Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I’d like to peel the skin off my body, please

I wish I were my cat. Sometimes, like now, I think I’d give up all of what life has to offer a human being, if I could be a pet cat. They must be the luckiest creatures alive. All that life demands from them is to live. Nothing is what they’re called upon to do. Nothing. My cat eats, sleeps, wakes up, rolls over and goes back to sleep, licks herself a zillion times every day, poops occasionally, sits on the parapet wall , watched the world go by …

Why aren’t I a cat?

I’m in the middle of an experiment called Enzyme Concentration and Assay. For those whom biology didn’t beckon into her bewitching arms, Enzymes are biological catalysts. They facilitate every biochemical reaction in the living body – respiration, digestion, energy production , everything. To Assay an enzyme is to quantitatively measure, outside the human body,experimentally, it’s activity with the help of certain established parameters.

I’m Assaying Alpha Amylase,also called Salivary Amylase, the enzyme in our Saliva, that begins the process of breeaking down our food as soon as we start chewing.
We’re subjecting it to 2 stages of concentration, after each of which, the enzyme’s activity must obviously increase, since each step gets rid of ‘trash’ (contaminating carbohydrates and proteins, in our saliva), and concentrates the quantity of actual enzyme. Hence, activity must increase. This having been said, there is also allowance given for some degree of human error.

In my 6-year spanning intensive-ish biological study period, there have been friends, research guides, seniors, and teachers who’ve attempted to impress upon me innumerable number of times the irrevocable fact of nature that biological research requires a level of patience, fortitude, and unshakeable faith that would make the Virgin Mary herself, envious. And I’ve always borne such advice with patient amusement. Foolish optimism? Confidence? A very thin line.
It’s not that I haven’t had my taste of the frustration that is inherently every biologist’s undeniable ‘lot’, our cup of suffering, but sometimes, a taste of experience is perhaps just not enough, I suppose.

“ Young lady”, a wise gentleman said to me once, “biological research is like opening a box of matchsticks, flinging them high up in the air, picking them up,and arranging them one by one back into the box. And then doing this again. And again. And again.”

But, Nothing. Nothing had prepared me for this. For the past two weeks, I’ve been repeating, re-repeating, and re-re-repeating an experiment, that takes two days to do. With no satisfactory results. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to be re-re-re-repeating it tomorrow.

Two weeks.

Every time I repeat it, I think I’ve plugged some leak or the other. Ah but then, I forget – enzymes are perhaps among the most finicky and cranky biological molecules. Unless treated with utmost mollycoddling and pampering, they will (and I should know) make life hell.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the State Electricity Board that decides to cut power supply for 3 hours bang in the middle of every working day, to make up revenue some government or the other lost while giving free power to farmers. What this effectively means really, quite simply is Paralysis.
Centrifugation, refrigeration, optical density measurement, sterilisation (all essential steps in assaying biomolecules), nothing’s possible for those three hours. Not even a weighing balance can be used.

I confess that out of utter frustration, the thought of manipulating my results has entered my mind, but I feel like filth the moments I finish the thought. I’ve also thought of changing my enzyme and working with another one, but that makes me feel like a wimp.
If Science is true, infallible and conclusive, all of which I believe it is, then I must be able to reproduce empirically, what I conclude theoritically. I just must.

Sometimes, I get so furious thinking about all this that it just quadruples my determination to get it right the next time.Without knowing exactly whom my fury is aimed at. Tweak every nut that isn’t tight enough and not let even the tiniest indescrepancy go unnoticed.

Thank God for brand new days. For along with them comes hope, optimism, and enthusiasm, wiping away all memory of the failure that just hours ago, threatened to mince you and feed you to its pet hound.

Couldn’t be all that bad, I suppose, if I've come this far without trying to kill myself. And although it’s a bit difficult admitting it at this point, I know I’m still very much in love with the subject .

Thanks all for listening .I will keep you posted on the state of things.


jac said...

hey! nayani!!
I am still listening.

I like that bit
"To tweak every nut that isn’t tight enough, plan a rigid schedule, and discipline the mind to let not even the tiniest indescrepancy go unnoticed."
Cute that was.

Love is also produced with the biological action of enzymes.

Well ! I don't have to tell you that, I am sure.

Accidental Fame Junkie said...

You love the subject. That's what matters. Don't lose heart or your patience!

kannan udayarajan said...

Well thats motivation....
and you seem to be real passionate about what you are doing...thats what really counts...and you got loads of that...

just go ahead and blast that enzyme..!


Prakriti said...

I am glad you are not so angry about the system. This so reminds me of those ideological discussions I used to have with dad over the phone while in engineering. But why dad, why does the syllabus have to be like this? Why is that people as dumb as this can clear exams that should build the country? Why dad? I had issues with the bare dumbness of the ways things just had to be, just because that is the way things have to be.
And then I would know people, who would pass their medical examinations while totally drunk.

I never could find out if it was jealousy on my part.

I actually did think one big chunk was that as well. The thought much like Premchand's Idgaah. Why when i am the supposed "Good Boy", they should be the one who should be having all the fun and getting away with it.