James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

August 22, 2008

Berkeley Hike

Filed under: Photo Posts — Tags: , , , — James @ 2:15 pm

Just wanted to quickly point out the new set of pictures I recently uploaded to Flickr. These still aren’t the cross country drive set, I still need to triage those, but pictures from a hike my girlfriend and I took last weekend before she left.

You can see the whole set here, but I’m going to post a couple I find of particular interest:

Here’s a view out over the Berkeley campus all the way to San Francisco Bay:
View of Berkeley and the Bay
And here’s one of the menacing palm trees:
Palm Tree

As always, click for full sized versions of the photos.

August 15, 2008

Internet In Berkeley

Filed under: Campus Life,Recreational Travel — Tags: , , — James @ 9:24 pm

Finally got my internet up and running. It was rather embarrassing having to call tech support because I couldn’t figure out the instructions for self-activation, but I’ve got that out of the way now, and will be writing up the details of my trip as I find time. For now: The apartment is great, I’m alive and well, and Berkeley seems to have more Indian restaurants per capita than any city I’ve ever visited!

February 2, 2008

The Second Night … In Berkeley

(This entry, and the previous one were written last night and posted this morning when I have internet access.) 


So after we were all done with interviews for the day, we hung out in the “grad pad” for about fourty minutes and I got to get to know some of the other people I was interviewing with better. One girl who was born in Iowa, but doesn’t live there anymore. Another from Texas A&M who knows Carlos (one of my roommates last summer). Another who graduated a semester early and moved from the west coast to the east coast to live with her boyfriend, now fiance who she met at a REU program. I’d estimate half the people interviewing are going to be graduating this spring and half have been out of school for some length of time already. 


In some ways I feel like one of the less qualified applicants. There are people who were first authors on papers as undergrads. My roommate is from Brown. As I mentioned previously, at the airport I met another girl from Cornell who’s also a Bio-Plant Science concentration (there are only like 10 of us at Cornell, and yet the two of us had to come all the way across the continent to meet each other). So it’s not like I have a monopoly on the Ivy League thing.


Anyway at six we walked over to a pot luck that was hosted at the house of some friend of one of the program organizers. Which was a really fancy place. (And as I found out last night, Berkeley allows the use of recruitment funds to buy alcohol, which is a no-go at some other schools.) It was good the get to talk to a bunch of the grad students in a less formal setting. Either the microbiology people (Berkeley combines micro and plant biology in one department) were a lot more outgoing than the plant people, or there were just a lot more of them there, since I always ended up in conversations with them, but it was still a good time. And then hours later, I got to get a ride back to the hotel in a compact car holding seven people. Which was definitely one of those experiences everyone should have in college. (At least I got to be one of the people donating laps instead of one of the people sitting on them.)

January 31, 2008

Arriving at Berkeley

Filed under: University Visits — Tags: , , , — James @ 7:13 pm

I’ve arrived at the Berkeley City Club , and pretty soon will be going over to a lecture on campus before dinner. Meet another student from Cornell, and she’ll be putting pictures up on facebook, so I should have some visual aids after the fact. So far San Fransisco looks grey and foggy, but hopefully that will improve over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to interviews tomorrow, one of the advantages of Berkeley is that the department is big enough there are lots of different people doing research I’m interested in. 


The afternoon talk we went to (quickly):


Enriched amounts of C14 from nuclear testing in the 1950s provide a way of determining how long it takes carbon to cycle through into different parts of the ocean. Obviously it takes a carbon a really long time to reach some deep sea carbon cycles, since atmospheric carbon for the 50s hasn’t made it there yet. 


They found a six gene operon which is sufficient to allow otherwise heterotrophic bacteria to make ATP (energy) from sunlight, using a protein called rhodopsin which is also the light sensing protein used in the rods and cones of our eyes. You can splice this single operon into something like E. Coli which doesn’t get any energy directly from light, and suddenly that bacteria is capable of photosynthesis. The speaker has also found evidence that this operon has been taken up, as a unit into new, previously non-photosynthetic species in the wild. That was definitely the most exciting part of the talk for me


All in all, definitely worth getting soaking wet for. (I forgot to pack an umbrella when I as leaving at 4 am this morning.) Hopefully tomorrow is less rainy.

A Grim Beginning

Filed under: University Visits — Tags: , , , — James @ 3:28 am

A least my bad lucks are overlapping rather than combining additively or multiplicatively. 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave my apartment (at 4 AM) I thought to check my camera which I had thought was suffering from uncharged batteries and for which I had bought a new charger so I could photograph this visit. Unfortunately it appears the problem was more severe than a dead battery, and so I shall have no pictures of Berkeley, and when I get home I’ll have to figure out if the issue is repairable or if I need a new camera. The end result of this was that I was late arriving at the airport for my 6 am flight. They’re recommending two hours even for domestic flights now. But of course no one came out to man the ticket desk until 5 am, so I ended up spending extra time at home instead of waiting in an empty airport. Anyway, next post should be from sunny california. But you’ll have to rely on my descriptive prose instead of photos. -James 

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