Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Baby we got chemistry.

You know life's gone bad when your actions finally drive away the one person who meant everything to you, you're eating pot noodles for breakfast and you lose your phone in the freaking Chemistry department...! And then when you get home, you find that when you try to call your phone it's switched off which means someone clearly has picked it up because there was/is enough juice left in that baby to last a week! But this post isn't going to be about that; instead, today I am going to tell you about what I get up to in the lab!

Song of the day: Bad Project by Zheng Lab (Lady Gaga parody) ~ you really have to watch the video!

This year, as an undergrad Masters student, in addition to lectures, we also have a research project to complete and as mine is to do with organic synthesis, this means that I have to spend a lot of time in the lab making molecules. Yippee!!

In essence, the background to my project is this: for the sake of scientific curiosity, some people want to study how enzymes work. Why? Well, since enzymes are biological machines that catalyse essential chemical processes going on in your body - from digestion to hormone production to cell repair - people want to understand how they work so that they can find ways to fix them if they go wrong and cause diseases. Basically, without enzymes, you and I (and every other living thing) would not be here.

Right now.

To make matters more relevant to me, the enzymes that my group are interested in are present in pretty much every life form on this planet! However, it isn't easy to pick them out like the bits of food you don't want to eat because every cell will contain a soup of other enzymes. So this is where I come in - my job is to make a molecular sieve to catch them so that they can be purified for studying!

Gotta catch em all!! ^^

How do these enzymes work? Well, they've evolved so that they'll only work if they can find and bind to another molecule which is called thiamin diphosphate (TPP):

Sourced from here!

TPP is the activated form of thiamin, which you and I commonly know as vitamin B1. As I said above, for the TPP-dependent enzymes to work, they need to bind to TPP...or something that looks very similar to the structure of TPP. Over two semesters, I need to build a new molecule that looks similar to TPP but can also be attached to a solid framework. This can then be used as a sieve to catch the enzymes since the enzymes will still bind to the new molecule.

When I write it like this, it sounds all fun and sunshine and daisies, but when you've been staring at a small flask for weeks on end, willing chemical bonds to form where you want them to form, you kinda start to lose the will to live. Until something finally goes it did yesterday for me when I finally made some progress after a month of chemical roadblock!


I'm not sure if I want to do a PhD or not, as I'm definitely not smart enough for one, but it also seems that I lack the basic skills employers are looking for to work in the real world. I mean, really, if I had known that corporate grad schemes wanted students with prior programming experience and a keen interest in finance then I would have studied Computer Science and Economics. At the same time. Like a boss.

And on that note, I will now go to bed. Unless you have any recommendations for me on what phone to buy? ^^

Yishi xxx

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