That’s Research “Specialist” to you

September 5, 2006 at 4:57 pm (Sam's Posts)

In the spirit of Mr. Soule’s fine precedent-setting entry, I would like to relate my current expriences and feelings. I, too, feel the jolt of adulthood with my first steps in my own apartment and in my own laboratory. It’s not a feeling of remorse, but merely a wonder at the steps I’m taking.

I have been in Philadelphia for 4 days now and am in my first full week of work at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP, I suppose, though that’s not as cool as County or the Brigham or whatever have you). My Hospital ID says Research Specialist, though, truth be told, it was up to me what went on it. I could have put Nanotechnologist, or Guy Who Reads Research Articles from Nine to Five, on the card.

For now, that is precisely what I am doing – reading lots of articles, and some textbooks, in order to get up to speed on my boss’ research focus, which is, in short, nanotechnology as it pertains to medical diagnostics. Predictably, I cannot give a very impressive explanation of this subject right now, but as the weeks go by I will become more of an expert. My boss, Dr. Larry Kricka, does a lot of work trying to optimize diagnostic tools for the various facets of genetic analysis. I suppose the basic idea here is that since our bodies’ building blocks are mere nanometers, or less, in size, if we can control things on that level then maybe we can better isolate what we are working with and figure out the problem, in whatever situation we are dealing with. So one approach I am reading about involves a “nanogate” (that’s my own word, FYI) that identifies one nucleic acid at a time through measuring its charge as it crosses the gate’s threshold. Of course, I don’t know exactly why this is an improvement over other DNA sequencing techniques, but maybe at the end of the article it will become clear.

I have hopes that at some point I will discover a tangible connection to public, global health buried within this research. But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Kricka because he is a big traveler and routinely collaborates internationally, and more importantly, his self-acknowledged expertise lies in the transfer of research work to the market, as a product to be used publicly. My gut feeling is that there’s a lot of good technology out there and not enough of it is getting to everyone who could benefit from it, so perhaps my boss can teach me a little something about that.

With my newfound weekend and weeknight freedom, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am going to move towards global health. I’ll save that for another day.



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