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

thnks fr th mmrs

There’s a good number of us that graduated this year that were born in the year 1995 or before. It’s crazy to think we were five, already in kindergarten by 2000; that we grew up on disney channel releasing music videos and tv movies where other young people were just as weird and silly and unrealistic. The ages of the boy bands and girl bands, outfits of prints and denim, large sunglasses, big curly hair and accessories.

The kids of today and people growing up today have so much technology, connection to others and knowledge and care about what’s happening in the world around them and what those around them think it’s crazy to think how “uncool” I was ten or so years ago compared to the kids of today. I think it’s given me a unique appreciation for my upbringing and how amazing college is. So I just wanted to say to UPS thanks for the memories!

** Early 2000’s throwback reference to the title of this post!**

Always a Logger

As I was cleaning out my room this past weekend getting ready to move out I found an earring I had forgotten about. A single earring that I kept despite losing the other during move-out freshmen year. I had bought it at the fall student market from another student, a girl I didn’t know but I loved her jewelry pieces! It was an homemade silver axe design pair of earrings! I wore it all the time freshmen year, loving the school spirit and the swing of the axes (with none of the danger!). I was infinitely sad to discover I had lost one of the earrings and I didn’t have any others that matched or would work mixed with the single axe earring I had!

All these memories came back as I prepared to move out. Especially so in my moves every year, that I clearly didn’t throw away a lone earring when I try to de-clutter as much as possible! A lingering symbol of freshmen year Rachel and my excitement about being a Logger. I wish I could’ve wore the pair of earrings on graduation day but alas it was not meant to be. I’ve grown so much during my time at UPS, freshmen Rachel I no longer am. Yet axes, loggers I will always be, an alumni of UPS with all its shared with me. And probably for the rest of my life explaining to those unknowing no I didn’t go to the United Postal Service, Puget Sound is a completely different place and transformative experience!



5 Months Left

This winter break has been so nice because its bee just that: a break. A break from lectures, homework, friends, my house in Tacoma, poorly made meals (by myself) and everything. But its kinda scary that with only one semester left: aka 5 months. That deadline is coming up so fast that it makes me not look at this break like a break anymore.

Its a time with no distractions to figure out what I’m doing next semester. For some they’ve already figured out they want to attend grad school- they’ve applied and they’ve heard back and are deciding or waiting to hear back, they want to attend a postgrad fellowship program- they’re waiting to hear back. Basically most people on those paths know when they’re making a decision about next year or they already have. Me, I could’ve been on the second path but basically I’m looking for a career and jobs post-undergrad.

The first semester was kinda a weird time because I couldn’t apply to jobs that had immediate openings or that starting in Jan 2017 because I would still be a student, but I still looked at a lot of companies and organizations just to get a feel about what I want to apply to, how and when to do so. Upon thinking about what my major is and what I want to do I realize its just like applying for college again but way more scary. Every company is different, every location is different and at this point they aren’t necessarily catering to graduates but real people and I’m competing with other real people for these jobs. I can’t take a nonchalant approach to applying for jobs as I did for college because I need them more than they need me. So now my break has turned into future planning because getting a job is the first step. Then there’s finding somewhere to live, feeding myself, getting transportation and then actually moving there.


After four years at UPS and countless “homes” mentioned in Ron Thom’s Convocation speeches I think it’s safe to say I’ve found a home at UPS. A home with my friends, with my sorority, with my major/department, with my lab, with multiple communities.

But I can’t forget the first home I came from the one where my parents raised me, where I grew up and where I decided to make Puget Sound my home! I’m lucky enough to still live in the same house I grew up in for 18 years, that I have my parents, siblings and friends still around to celebrate the holiday season with over break. I know not everyone is so lucky and I’m always grateful for how lucky I am to call Hawaii home <3

I remember the feel of my bed and my pillow,

I remember the pressure of my shower spray and absence of shower shoes,

I remember the drive home and to high school,

I remember the neighborhood Korean restaurant and the owner remembers me,

I remember overheating in my high school classrooms

I remember seeing a day fly by without doing anything but chilling in bed

I remember accidentally stepping on my dog’s poop in the yard

I remember anytime I venture outside it’s likely I’ll run into someone I know

I remember those cringe-worthy moments from high school when I see an acquaintance

I remember my favorite channels on the TV

A State of Being

Growing up in Hawaii I didn’t think my 5’4″ stature was out of the ordinary, most people were of similar heights-taller and shorter than me. But coming to UPS and joining the men’s crew team (a sport that traditionally has athletes up to 7feet basically, the taller the better) I realized how short or vastly different my height is compared to many people. I should’ve known when I actually can and do shop in petite sections of stores that I am petite.

Often times I feel like because I’m petite, in height and weight, and female that people often assume certain things about it. They assume I’m going to be accommodating, that I don’t need much space, that I’m probably quieter and smaller person means smaller personality. While some of these traits may be true of some petite people its not true for others, myself included and the size of your body doesn’t mean people can assume certain things about you.

Last night I flew home after completing all my in-person finals (I have a lab report and essay that needs editing calling my name still). I always choose a window seat because I’ll have a view (even if the view is pitch black darkness and the wing) and can sleep against the plane. Being a smaller person I don’t take up all the space in my airplane seat and the person sitting next to me decided he could take up some of my space. He either didn’t see I was uncomfortable or decided he wanted more space and just took it, making me feel uncomfortable and moving away to take up less space. Maybe there was something I should’ve done differently. The conversations I’ve had at UPS made me think about social consent, respecting and learning about peoples boundaries,

Being in college and at UPS changes your perspective if you’re open to learning more than inside the classroom. The most growth happens when we have conversations with others to learn about perspective, loss and supporting others. If there’s one thing UPS has definitely taught me, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Especially with others you don’t know, don’t assume stereotypes about them and think about how

T-town at Night

It’s pretty crazy to me to think my third year at Puget Sound is coming to a close and that I turned 21 last week! I’ve definitely learned and explored more of Tacoma the longer I’ve been here and I know the student hotspots: Silk Thai, Trappers, the Met, and Rosewood Cafe to name a few close by, but I didn’t realize how much more there was to explore until I turned 21!

I think it’s pretty safe to say Tacoma is a 21 & up town, there are so many restaurants with bars, regular bars, wine bars, and beer tasting around to go out too. And everyone knows happy hour is the best! It’s not about drinking alcohol but seeing what dinner and late night options are aailable out there. Many alums will fondly remember Masa but since it’s closed down there are new places to go on 6th such as Marrow, the always classic DOA (Dirty Oscars’ Annex), Red Hot or the rowdy O’Malley’s to name a few. There’s even the boozy shakes at Shake Shake Shake that can be given a try! Or the 50% off EVERYTHING happy hour at the Ram down Ruston Way, good puu’puus (appetizers\snacks) at the Hub or the Rock with their buckets!

With summer upon us, which you couldn’t tell today since it started at low 50’s, the days are getting longer with the sun out later leaving the afternoon and evening wonderful to explore Tacoma and see what’s out there! There’s probably many great places to try out there!

Food Independence

This past Martin Luther King Jr’s Day at the beginning of the semester I volunteered at HUG-Hilltop Urban Gardens Food Soverignty project with my Theta sisters. We got to hear the vision of Dean, who wanted to create a community-based and independent system of creating a space to grow food, tend to the plants and share food ideas with everyone pitching in what they can: recipes, gardening time, land plots in front of their houses, etc.

That was especially meaningful for me as a student worker in our Dining & Conference Services on campus and for the fact I do not have a meal plan and have been shopping, planning and cooking my own meals (mostly!).