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

The This or That Challenge

Often times in college we feel like we’re being pulled in two or more different directions. We came to college for one thing but once we’re here there’s something else we want to do. And many times college is the growing years, to figure out what choices will we make and what that means for us down the road. It’s as real as trying to figure out the things we won’t remember to the things we know we’re supposed to do. It’s as simple as this, or that.

Going to the library on a friday to work on things or Going home and taking a nap

A Memo’s study break run at 2AM or A catnap turning into normal sleeping

Thai food or Vietnamese food (pho)

6th Ave or Proctor

Sleep in on Saturday morning or get sweet breakfast at the sub (Waffles!)

Sub food or cafe drinks & muffins all day

Oppenheimer or Diversion or Lillis

Cellar or Domino’s delivery

Trappers ALL YOU CAN EAT sushi or Gateway to India ALL YOU CAN EAT Indian

Netflix or Youtube

studying in a cafe surrounded by people or studying in a classroom by yourself

Polar Plunge or snuggling in bed

vest & scarf or patagonia & scarf

(notice a pattern of food this or that, that’s totally a critical part of being a college student!)

Life Without a Meal Plan

Without a meal plan, I have the freedom to eat anything that I wanted, whenever I wanted. I don’t have to limit myself to the options served at the Sub. If I wanted breakfast for dinner, I could have it. If I wanted tacos, I didn’t have to wait for Tuesday. However, as much as I love the freedom of being able to cook and eat whatever food I wanted. I missed the convenience of the Sub. I could go in, get my food, eat it, and get going. I didn’t have to spend 1-2 hours of my time just to prepare and cook. So when the weekend comes, after cooking meals from Monday to Friday, I get lazy and I hit up my friends to go out and eat. And as finals are approaching, I don’t have the luxury to spend hours cooking, so you’ll most likely find me at one of my top 5 restaurants (plus, this gives me an excuse to take a break from study, aka procrastinating).

  • Cho Dangs’ Tofu Restaurant



This is my absolute favorite restaurant to eat at. Although this place is most popular for its Korean tofu soup, they also offer Korean BBQ dishes, bibimbap, and noodles. Every time I go here, I order the same thing: dumpling tofu soup, mild/spicy, with an egg cracked in. The perfect meal.

  • Tacoma Szechuan


Located directly next to Cho Dang’s, this place offers an array of Chinese Szechuan food. You can order dishes and share it family style between friends and family. Or you can order hot pot, which is a must for everyone, at least once. However, I will warn you because this is Szechuan food; most of the food will be coated in peppers or chili oil.

  • Bento Teriyaki & Sushi


It may be called “Sketchy Bento” by some people on campus, and maybe me as well. But there is nothing sketchy about the food the serve at this place. The food is delicious, it’s cheap, and it’s close (a quick walk/drive down Alder St.).

  • Pho King or Pho 38th


There are a few other pho places around Tacoma, but nothing beats these two places. Pho King has the better broth out of the two, but if you want a quick bite late at night, Pho 38 is your place (it doesn’t close until 10 pm or 12am on Saturdays).

  • Gangnam K-BBQ


For Korean BBQ, this is my go to place. Here you can either order by the plate, or get the all you can eat deal. You can chat with your friends, all while cooking meat over the built-in grill.


Bonus! Dessert for after your meal

  • Ice Cream Social


This is hands down the best place ice cream place. In addition to the classic flavours (strawberry, chocolate, etc.), they offer special daily flavours; previous ones have included merlot, maple pecan, and watermelon. If you can’t decide between two flavours, but don’t want to get two scoops, you can get half scoops! And almost everyone get their ice cream served on their homemade waffle cones.

Finger Licking Good

In which Daniel ruminates upon his nibbley nabbley thoughts.

To my dear reader,

If you have been keeping up with my blog posts across the past year and a half, you may notice how frequently food is a subject of my writing. They do say that the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, after all. But food holds a place of special meaning in almost everything I do – I write about food, I compose with food in mind, I compare people to food, and there are few moments in life when I am not eating.   am not a heavy eater, mind you, but a grazer.  I am always nibbling on a little smackrel of something.

My fixation with food has much to do with my eleventh grade creative writing teacher, the delightful Tarn Wilson. Ever wise and magnanimous in her teaching, Ms. Wilson proposed to me that all humans have two general, basic urges: to love and to eat. Needless to say, there is plentiful literature and art explicitly discussing the first, yet little explicitly dealing with the second.

Yet food is a powerful world-building tool, and because the part of the brain in charge of memory and the part in charge of smell are so near one another, even indirect stimulation of the “smell” part – such as reading descriptions of simmering stew or the bitterness of espresso – can conjure powerful mental pictures. Food therefore became a logically powerful tool in my writing, as it can so easily connect to an audience. Yet it is this year especially in which my fixation with food transformed into something a bit more succulent.

Firstly, I decided at the end of the 2014 spring semester to compose a piece for the 2014 fall semester’s musical theater cabaret, which was to be Halloween themed. Intent on expanding my compositional palate, I wrote scraps of dissonant violin lines and food themed lyrics that I wove together into a piece entitled “Good Enough to Eat: An Opera in Miniature”, which can be found on my SoundCloud here:

The self-contained nine minute musical adventure tells the tale of a little girl named Isabella, who lives with her wicked stepfather by the woods. One day, while wandering through the woods, she stumbles upon her fairy godmother, who promises her a world of magic.  Upon discovering the wickedness of Isabella’s stepfather, however, the vengeful godmother hunts down the stepfather and gobbles her up, and that is why the opera is called “Good Enough to Eat”.

But although the cabaret occurred in October, my urge to write about monstrous mothers and delectable daughters was not satiated. For my Magic Realism class, my final writing project became one a story entitled “Pepita’s Daughter”. The short tale speaks of Moschata Russel, a young girl with skin as vividly orange as a pumpkin.  Impressionable as children are prone to be, Moschata begins to idolize her new babysitter and takes her mother’s advice that “you are what you eat” a shade too far. Take a nibble of the first page:

When Moschata Russet stepped into the Halls of Full Harvest Elementary School, whispers followed like a wind in her wake.

“My mommy said that she ate too many carrots.”

“That’s stupid, that would give you big eyes and hers are normal.  My daddy says that her papa must have been a squash or something like that.”

“My mama says she doesn’t have a Papa. Her mama grew her from a seed she found in her pocket one day, and that girl just came from the sprout. Cross my heart, hope to die.”

No student seemed willing to speak to her over the matter directly. Once, however, a small boy in the grade below came to her as she sat alone eating her lunch, asking “Why do you look the way you do?” To this she replied, “For the same reason you look the way you do.”

The boy pondered this for a moment. He nodded and skipped away, back to his friends standing near the playground watching. They hurried away with him, throwing nervous glances back as they walked.  Moschata returned to her lunch of wheat bread and toasted slivers of squash.

After that, no children dared ask her why her skin was so perfectly orange, so cramoisy cardinal, so flavescently flammeous. Pumpkin skin on a plump little body; cheeks blushed with decay.

Why cannibalism, then?  I suppose that it goes back to what Ms. Tarn Wilson taught me: love and food. Food brings people together. It allows cultural boundaries to be crossed, and creates common ground between people that might not otherwise have any. Food builds bridges and sparks imaginations and recalls stories long lost. So, oddly enough, does love. I love my dog to no end, and every time I see her, I tell her “I could just eat you up”.  Why not, therefore, bring them together?

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

It’s THAT Time of Year Again

No not the holiday season, not those all-nighters and all-dayers in the library but…..

the mass consumption and buying of food with all our dining dollars before the semester is over!

For some reason although we have the option to chose how big or small we want our meal plan and adjust our dining dollars spending there are still hoards of people with so much money at the end of the semester they buy drinks in bulk, buy everyone in Diversions a muffin or 10 pizzas in one night! Now I need to admit, I too have a bunch of extra dining dollars at the end of the semester, but I’m on the lightest meal plan and I still reasonably did not use up all my dining dollars. I ate my three meals a day, 7 days a week but I did consistently use my Cellar staff points to buy food as well (hey I worked for it, why not!) To get rid of some of them I asked some family to come in and eat on me, and I’ve bought meals for some of my male teammates. Let me to you, no matter what male athletes usually on the mega meal-plan have already refilled their dining dollars multiple times AND they never have enough dining dollars at the end of the semester!

However a little known tidbit is that all students can carry over 25 DINING DOLLARS to the next semester from the fall! That’s great! Except most people have way more than that so they need to buy a bunch of items anyway. It makes working at the Cellar during this time of year a little crazy. Yesterday was the first day of reading period and as a student-run operation we were only open 6-midnight to give us workers study time too! But when we opened at 6, the floodgates opened! There was always for the entire time until the end of my shift at 8:30 at LEAST five people in line, and the phone was ringing off the hook so often! I was in the back with my friend Mel and we just made pizza all the way through that shift, no breaks, refilling topics, grabbing more dough, don’t stop can’t stop!

Lu’au 2014

One of the best parts of going away to college when you’re from Hawaii is the Lu’au. For one thing, lu’aus are a big deal yeah, but they involve a LOT of work and planning and people that traditional lu’aus aren’t an everyday or even monthly thing. Graduation parties, weddings, and other big celebrations may merit a lu’au or if we decided to go on a staycation and visit the Polynesian Cultural Center’s (tourist must!) traditional lu’au activities- Makahiki games, traditional Hawaiian games to celebrate the New Year, and performances of hula, haka, fire-dancing, poi balls and a delicious Hawaiian buffet! Lu’au is a great way to remember and share the culture of Hawaii, the food, the people, and the music!

Luau poster

Our lu’au’s theme this year was Ka’ Aina, Ka Makani, Ke Ahi, and Ka Wai which means earth, wind, fire and water, the four elements of life! For the performance many students from Hawaii and all over the country learned to dance kahiko, tahitian, maori, women’s slow and couples dances to name a few. Besides student dancers, the luau committee chairs publicized the event to the community recruiting children & faculty to perform their own hula as well. A live band, lighting & sound company and Dining Services were also selected to help create an authentic Hawaiian experience! Hawaiian recipes and fresh pineapple were brought in to present a feast for all to enjoy before the performances. A group of guys actually Luau would not have been possible with all the help and community spirit of Puget Sound to put on another successful luau!


The imu group of guys, the dug a deep hole put in the hot coals, banana leaves & whole pig to cook for over 24 hours!

With each dance practice, rehearsal, decoration making and food prep, I was reminded of how amazing Hawaii is. The Hawaiian band would perform local favorites such as Hawaiian Superman and share that aloha spirit slipping into pidgin english, ho brah! \m/ Despite many people from Hawaii coming from rival schools we all are from Hawaii and have bonded over that love for home and sharing that with our new friends here. It was an amazing night, all the company, delicious food  and many more happy memories of this semester! I can’t wait to start thinking about next year’s luau!



The kahiko lovely dancers (I did this one)!

You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home

If you asked me what I missed about home I would be able to give you a really long list (see bottom of post), and if I talked about home for a long time I think I may cry. It’s been nearly four months I’ve been away and with only two weeks left to go, it’s rough. I’ve reached the point where most people are pretty comfortable around each other, and I can see who’s a true friend and who isn’t, some characteristics that may have been hidden in the “make nice, make friends” stage of first semester. I’m happy to say I’ve made some really great friends and will definitely miss them over the winter break but also have met people with different interests than me. But no one can quite compare to the friends I’ve performed many concerts with, attended muddy service projects at ungodly hours in the morning, overnighters of fun planning for our next conference or performance. Yet I miss home now that I’m away and I’m sure I will miss my friends here when I go home.

I wish I could just combine both of my worlds, my home and family in Hawaii with my home and friends here at Puget Sound. But that could not be, besides the point these locations are 2,657 miles away from each other. And when I’m in one place I’ll be thinking of the other, I’m so glad Puget Sound has become like home, comfortable, fun and full of so many memories from this first semester and I can’t wait for the spring to jump right into crew season of early mornings and regattas, new classes, Luau preparation and many more wonderful things! But right now, exactly two weeks away from feeling the warm Hawaiian sun and cool trade winds on my skin in a shirt & shorts, I am desperately dreaming and waiting to be home again.

Here’s a list of 5 Things I Miss About Hawaii, people and places that I can’t wait to see, spend as much time with and wish I could do.

1. I miss hanging out at school with my friends, doing nothing but silly crafts and games in the SA Room, playing music or cards in the Band Room, competitions of Jenga, Connect 4, Chess and some homework in Mrs. Nak’s Room with cheeseballs and pretzels. The lazy afternoons of fun before rehearsal, a meeting or just because. I miss my music geeks, SA girls and OBH sillies with their jokes, dancing, puns and inside jokes.

2. Going to the library and renting enough books that I need a reusable bag to carry and the help of my sister, to sit in the air conditioning and browse the numerous books I’ve already read, but to read them again just because. And when I check out have the librarians recognize me as they always did.

3. Doing nothing in my house, absolutely nothing in my room, watch my brother hog the TV for SportsCenter, prove I’m reading my books than my sister and mom, and tell my dad to be quiet because he’s snoring to loud.

4. THE ASIAN & LOCAL FOOD, to get jasmine tea and dim sum early in the morning at Empress, eat a full plate Rainbow’s after a long day in the water at Waikiki, eat honey toast at Shokudo, eat spicy ahi don at Kuru-Kuru, get a plate at Panda Express, eat lots of meat jun from Young’s Kal-Bee, veal provenciale from Palazzo, a whole enchilada from El Charro and so much more food places

5. I miss going to my brother’s numerous baseball games, at CORP, Han’s, MoHS, Aiea Rec, Pride Field, on the Windward side or anywhere. To be tanning (which I will be doing a lot of in Hawaii) and reading a book, and maybe paying some attention to the game. To be eating the delicious potluck but most of all being goofy and catching up with all the coaches, aunties, uncles, grandmas and the entire baseball family.

In two weeks I’ll be able to do everything on my list.

“You can learn to fly and you can chase your dreams
You can laugh and cry but everybody knows
You’ll always find your way back home”

Fun fact: over 90% of the food consumed in the TCI is imported.

Wednesday mornings have the best scenery of any day of the week.  When I look out from the Center, I see a stretch of sparkling turquoise water, hopefully flat so it doesn’t limit our water activities for the day, the limestone-and-scraggly-vegetation hill of Long Cay, maybe a flamingo flying around or a local fishing boat getting some air off of wave crests on its way out for the day’s work – and a ship.  Well, possibly multiple ships.  But what makes this one particular ship exciting is that it carries all of our food for the next two weeks.


The availability of food isn’t something that you really think about in the Unites States.  I know there comes a point in every semester when all you want is a home-cooked meal, but still, the SUB exists so at least the food is there and you have the opportunity to eat it.  This isn’t to say that we go hungry here on South Caicos at the CMRS – just that fresh food is less readily available than some places in the world (although certainly more readily available than others).  Depending on a floating piece of metal with some boxes on it showing up every so often in your backyard is rather different than popping over to Safeway because you need your own personal jar of peanut butter.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike slammed into the Turks and Caicos Islands, severely damaging or destroying a third of the buildings on South Caicos and temporarily preventing the food ship delivery.  Now, five years later, a lot of the buildings still haven’t been fixed – at East Bay, a favorite beach bonfire site near the Center, the remnants of a hotel development are scattered around the sand and pine trees.  On any given visit, if it weren’t for the number of pine needles on top of the piles of lumber and insulating materials, the hurricane could have happened last week and we could be out surveying the damage for the first time on empty stomachs.

Basically, the ability to walk to the Met and take as many free cheese samples as your conscience will allow (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything) is a luxury.  Which sounds a bit cliché.  You don’t realize how different things are in other places until they are suddenly made relevant to you – like eating rice and cabbage for the fifth time in as many days while watching rusty shipping containers come trundling towards you over the algal plains and patch reefs of the Caicos Bank.