and all of the lights were on. A tuna noodle casserole was out on the counter, ready to be eaten for dinner. My wife's computer was on the kitchen table along with her cell phone. Great, I thought, she's home! I took my coat off as I called out her name, walking further into the apartment.

"Nicole?" No answer other than my dog running to meet me from the living room.

Thinking that perhaps she was taking a nap (she's the heaviest sleeper you can imagine), I went into the bedroom. The bed was neatly made. I walked through the entire apartment. She wasn't there.

Odd.

The cell phone on the table was strange. My wife never leaves her cell phone at home. Huh, I thought. She must have just forgotten it. Weird, but not a big deal. She probably just went to study with someone and forgot her phone. As I walked back into the kitchen, I noticed something. Nicole's school bag was sitting on the floor by the kitchen table. She never leaves that if she's going to study, whether at a coffee shop or with a friend somewhere. The only possibility was if she took her iPad in her purse and didn't need the rest of her stuff.

Getting a little worried, I hastily tore into her school bag. Her iPad was still there. Maybe she didn't go to study; maybe she just walked downtown to meet up with a friend and forgot her phone. I quickly checked, but no. Her purse and coat (she's always cold and never leaves without her coat) were still there. I scanned her Shelf of Shoes (she has a million pairs) and every single pair of shoes and boots that she has worn recently were still there. Her gloves were there, her hats and scarves were all there.

Her keys were gone from the key rack.

I tore out of the apartment; her bike was parked outside. I raced to the parking lot behind the building. It was dark out, but I ran through all the cars until I found hers. Lights off, hood cold. She wasn't inside. I ran back up to the apartment. We don't know any of our neighbors, so she wouldn't be in any of their apartments.

Getting desperate, I checked her phone. She had sent text messages to a friend just ten minutes before I got home. This meant she had been here a mere twenty minutes before, and now she was nowhere to be found.

I was starting to get really worried. Sweat was popping out of my forehead and my heart rate was increasing as fear ripped through me, releasing adrenaline to surge through my veins. A million thoughts raced through my mind, surging ahead of one another in leaps and bounds each second. Nicole is really small; it would be no problem for some nasty criminal dude to follow her into the apartment or knock on the door, then put a hand over her mouth and walk out the door. We don't have one of those peep holes in our door, so this last one was a real possibility. With that thought, every terrifying B&E scenario imaginable began to run through my mind. I ran through the apartment, looking for any sign of a struggle. Nothing; everything was in place.

I checked the shower and between the bed and the wall, in case she had somehow passed out or was unconscious somewhere. I convinced myself she wasn't in the apartment, and began to pace. I knew she couldn't be at the mailboxes in front of the apartment because I had passed them on my way in. However, the only explanation that I could think of was that she had walked out with her keys to get the mail and come back into the apartment. Then, with her back to the street as she opens the mailbox, someone grabs her and gets in a van and...

I sat down at the table to think, focusing on staying calm. I remember the feeling of my sweaty palms on the lacquered wood grain. Minutes passed as my mind raced. What should I do? Who should I call? The police? No, can't call the police; hasn't been long enough, and no evidence that she actually got taken. They'd just shrug it off, tell me to wait. (Man, I'm starting to sweat just remembering this). It had now been almost a half hour since I knew she had last been in the apartment, and everything was so very quiet. She was out in the cold somewhere, with nothing to keep her warm, with who knows what having happened. If anything else had been missing with her keys, but no - everything had been left here! The silence in the apartment was almost as thick as the panic that swelled within my chest. I swallowed hard to control it, wrapped it tightly inside me and forced it down.

I took stock of the situation:

1. My wife is gone.
2. My wife always leaves a note if she's going to be out when I'm coming home for dinner.
2. Her shoes, coats, purse, school stuff, laptop, iPad, cell phone - everything she would take if she were to go somewhere by her own free will was left in the apartment.
3. Her keys were gone, meaning she had taken them with her when she left. Maybe not... I checked the pockets of all of her coats. Nope, no keys. She took them with her.
4. The only thing I could conclude was that I did not know where my wife was. But maybe someone else does...

I was now desperate and scared enough to no longer care about seeming foolish. If you've ever reached that moment of panic after having lost someone, you might know how I felt. There's a certain reckless abandon that comes over you. I got her phone back out and called the friend with whom she had been texting right before she disappeared, just in case they had been planning on getting together, but hadn't mentioned it in the texts. No answer. Called again - still no answer. I checked her calendar, planner, and email just in case she had some meeting or appointment that I had forgotten about. At this point, I was grasping at straws.

I got her cell phone back out and scanned through her older texts. She was planning on meeting up with a friend at 8:00pm! But no, it was only just after 6:30pm, there's no way she had already left for that, especially not leaving everything behind the way she did.

That was it. I was out of options. I couldn't think of one more positive explanation for why she would have left the apartment, without wearing any shoes or a coat or anything, without coming right back in unless something prevented her from doing so. Something that kept her out there. Forcing myself to ignore a dense, swollen, tidal sense of panic, I started moving by rote. I got the leash for my dog Naiya, who at this point had caught the tense mood and was freaking out right along with me, though she surely had no clue why. I took her outside and let her do the Deuce. I went back inside.

And there was Nicole.

"Hey Hon-"

"Where WERE YOU!?" I almost exploded with relief, voice and hands shaking as I rushed over to wrap her in a hug.

"I went out for a run! It was so late, I thought you had taken your lunch break before I'd gotten home and that I'd missed you!" she stammered, caught off guard by my white face and overly emotional response. This made sense, as I normally take my "lunch" at around 4:30-5:30pm, working on second shift.

I looked down at her feet. Running shoes. She had been taking a break from running and hadn't gone for one since finishing a marathon last month. It hadn't even crossed my mind that she might have been out running. You don't wear a coat, scarf, hat, school bag, or purse when you go running.

But you do bring your keys.

Relief welled up within me, and I wrapped her in another huge hug, tighter than before. I don't think either of us realized just how scared I was until my tears began to mingle with her hair. I had convinced myself that I had gotten home just minutes after my wife had been taken from me. You might think that I was rash, jumping to foolish conclusions, but to me the evidence had just been so overwhelming that...

No, you know what? This is my blog, so I need make no excuses or waste my time hedging, trying to save face. Next time, I will more readily assume there's simply something I'm not seeing, but right now I'm just glad my wife was ok.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Good Reads & My Biochem Blunder

I follow a number of interesting blogs, and I finally whipped up the gumption to add a tidy list of them to my blog. You can find them off to the left, populating a column that was created just with them in mind. Thanks to Phenomenemily (who I've followed for a while) for the following link to a strange but deviously interesting story post from Inkfish (which I am now following):

http://inkfish.fieldofscience.com/2011/11/hell-hath-no-fury-like-hermaphrodite.htm

I explained in a previous post what the following relates to. Check it out if you're confused.

Savant Syndrome Fact 4:
To savants who experience synesthesia, numbers can vary in their "degree of beauty." To Daniel Tammet, an extremely high-functioning or "prodigious" savant, a telephone number with the sequence 189 is much more beautiful than one with the sequence 116. A good comparison would be how, just as it would be impossible for a hearing person to explain to a deaf individual why the sounds of a chainsaw or nails on a chalkboard are horrible and grating noises, it is impossible for Tammet to explain to others why one number is more beautiful than another. It is as though he has an additional mental sense that most people lack. Not all savants experience numbers as having shapes, patterns, or varying levels of beauty.

-----
I took my Biochemistry I exam this morning, and it was rough. I felt I had prepared pretty adequately for this one, and was just surprised at some of the material that comprised the bulk of the test. Seriously, 14 points on plasmid vector structure implementation in DNA replication? That was barely a blip on the daily lecture radar, yet it made up almost a letter grade and a half of the total points... Add that to the stuff that I really SHOULD have known and completely blanked on after that plasmid shake-up, and the result goes down in the books my first real Biochem Blunder of the semester. Eesh. Definitely not looking forward to getting this one back...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Anatomy Audit & Savant Story 3

Daniel Tammet is what is known as a prodigious savant; he can effortlessly compute vast sums in his head. He pictures numbers as mental shapes with different colors, patterns, motions, and even emotional and perceptual connotations. While he is on the autistic scale and has been diagnosed with Asberger's syndrome, he is very highly functioning. Unlike most savants, who are unable to communicate due to the severity of their autism, Tammet is able to vividly describe what it is like living with a mind like his. I am reading his book Born on a Blue Day, and I will be mentioning on my blog some of the interesting things that I read. Some days it will be about Daniel Tammet, while other days it might be about another savant story mentioned in his book. Here is today's excerpt:
When Daniel Tammet divides one number by another, he sees a pattern in his head of downward rotating spirals that get larger, curving and warping as they go. Different division problems make different patterns and sizes of spirals. By creating these mental pattern representations of numbers, his brain can intuitively and effortlessly "calculate" divisions like 13/97 (0.1340206...) to almost a hundred decimal places.
----


Today I got permission to audit an Anatomy lecture three times a week this coming semester!! My wife enjoyed this particular professor's style during lab last year, and this morning I got his official permission to sit in on his class. I'm really excited! I've dabbled in Netter's incredible work before, but I've never had the chance to take an anatomy course before. Plus, I'll just be auditing, so I won't have to do any of the homework, and nothing will stress me out. I'll even get to take the exams, and won't have to sweat it one bit! We'll see how I do without studying more than I want to in my "leisure" time... If nothing else, it will be a good introduction to the terminology (Latin! I wonder if my experience in Spanish will help me make connections and remember things...) and complexity before I hit the break-neck pace of medical school next year. Plus, Ax (you know who you are) will be taking the class, and Ar is considering auditing as well, so I might even have some buddies to sit next to.

Any suggestions if you've taken Anatomy before? What helped you absorb the most information at the fastest pace?

This'll be fun.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Glimpse of Savant Syndrome - Stories 1 & 2

I have discovered something that absolutely fascinates me. It's bothersome when people use outstanding descriptors like that lightly; not everything is fascinating. In using it now, I am not using it lightly.

Extreme intelligence is has always interested me, savant syndrome or not. Movies like Good Will Hunting and Rain Man, books like The Name of the Wind and Ender's Game or especially Ender's Shadow - they are just so interesting to me that I can hardly put them down. I am fortunate to have been blessed with a healthy and capable mind, but something about contemplating superintelligent minds really gets my imagination going. It never matters if the story is based in fact or fiction, I just like them.

I'm reading a book that fits right in with this theme. It's called Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, and it's an autobiography by Daniel Tammet, a man with savant syndrome - the same condition as that exhibited by Dustin Hoffman's character Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man. Most people with savant syndrome are so unable to communicate or interact with other people that they cannot express what is going on in their heads. Daniel Tammet is one of under a hundred known "prodigious savants" - extremely high-functioning savants.

It is incredible to get a glimpse like this into the life of someone that experiences numbers in their head as combinations of shapes, colors, emotions and sensations. For example, when he imagines the number 9 in his head, it gives him the feeling of something vast and immense in scale. He said that when he stood in Times Square, he felt like he was surrounded by 9s. Conversely, the number 581 is small, for a reason that even he can't explain. It's just the way it is, similar to how the noise of a chainsaw is horribly grating to me, while the sound of a harp is soothing. I have no way of explaining why I perceive those sounds the way I do. That's just how it is.

Some of the most fascinating stuff is how his brain works to calculate huge numbers effortlessly. Before reading this book, I always just thought that savants' brains were able to work a lot faster and more accurately than mine because of their greater memory, but this is something completely different. Tammet describes how he sees each number as a specific shape. To multiply the numbers together, he simply holds those shapes apart from one another and fills in the space between them. He then reads the shape of that filled-in space as a new number, and it is always the correct product of the first two numbers! Below is a graphic representation of what he does in his head.



Another example that really fascinated me was a quoted account about a blind man with savant syndrome from Dr. Darold Treffert's book Extraordinary People : Understanding Savant Syndrome:

"When he was asked how many grains of corn there would be in any one of 64 boxes, with 1 in the first, 2 in the second, 4 in the third, 8 in the fourth, and so on, he gave answers for the fourteenth (8,192), for the eighteenth (131,072) and the twenty-fourth (8,388,608) instantaneously, and he gave the figures for the forty-eighth box (140,737,488,355,328) in six seconds. He also gave the total in all 64 boxes correctly (18,446,744,073,709,551,616) in forty-five seconds."

As I read through this book, I'll be noting down particularly astounding examples of what the mind is capable of, including them at the end of my posts for a while. However, I want to make it clear that I understand that savant syndrome is more than amazing mental faculties. As Daniel Tammet makes clear in his book, the condition carries with it many debilitating and frustrating impairments, such as the necessity of eating exactly 45 grams of porridge in the morning, or the inability to calm down when stressed without counting numbers. I understand that this condition has many extremely negative sides to it, but the scientific side of me loves getting smashed flat by the mental impact of these Savant Stories, as I plan on calling them.

Most days I will choose one Savant Story of the Day, but for today I chose two:

- Daniel Tannet experiences all prime numbers as having a "smooth, pebble-like" quality when he holds them in his mind. As a result, he can recognize every prime number up to 9,973 automatically, without thought, because it exhibits this quality when he thinks about it.

- Daniel Tammet holds the current world record for quoting the most digits in the number π (3.14159...) to more than 22,514 digits. There's a reason that I can't link to a video of this online; I calculated that if he can speak three digits per second, this would take two hours, five minutes and 4.2 seconds of continuous speech, without stopping to breathe. For the record, take a look at what 22,514 digits looks like:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Daft Punk, Exams, and Biochemical Awesomeness

Whoa, over 10,000 views! When did THAT happen?? Thanks for reading; it's very encouraging to see that people read what I write on here...

For the record, I love my classes (Analytical Chemistry and Biochemistry I). Not always equally (and not always consistently...), but for the most part I genuinely enjoy the time I spend learning.

Aaaaand following that warm-and-fuzzy thought, I just made myself laugh by thinking how good it is that they don't shorten Analytical Chemistry in the same way as Biochemistry was shortened from Biological Chemistry...

Yup, I'm in two classes, so normally I'd be expecting two exams right about now. What's that? I have three, you say?? That's right! Apparently my Analyt prof decided to make this exam twice as large and worth the same number of points, so now it spans two days. Why? The only reason I can find is that he didn't want to be choosy about what to include, so he's including EVERYTHING.

I could have done very well without that...

I've gotten back into listening to music while studying and working, and let me tell you - it's GREAT. I found a particularly energetic / pump-me-up album in Daft Punk's Tron Legacy R3CONFIGURED album. Not everyone's cup of tea I'm sure, but it did lend itself to an awesome, impromptu dance party with my wife... See #8. After this experience, I will be looking more heavily into remixed soundtracks for my study-listening pleasure.

Next Analyt exam is Friday, then a tasty Biochem exam on Monday. Mmm...

One last thing I'd like to mention (edit: "mention" was used lightly here... it would've been better said, "discuss in inordinate detail") corresponds to the images below that highlight membrane transport proteins.
These are some of my notes from Monday's lecture, and it was just another of those I-am-blown-away-by-the-neat-complexity-and-awesomeness-of-what-I-am-learning moments. The intricate biological machinery employed to monitor conditions across our cell membranes - it just floors me.

These transport proteins, made up of huge chains of amino acids folded together (see below picture for an artificially simple example), get plugged into the lipid bilayer in the appropriate amounts to construct and maintain extremely sensitive charge and concentration gradients. In the example above (blown up for better viewing) ATP (adenosine triphosphate) binds to a region of the protein located within the cell but attached to the membrane. ATP donates energy through the loss of an inorganic phosphate molecule to form ADP (adenosine diphosphate). This causes a conformational change in the protein, creating an opening in the cell membrane through which ions can travel.
On top of all that, as you can see in the calculations shown in my notes and in the problem below, given the concentration of solutes inside and outside the cell as well as the charge potential across the cell membrane, we can actually calculate how much free energy it takes to transport a given ion across the membrane! Very cool stuff. I'm looking forward to Biochemistry in med school, though mostly for the detail we'll see, not so much the pace at which we see it... Today my professor said they tend to cover the material at least five times as fast as we cover it in our lectures...

Yikes!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nom

If you were to drop in on my Biochem class in the morning, you would have the privilege and honor of seeing me walk in sporting this fashionable number:
Now, don't you either wish you were taking Biochem with me, or that you had someone in your life as awesome as my wife who could suggest that you purchase and wear similar finery?

I'm sure you do.

For the record, I have been incredibly excited about the possibility of attending MSU CHM. It felt like an incredibly great fit, and I know that I would be happy there. I'm still keeping my name in at six other schools, mostly because I've already paid them and I saved vacation days particularly for interviews, and partly because I am simply curious about how things will go with each of them. I would love the opportunity to interview at a few of my remaining schools and learn about them, because you never know what might happen. I have had one interview so far, and since that was the only medical school that I have visited, I would really enjoy seeing what some of the other schools are like.

Wish me luck this week, as I've got an exam that spans two lecture days - Wednesday and Friday in Analytical Chemistry. According to our professor, Wednesday will be the "easy" half, and Friday will be the hard half. Somehow, the exam is still the same number of points as all the other one-hour exams, yet takes twice as long... It'll be an experience, that is for sure...

It has been a while since I've had senioritis, but since the acceptance it has definitely set in a bit. Not as bad as for some of my classmates (ahem, Ax and Aw), but I have been feeling it...

And now, I will leave you with an awesome video created by some current MSU CHM students. Even if you're not into rap (I'm not) and don't understand all the medical terminology (I don't (yet!)) it is VERY worth your time. The lyrics are below the video. You may have to "click more" to enjoy...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NO... I got hit BY a deer!!

In an event somewhat reminiscent of a particular episode of The Middle (see the video after the break), I was hit by a deer on my way home from work tonight.

Picture this: I'm cruising at a healthy, silent 21mph down the bike path that I take home every night. It splits off from the main road and runs a short way with the river on my left and a small stand of trees on my right before connecting to a bridge over the river. I was enjoying the cool night air while my bike's bright LED headlight cut through the spooky shadows from the overgrown trees when BLAMMO! A huge deer, probably 130 pounds bursts out of the trees on my right. It jumps right across my path, maybe two feet in front of my tire. Unfortunately, one of the first things I learned about deer when going through driver's education was that when you see one deer, you need to keep your eye out for more. I slammed on my brakes, but not soon enough. 

Another equally gargantuan deer was following close behind the first deer, beating it across the path as fast as it could. Given that it was a bit behind the first deer, I managed to make it a few more feet before it reached the middle of the path, causing it to SLAM into my right side. The best way that I can describe what happened next is that I and my whole bike bounced to the left, skidding to a stop after almost losing control. I was freaked out, thundering, afraid that the deer was going to turn and stomp me or something, so I tried out a war cry. Unfortunately, it came out as more of a wavering, sing-songy "WhoaaaaahhhheeeyyyyAAAHHH!!" Kind of like how you would imagine an eight-grade boy in the throes of puberty would sound when trying out vibrato for the first time. Not too intimidating. Unfazed, the deer barely stopped, simply hopping over my front wheel and charging into the watery brush at the edge of the river after its friend.

I paused. Did that really happen. As I looked after the deer, I heard a rustle in the brush behind me. 

Out of breath from pedaling with the throttle full-on the whole way home, I stepped inside my apartment. I called out, "Honey! I just got HIT BY A DEER!!"

"What?!?" she cried out, running into the kitchen. "You hit a deer??"

"No! I got hit BY a deer!"

Enjoy the video after the break.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Accepted to MSU College of Human Medicine

At 6:38pm this evening, I received a phone call from the Assistant Dean of Admissions from Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine telling me that the admissions committee had just met and voted to accept me into the 2012 entering class!! He was incredibly nice and excited for me - talk about the best phone call ever!!!

To slightly express my excitement, I will just say this: if you had been fishing on the river as I crossed the bridge on my silent electric bike tonight on my way home, you would have heard one long, drawn out, Doppler-Effect(ed) "YAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOO!!!!" echo victoriously across the night-shrouded waters.

At this time next year, I will be in medical school...!!!

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