02 July 2012

Mice, Lord of the Flies, and Sea Monsters

Today started with mice and ended in a battle with a sea monster.

That's the short story. The longer story is that we woke up early, scarfed some bagels, and caravaned to the Jackson Laboratory, what one fellow science-medical student excitedly calls the "Mecca of Mice."
The morning view - basically what is out my window.
Google's description of the Jackson Laboratory pretty much captures the summary: "The Jackson Laboratory focuses on mammalian genetics research with a strong research program investigating cancer and other genetic diseases." They work with mice because mice are the genetic model for mammals, including humans. So if you want to research the genetics of a human disease, you first turn to mice.

Joyce Peterson of Jackson Laboratory put together a great tour for our four hours in the facility, including at least 5 different researchers, a tour of a research lab, and lunch with some scientists studying aging. All the people who talked to us seemed more than happy to tell us about what they do, and there was so much information it was almost overwhelming! I discovered that my undergraduate courses in science have not completely failed me, as I was mostly able to follow a lot of the biology and chemistry. I knew I had learned things from that organic chemistry class!

The information inspired several ideas for scientific stories I may write in the future, and in fact I am now somewhat more interested in where health IT might go, especially regarding how personal genome sequencing relates to personalized medicine and how that might tie in to the future of health IT. My brain is still buzzing about all the stuff we learned, so I won't inflict my half-baked ideas on you.

After we returned, my friend Sarah and I decided to walk towards town. We are staying in a harbor, and at low tide, a land bridge appears to an island. We crossed the land bridge and climbed the island to the peak. There were signs warning people to be sure to cross back to the mainland three hours before high tide, or you will be stranded. 

There were several Lord of the Flies references.

Something about being stranded on an island apparently makes lots of people think of Lord of the Flies.

View of the town from the peak of the island.
View of the harbor mouth from the peak of the island.
We returned to our residence hungry for sea monsters, so we took our teacher and a fellow science-medical student and found the best lobster place in the area, according to Yelp. It was cheap for lobster, and it was fresh: I picked the live crustacean out myself. Then they cooked it.

You'd think it would be a one-way battle at this point, but the lobster is feisty.
Yes, I know lobster is often considered fancy-pants food, but this was not a fancy-pants place. I ended up eating with my fingers. We all got lobster, butter, and lobster shell everywhere. It was a battle. And we ultimately won, although the enemy put up a grand defense. Those shells!

I am physically and mentally tired, but in a good way. And it's only Monday! Tomorrow morning we are going to watch a scientist dissect a dead seal. (It washed up on shore dead.) We've been instructed that it is a bad idea to attend this on an empty stomach, and that we should wear pants we don't mind getting dirty. I can only assume this will be awesome.

Now You!

What is it about lobster that makes it worth that much work to eat?