When I was younger, I enjoyed nothing more in math class than to work out a lengthy equation. I approached math problems like puzzles, and the challenge of putting together the pieces thrilled me. In contrast, I considered Excel to be tediously confusing. My perspective has certainly changed. I still enjoy working math problems by hand, but I have a new appreciation for alternative methods of handling calculations. For instance, after seven weeks, I have succeeded in obtaining quantitative results for my project! The process of analyzing all of my data has made me very grateful for the convenience of Microsoft Excel.
As I reflect back on my summer, I realize how much technology makes my daily research not only possible but more efficient. The Noble Research Institute has an amazing facility. I recall how excited I was during my first two weeks that the centrifuge in my lab could be programmed to stop on its own after a certain amount of time. It was a small but exciting feature. The following weeks only increased my admiration for the technology around my lab. During our last lab meeting, greenhouse assistant Jessica Smith shared about her recent experience at a greenhouse conference. The most striking things, she remarked, was that she realized while touring other greenhouses how unique the Noble Research Institute's resources are. For example, our greenhouses are equipped with automatic watering systems. Other greenhouses were required to water all plants by hand, and often greenhouse personnel were hired solely for watering duties.
I have had the opportunity this summer to explore technology from all areas of research. Last week, the Noble Summer Research Scholar in Plant Science participated in a microscopy workshop aimed at introducing us to various instrumentation used by the Noble Research Institute's Cellular Imaging Facility. I have never had more fun with microscopes! We learned the basic operating steps for a scanning electron microscope (SEM), gene gun, confocal microscopes, spinning disc confocal microscopes, and laser capture microdissection (LCD) system. I especially enjoyed working with GFP (green fluorescent protein). One of the Postdoctoral Fellows remarked that budding yeast tagged with GFP looked like stars under a microscope. It was truly beautiful.
Budding yeast tagged with GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) viewed as part of the Cellular Imaging Facility's microscopy workshop.
As I finish up my last two weeks at the Noble Research Institute, I know that I will miss researching in such an amazing facility. However, I am grateful for the experience I have gained. My involvement in the Noble Summer Research Scholars program has exceeded my expectations in every aspect. It even made me fall in love with Microsoft Excel.
Sarah Oliver is a 2016 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Plant Science from Ardmore, Oklahoma. She is majoring in biochemistry at Oklahoma State University. Her summer project involves phenotypic and molecular characterization of root system architecture mutants in Medicago truncatula.