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In Their Own Words:
Undergraduate Researchers Share College Life Experiences
Creating Scientists Slide Show

Alexis Gonzales-Black
Journal and Notes
Brooke Brehm
Journal and Notes
Seth Thompson
Journal and Notes
Alexis Gonzales-Black Brooke Brehm Seth Thompson
Sept. 15, 2006
Today I spent most of the day in the lab working on rna extraction and RT-PCR, two very involved research techniques. I worked slowly in the mid morning gathering by thoughts and preparing to do some serious work. I got on a role and was soon on my way to what I thought would be a successful RNA extraction. On the last step I eluted into the wrong tube and just like that all my results were ruined. At least I’ve been through/optimized the process so the next time I do it will move along more quickly. I packed up my things around 3:30 pm and left for the day. Looking back I'm pretty sure my distraction was due to the fact that I was scheduled to get my third tattoo at 4:00 pm that day. Luckily the tattoo was much more successful than my research,

Sept. 18, 2006
I wanted to get into the lab today, but unfortunately I have to turn out a 200 pg research assignment for a debate tournament I have this weekend in Atlanta. As the president of the debate team at JMU I'm responsible to produce more research than any other member of the team. Between debate, school and the lab there is never a dull moment (or a free moment for that matter).

Oct. 19, 2006
I am 22 years old, I am a biology major, I come from a military family, so I have moved around my whole life, but after I graduated from high school in Texas my family moved to Chesapeake VA where they currently reside. I am the president of the debate team, two years running, I am a member of tri beta biological honor society and the American Society for Microbiology. I Also work as an administrative assistant in the school of communications during the week and a waitress at a local Italian restaurant on my free weekends (which are few and far between:-). In my free time I do a lot of dancing, I hula danced for 4 years (a traditional Hawaiian dance), and like to salsa/meringue and go out to clubs every chance I get. I party with my friends like any other college student, just less frequently and with more fervor:-) I love tailgating and going to JMU football games when I can. Other then that I use my free time to catch up on sleep, or watch movies at home. During the summer I logged 40 hour weeks in the lab, but since school started I've had to limit my time in lab a great deal.

Oct. 17, 2006
I really wanted to make primers to send off with my phage today to begin the “phage walking” process. It has been a very busy week though, it is big/little week for my sorority (Alpha Sigma Tau) which has been taking up a lot of time (and money :-), I also have a report due in another class (Microbiology), and I just got back from a long road trip for fall break. So unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to get to designing primers today, hopefully by Thursday!

I was very frustrated with my results two weeks ago that showed that Ba7 wasn’t being amplified using the KOD Hot Start kit. We retested the sequence using a gradient of temperatures and using two other kits in addition to KOD and found very promising results. It turns out that the enzyme in KOD was not working well with the Ba7 sample but the other two enzyme kits (ClonTech and Platinum Taq) worked very well. As soon as I can find time to develop some more primers I will send them off and have a third party do the PCR and send back the results.

Oct. 24, 2006:
I became very interested in science when I was about 3, and became specifically interested in research with Dr. T after hearing her present her research at a Tri-Beta Meeting.

My especially rewarding experience happened last Tuesday :) when my results showed that the phage (Ba7) that I work with was able to be amplified. My frustrating experience would probably have to be my May-mester research while trying to find the Ba7 sequence in a vector. I tested over 40 bacterial streaks and could find no Ba7 inserts.

My biggest weakness is that I'm too impatient with my results. I think my biggest asset is my enthusiasm for this research

Plans after graduation? I'm not really sure. I want to continue going to school and eventually get a job that includes research of some kind. I'm really interested in genetic counseling right now, maybe something to do with that.

Oct. 13, 2006
I am 19 years old. This is my third year because I started school early. I came to JMU with 21 college credits, which I earned in high school through dual enrollment programs. I am double majoring in biology and biotechnology. I started biotechnology last semester after talking with Dr. Temple about it.

I live in Franklin County, Virginia, where I have lived the past 15 years. My mother and father live there, along with my sister, who is now married and living with her husband about 10 minutes away from them.

Franklin County is a pretty rural area right beside Roanoke, Virginia (which is usually where I tell people I'm from since most people don't know about Franklin county). I play a lot of soccer, intramural (indoor and outdoor). I would've played club or considered going somewhere else to actually play on the school team, but I broke my ankle in three places the fall of my senior year. I had surgery on it and they had to put it back together with two screws about two inches long, which will be in there the rest of my life.

This obviously set me back quite a bit and I figured I'd be better off not pushing it to the limit anymore and risking damaging it even more. I also play intramural basketball and I'm also involved with VaBIO, a biotechnology organization with a branch at JMU.

Right now I do research down in Blacksburg, Virginia at the Medical school (VCOM). I do genetic research with Dr. Amin, who is head of genomics. My main work down there is isolating and purifying RNA from human blood cells.

For fun, I watch movies, football and basketball; party; work out; and whatever else time permits. I'm not really sure how long I spend on research because I've never kept track of it, however Dr. Temple gave us time sheets to try and help us figure that out. It obviously varies a decent amount from week to week, especially with me since I'm in the preliminary stages of my project. We

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