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  • helen 20:03 on August 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Hi, H here, the newest addition to the lab. I’ve got to say, I am overwhelmed by the receptiveness and kindness I have received from the uni research staff (one researcher in particular whose name starts with F) who have welcomed me with open arms and made me feel completely at ease. The fact that I can send an email to someone and find myself trusted to dissect an embryo in their lab just three months later reminds me what a great education system I am in.

    Although there are many things I could discuss here, I’m going to focus on the thing that has stuck with me most this week and that is the act of dissection. Taking apart a tiny little life system that is a chicken embryo is an incredibly visceral experience. What makes it so interesting is that on one hand you are dealing with concepts of (what was) life in its most precious and potential form but on the other hand these all manifest in the reality that is tissue that can be torn and destroyed by the smallest of movements.

    I remember first seeing the mid brain (a big bubble of tissue on top of the embryo’s ‘head’) and thinking how wonderful it was that it was lined with a large population of baby neurons, but all I really wanted to do was pop it. This was tissue that was going to go on to do great things and all I wanted to do was put my forceps right through it and make it burst like a water balloon (and that’s exactly what we did when we pinned it to the dish with the tiniest little pins I’ve ever seen).

    A similar experience was peeling back what would have gone on to become a spinal muscle like it was pva glue that had dried on my hands, or pressing down on the heart and watching blood float out in a small tear in the ventricle.

    When all the theory and conceptual stuff intersects with the reality of tissues and organs, you get an interesting juxtaposition that can’t help but re-shape how you view concepts of life and growth.

    All I can say is I’m excited to keep learning how to find my way around these embryos!
    Bring on next week ☺

  • kubke 22:05 on August 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: embryology, lab life, research students,   

    H – Week 1 

    This week H started working in the lab. We had to wait until she had finished all of her compliance training and it was exciting to finally see her sitting at the dissecting microscope. We pulled a couple of embryos from my stock and off she went to try to see if she could do the dissection to expose the trigeminal nerve.

    The trigeminal nerve is the one that innervates areas of the face, for example the upper and lower jaw. It is relatively large and so is the ganglion which sits close to where the hindbrain meets the midbrain. One nice thing about the trigeminal is that the ganglion is easy to recognise – it is large and sort of heart shaped, so it is a good one to start with.

    I always like to see what approach comes naturally to students – it lets me see what are the habits that might need correcting, and also I am sometimes surprised with a way of doing things that I had not thought of and might be better in the way. So I sat watching her work, and enjoying her excitement.

    The dissections aren’t easy – and she stepped up to the mark. What is most difficult (and something that is almost impossible to teach) is to be able to “feel” the tension of the tissue through the forceps. At least for me, feeling the properties of the tissues is what tells me when I am applying too much or too little pressure or force, and what prevents me from damaging the structures I want to get to. For now, we are working with relatively large embryos (emphasis on relatively, they are about Hamburger and Hamilton stage 26) because at that age the nerves are better defined and it is important that she gets her head around the organisation of the hindbrain, how to better hold the forceps, how to adapt her hand control to what she is seeing under the microscope, how moving the light tubes provide different images, and so on.
    H was one of my students in 107 where she was taught a few of the things that she was working on today. What I always find amazing is the excitement of students who first dissect an embryo and they see that what I (we) taught her in class is actually a pretty good representation of reality.

    So, lesson learned? It doesn’t matter how many drawings, how many diagrams and movies I show the students it may be just by looking under the microscope that all that can eventually come to life. We were talking about this yesterday at #scichatnz – what *is* authentic learning. Well, I am glad to say, I saw that today. Although I have to also say that I am quite impressed that several years later she can still mentally refer to stuff I taught her in year 1. (Sure, she did go back to the notes before starting in the lab.) But it made me feel I must be doing something right.

  • kubke 22:19 on August 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Going open one research project at a time.

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