The running of the lectures stampedes to a triumphant end

My big day has come and now gone – I happily gave my first oral presentation at BPS.  I arrived about 20 minutes before the start and the friendly and competent technician took my computer and resolved a slight issue with recognition of the projector.  I hadn’t seen the chairmen previously in the conference nor been in contact since the last BPS I attended in 2010, so it was nice to say ‘hello.’  I greeted the other speakers and took my seat, attentive as ever with a few more anxious butterflies in my stomach than I anticipated.  As I jotted down notes, I continually glanced over the big bullet points I had already read a hundred times over the past few days.  Finally it was my turn, I was ready.  I knew I could trust my computer since I had run through the presentation half a dozen times the night before.  As I began the intro, bam, the screen freezes, no animation, no movie that I programmed.  Awesome.  I manage to fight off the cloud of panic that momentarily tries to block my mind.  It turns out to be a minor flaw, a quick escape and shift-F5 and I’m up and running with no further glitch.  I’m happy with how the presentation went and had a nice question from the audience.  Then it was over, the first one lined up and knocked down.

Now, there’s no more need to munch down a pretzel-dog before a 3 hour poster presentation.  No more running from room 29 to 20D, across the entire quarter-mile convention center, in the Olympic-time 4 minutes calculated between the start of the questions section and the end of the following.  No more free goodies from vendors, who themselves are busy picking out bright-eyed grad students from well-funded labs.  No more coffee until … the next Starbucks, probably the one conveniently at the airport entrance and next to the security point and again next to the departure gate.  But it will all return again in 11 short months, when we will all again be putting together our presentations and posters that are promising, but not quite what we had hoped when we put together the abstract in October.

See you in Philly!


Dining, chocolates, and interesting things on Fifth Ave.

Saturday Feb 25th started off with some fruit for breakfast at a 7 eleven then bike rentals from Bike Revolution on 6th and Market Ave ($35/night). We rode to the convention center and around the bay then parked at the center. Got my badge which was a streamlined process by scanning the barcode from the email on my phone. However, got bounced back and forth between two lines a couple times in order to buy a guest pass for my wife for the Monday night reception. Overall, it was quick and efficient.

I headed up to Nanoscale Biophysics subgroup and heard talks from Yang Liu and W. E. Moerner. Yang Liu talk was fascinating discussing the advantages of light scattering on target structure resolution. W. E. Moerner talk was also nicely given and how they are able to to use the ABEL trap to confine nanoscale particles/proteins labeled with fluorescent probes. Even though there trap was for very short time scales they were able to look at discrete photobleaching/dissassociation events.

In between these talks I visited the Biological Fluorescence subgroup and heard talks from Christoph Braeuchle and Paul W. Wiseman. Christoph Braeuchle discussed novel smart nano particles for drug delivery. Encapsulation of these nanoparticles in a membrane was essential for delivery and release time of the drug. Paul Wiseman delivered a great talk on advances in FCS for cell imaging by using a k space algorithm for showing discrete elongation and movement along actin filaments as an example.

Afterwards my wife and I headed down Fifth Ave. in order to find something good to eat. I quickly pulled out my phone and browsed to the local recommendations post. First on list cafe Sevilla. We dined outside because the place was packed. It was a chilly evening but they had outside heaters. We ordered a tapas sampler and shrimp brochette, which was grilled shrimp on a skewer. The food was on the high end $$ but very delicious. We trekked up further to Ghiradelli shop and grabbed a Lombard hot chocolate and some ice cream. The hot chocolate was interesting. You received steamed milk with four Ghiradelli truffle chocolates to break up and mix into the steamed milk. Very good! On the patio enjoying our treats we saw Robot man performing and also dog driving a remote control car. Intense. We then saw a man playing a guitar with his feet!

Overall Fifth Ave. is the place to be!

Fifth Ave highlights

SOBLA Meeting

If anyone reading this wants to comment for correction or add any information please feel free to do so.

I am in the Sociedad de Biofisicos Latinamericanos meeting and have to brush up on my spanish! So here goes. The meeting begin with Dr. Miguel Holmgren of Johns Hopkins give a brief intro to the agenda of the meeting including what parts of the meeting would be spoken in Spanish and those in English. Also, discussing meeting sites for the Congreso Iberamericano de Biofisica in Chile 2013. Then Dr. Ramon Latorre open up with a warm introduction describing how SOBLA and how the meeting was dear to his heart. His talk was titled Large Ca activate Potassium (BK) Channel. This is a, and very versatile channel. It is voltage gated, highconductance, kv 6 TM homology, and Ca2+ regulated. Also, there is extra transmembrane in alpha subunit, S0. As well as beta accessories subunits, 2 TM, and extracellular loop. B1 and B2 subunits increase BK channel Ca2+ sensitivity and slow down activation and deactivation kinetics but each to a different extent. B1 acts on s0-s5 and RCK domain and B2 acts on RCK domain. Ca2+ presence affected voltage before and after channel opening. alpha + b1 mutations shifted the voltage negatively. Next was determining BK channel phenotype. He also described charaterization of BK gating currentsin the presence of the different B Subunits. He found that exchanging beta subunit loops does not alter Bk channel phenotype. However, intermediate behaviors are obtained by exchanging beta subunit cytoplasmic domains.

Next was discussing Luminescence resonance energy transfer (LRET) work on the polypeptide Lanthanide Binding tag (Donor) and Charybdotoxin R19C tetramethylsulfarhodamine (Acceptor). Interestingly enough this nuerotoxin comes from scorpion venom and blocks Ca2+ activated K channels which causes hyperexcitability of the nervous system. He then began discussing distance calculations of this Donor/Acceptor complex using a pentahedron configuration. I missed the conclusion (too much coffee during the day). When I came back there was discussion of determining movement of other subunits in parallel. It was mentioned that the time resolution of the experiment was 2ms and anything vibrating less than that was an average.

Overall the meeting was very energetic. There was passionate discussion of SOBLA business agenda. I look forward to joining SOBLA.

Afterwards, my wife and I headed down fifth in search of food! By then it was already 1030pm…we were starving. We had seen Burgerlounge before and decide to try it out. I ordered a salmon burger and Veronica ordered a veggie burger, that were both very good. The salmon burger came with a fried green tomato slice and a house BBQ sauce! mmmmmmmm. Burgerlounge is a definite must!!!

I am up catching up I my delayed blogs. I will be up early in eager anticipation of my poster arriving at the convention center from 858 graphics. I believe this will be the only and last time that I tweak a poster during a meeting. It was too distracting and cumbersome.

I will be at the sessions tomorrow in order to absorb as much as I can before I leave in the afternoon. I wish you all a safe return home. It was a joy to read your blogs and I hope to read them all and comment during my flight home.

Eric J.

Leave an email, win a working experiment

Thanks to all of the students and faculty that presented in the poster session over the last few days, your efforts were much appreciated. Just thought I would mention a great idea to all. Several presenters took down my contact information after talking with them, and then sent me an email afterwards following up. What a great way to keep track of who was interested in the research, and later on send them an email when things don’t work!

Tiny World

Today was one of the better days of the conference for me, which could be due in part to the fact that I only attended a few platforms or symposia. Instead, I took up the opportunity to go to the sessions – you know, those activities that have large descriptions after them in the program. Upon scanning them, I saw the word “undergraduate” and immediately knew that I would have to attend this, since it’s rare that there’s something so specifically aimed at helping baby scientists at a conference full of dinosaurs seasoned scientists.

I sat down at a table that had an overwhelming amount students from BYU (one of them was drinking a Diet Coke, I noticed) and began to make small talk. Small talk led to casual conversation which led way to jokes, and then it was announced that the food was ready. The typical cattle-call scene occurred, and everyone returned to their seats with a plate full of calzones and pizza… strange for a lunch that was advertised as “Breakfast at Noon.” Nonetheless, I was very happy we weren’t eating pancakes.

A man that was obviously older than we yungun’s at the table sat down next to me. As we were introducing where we were from, he scoffed when it came to my turn. The reason was soon made apparent: he graduated from KU, and I am a K-State student. For the majority of you who know nothing about college rivalries, hardly given state-by-state rivalries, the KU-KState rivalry is rather strong. Neither of us were too ardent in our bashing of one another’s schools though, so I decided to figure out if he was from Kansas. Turns out that the stars aligned, or misaligned, again, as he attended Shawnee Mission South, my high school’s rival in Kansas City. After trading the obligatory remarks, we continued on to science.

ONCE AGAIN, a connection between the two of us emerged.  I began to feel bad that everyone else at the table had to hear connection after connection, but, that feeling quickly subsided. He turned out to be a cystic fibrosis researcher, something which I had done a bit of time teaching about and researching about at a small lab in Maine called the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.

Turns out, he had been courted by that lab for a summer position, and moreover,  knew all of my favorite researchers from that lab as well! Not only did he know them, but he was so close as that he nearly post-doc’ed in one of their labs. It was incredible, and we stayed long after the session talking about his research, his career path, my [projected] career path, and the people that we had in common in our lives.

Just another one of those crazy times in life where a million different things had to go just perfectly right for you to make a connection, but against all odds, 100% of those million different things happened to go just right. May we all be so lucky, and may we all continue to make great connections such as these.

Let the movies play!

As a microscopist, I’m probably overly biased.  But I think I’m justified in saying that if you are working with fluorescent proteins, you should be obliged to show awesome pictures of how you use these wonderful little light bulbs.  I attended two minisymposium talks on fluorescent proteins that emit light in conjunction with the onset of action potential-driven membrane depolarization.   I was pretty psyched, action potentials are pretty cool in how they work anyways, being the little information highways of our and all animal bodies.  Now they say that there are labels to directly see this stuff – oh yeah, I gotta see this!

So I found a stretch of open seats in the ample 20BC room, whipped out a note pad and anxiously awaited ebbing and flowing fluorescent images to dazzle my retinas.  I won’t put names on it, but sadly I my retinas got all dressed up and had nowhere to go.  In the 30-40 minutes of presentation time there was 1 movie, just one little movie, that was only about 10 seconds long.  Man, what?!  Come on!  As stated in the movie Swingers: “you’re so money and you don’t even know it!”

Granted the studies were about how the proteins work, but at heart we are all still little kids and if you can see a movie that tells the story, that’s way easier to understand and far more enjoyable.  I find that a neat image will stick in my mind far longer than a graph accompanied by all the words that go along to explain it, but that’s a microscopist point of view.  And given the massive number of optics company exhibits, I think there’s quite a few of us.  So if you’re in doubt next time, go ahead and let the colors dance!

I Left My Umbrella in Canada

Highlights from last night’s Molecular Dynamics platform included Plamen Dobrev’s talk about dynamic protonation of residues in simulation. The cooler way of describing it would be to call it a simulation of phantom hydrogens brought through the fourth dimension. This was followed by my favorite talk of the session by the newly minted Dr. Sarah Rauscher from my lab. She gently (using milliseconds of molecular dynamics sampling) shut the door on about 50 years of proposed models to describe the function of elastin, including the model proposed by Christopher Dobson. Later that night after a fruitful poster session, Lewis Kay and Haw Yang dropped some serious experimental biophysics knowledge on my feeble theorist mind. Both delivered excellent presentations on NMR and FRET respectively but I had to leave that workshop half-way through to fill my belly.

Today, I got wrapped up with Timothy Fenn’s talk on Bayesian modelling of crystal structures. He described a forcefield based approach to quantifying the error in crystal structures due to crystal packing or simply flexibility. This morning’s hot sessions were a bit too sparsely scattered for me so I headed to Chicano Park to take some photographs of the murals, only to be violently rained on.

Again, tons of stylish scientists out in full force today. Thanks to Ibrahim Cisse (Ecole Normale Superieure/CNRS), Jonathan Mitchell (EPFL), Michela Ottolia (UCLA) and the extremely fashionable Thao Nguyen (UCLA), Magnus Andersson (UC Irvine) as well as the frequently-blogged-about Fred Shipley (Amherst College). I apologize for not snapping many pictures of fashionable ladies thus far, but hopefully tomorrow!