Saturday, November 28, 2015

Genetics - Epigenetics - Molecular Biochem

A few years ago, 3.5 to be exact, I sat in my all time favorite professor's class, Biochem.  The posts from both of his classes are embedded on here, somewhere.  I stumbled into his 1010 class and was not prepared for him.  Meaning, the professor who had stalked me to my home in the middle of the night had set the bar pretty low.

But this man - every accolade available at the school - has been given to him.  There are awards that can only be awarded 1x per lifetime.  The students petitioned to have the rule broken, just for him.

Three years ago.  I was embarrassed to ask if I could take his class (long story).  He said he was honored that I'd ask.

On that first test, I had to draw all 20 amino acids along with the three and one letter abbreviations but also had to know how to link them via peptide bonds and what the end charges would be.  That was all worth 10 points on a 100 point test.

I got the 10 points, plus all the rest + the extra credit for a 125 points.  It's weird how setting that semester up for success turned into a difficult, soul sucking search for understanding of this path.

Between my contract ending shortly after the 1st midterm, to my parents own financial collapse due to my inability to take care of them anymore, and then ... I got a B.  He was clearly disappointed.  It was worse for me.

I quit being a premed.  Headed to the Galapagos on a field research trip I'd signed up for though the biology department with my biology professor, and 13 other students.  Sitting in a Pizza Hut in Guayaquil, Ecuador I'd told my bio prof I was quitting school, headed back to the corporate world, and moving 1600 miles to FL.

Stunned, he said nothing.  Looked off into space.  Sometime later, he muttered, "what a waste."

I came home from the Galapagos, packed the house, and moved to FL.  Left the premed path behind, focused on finding a job in FL and never really looked back.  Really.

Well, actually, I lived life in reverse.  I hated quitting but I hated worse, disappointing that biochem professor.

Over last summer, I took physics and nailed the beast. Actually, it's not really a beast.  It's more like a wild doberman with a mind of it's own that needs to consistent and earnest training. It needs love and attention every day.  Got an A+ (they actually give that here).

Using that good mojo, I asked to get into genetics.  See, that old biochem prof once told us that if we did well in his class, we'd do well in genetics.  And cell bio, he said.

After two weeks into the semester that old friend "Doubt" started kicking me in the shin again.  My contract was ending despite having been assured I was golden until January, my dad had a heart attack (see the pattern???), and someone else died.  I did not study for that first exam.  Got a B.

Second exam was looming, contract was for sure ending, was able to focus a little bit, got a B.

Before the 3rd exam, I stopped in to see my genetics professor.  He is also well liked by students.  On the wall was a newspaper page, full page at that, of the video he produced in 2008.

I'd seen it.  In 2010 with my biochem professor.  And again in 2012 with the same biochem professor.  I asked Dr. E if he produced that video and he kind of shyly said, "Um.  Yes?"  I think he was afraid I was going to say something ... I don't know, odd?

I laughed and said I'd been forced to watch it twice by my biochem professor.  He smiled broadly, "Really??  Oh man, that makes my day.  Do you still talk to him?"

"Yeah, all the time.  He's one of my letter writers."

"Please tell him thanks!  Really makes my day!"

Yea, I bet.  Even more so when that same student (me), nails his last midterm with an A+ which should make me solid for an A if I nail the final.

Its interesting to me, how small the world is.  Connected by two great professors who have made learning fun and damn hard (!!!), but how the one class taught me to stick with it and not give up.

The mantra for anyone midway through this path: don't stop, don't give up, give it one more step.

Now to write the biochem guy and tell him the news.  He'll probably smile a little, shake his head and think, "Not bad, not bad at all."

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