In this semester, I learned a lot about how to write in a formal way for scientific article. In the first Methods Project, I experienced on making multi-panel scientific figures and writing legend of a figure. This is my first time making a figure using my original photograph. It is a memorable project because this project made me notice the whole structure of a scientific figure for the first time.
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The proposal project was very exciting and a little daunting in the beginning. When the project was explained, having the opportunity to design an experiment about anything surrounding planarians seemed like a big task. Doing the project in groups was extremely helpful, as well as the one on one meeting with Dr. Brewer to help work through the details of the proposal. Drafting the proposal went well and we had a lot of fun. Planarians were an interesting invertebrate to use, because I had never heard of them and they were really cute in their own interesting way. Learning about a new species and designing our own experiments was great, because it gave me an idea of what being in a science field could be like.
The next project assigned to the class was called the PROPOSAL, a group effort which was essentially a written presentation of our idea for research on a species of flatworm, planarians. This project also helped me to solidify the idea of detail inclusion because a similar event happened where there were many more aspects that needed to be included in the project than I had originally thought going in. Specifically, for this project there were about six sections needed; an abstract, specific aims, background, research design, impact or significance and a references section. It made sense why each section would be required when submitting a proposal, but I had never seen what one was supposed to look like prior to this so I didn’t have high expectations of work when introduced to it. Overall however, I do believe this project was important to assign looking back, because science majors will most likely encounter a research proposal in the future whether they are the ones that must write it or not.
The original and replicate figures are different. The differences in the figures are a result of a non concise methods section. Three out of four of the images for the replicate figure were different. To ensure that they are the same, a more accurate description of the control factors: time and flower species. The description of the time of day was accurate, but the season was not taken into account. When the photos for the original figure was taken, it was still relatively warm. The eastern carpenter bee would not survive a frost, and therefore the pictures would need to be taken before then. The description of time to create a more accurate figure includes a time frame the photograph needs to be taken in as well as the time of day.
The Research Project was one of my favorite projects throughout my time here at UMass. One reason I enjoyed it so much was how similar this project was to an actual research project, but very simplified in which we still got a lot out of it. I had done cancer research over the summer, and we had displayed our research at the AACR conference in a similar fashion: a poster. I didn’t do too much work formatting and creating the poster itself, so getting this experience was very nice. I also really liked how the overall project was structured: I didn’t feel too stressed, and felt like I could get everything done in the time given. I also learned a lot in this project such as the important elements to include in a poster, and worked on presenting my poster (i.e. elevator speech) to people walking by. Performing the experiment itself was also awesome, and really made for a more engaging project, one in which I actually felt like I was performing an important experiment. Overall, this was a great project.
I thought that writing the proposal was a good learning experience because I didn’t think so much work and thought had to be put into completing the assignment. After our group decided that we wanted to do planarian head regeneration in different environments, I thought that writing the research design for the proposal would be easy because I understood how thorough we had to be in writing out the steps to carry out the project in our proposal. On the other hand, writing the abstract was most unfamiliar to me because initially I was not too sure what a good abstract looked like. The same applied for writing the specific aims. I did not know what would have been considered writing too much. While our group worked through writing the proposal, we were unsure of whether or not we did a good job, and we wished there was a proposal for us to reference off of. Nonetheless, once the proposal was complete, I really felt like we fully understood why and how we wanted to do our project. The proposal made us think about the project in a way that was more than just completing the assignment, which is why I thought it was a good learning experience.
Since the study served such a micro-niche of patients (amputated limb, phantom pain, willing participation), it is incredible that they were able to find participants with amputated limbs that were willing to perform in the study. The study was very opportunistic and the experimenters took advantage of the resources they had at the time. Also using humans rather than animals served an advantage in the specificity of the data they obtained. The study was meant to not only led to better knowledge of the thalamus, it also allowed them to pinpoint the source and help the patients that have phantom limb pain.
Through classification tests and determining its melting point, unknown compound #25 is likely to be phenylethanal. Once the reaction with the DNP reagent tested positive by forming a yellow precipitate, unknown #25 was classified as an aldehyde or ketone instead of an alcohol. The carbonyl group on this aldehyde/ketone is not conjugated. The next step was to do Schiff’s test to see if unknown #25 is an aldehyde or ketone. Because the test was positive, showing a deep magenta color, unknown #25 was classified as an aldehyde instead of a ketone. The iodoform test was carried out, even though unknown #25 is an aldehyde, to classify if unknown #25 was a methyl aldehyde or ketone. Because the iodoform test was negative, unknown #25 is not a methyl aldehyde. After all the classification tests were done, unknown #25 was classified to be an unconjugated (not methyl) aldehyde. The melting point of the derivative was close to the melting point of 2-nonenal (126°C), but 2-nonenal is conjugated and would have formed a red precipitate with the DNP reagent instead of yellow. The H-NMR spectrum shows a one lower and sharper peak at around 10 ppm, five higher peaks over a larger area at around 7 ppm, and two sharper peaks at around 3.5 ppm. There are a total of 8 hydrogens. The one single peak at around 10 ppm represents the hydrogen attached to the carbonyl group on the aldehyde. The peaks at around 7 ppm represent H’s the aromatic hydrogens on a benzene ring. The H-NMR spectrum shows that unknown #25 has a benzene ring, an aldehyde, and an X. Phenylethanal has 8 hydrogens, a benzene ring, and an aldehyde with an unconjugated carbonyl group. These characteristics match the information provided by the H-NMR spectrum and the classification test. The table of derivative melting points provided did not show other compounds containing a benzene ring around the observed derivative melting point of 125-128°C. In the table, phenylethanal has a higher MP of 121°C, which is close to, but still lower than, the observed MP of the derivative acquired in lab of 125-128°C. This may be because the Mel-Temp device was heating too fast since it started at about 20°C and was heating to plateau at 180°C, so the amount of time it took for the compound to absorb the heat was not until the device read at a higher number.
While there is no cure for the disease, rapid advancements are being made as both our understanding of ALS and our technology improves. As discussed above, Riluzole is the primary medication used to combat the progression of ALS. The drug works by blocking the intake of sodium into neurons, reducing the degree of their activity. Thus, this mechanism reduces the amount of ATP a given neuron demands, partly alleviating the consequences of the inhibited axonal transport of mitochondria caused by mSOD1, thereby prolonging the life of the cell. Despite this, Riluzole only extends the prognosis of patients by 2-3 months, presumably because of the time-dependent atrophy of neurons - the more time that passes, the higher the toxicity of the mSOD1 mutation. Another physiological barrier to curing ALS is the existence of the ‘bystander effect’ in which astrocytes expressing toxic mSOD1 also affect surrounding astrocytes, even if they do not originally express a damaging genotype, suggesting that the disease must be treated at a systemic level.
Although the combination of ALS’s brutal effects, rapid progression, and relatively high frequency in the population makes the disease a daunting one, it also ensures that an immense amount of resources is funneled into research for further understanding of the disease as well as possible cures. Perhaps the most common animal model used in ALS research is a line of mice expressing the G93A mutant SOD1 protein engineered by the Jackson Laboratory. It was this line of murine models that was used to observe the possibility that the ALS-causing mutation was indeed a toxic gain of function rather than a loss of function (Brujin et al. 2004). However, some studies came under criticism because the murine line had up to 20 copies of the mutant G93A SOD1 gene. A stable transgenic model was developed shortly after.