Location: USDA-ARS, Ithaca
Current job/title: Postdoctoral fellow
One word that describes how you work: Hard
Favorite thing you do at work: Western Blot Analysis
Favorite plant: Hairy nightshade
One interesting project you have been working on:
Here in the Cilia lab we use a mass spec compatible cross-linker to fine-map the binding interfaces between plant viral proteins and the proteins they require to carry-out their life cycle in the plant and in the insect.
What does a normal day look like (if there is such a thing as a normal day)?
A normal day for me starts at 8-9 am when I wake up and start to check my work e-mails over a cup of coffee and breakfast. I am not really much of a morning person, so I tend to get into the lab at 9:30-10 am where I meet with my technician to go over what our experimental plans are for the day. I usually do my plant work in the morning and insect work in the afternoon since once we work with the insects we can not go back into any plant space and risk contamination. Experiments wind down around 5-6 pm and then I spend another two hours analyzing data or writing up reports. If I have a very long experiment, I can be in the lab sometimes till midnight or 1 am.
What is your workspace setup like?
I keep my bench space fairly clean and organized. Everything is put back in its place after I am done with an experiment. I find if there is too much clutter on one’s bench that is a recipe for disaster.
What are some tools, apps, or websites that you use or visit every day? Do you have a favorite resource?
Typical websites I use on a daily basis are Crapome,org for co-IP statistical analysis, STRING for verifying protein interaction networks, MASCOT for protein identification from mass spec data, BLAST and Cytoscape for mapping protein interaction networks.
My favorite website would have to be STRING, there is a wealth of protein/genetic interaction data right at your fingertips for many different organisms.
If you could eliminate one thing that you spend a lot of time doing, what would it be?
Writing emails and going to useless administrative meetings
If a magical scientific genie appeared from an erlenmeyer flask in your lab, what would you ask for?
A permanent job position
What have been the biggest productivity tools you’ve been using either for a long time or recently adopted?
What’s an obstacle to doing an experiment that you figured out a solution to?
Recently I figured out that when you are trying to confirm a protein-protein interaction by targeted co-immunoprecipitation where your bait and prey are over-expressed (or very abundant) in the plant, it is imperative determine the optimal dilution of your homogenate so that you are actively IPing your bait and prey and not just coating your bead matrix because the proteins are over-expressed. It makes a big difference in minimizing or eliminating unspecific binding of your bait and/or prey so you can detect the true interaction.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t worry so much about work. Relax and the answer will come easier.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever learned?
To trust my instincts even when everyone is against you.
How do you learn new things?
I am a very hands-on learner. I need to go through the experiment or through the program and just try it out. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Trial and error.
What’s a favorite data management tip/technique/tool you’ve learned?
The Text to Column and Data Sort feature in Excel is awesome for organizing large datasets.
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I am good at reviewing other people’s work in the lab with a critical, constructive eye, that is helpful in moving a project forward or getting a manuscript published. I am great at playing Devil’s advocate, finding holes that people missed. I am also an excellent problem solver. I don’t really have a secret – it is just how I am as a scientist, skeptical.
Music, silence, white noise – what works for you?
Muzak really helps me focus when writing a manuscript.
What do you do when the pipette is down and the computer is powered off?
Watch TV (the more mindless the better)
Reading (not science though)
Hiking with my significant other
How do you work on projects with colleagues/teams/groups?
I admit that I work best on my own. I am told this is a trait of a Gen-Xer, which I am. However, when I am working in a team or with colleagues I tend to take on the leader role to push the group forward and stay on the right track.
What do you spend time thinking about that’s not your next proposal, publication, or project deadline?
Where to go on vacation. I love to travel.
If you’re comfortable sharing, what’s a mistake you made? How did you resolve it?
I stayed in a lab that was not right for me for way too long. It was convenient because I was close to my family but it was an unhealthy working situation both professionally and emotionally. It got so bad that I was about to leave science for good. In the end, it was my speaking out about the situation and not being afraid that it would have professional repercussions that lead to me being offered another position, which I took immediately without looking back and it was the best decision I ever made and I am glad I did not give up on science.
Plant biology has long been a field of pioneering discoveries with broad impacts. What’s the next pioneering discovery in plant biology?
How to change the public’s opinion about GMOs
If you’re OK sharing, what’s one way readers can get in touch or follow along with your work (email, blog, twitter, etc.)?