Posted By on May 17, 2008

“What Will Cody Be Doing These Next Three Months?”

.: A good many friends of mine are graduating as I type these words. This leaves me in a rather impoverished setting for the remainder of the summer; however, I’m not one for sulking when there’s excitement and adventure to be had just over yonder. Yes, Waco is a terrible city filled with terrible nothingness, and yes, I’m going to be here all summer, but I’ve outsmarted my impersonal adversary with a foolproof plan to battle boredom.

.: First and foremost, most of my time will be spent in the lab. I’ve got two projects to work on, and they’re pretty darn nifty. The first is one I’ve been working on all semester: putting a constitutive transport element into TMV. The idea is to see whether nuclear export, common in retroviruses (which is where the CTE was taken from), will boost expression in a plant that’s been agroinoculated with TMV. The key problem is that TMV normally replicates in the cytoplasm, and agroinoculation traps the TMV sequence into the host’s genome. If the CTE is effective in moving TMV mRNAs out of the nucleus, then we might be onto something here. Exciting, no? I have the rest of the summer to figure out just what in the hell I typed right there.

.: The other project, to be the main focus of my time, is to engineer a new type of VIGS. VIGS stands for Virus-Induced Gene Silencing, and it’s a real doozy. Plants have an innate defense mechanism that wipes out any double stranded RNA complexes. This is useful, since the only double stranded RNA complexes found in cells are generally viral. Once a cell senses the dsRNA, several proteins come by and dice it into pieces, preventing any further protein translation. The trick of VIGS is to take a complementary strand of a gene from the host organism and splice it into the virus. The complementary strand forms a dsRNA complex with the host’s own mRNA, which is subsequently destroyed by the aforementioned defense mechanism. The net effect is the loss of a native gene in the host organism. The advantages of this approach are many, but I’ll just mention two:

– You can silence a gene that might be important to early development, whereas traditional transforming technologies would kill the plant before you can study it.

– You don’t have to wait for a transformed plant to grow; you can take any specimen that’s already here and infect it. Not such a big deal with, say, Arabidopsis and its six-week life cycle. But waiting for a transformed Poplar tree to grow can take an entire career.

.: Outside of the lab I have summer school to attend. First is weight lifting, a class I’m taking because amazingly I need to finish my human performance requirements, and because I need to be enrolled in a class during both summer sessions if I want access to the lab. Next session is German II, another requirement most people finish by their second year at latest. This past semester I took German I, an hour-long MTWRF 8:00 am class. German II promises to be the same in every way — down to the same instructor — only two hours longer. Kill me.

.: When an idea strikes, I also have access to Hunter’s expensive-looking video camera. Currently no ideas have struck, but it’s nice to know that it’s there. Watch out, youtube!

.: Then there’s the business of weekends. What kind of chump stays in Waco during the weekends? Not I! I made that mistake all last year, and that’s going to change. It’s time I start taking advantage of these free airline tickets and go places. New York, London, Paris, Munich — it all costs the same.

.: Also, for everyone stuck in Waco reading this, I’m going to start hosting weekly MST3K nights. For everyone outside of Waco who still loves MST3K, y’all can come too.

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One Response to “Summer”

  1. Serena says:

    Hey, Megan and I will be in Waco all summer too if you want to hang out.

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