Cloning, Harvesting, 117 Grilled Cheese … and Counting

Ryan Apathy photo Grand Park, Mt RainierWeeks before the summer even began, Dr. Bryan Thines, PhD, my research advisor and a professor of biology and genetics at Puget Sound, challenged me to a beard-growing competition. “I like to have friendly games within our labs,” he told me after I received my research grant. “It encourages both competition and camaraderie.” I had already been pranked once by my lab after I misspelled the word “assess” on a poster for a presentation, so I should have assumed that our summer work would be just as mischievous as the previous semester.

I and two other students, Lily O’Connor and Tina Chapman, are working hard to characterize F-box proteins in Arabidopsis thaliana through molecular, genomics and bioinformatic approaches. Through weeks packed with genotyping, gels, culturing, cloning, harvesting seeds, and extracting DNA, we have finally begun to identify knockout lines, develop gene constructs, and locate brand new candidate genes for further study.

Throughout the hard work we’re putting in at the bench, our lab has found additional ways to entertain ourselves. Any given day often alternates between lab meetings discussing research progress, thesis writing sessions, miniature genetics or molecular biology lectures, bench work, and discussing how many grilled cheeses we have each eaten since our research began (I’m in the lead with 39).

Lily, Tina and I are entering our final year at Puget Sound, and we collectively decided to capitalize on our mentor’s time by bombarding him with questions about scientific writing, life after college, applying to and attending graduate school, how to make the best cup of pour-over coffee. As we enter the penultimate week of our ten-week grant program, our lab has collectively grown countless pots of plants, run dozens of gels, eaten 117 grilled cheese sandwiches, and grown two significant beards.

Ryan Apathy’s summer science research at University of Puget Sound is supported by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust’s Science Research Program.null

I Applied for an Internship at Intel and Almost Died

(The title is definitely an exaggeration, but I swear my heart never beated so fast as when I was typing up my resume or when I was sending it in.)

I just may have gotten an ulcer and a heart attack here or there from applying for an internship at Intel. Yeah, you read that right. INTEL. ONE OF THE BIGGEST TECH COMPANIES IN THE WORLD. One of the new professors in the Computer Science Department, David Chiu, had a contact from a former student at Intel. Her software development team was attempting to increase the number of female engineers on their team to a more proper 50/50 ratio.

And, so he showed up to the WACM meeting and invited seniors to apply for the full-time positions and for the rest of us to apply for internships. David is my lab professor, so he knew that this was my first semester dealing with CSCI as I am taking CSCI 161 (the intro class) AND HE STILL WANTED ME TO APPLY FOR AN INTERNSHIP. AT INTEL.

Our conversation went a little like this (paraphrased and taken from memory):

David: You should apply. For the experience. Even if you don’t get it, you’ll have that.

Me: But, I have no experience. Like, none. My resume is nothing.

David: Just do it.

Me: No.

David: Apply.

Me: Okay.

He was incredibly helpful in helping me (sorry for the redundancy) create my resume. It turns out my resume isn’t actually nothing (I did do robotics for four years in high school). So, I corrected the resume worrying over every period while sweating all my fear onto my keyboard. And, then I sent the resume in and had a heart attack.

I haven’t gotten any results. But, that’s okay because I came away from the application experience with a resume and an ulcer.


I May Be Okay With Failing

Over the last week or two the WACM (Women’s Association of Computing Machinery)  has invited some amazing ladies from the tech field to give talks about their experiences as a woman in technology and what they have learned. One was Arry Chu, whom’s career path has been all over the place with her position as a consultant (also has her own startup now) and the other was Christina Chen who is a project manager who has been at Microsoft for twenty-so years.

Both of these women gave talks in different styles. Arry’s was more of a casual “here is my life story and some things I learned”. After her talk, we all went to Wild Orchard (a thai restaurant) for dinner (how cool was it for her to have dinner with us!) and she mentioned her tips for success. Not tips as in “this is what you say to a client” or “how to get a raise” tips. They were more of a philosophy to drive your career in a way that gave you happiness. It was focused on passion and caring for others.

Caring about people is definitely something I want to create in my own team or corporate culture someday. And Christina Chen also noted on this. This concept of putting others first and creating a culture on thoughtfulness. She crafted this concept by selecting the people on her team based on how thoughtful they are. And doing so has increased productivity since thoughtful people try to help other people with their problems and etc. Now, that she is one of the senior executives at Microsoft and at this shift in Microsoft as a company in the products that they begin to produce, she is able to influence the type of culture the company has. She is nudging the mindset from “look at this cool piece of tech” to “look at this piece of tech that will address human needs and help people and make lives better”.  And, I think that’s pretty cool. I hope that wherever I go a culture of caring for others in the world and within the workplace will exist.

I was also relieved when Arry mentioned how difficult it was for her to settle on a major and failing chemistry (because I failed physics last semester (also one of the most freeing things to have ever happened to me)). That sounds terrible, I know. I have been worried about being on the right path ever since I learned that careers, majors, and colleges were a thing. And when she mentioned going from job to job and doing all these things before she found something right. It’s scary when you are in school and you think about your job, you don’t see a lot of job mobility. You focus so much on finding the right path and making the right decisions the first time around. But Arry’s career path shows that you will always end up where you should be. And, that you shouldn’t be afraid of a healthy dose of failing, learning, and risk.

If I had not failed physics, since I still love the darn subject, I would have kept pushing myself through the major and cry all the time. I would be miserable since the curriculum and pushing myself to perform better on the tests was wiping myself out. But, I would not have given up because I am stubborn. And, though I did cry during the final, when I realized I had failed the class I never felt so light. It was like this thing just lifted off my shoulder. Life; it goes on. Failing physics wasn’t the end of the world. And, taking chances with my decisions won’t set me on the “wrong” path either. I get it now.


A Poorly Written Ode to Fall Break Among Other Things


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GeekGirlCon last weekend with the WACM(Womens’s Association for Computing Machinery) was FANTASTIC! One of my favorite panels was examining why villainesses and vixens have disappeared from comics overtime and the role they played during the golden age of comics. One … Continue reading

An Introduction (of sorts)

Hello Internet people!

My name is Kelly and…I am not that good at introductions. But, I thought that it might be a good idea to tell you something about myself for my first post. I am a double major in Sociology and Anthropology (SOAN) and Computer Science. A very specific major that will hopefully allow me to reach my dream of becoming Intel’s Director of Research and Experience. (My other dream is to attend the American Library Association’s Conference.) I am a sophomore. I love pie, the ocean, and fog. I think that’s good for now.

Oh, fog. How can I count the ways I love thee?

Oh, fog. How can I count the ways I love thee?

It is mid-terms week. (Or mid-terms time?) So, like my peers I have been really busy. Most of this ‘busy-ness’ is because I decided to change the topic of my research paper for my one of my SOAN classes. Originally I was going to research how globalization in the technology industry creates economic inequality. But, then I decided to focus on the manufacturing practices of companies in the Silicon Valley and how businesses incorporate corporate social responsibility into their off shore manufacturing. And, now….I might change my topic again. I am an indecisive person.

On the bright side this week has been a lot of fun. I am part of the Nerdfighters club on campus (What is a nerdfighter?). We recently had a scavenger hunt that involved activities like creating a psychological landscape, yodeling, and creating sentences of out of library books. I got to dress up as a beekeeper at one point.

I am also part of the WACM. Which is Women Association for Computer Machinery (the Computer Science club in other words). The WACM is a new addition to the general ACM this year. We have scheduled for women in technology to come and speak on campus! So excite! Much anticipation! And a few of us are going to GeekGirlCon in Seattle tomorrow. I plan on dressing up as a Gryffindor student. Or Clara from Doctor Who. Again. The indecisiveness.

For my SOAN 101 class we watched the film Slumdog Millionaire and then dissected the film through a sociological lens. Slumdog, despite its’ sadness, is one of my favorite movies of all time. It was weird to watch a movie in a room full of people. Weird in a good way. It’s just that I haven’t been in a theater for awhile and Netflix is my pal. Do you ever feel that way? As in “Wow, it’s so nice to do stuff with people”?

Maybe that just speaks to a certain part of the twenty-first century lifestyle.

Major Decisions: Can The Sciences and Humanities Go Together?

As a computer science/English double major, even I didn’t think I’d find a way to unify such an odd couple. In fact, I never expected to study these subjects before I came to Puget Sound. It was Puget Sound and its combination of professors, liberal arts courses, extracurricular opportunities, and classes in subjects that sounded compelling but that I never imagined studying until college that somehow edged me toward the two disparate disciplines. And it’s largely Puget Sound that’s ultimately done the work of bringing together this odd couple for me.

And as my junior year passes by faster than I could ever imagine and the prospects of internship and job searches loom increasingly close, I’m finally starting to see the connections between English and computer science that only a school like Puget Sound could help bring to light in the first place. This October, I was lucky enough to receive an internship as a feature editor at XRDS, the national flagship undergraduate magazine of the Association for Computing Machinery, a linguo-technophile’s dream come true, where I look forward to applying my interests in technology and writing to the publication. You can check out the magazine here:

I’m also in the process of developing a web app for Pearson’s first ever Student Coding Contest. The academic publisher sought out proposals for apps that integrate with their online learning module, and I was fortunate enough to have mine accepted. I won’t spill the details yet, but the app is designed to help bring the writing process online. The app’s due at the end of the month, and the ever-too-brief hours of furiously coding have commenced.

I’m a writing advisor, and I’ve also recently started working with some fellow writing advisors at the Center for Writing, Learning, & Teaching to contribute to a writing center blog and vlog, both of which are coming soon! Watch for them at It’s been another exciting chance to fuse my interests in technology and writing with many others who are equally passionate about writing. I also recently had a paper presented at a conference of writing center pedagogy. Another student from the writing center and I presented on interdisciplinary studies in the writing center, and the experience offered yet another chance to learn about how very different subjects can (and often do) collide and enrich each other. (For an interesting take on the humanities/sciences crossover and the ways the humanities and sciences overlap, see:

So, I must admit that I was skeptical at first about finding ways to pursue both of my interests in computer science and English. Puget Sound is fairly unique, I think, in encouraging students to pursue such unusual combinations. International Political Economy; Science, Technology, and Society are interdisciplinary mainstays, while a new interdisciplinary biophysics program is developing, and I know countless people pursuing and loving a huge variety of double majors. Puget Sound is also unique in offering highly focused programs so that students don’t ever have to sacrifice depth.