Week 14: Last week!

I just finished up my last week in Germany, then Friday night, took a bus to Munich, and flew back to Tucson Saturday morning.  My week was filled with heartfelt goodbyes with the interns remaining and Germans I had met in my lab, as many of my favorite German meals as my stomach could hold, and, of course, lots of packing.  Well, not much to report other than that this week!

I got some pictures working in the lab that I had intended on submitting to DAAD, so if you are interested in seeing what my lab looks like:

Inspecting the cells at the microscope
Inspecting the cells at the microscope
The bench
The bench
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Week 13: Preparing for the End

This week, the reality that time here is coming to a close started to hit me.  Unlike several of the other interns here who were excited to return home, it has been very bitter sweet for me.  On one hand, since so many of the friends I have made up here have left, it feels like it is just time for me to go as well.  I am excited to see my friends and family (and doggies!) back home, but I also just can’t imagine leaving Germany and everything that it has to offer.  I just feel more at home here now that I have gotten used to all of the quirks this country has.  Anyways, all this has made take a more thoughtful look at what differences Germany and America actually have, so I will share with you the list I have compiled:

Germany (Bavaria specifically) Pros:

  • Fantastic beer culture – delicious beer and lots of it.
  • Bakeries galore – an awesome replacement for fast food restaurants in my opinion.
  • Recycling – bottle returns are located in all grocery stores, and you can get money back!  25 cents for plastic bottles!  Plus, they separate all their trash; bio (organic waste), paper, plastic, glass (separated by color), and metals all have a place!
  • Public transport – you can get nearly everywhere on Europe’s seamless and endless metro, train, add bus systems, and for relatively cheap!
  • On the transportation note, the cars in Europe are typically all about functionality.  Why use a gas-guzzling truck or hummer or other large car when you don’t need it?
  • Another transportation note: the German autobahn and general lack of enforcement on the road.  Having speeding and traffic cameras and police that set speed traps is just not cool.  There are hardly any problems on the roads in Germany and the people are happier!
  • German food.  Sausage, bread, potatoes, sour kraut, mmmmm.  Plus nearly everything is organic now!
  • The drinking age.  Everyone was thinking it…
  • Beautiful, historic buildings, EVERYWHERE!
  • Ease of access to so many other countries, cultures, and just beautiful places in general!
  • The metric system.  Really, everyone else uses it.

I could continue, but I should move on so that America doesn’t feel too bad…

America (Arizona specifically) Pros:

  • Mexican food!
  • Peanut butter.  Germans don’t seem to eat it, so its impossible to find anything good…
  • You don’t ever have to pay for bathrooms
  • It is such a diverse place, socially and environmentally.  Just a couple hours drive will take you from beautiful desert to beautiful, pine-covered mountains.
  • My friends and family live there
  • Everyone speaks a language I can understand?

Well, I didn’t take many photos this week, but here’s one from (probably) one of the last breweries I will visit in Germany:

Steinbach Brewery
Steinbach Brewery

Week 12: Hamburg and Hannover

It was a week of mourning and tearful new beginnings as we had to throw away months of work due to the contamination, aggressively clean everything (which litteraly brought tears to my eyes because of all the isopropyl alcohol), and start over with some new cells.  Luckily, some work was salvagable because a few pellets I had isolated the RNA from were ones that my supervisor had frozen before the bad passage came in, so I can still continue with reverse transcription and PCR for those samples.  Sadly, for the new cells I seeded, I won’t see the day that they are full neurons because it is a 28 day differentiation process and I have but half that.Read More »

Week 11: Roma

This week, several of the supervisors were out for summer academy, so a lot of the interns were on their own.  It was a little stressful at first, realizing that I had to make decisions by myself that could potentially alter the fate of the cells, but it wasn’t actually that different from what I did normally.  One big disappointment that was discovered was that an entire passage of cells that we have been working with were shipped to us already contaminated.  Unfortunately with how easily the mycoplasmas that were found can spread, this likely means that all our cells are contaminated, so we will probably end up throwing away several of the dishes that we have spent so long differentiating and keeping alive.  We might be able to salvage a few important dishes by using a stronger, very expensive antibiotic mix, which would be ideal because we wouldn’t have to start all our work over, but sadly, this could still be the case.  I only have three weeks left, so I don’t know what starting over would mean for the fate of my project, but hopefully we can figure out something.  This is just one thing about working in the field of Biology, it can be fickle and unreliable and take a long time to get good results.Read More »

Week 10: Nürnberg

This week was quite fun!  I had to work a little longer in the lab so that I could take Thursday off, but then myself and several of the interns, our supervisors, and other PhD students spent the day doing a hiking beer tour.  The German countryside is just amazing; I litterally felt like I was walking in a movie, maybe The Lord of the Rings or something.  And the beer, of course, was even better!  It’s going to be strange coming back to the States and not only seeing sub-par beer, but also not being able to drink it!Read More »

Week 9: Barcelona

This week was relatively normal; I changed media, differentiated cells, isolated RNA, etc.  On Wednesday all the Erlangen DAAD Rise interns got to meet the president of FAU (the university that most of us are working for).  This was pretty cool, but the main event was the free ice cream after the group photo!  America will sadly never be able to do ice cream like Germany does.

I wish I had more to say about the week, but everything just paled in comparison to the weekend, when I went to Barcelona!  I swam in the Mediterranean, drank sangria, got a little tan (but mostly sun burned), and saw all the abstract master pieces of Gaudi, including the world famous Sagrada Familia and Park Guell!  I did take several pictures while there, but unfortunately, can’t really post any of the beach because there isn’t a single photo without a topless woman!  Europe sure is different from the US!Read More »

Week 8: Gothic Towns

This week I actually started RNA isolation!  After so much preparation, we finally did it, and it went pretty smoothly.  Since it was my PhD student’s first time doing it as well, we had no idea what to expect and how much RNase contamination was even likely, so we took every precaution – doubling up on gloves and changing them often, cleaning everything in sight first with ethanol and then with the RNase away reagent, and working under the decontamination hood.  When we finished, we ran some samples in a gel electrophoresis to examine the integrity and uses spectroscopy to determine the purity and concentration, and all our test yielded positive results!

My flatmates and some of the other Erlangen interns also went to the lake a few afternoons this week.  Since it is so close, why not go?  We brought some disposable picnic grills and cooked some burgers and hot dogs, swam accross the lake a few times, and just hung out around the fire (and drank a few beers of course).  A perfect end to a work day, in my opinion!

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Week 7: Heidelberg

This week I only worked Monday through Wednesday and then I took a bus to the Heidelberg Conference Thursday morning.  The lab work was the same as usual because we decided to yet again postpone RNA isolation another week, so I won’t take too much time talking about that.  Heidelberg, on the other hand, was definitely noteworthy!  Read More »

Week 6

This week I had a few busy days in the lab, as I have now taken over most of the responsibility of around 100 dishes and flasks of cells that need to be monitored and cared for every day.  Then, on Thursday, one of the PhD students from the pogram organized a “pub tour” for several of the interns and their supervisors.  We visited five pubs, ordering the best beer at each and sitting and talking for around an hour at each.  It was kind of awkward to be drinking so much and staying out so late with the people that were essentially our bosses, but it was a lot of fun!  I suppose it is more normal in Germany to be caught having fun by your superiors, and on the night before a workday I might add.  Odd.
I had another fantastic weekend as well; this time though, I stayed in town.  On Saturday, myself and a few of the boys across the hall went to an electronic music festival, where we listened to some great DJ’s, danced, and had an amazing time.  Then, Sunday, we all went to this lake just a mile and a half walk from our house.  It was very beautiful, though, I am sad to admit, I forgot to bring my phone and camera, so I took no photos.  We grilled, swam, played frisbee, and got a little tan in the process.  I hope to go back to it before I leave, but since I will probably be traveling the remainder of the weekends I am here, I might never get a picture of this lake.

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