Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Work hard, play hard

I think it was the wise Wiz Khalifa who said "work hard, play hard," a phrase that comes to mind when I think about my summer in Leuven so far. My weekdays are filled with many hours at imec, constantly going back and forth between my cozy office desk and the convergence lab where I conduct my experiments. On the weekends I find myself traveling all over - from little towns in Belgium to bigger, more touristy cities like Rome (where I went this weekend with Gwen and Victoria). Between these two, I haven't been able to sleep in past 9AM. Yet, I find this summer to be really interesting, rewarding, and fun.

I've been able to finish the first part of my project!! It dealt with optimizing PCR efficiency by testing different hydrophobic coatings and seeing which gave high fidelity while still producing the similar results to what we had originally. So while I'm processing data for that part, I'm starting a new, but similar project: a digital droplet PCR that takes approximately 10 minutes rather than 1 hour.

 Rodrigo said that I'll be using the best coating (chosen by the data I got from the first part of my project) and testing different assay and surfactant combinations to find the best one for this process. While I will still be using the same equipment and devices for running the experiment and analyzing the data, I think this will definitely show me other aspects of on-chip PCR that I didn't have time to look at previously. And honestly, the best part is that it only takes a fraction of the time from the regular ddPCR so I'll be able to do more experiments within a day.

Let's talk about my travels: I went to Rome this weekend! I've never been to Italy before and let me just say, every part of it was amazing. The food, the sights, the people - all perfect. I think the weather was a little too hot for me (I got my first sunburn ever) but I just ignored that and cooled down by eating a lot of gelato.

What I liked most about Rome was all the fountains spread across the town. This seems like such an insignificant thing when you compare it to Palatine Hill or the Coliseum. But after spending hours in 34C degree heat, these little spouts seemed like gold to me. I'm being dramatic, yet I do think having these potable drinking fountains were nice especially since it let me avoid spending mucho dinero on the water bottles from tourist traps.

Overall, the past weeks have been wonderful, both work and play wise. I'll definitely keep updating as my new project goes along and as I continue my adventures to Germany this weekend.

---Rachel Bang

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