June 29, 2013 § 11 Comments
and that means the first year is done!
The hours leading up to my exam were terrible. During this exam period, I have pushed myself to the outermost dimension of my comfort zone and while cramming on Thursday, I could feel myself beginning to break down. At around 17:00, I had to lay down on the floor with my legs up on the couch for 45 minutes, just to rest my eyes and drop my focus for a while. Afterwards, I came home and studied until about 3:00 a.m. Skjalg was absolutely amazing with me. He saw how hard of a time I was having and stayed up with me and tested me on the topic list. He even woke up at 6:30 to test me again before I left for my exam at 7:30. I honestly don’t think I could have lasted as long as I did without his support and for that I feel extremely lucky.
At 8:00, my professor invited me in to the Department of Genetics, Cell and Immunobiology, where his office and lab are located. My heart was racing and my stomach was as uneasy as it’s ever been – this was my last exam, I was feeling horrible about it, and wanted to do well.
We sat down in a long, empty conference room. He had blank pages in front of him, looked at me and said, “Ok, let’s see ‘Bacterial Chemotaxis’ and….’Tumors and chemotaxis’.” I immediately lightened up – these were two topics that I knew and that I knew well! Bacterial chemotaxis was one of the main topics from the topic list and tumors and chemotaxis was one of Skjalg’s topics, so he had prepared me for it. I was given 10-15 minutes to prepare:
The exam itself was possibly 5-10 minutes long. I faced my notes towards him and pointed at the major points while providing as much detail as I could about each topic. I didn’t write down as much as I mentioned verbally (it was along the lines of the information contained within my notes, see the pictures below). After I’d discussed bacterial chemotaxis and tumors and chemotaxis, he asked me to described some of the assays (tests that can be done in the lab to measure chemotaxis). I described different chamber assays, agar assays, and then mentioned impedance-based assays.
When I was finally done, he said that he had to get a certain piece of paper and left. He hadn’t said a grade yet, so I wasn’t entirely sure that the exam was done at that point. When he returned, he had with him a sort of exam attendance sheet. As he filled it out, he began to ask me questions about myself, what year I was in and where I was from. As I answered, I glanced down at what he was filling out and what I saw made stomach flutter – “Grade: 5”. I had to fight the urge to physically express my surprise and relief.
After he’d filled out the sheet and noted my grade in my index book, I got another surprise. “Would you be interested in working with other students in the lab? I know you students are busy during the 2nd year, but if you start early then you can present your data at the conference before the beginning of the 3rd year.” I told him that I was interested, but informed him that I had no lab experience from before and didn’t really have a lot to bring to the table. We talked a little more about it and at the end agreed to talk at the end of the summer. From my understanding, I would be part of a group of students working in the lab and that we would split our time, so that I would only be there for maybe two hours every other week.
The rest of the day was spent in bed, napping and watching movies. At 20:00 Skjalg and I headed to La Pampa – an amazing Argentinian steak house – to celebrate. We went all out: champagne, gambas al ajillo, empanadas, tenderloin with various sides and a bottle of red wine. Mads joined us for the second half and then the three of us headed to Di Vino for a glass of wine to close out the night. Di Vino is a wonderful and popular wine bar immediately outside of the Basilica. I think we’ll be visiting it a lot more often when we move!