doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Category: Pre-Med

Periodic Tables: One more (for the writer and editor in me)

I know, I know – I posted a boatload of periodic tables in my last blog post. But I came across this one in a recent Google search, and I just HAD to post it here. It represents a confluence of my interests in science and writing/editing. Plus, it makes me laugh. And as we future physicians know, laughter is the best medicine, right?

period table typefaces

Thinking Outside the Box, er, Table

regular periodic tableThere are some things that we just take for granted, it seems. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the chemistry periodic table of elements looks something like the image at right.

But, as is the case with so many things, there are multiple ways of representing the information on the periodic table. There is a Web site called The Internet Database of Periodic Tables that I recently discovered, thanks to a dear friend who is a chemistry major, which has images of literally hundreds of periodic table representations. It fascinates me that there are so many ways of showing what we take for granted in chemistry class. Some of them are, perhaps, not so accurate anymore based on current information and data. Others are not really very scientific, and are more novelty items. Regardless, how amazing that people have taken the time (and you will see that many of these have REALLY taken time) to develop different ways of thinking about what our world is made of. Here are a few of my favorites. But I really encourage you, if you like any of what you see here, to visit the Web site and peruse the photos. You will laugh, scratch your head, and laugh again, I guarantee it.

Alternate views of the periodic table of elements:
Note: Photos and caption text taken from The Internet Database of Periodic Tables
periodic table 1

Étienne François Geoffroy’s 1718 Affinity Table. At the head of the column is a substance with which all the substances below can combine.

periodic table 2

Angular Form of the Periodic Table by Kamal Akhtar: “The complete periodic table is consists of two circles, principal circle and auxiliary circle. The principal circle is consist of seven tracks (periods) and eighteen sectors (groups). The auxiliary circle is consist of only two tracks, inner track and outer track. There is no division of sectors in auxiliary circle.” (2008)

periodic table 3

By Alexander Makeyev – integrated interdisciplinary researcher, inventor, poet (2011)

periodic table 4

From Protege Publishing comes the Progressive Periodic Table: “The PPTE allows you to observe and learn the periodicity of the elements in a more aesthetically pleasing form. It removes confusion from the growth pattern between shell pairs, and solves the problem of keeping the lanthanides and actinides in sequence with the rest of the table.”

periodic table 5

Bydgoszcz’s Periodic Table (2008).

periodic table 6

Harrington Projection for The 270 AMU Structure (2010).

periodic table 7

Normal vs Correction Shell “Pi Paradox” for 1-270 AMUs.

periodic table 8

Origionally developed in 1933, the colour version of Clark’s arrangement is from Life Magazine, May 1949. This was the model for Longman’s 1951 mural.

periodic table 9

Rafael Poza’s Elements and the Magnetosphere (2008).

periodic table 10

In 1944 Müller produced a formulation based on Darwin’s tree of life.

periodic table 11

A 1970 periodic table by Prof. Wm. F. Sheehan of the University of Santa Clara that claims to show the elements according to relative abundance at the Earth’s surface.

periodic table 12

Walter Russell’s Periodic Chart of The Elements 1 (1926).

periodic table 13

Walter Russell’s Periodic Chart of The Elements 2 (1926).

periodic table 14

Stedman’s conic system of 1947.

periodic table 15

The Wheel of Motion (WoM) representation of the periodic table of elements shows the periodic nature of the elements, as developed in the Reciprocal System of Physical Theory (RST).














Change Of Plans

According to my plan, I was supposed to take the MCAT this coming Thursday, June 21. According to my plan, I was going to submit my medical school application this month, do interviews this fall/winter, and matriculate in the fall of 2013.

Life, however, does not always go according to plan.

The last 15 months have been some of the most difficult of my life. I have had successes and joys, yes, especially in the academic realm. But there has been much loss and sadness as well. Some of that (such as my divorce) I have written about here on this blog. Due to everything that has been going on, I have decided to postpone my application by a year.

This is not me giving up. I don’t give up. I can’t, and won’t, not after all I have accomplished and gone through to get where I am now. I look at this not as a failure, but as a success – as me knowing myself, knowing what I need to do for myself, to be the best MD/PhD applicant I can be.

I do have a plan for the upcoming year. I will be working part time at the UIC lab where I worked for the last two summers. I will also be doing freelance writing and editing for the Joint Commission Resources, which is the for-profit arm of the Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals. So I will both be earning money and learning about hospital standards and procedures, which will be good.

Is this what I wanted to happen? Not exactly. But it is what needs to happen. And I look forward to what the coming year will bring.

No Rest For The Wicked

Well, I don’t know that I’m “wicked,” per se … I hope not, at least! But there has definitely been no rest for me lately. Which is why I haven’t posted in ages. (And for that I apologize to my readers.)

Here is what has been going on …

grad_imageSaturday, May 5, I graduated with my second bachelor’s degree, a Bachelor of Medical Science, from Dominican University. I walked in the graduation ceremony; I felt like that would make the whole two-year post-bac experience – and graduating – more “real,” if that makes sense. My parents and my boyfriend came to the ceremony, so that was nice.

Yes, you read that right … I have a boyfriend! We’ve been dating for about six weeks now, and things are going very well on that front. The whole online dating thing really DOES work!

But back to school. I finished out my program with a 3.95 cumulative GPA, for which I am quite proud. Not quite the 4.0 I was hoping for, but not too shabby. I wound up with an A- in both Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry II, definitely the two hardest classes I’ve taken in my program. And quite difficult by reputation, as well. Given that I got divorced in March, and that my grandma became very ill in April, I am satisfied with my performance. Along with my 3.94 GPA from my initial Journalism undergrad at UIUC, I’m at the top of the hill, for the most part, in terms of grades. Which is good, considering how competitive MD/PhD programs are.

I apply to medical school next month, which is a trial in itself. The application process is incredibly arduous, in terms of entering all your coursework and grades, biographical information, arranging for transcripts, getting your letter of recommendation writers to submit their letters on time, polishing your essays and extracurricular activities blurbs … it’s like a full-time job. And given everything else that’s on my plate right now, I’m a little stressed about it. Because in addition to the application, I’m taking the MCAT on June 21, and need to continue to prep for that.

Also, I’m moving. Which is always fun, right?! I’m moving in with my mom, which I mentioned in a previous post as a possibility. And it’s come to fruition. It’s not ideal; obviously I’d rather keep my own place. But I simply can’t afford it, given the expense of applying to medical school (several thousand dollars, literally), future interview expenses (hopefully!), etc.

Not to mention that I currently don’t have any income, since all I keep getting from my job application efforts are rejections, and my school loan money has almost run out. Thankfully, I do have a tentative part-time job opportunity at the UIC lab where I worked that last two summers. I met with the PI there a couple of weeks ago, and when I asked him for suggestions on where to apply for lab jobs, he said he would be willing to hire me part time, assuming he could scrape together the money. He is talking with the grants administration people, and hopefully getting back to me soon on that. What’s nice about working there, with a boss who would be completely supportive of my goals, is that it would be no problem for me to take a few days off for med school interviews now and again. That was one of the things I was really worried about in finding a job, given that most places don’t give you any vacation time until after you’ve worked there for some months, maybe even a year. And I couldn’t exactly keep calling in sick … I’d eventually get fired, definitely. So this is a best case scenario, in terms of logistics.

In summary, MCAT, moving, and job hunt … all of these things are definitely keeping me on my toes. Thankfully, we journalists are trained to deal with high-stress situations, so I’m handling things pretty well, and staying on task.

Well, I better get back to it. I move on Monday (Memorial Day … a day to remember for sure!), and I haven’t packed a single thing. At least I’ve bought the boxes. Although they’re still in my car. I better change that, and soon.

Wish me luck!

My First Research Symposium

One thing I have learned about “being” in science is that it involves poster presentations. Some people like them, some people hate them, but they are a part of the job. I saw my mentor and supervisor at UIC, Olga, make several posters (to present at various conferences) while I was working there. And for the Drosophila genetics conference, Dr. Kreher made one as well (which I wrote about earlier, and which included me as a secondary author!).

Today, I will present my first and very own poster at Dominican University’s “Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Investigations Expo” (“URSCI” for short). This is an annual event at Dominican, where students from across different disciplines present their research work through both presentations and posters. For the poster portion, which is what I am doing, you have a designated time that you are supposed to stand by your poster and explain it / answer questions about it to anyone who is interested. While this might make some people nervous, I am really excited about the opportunity. I love talking about science (obviously), and I am also adept at explaining it in more basic language for people who might not be familiar with the concepts or procedures. That is one thing I learned well in journalism – you have to know your audience. So I know how to tailor my explanation, based on the people with whom I am talking.

The title of my poster is “Antibiotic Resistance of E. coli to Rifampicin and the Mutagenic Effects of Caffeine.” The work stems from a project I did in my Research Methods in Molecular Biology class, which I took last spring with Dr. Kreher. (I am currently working in his genetics lab with the fruit fly larvae.)


It was a fascinating project, and it had two components. As a class, we reproduced the experiments done in the late 1980s by two researches, Jin and Gross. They investigated how E. coli develop antibiotic resistance to a drug called rifampicin, which is used for tuberculosis. Based on their research, and previous work, they determined that rifampicin inhibits the bacteria’s RNA polymerase (which is what transcribes mRNA, which is later used to synthesize proteins). That’s bad for the bacteria, because without the necessary cellular proteins, the bacteria will die. But Jin and Gross also discovered that the bacteria can develop, at a particular rate, specific mutations in the gene (rpoB) encoding for a particular subunit of its RNA polymerase. These mutations allow the bacteria to survive treatment with rifampicin.

We repeated Jin and Gross’s experiments, growing E. coli on agar plates containing rifampicin (as well as another antibiotic, carbenicillin, to which our bacteria had been engineered with a resistance gene, so that only the bacteria we were studying would grow – no random bacteria from the environement would grow, because the carbenicillin would kill it). We were able to generate resistant bacterial colonies as well, and sequenced their DNA. In comparing the sequenced DNA to the wild-type rpoB (RNA polymerase) gene, we found some of the same nucleotide mutations as Jin and Gross, as well as a couple of mutations that were unique to our experiments.

The second part of the project was to choose a substance – any substance within reason, that could be procured at a store or from a chemical supply company – and see how that affected the mutation rate. Each student (there were eight of us in the class) had to choose something different. I chose to work with caffeine, which is a suspected mutagen, based on some scientific literature that I found. So my hypothesis was that treating the bacteria with caffeine would increase the rate of mutation, and hence the rate of antibiotic resistance. I tested two concentrations of caffeine, 1 mg/mL and 3 mg/mL. What I found was very interesting – not only did the caffeine fail to increase the mutation rate, it actually (especially at the higher concentration) killed much of the E. coli! So I did some more literature research, and found that caffeine has been shown to also have an antimicrobial effect on E. coli. Who would’ve thought?!

I absolutely love science. You don’t always get what you expect, in terms of results (I certainly didn’t), but you usually learn something. And that’s the point: discovery.

Shadowing: Open Heart Surgery

Yesterday, I shadowed an anesthesiologist friend of mine. I had shadowed him before, and seen some amazing procedures, both in terms of the anesthesiology and the surgery. But this time was the best by far. I got to see a fascinating cardiac case — open heart surgery. It was a complex case; a double valve replacement (mitral and aortic) and a valve repair to boot (tricuspid).

heart ultrasoundOne interesting thing was that before the surgery, they weren’t entirely sure whether they were going to be repairing the tricuspid valve. So the anesthesiologist did an echo by sliding a probe into the patient, near the patient’s heart, and rotating the probe to look at the different valves on a screen. He could also turn on a blood flow feature, which showed us different colors, each color illustrating a different blood velocity. This allowed us to see whether there was regurgitation, aka “regurg,” which there was, from all three valves in question. (The image of a heart echo here shows mitral regurgitation, or blood flowing in the wrong direction, similar to what this patient had.)

During the surgery, I was on the anesthesiologist’s side, behind the surgical curtain. But they got me a step stool so I could peer into the field. I did this during almost the whole surgery, with the exception of a quick lunch break. I watched the initial incision, the cracking of the rib cage (with a giant chisel!), the separating of the pericardium from the heart, cutting into the heart, the placement of the valves. It was amazing to see a live, beating, human heart just a foot or two away from my face. And then suddenly, it was no longer beating, as they had put the patient on bypass to do the more delicate parts of the surgery (the valve replacements and repair). They cooled the patient’s body to 25 degrees, and literally bypassed blood flow to and from the heart, oxygenating the blood with a perfusion machine and returning it to the body via tubing. They also used a cocktail of compounds (including potassium) to keep the heart from beating during that time.

It was a long surgery; around five hours. (And this does not count the time the anesthesiologists spent prepping and anesthetising the patient.) I felt privileged to be able to see how modern medicine has made such a procedure possible. And so incredibly ready to start medical school …


I’m no stranger to Excel. I’ve made plenty of graphs and charts throughout school, especially in the science courses I’ve been taking in the last two years. But the formulas and functions that spreadsheet programs can do? Not so much. I’ve always done that work by hand. (Correction, with a calculator.)

Now that I’m taking statistics, I’ve got a LOT of calculations to do. So doing them one by one, cell by cell, would simply take forever. Luckily, last Friday my stats professor showed us how to do a number (no pun intended) of basic calculations within Excel itself. (Although at home, I’m not using Excel – I’m using Apple’s Numbers program, which is an Excel numbersequivalent. And I’ve found that the calculations work pretty much the same, thankfully.)
This is just a basic stats course, and it’s the beginning of the semester, so we haven’t gotten to anything too complicated yet. But using a spreadsheet program to compute the sample mean (i.e., average), variance, and standard deviation is so handy. I was even kind of having fun doing my stats homework … really. It was almost like magic. After entering my data points, I’d go to a new cell, hit the “equal” sign, and then do my thing. Multiply, divide, square, you name it. Then click-and-drag to do the same operation down an entire column. Of course, the program is only as smart as you are, so you’ve got to input everything correctly. And that can take some getting used to. But I think I’ve got the hang of basic operations, at least.

Now, the question is, what am I going to do with all the time I’m saving?

Lovely Larvae

On Thursday, I started my work in the Genetics research lab. Granted, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but given that I want to do an MD/PhD, this is the perfect way for me to spend six hours each week (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Thursday).

Before beginning any actual “research,” my professor had me read two of his own published articles as background information. Both had been published in the journal Cell, which, if you’re not familiar with it, is quite prestigious. So his work has gotten some attention from the scientific community. He and his colleagues have been looking at olfaction (sense of smell) in drosophila larvaeDrosophila melanogaster larvae. In the first paper, they identified a set of genes responsible for olfaction in the larvae (previously, it had not been known which genes controlled the sense of smell in the larvae). This was really quite an accomplishment, and the methods they used were pretty amazing. (Don’t worry, I won’t go into the details unless someone asks!) In the second paper, they looked at behavior of the larvae in response to different organic compounds, both attraction and repulsion. I will be doing an extension of the second work, performing behavioral assays with the larvae and testing their chemotaxis response (that is, movement in response to chemicals). By the end of the semester, I will (hopefully!) have generated quite a bit of data, and will write a formal lab report about my progress.

In addition to doing the behavioral assays, I will also continue to read scientific articles, which will be great – I love getting exposure to more scientists’ work, techniques, etc. And there will be some freedom in the work I do as well – if I want to take the work in a particular direction not previously explored, I have the ability to do that, under my professor’s direction. Which is pretty amazing.

All in all, I look forward to this semester’s work. Who knows what we may find? That is the beauty of science.

A Great Tutoring Opportunity

purple-diatoms-527157-gaMy goal, eventually, is to go into academic medicine. In that capacity, I hope to do some teaching. This semester, I will be getting some experience doing just that – by being a tutor for General Biology 2.

I received an e-mail about a week ago from my former Gen Bio lab professor, telling me that because I did so well in the class last spring, she was inviting me to be a tutor for the class this spring (along with some other students). Dominican University offers drop-in biology tutoring at its Academic Enrichment Center, but this will be different – it will be an “invitation-only” small tutoring group for students who did not do so well in General Biology 1, and who might otherwise slip through the cracks grade-wise.

I’m really excited about the opportunity. It will be great teaching experience, and will (hopefully) help these students do better in class. Part of the tutoring will be helping students with concepts, of course. If they come with questions, great; if not, I am supposed to be prepared to lead a discussion about what was covered in lecture that week (no problem there). One of the nice things is that they will be covering basic genetics in the course – meiosis, Mendel, Punnett squares, etc., and I excel at that, especially just having taken an actual genetics course. So I will definitely be prepared for that material. I also made flashcards for the entire Gen Bio 2 class when I took it, so that’s another resource I can share with the students. Some of these students may also have issues not only with the material, but with general study skills – how to study, and how much to study, for this class. That’s another arena in which I can definitely be of some assistance.

I will be attending all of the Bio 2 lectures (a total of 3 hours each week), and then leading a 1-hour tutoring group one afternoon a week. I even get paid for all 4 hours, which is a nice bonus. (It doesn’t pay much, so the monetary part certainly isn’t the main reason for my wanting to do this.)

This tutoring project certainly adds to my plate, but in a good way. I’m looking forward to giving back to the Dominican community, a community that has given so much to me.

Background: These are marine diatoms, specifically Pleurosigma angulatum, at magnification x200. Diatoms are unicellular organisms often characterized by a silica shell. This image is from National Geographic. Diatoms, along with other unicellular organisms, and their phylogenetic classifications/relationships, are some of the things I will be helping students with in General Biology 2. 

Spring Break!

dros confOK, so maybe it’s a bit early to think about spring break, given that the semester just started yesterday. But I have exciting plans. So I want to share them. No, I’m not going to Aruba or Cancun – I’m going to the 53rd Annual Drosophila Research Conference, to be held right here in the Windy City, March 7-11, 2012.

I first heard about this conference last year, when my Research Methods professor, Dr. Kreher, attended it (it was in San Diego then). When I met with him this morning to talk about working with him this semester on his fruit fly research, he brought up the conference … and I immediately decided I would go. It will be a great learning opportunity, first of all – dozens of scientific posters and talks to attend, all about Drosophila genetics. It will also be a great networking opportunity, especially since I’m applying for my MD/PhD this June. You never know whom you will meet at events like this, and what kinds of connections you will make.

I will, of course, post more about it after I attend the conference. I’m sure I will have lots of exciting fruit fly news to share.

And who knows? Maybe some day in the future, I’ll be one of the presenters …