What’s New With Margaret Pless

My treasured readers may have noticed I have not written blog posts this past month. I have never published according to a set schedule (it’s part of the “idle dilettante” thing) but in the past month I didn’t post any, and my blogging output is likely to remain much reduced until at least mid-May.

As some of you already know, I’m currently a Master’s student in Biology at CUNY, having been accepted to the program Fall of 2015. As of 1/25/16 I accepted a job working in the Structural Biology Lab – chiefly in protein chemistry, but my work there also involves some crystallography and other tests. The research specifically focuses on proteins involved in processes of nucleotide excision repair – in plain language, the processes by which DNA heals itself from everyday wear-and-tear caused by exposure to water, oxygen, or UV rays. It’s a critical function to life – without it, DNA would not have sufficient fidelity to transmit genetic information.

That said, the new job can be quite taxing. Obtaining a sufficiently pure protein solution from cell lysates requires about 14 hours of active work – and that’s just to get the protein, without doing any experiments to it. The work is time-bound as well – just like a steak in your fridge, protein in our cold rooms becomes unusable if purification isn’t completed within a few days. I estimate that I spend about 30 hours per week in the lab, which doesn’t include time spent preparing for classes required to complete my degree, or time spent applying for grants & fellowships (so I can receive additional compensation.)

Work in the lab is mind-intensive in addition to being time-intensive. I personally still have a lot to learn about the science and techniques of protein purification, as well as the microbiology techniques my supervisor uses to create the bacteria I destroy in order to get protein. I come home from work tired, and yet I lie awake at night thinking about the laboratory, about what I left to run overnight & what needs to happen tomorrow.

Which brings me  to this blog. This update isn’t a resignation letter – if PZ Myers can find the time to blog, surely I can too – but a heads-up that my dilettantish blogging schedule is likely to become more dilettantish for the remainder of this semester. I have responsibilities to uphold with CUNY which simply take precedence over entertaining Sargon of Akkad’s & his fans’ complaints that Nightly Show writers may read and link to my previous posts. (Or that this high-profile RT might get the attention of staff at Patreon.) These things haven’t escaped my attention, but I’m too busy with these proteins to do much more than Tweet about it.

So, if you’re wondering where I’ve been, and why no blog posts throughout the month of February, that’s the reason. I am, of course, still reachable – per email in every case (mpless@gm.slc.edu) and via Twitter if you’re cool.


Margaret Pless