Sunday, May 21, 2017

Reflection for Week of May 15-19th -- Genius Hour Update #2

This week I ran my experiment, and, as with most experiments, there were some definite hiccups.  I plated my bacteria on Tuesday and started my experiment, using a blue binder divider over a small, white light to create the desired blue light effect.  I was worried that the light might die overnight, but it turned out this should not have been my primary concern.  When I came into school the next morning, the light was completely fine, but the stock bacteria was not.  There was absolutely nothing growing on any of the stock plates, even on the control plate, so Mrs. Cole helped me make up a new batch of stock bacteria, and I re-plated.  When I checked the next morning, the stock bacteria was growing no problem, perhaps too well.  The bacteria growing under the blue light showed absolutely no signs of growth inhibition, and I was hoping to at least see a little less bacteria on those plates than on the control plates, but both were basically full-on lawns.  With the methylene blue, the story was a little different.  There was definitely not the large-scale growth inhibition I was hoping to see, but both the stock and antibiotic resistant plates with the compound were made up of very defined dots of colonies, rather than the complete coating that happened on the blue light plates. Overall, in response to my question, I would say the methylene blue worked better, although, with the available equipment, neither method is an effective way of combating antibiotic resistance bacteria.
Additionally, all of the colonies except one large one were blue, and so had obviously taken-up the dye.  Mrs. Cole and I thought it would be interesting to see if the bacteria continues to grow blue if it is plated on a normal plate of agar, so I took some of the methylene blue bacteria and plated it on some mini plates to leave in the incubator over the weekend.  I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Reflection for Week of May 8-12th -- Genius Hour Update #1

So, I, per usual, have run through a number of ideas in order to arrive at my final one.  I started out looking at comparing the effectiveness of natural remedies to the effectiveness of modern medicine.  I found a study looking specifically at the effectiveness of green tea and a modern heart medicine at lowering heart rate, and was thinking perhaps I could use something like ginger as well, or maybe compare different teas, but then I stumbled on a new and more interesting idea.  In researching other natural remedies, I found that sage and rosemary both have active ingredients that serve as neuroprotectors and help enhance memory.  I was thinking I could use the mice, expose them to the two different plants, and see if that exposure decreased the time it took for them to get through a maze.  But then I decided that I didn’t want to deal with the increased numbers of variables that using animals brings.  At home, having run through several different ideas, I was feeling a little desperate, and asked my dad at breakfast if he could think of anything.  He mentioned phototherapy having a positive effect on metabolism, so I came into school that morning and looked up phototherapy.  I found a study that detailed how blue light kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria, then stumbled on another than detailed how the compound methylene blue does the same thing.  What it seems no one has done, however, is compare the effectiveness of the two, so that’s what I will be looking at.  

Now that I have my question (which will be more effective), I have begun looking at my procedure and laying it out.  I plan using plates with antibiotic resistant E. coli and stock bacteria.  I will have a control with no substance present (with one plate antibiotic-resistant, one plate stock bacteria), two plates with antibiotics, two plates with methylene blue, and one exposed to blue light. I'm doing pretty well drafting up my procedure, and am hoping to start this week. I guess the only problem with that is that I don't know how long it's going to take...Away, I'm really looking forward to this!   

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reflection for Week of April 24-28th

This week was a mashup of material from Domains 5, 6, and 7, because we finished up all of our AP Bio learning for the test (the learning never really stops!).  We covered neurons very basically, took an introductory look at communities and ecosystems, and did a lab on transpiration.  
Monday we looked over the transpiration lab, answering basic questions about our thoughts on how the number of stomata and the environment of a plant affect the plant’s rate of transpiration.  We also looked at the stomata on leaves by using nail polish to obtain an imprint of sorts of the leaf's surface.  For homework,  we completed a POGIL on neuron structure (Domain 6, specifically 6.6 mostly), which was a bit difficult in places, because I think it is designed as more of a review tool and assumes you know certain things, like the parts of a neuron.  With a little help from the internet, however, I feel good about the material.  
Tuesday was lab day #1.  We set up our lab with our chosen variable (plant type for my group) and made initial observations of the amount of water in the tube.  We came in throughout the day for the next 48 or so hours to check our water levels in order to track each plant’s rate of transpiration.  Homework for Tuesday night was a Mr. Anderson vodcast BBECPO, or the organization of life.  This one was on communities (Domain 7) which wasn’t too difficult to understand, although I felt a little confused on the difference between species composition and species diversity at first.  
Wednesday was lab day #2.  We completed observations and then discussed both the neuron packet and the communities packet.  The homework was another Mr. Anderson BBECPO vodcast, this time on ecosystems.  This one talked about how different populations interact in food chains and how this determines the carrying capacity of each population, as well as how to measure life in a place using primary productivity (Domain 7).  I feel like I understand this well, but perhaps am missing the purpose of primary productivity and why it exists.  I will, of course, ask Mrs. Cole.  

Friday was a wrap up day, with work on the lab and ecosystems occurring.  This mishmash of stuff all relates well to the big picture of biology and our course this year, with it being like looking at the forest rather than the trees (well, neurons were more like the trees, but the Domain 7 stuff is more like the forest).  Neurons allow us to interact with and be aware of our world and our body, which is comprised of all of the molecules we learned about in unit 2, and which is controlled by DNA as learned in Unit 4, and which runs using the energy processes we learned about in Unit 3.  An organism's ability to interact with its environment is what determines its success, as we learned in Unit 1.  The study of BBECPO is how all of this comes together and is organized, and so is a perfect ending for our exam portion of the course.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Reflection for Week of April 10-14th

HEART WEEK!  Aaaaaaaaaand...wait for it...somehow I didn’t end up unconscious on the floor or with my face in the sink!  Yay me!  
We started off the week preparing for our actual dissection days by watching a really cool, but also really gross, video on heart transplant.  I think I was more disgusted watching that than by actually cutting the deer heart open myself.  The guy narrating was rather weird, and very aggressive when it came to mimicking heart surgery.  I hope no surgeon ever performs heart surgery on me as aggressively as he did on that poor pig heart; it was disturbing.  
Tuesday was the first heart day, and we all gathered around to watch Mrs. Cole identify the parts of the heart and do a bit of dissection.  And then it was our turn.  We worked to identify the different parts of the heart, like the apex, the pulmonary artery, and the aorta, and then began the dissection.  With the heart cut open, we were able to see the left and right ventricles and atria and the valves that separate them, as well as the heart strings.  We measured the sides of the ventricles, and found that the left ventricle wall was 1.5 times as great as that of the right ventricle!  That makes sense though, with it having to send blood to the entire body (6.6).  But still, wow!
This week we also reviewed Vodcasts 5.1 and 5.2, which dealt with gene regulation and development (5.1-5.2).  While much of this material makes sense, it was a lot of new ideas all at once, and when we discoed, we were discoing 4.12 as well as these two, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time on any one thing. I am feeling rather overwhelmed and have a TON of questions (what's new haha).  I’ve already gone over everything once over break, and am still feeling this way, so I really need to work on that.  The concepts I need to work on are understanding how positioning happens (hox genes versus the simple order of genes: do both of these affect position?), neurulation and organogenesis, how positioning works in plants, and secondary growth.  While I largely understand the rest of the concepts, I need to work on the specifics; I do not know them well enough to be tested on them or be able to apply them to anything.  I will work on that and will have a list of questions to ask Mrs. Cole when we get back (be ready haha).  
The work we did this week connects to the overall course because the heart is the kind of like the powerhouse of the body and the process of circulation requires key concepts we learned earlier in the year like bulk flow, diffusion, and gradients.  The pumping the heart does is how we move molecules that we learned about in unit 2 around our body in order to supply our bodies with the energy that we learned about in unit 3.  Our four chamber heart is the result of evolution, as discussed in unit 1, and is coded for by our DNA, which we learned about in unit 4.  Gene regulation and development also deal with all of the units, because our DNA plays a crucial role in both, and both code for molecules discussed in unit 2 that provide the energy we learned about in unit 3.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Reflection for Week of April 3-7

This week, we began domain 5, Regulation, which I think will be a very interesting unit, once I get a handle on the info (little overwhelmed currently).  So far, we have looked into the regulation of genes and development (5.1-5.2), and how organisms maintain homeostasis in a variety of areas (5.3-5.5).  All of these topics are super fascinating, albeit it complex.  I definitely could happily take an entire course on either of these topics studied so far.  
The week began with a look at stickleback fish, which I found intriguing and felt pretty good on.  The only mutations we had discussed up until now are those that affect an expressed gene and create a new allele.  This packet looked at what can happen if a gene that isn’t directly expressed is mutated: a regulatory gene.  Here, the proteins that binds to the regulatory gene will no longer be able to do so, and then the regulatory gene will no longer be able to go and “turn on” the coding gene.  A major point the packet made was that there are different regulatory genes to turn on a coding gene in different parts of an organism, and therefore a gene may be expressed in one part of an organism but not another.  Through this packet, I also learned that a gene can be expressed in two different parts of the body but through different proteins, due to intron editing.  We had learned that this was possible earlier in Unit 4, but this really brought the idea together for me.  This packet, and this unit so far, has been really doing that for me: bringing together bits and pieces of other units that I didn’t understand the reasoning behind and answering all my questions.  
Wednesday through Friday we worked on a cooperative handout on physiology of animals and plants.  My group researched gas exchange, which, as it turns out, is pretty interesting.  Not going to lie, I wasn’t super enthused when I first started.  I feel very solid on the parts I researched, but I definitely need to read over and solidify the rest of the the presentation.  Friday, we all looked over other groups’ handouts.  This is where the whole, “I can’t read and listen to and talk to people at the same time” and “I process things rather slowly” thing became incredibly evident.  I read the first handout pretty thoroughly and feel well versed on nutrition, but the rest of them, wellllllll...Basically I had to blast through those and make some comments, but I didn’t get to take things in.  So yeah, gotta go back and look those over, especially circulation, so that, even if I pass out or throw up later this week, I will at least theoretically understand everything I was supposed to be learning through dissection before I hit my head off the counter/find solace in the toilet.  (To be clear, I’m planning on neither of those things happening, but I also want to acknowledge the worse, and very possible, case scenarios.)
Lastly, we had several vodcasts to do this week, and wow, these threw me for a loop.  I didn’t reeeeeally understand large portions of Vodcast 4.12, and then Vodcast 5.1 hit.  5.1 built upon Vodcast 4.12, so it was like, DOUBLE WHAMMY, you didn’t really understand the first one, well here’s another one, haha!  But that’s my fault for not clarifying parts of 4.12 that I didn’t understand, and I know that looking these two lessons over and asking questions will get me right back on track, so I'm not majorly worried.  Vodcast 5.2 explored how both plants and animals go from being two gametes to a zygote to a fully developed organism, and I actually feel pretty good on these ideas overall.  Sure, I need to focus a little more on the details and fully understanding them, but I feel that I have a pretty good start, because I took the time to process the vodcast as I was doing it, rather than rushing through like I had to with 4.12 and 5.1, due to a time crunch.  I will take the time to go back and revisit those two over vacation, for sure, and hopefully sooner, but probably not, because I will be focusing on studying for our test Thursday.  
As I mentioned earlier, the information we have been learning in this unit has really been some of the missing puzzle pieces from other units, and I think it fits seamlessly.  In the stickleback packet, we went back to unit one and evolution, this time learning the "why" behind the "what."  This idea of regulatory genes wraps into units four, when talking about genetics, and unit two, when talking about the proteins that are both needed to turn on the regulatory genes and that are produced when regulatory genes activate coding genes.  Our work with homeostatic regulatory systems also ties in closely with all of these units, as well as unit three.  Nutrition is a regulatory system that is especially closely aligned with unit three.  And development, as discussed in 5.2, also wraps into all of the units, with evolution being a result of differences in development, often times caused by genes, and not enough of a life molecule, like a protein, being present.  All of this needs energy.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Reflection for Week of March 27-31

This week focused on diving deeper into genetics and patterns of inheritance, and solidifying our use of Chi Square Tests with respect to genetics (4.5-4.10).  We began Monday with our big fruit fly virtual lab, and continued it into Tuesday and Wednesday.  This dealt with largely basic Mendelian patterns, as well as X-linked genes and homozygous fatal phenotypes (4.5 and a bit of 4.6), and was my favorite part of the week (although the simulation of the flies hatching really grossed me out).  This lab was largely review of material from sophomore year in a new setting, but we also learned lots of new material this week via vodcasts.  Vodcast 4.10 dealt with extending our understanding of how traits can be expressed and passed down, with patterns like epistasis and pleiotropy, as well as penetrance and expressivity.  Vodcast 4.11 focused on human genetic conditions like Tay Sachs and Huntington’s, and whether they were autosomal or sex-linked, and dominant or recessive.  Vodcast 4.12 focused on gene regulation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and how this leads to differentiation in eukaryotes and efficiency in both pro- and eukaryotes.  
I think I did well with the material this week.  I understood the fly lab, and really enjoyed trying to figure out what kinds of traits I was dealing with.  My Cross #4 was rather disappointing, however, because it was the same X-linked recessive pattern as Cross #3.  I had to cut my loses though, as I was running short on time this week.  That seems to have become a prevalent theme in my life.  Anyway, I also feel pretty good on Vodcasts 4.10 and 4.11, but 4.12 was almost entirely new material and was a doozy for my brain.  I think with some serious looking over, Mr. Anderson videos, and questions for Mrs. Cole, I’ll feel good with it next week.  I also felt very good on the majority of the Genetics Problems Set #2, but I definitely need to wrap my head around the whole gene mapping thing a little better.  Based on Mr. Anderson’s video, I thought that all the frequencies would add up exactly, but then they didn’t, so I was confused for a bit.  It makes more sense this way though, as I was having a hard time seeing how frequencies could be translated directly into distances.  I will look at the fungus lab again tomorrow, as I think that will also help me understand gene mapping.  
As I said last week, the purpose of DNA is to code for the genes that comprise us, and with the material this week, we now know the majority of our traits are not Mendelian.  Understanding how genes are expressed and what acts on them (parents, environment) is key to understanding how populations evolve and are acted upon, as was studied in Unit One, how the body synthesizes the proteins, carbs, lipids, and nucleic acid as discussed in Unit Two, and how our body is able to create and store energy, as was looked at in Unit Three.  Because of how important genes are, gene regulation is absolutely imperative to understanding life.  This is how we get different organisms, how we don’t all look the same, how we change over our lifetimes.  This is a field that is incredibly relevant right now (not that all of biology isn’t), and that makes it so, so interesting.  We never know what we might learn next.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reflection for Week of March 20-24

This week was all about getting back to basic genetic patterns (4.2 and 4.5), like Mendelian Genetics, and codominance (blood type and sickle cell disease).  We went over the basic terminology, like heterozygous, homozygous, dominant, and recessive, and began using Punnett Squares again.  Most of this was review from sophomore year, like generic monohybrid and dihybrid crosses, but some of it was new, like the way we learned to do dihybrid crosses by multiplying probabilities rather than making a four by four Punnett Square.  This new trick was SOOOOOOO incredibly useful, especially since we can now do, say, tetra-hybrid crosses (no, you don’t want to make a massive Punnett Square, as it turns out!).  We also dove back into Chi Squares, and while I still have some questions about the technical side of what exactly I’m looking at, not having taken Stats, I get the basic idea and can use them to analyze data.  Our last activity of the week was the fungus tetrad crossing over activity, and wow, fungus is weird.  I was very confused as to what I was seeing, but with some questions for Mrs. Cole, I mostly understood the strange lives of fungus and the activity made more sense.  Fungus are still weird, though.  
Overall, I feel pretty good about this week’s work.  Much of it was review, and it was good to get back to genetics, but even the new material wasn’t hard for me to understand, probably because there wasn't a ton of it for me to process.  I think I would like to take one more look at the fungus lab and really thoroughly take in the lifecycle of fungus, because it is so different from ours and I would like a more solid understanding of it.  I also need to work on my understanding of Mendel’s Laws of Segregation and Independent Assortment, as I feel a little rusty on those and where they are reflected in meiosis.  I will take another look at those, and come to Mrs. Cole with any questions I have. I would also like to better understand Chi Squares, but that is time-dependent.
Coding for genes and alleles is the purpose of DNA, so fits nicely into our information unit.  Understanding how genes are expressed is key to understanding how populations evolve and are acted upon, as was studied in Unit One, how the body synthesizes proteins, carbs, lipids, and nucleic acids, as discussed in Unit Two, and how our body is able to create and store energy, as was looked at in Unit Three.  Without genes, what would we be?  Wow, that’s a question my brain can’t even handle right now.  I’m going to stop there.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Cancer Activity Reflection

  • Three things I learned from this activity.  
    • There isn’t a set formula for cancer.  Even within a single type of cancer, like leukemia, different genes and different numbers of genes can cause uninhibited cell growth that result in tumors.  
    • There are some chromosomes that contain more genes responsible for cancer than others.  In my groups, chromosomes 7, 9, and 17 were the main sources of cancer genes.  
    • Scientists have split cancer genes into three categories based on their functions: cell survival, cell fate, and genome maintenance.  We had discussed whether genes were oncogenes or tumor suppressors, but we had yet to learn what the functions of those two types of genes were, and how their functions would play into them causing cancer.  
  • Two things that surprised me.  
    • I was surprised that there were so many different ways to get a single type of cancer.  I had never really thought about the steps that the body goes through when it begins to have cells proliferate uncontrollably.  Once we started learning about cancers and I began to understand that multiple genes are usually involved in development of a cancer, I thought of it similar to the one-gene-one-enzyme idea: each type of cancer is produced by a single combination; there is only one way to produce each cancer type.  The truth is, there are multiple ways for a cancer to develop, different combinations that will lead to the same type of cancer.  
  • One question I still have.  
    • I am still, naturally, wondering how each of these genes operates specifically.  What part of the cell cycle do the play a part in?  Why does a mutation cause cancer?  I am curious about the pathways for each of these genes, even though it is unrealistic to learn about each of these with my lack of time.  But I might research at least a couple of them, perhaps the three I had on my leukemia card.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Reflection for Week of March 6-10

This week was focused on moving forward in Unit Four, specifically in cell division.  We learned the phases of the cell cycle, the phases of mitosis, the hormones and enzymes that regulate if and when a cell goes into mitosis and divides, and began looking at meiosis, the process by which gametes are formed in sexual selection (4.4).  This week was probably one of the busiest of the school year for me, and so, considering that, I think I did pretty well with the work.  For homework, we had three vodcasts in Unit 4 to complete, as well as our PCR lab write up.  This was a bit of a struggle for me, because I spent a lot of time trying to make sense of and organize all the material from the lab to ensure I included everything I needed to and made sense while doing so.  Because of this, I wasn’t able to concentrate on the vodcasts as well as I would have liked to.  Usually, if there is something in a vodcast I don’t understand, I won’t move on until I have rewatched it or searched out other material in the textbook or online to help me understand, but with my time being so limited this week, it was all I could do to get the vodcast done and make sure I understood enough to answer the WSQ questions.
We began the week by completing Vodcast 4.5 as homework.  It dealt with the phases of the cell cycle and mitosis, and reviewing the terminology associated with cell division, like chromatids vs. chromosomes, centromere, and diploid vs. haploid.  I feel pretty comfortable with all of the material in 4.5, as it is largely a review of Adv. Bio, but I will work on solidifying everything, since I didn’t get to take as much time on the vodcast as I usually like to.  Among new things mentioned in this vodcast were  1) the addition of “Prometaphase,” a little in-between phase where the chromosomes begin to migrate to the center of the cell and two complete spindles have formed, and  2) a small section of the evolution of mitosis that discusses that there are more similarities between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells that we usually think.  I think I have a good handle on these two new additions, and find them interesting!
Our second vodcast of the week was 4.6, which dealt with regulation of the cell cycle.  This is a brand new subject for me, and so I am still feeling a bit uncertain of the specifics, such as which checkpoints are responsible for what, and which hormones and enzymes they employ.  What has helped me feel more familiar with this new material is the work we did with the HHMI packet.  I still definitely need to spend some more time straightening the specifics though.  
Our last vodcast of the week was 4.7, a review of meiosis, complete with that earworm video of the chromosomes doing do si dos.  That has literally been stuck in my head all weekend.  Anyway, Vodcast 4.7 reminded us what meiosis is, the stages it has to go through in meiosis 1 and 2, and the cell’s progression with regards to being haploid and diploid.  One part that we had gone over to an extent, but never this specifically, was how many different gamete combinations are possible.  Seeing those numbers was insane, and really made it sink in how incredible meiosis is.  I mostly understand everything to do with meiosis when I’m looking at the information, with a few questions on the whole haploid-diploid piece, but I definitely need to spend more time so that I can remember things without having to look at the paper.  I think I should be good by simply watching the vodcast again, but if that doesn’t do it, I’ll see if there are any good Khan Academy videos or other online resources, or, of course, ask Mrs. Cole.  
Cell division is imperative for life to sustain itself as an individual organism and as a species, so our work this week was crucial to our understanding of biology.  Organisms need to heal and grow, so mitosis is important to the survival of individuals, which is important to the survival of populations.  Regulating mitosis can mean life or death, because of the mutations that can be passed down affecting tumor suppressors and/or proto-oncogenes.  Meiosis is how sexually reproducing organisms are able to continue their lineage and sustain a population or species, and is the reason that we sexually reproducing organisms are all so different.  Without these processes, regulated by enzymes and hormones, we wouldn’t have the organisms we have today, nor the variation that is present in them, allowing mechanisms of evolution to act upon populations and shape them.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Reflection for Week of February 27 to March 3

Ok, so this week, things are going to be a bit shorter, as I am feeling rather burned out and like my brain is slowly dissolving inside my head.  Why isn’t it still vacation?  
I think I did pretty well with the work this week.  Monday we discoed Vodcast 4.4 on viruses (Domain 4.3), which I feel like I have a pretty good handle on given that I accidentally studied them for the quiz on Friday.  There are still a couple of questions I have, but nothing major.  For example, I really want to know how viroids causes disease, but, as it turns out, biologists don’t know that for sure yet (or even close to for sure, since you don’t ever really know anything “for sure” in bio).  
The rest of the week was spent on the lab (Domain 4.1, and, more importantly, my favorite part of the week!), which I feel like I understand the process of well, having completed the online lab, read the prelab thoroughly, and done the lab.  What I’m not so sure about is the whole database analyzation piece, but I’m sure I’ll have a better idea after talking to Mrs. Cole.
On Friday we had a quiz, and, after studying for it, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the biotech tools, applications, and ethics, which I was feeling overwhelmed about the last time I wrote a reflection.  The ethics part is a difficult one, because it is personal, and I am someone who likes to take my time processing information and exploring different beliefs to understand what I myself believe.
I think I can definitely improve when it comes to understanding the analyzation part of the lab, having missed Thursday.  I feel overwhelmed right now, and am unsure how I am going to finish it by Wednesday. But I will keep working steadily and see where that gets me.
The lab largely had to do with PCR and electrophoresis, two common tools of biotech, and fits very neatly into the curriculum.  We learned about biotech tools leading up to vacation, and, in order to understand how these biotech tool work, one must understand how certain aspects of biology, like DNA replication in the case of PCR, and restriction enzymes and DNA structure in the case of electrophoresis.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reflection for Week of February 6-10th

This week focused on solidifying standards 4.1 and 4.2, and beginning to cover biotechnological tools and their applications and implications.  I started out the week feeling a little confused, what with having rushed through Prezi 4.2, but I spent time going over the Prezi again and watching Crash Course and Bozeman Science videos, and that helped clarify the majority of the material.  The questions that I still had, I asked Mrs. Cole and she, as usual, cleared up all my confusion!  I feel pretty good on replication, transcription, and translation now, although I still often have to pause and think about what details belong to what process.  What helped me remember this was the play-doh fun we had!  Having made some proteins, like RNA polymerase, and not others, like DNA polymerase, helps me remember which enzyme is used in which process.  I also felt good on the POGIL, the Schwarzenegger cow (if the mice are Schwarzenegger mice, then the cows should be Schwarzenegger cows), and Rock Pocket mouse packets, and I didn’t go down a rabbit hole about how the change in the DNA signals different amounts of pigment in Rock Pocket mice, like Kirk and I did when the cute critters were introduced to the class in Unit 1.  I’m still in awe about how much of a difference a single point mutation can make!  
I’m feeling pretty good on the material from 4.1 and 4.2, but 4.3 threw me for a spin.  I either really get a biotech tool and can see how it could be used immediately, or I have no idea what it is or how it works; there doesn’t seem to be an in between.  I generally understand the tools that I have worked with, like restriction enzymes, PCR, and gel electrophoresis.  I also think I have a pretty good understanding of sequencing and gene libraries, although I want to feel a little more solid on them.  I do not understand vectors (I have no idea what these are, and I feel like I am probably overthinking it), labeling (I get the overall idea of this, but not the specifics), and microarrays (I thought I knew what was going on, and then turns out I didn’t at all, which was an unfortunate realization).  In general, I feel like I understand the applications better than the tools themselves.  
I was feeling similarly lost last week about the 4.2 material and I now understand it, so I have no doubt I will get biotech tools and applications. It will just take time.  Unfortunately, with this material, there aren’t any Crash Course videos, and the one Bozeman science video is about all the processes I feel ok on, naturally.  But I will watch the vodcast again, now that I have had some time away from it, and I will ask Mrs. Cole--you guessed it--more questions!  And don’t worry, I promise there will be no flashlights!
Anyway, my favorite part of the week (I think I will make this a theme in my reflections) was playing/working with Play-Doh, which we did Thursday and Friday.  I love making things and learning, so this was basically heaven.  I worked with a partner that I don’t think I have ever worked with (sorry Naomi, I can’t even remember what day yesterday was, so don’t take it personally), and that was a lot of fun.  I feel we worked well together, shared a practical mindset when it came to the project, and used our time wisely.  This may be the first time I finished my work before a lot of my friends (gasp!).  
Basically our work this week focused on furthering our knowledge about our genetic blueprint, how it functions to create who we are, and how we can alter that.  This, of course, is a very important part of the curriculum, and it has connections everywhere.  Alter a protein and you alter its function, which may be to create or destroy other molecules that we learned about in our matter unit, or it may be to create ATP, a molecule we discussed in our energy unit.  Genes are the material of natural selection, so this unit has everything to do with Unit 1.  Unit 4 gives rise to everything discussed in the other units, and I really look forward to fully understanding and expanding my knowledge on the tools that we can use to alter the molecule that makes us who we are.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Reflection for Week of January 31-Feb 3 2017

Standards 4.1 and 4.2
This week was all about the introduction of the role that information plays in life.  Domain 4, Information, deals with DNA, RNA, protein synthesis, expression of genes based on genotype, and how mutations affect this, and this first week gave me a taste of everything.  
We started the week Vodcast 4.1 as homework.  This dealt mainly with the history of DNA and how experiments built off one another, as they do in the scientific community, to get us to understanding of genetics that we have today.  I feel that I understand these experiments, such as Griffith’s vaccine gone wrong and Hershey Chase’s exceptional use of radioactive tagging.  I think I understand them well because I learned about them in sophomore year and also wrote about them in my essay arguing for the creativity of science.  The one experiment that I didn’t feel completely comfortable with was TH Morgan and company’s contribution to the understanding of inheritance.  
My favorite parts of the week were some of the packets we did.  I liked the Meselson and Stahl packet where we followed the scientists' line of thinking to determine that DNA replicates semiconservatively.  I always like when we do a packet that has us reason out why something is the way it is, because I am less likely to forget the concept.  My favorite packet this week was the one where we used genetic markers to determine whether Jeff could be related to the H. family, because who doesn’t love a good mystery?  
I had a hard time with Prezi 4.2, largely, I think, because I felt rushed when I was doing it.  This meant that when I didn’t fully understand something, I didn’t take the time I should have to look it up, or at least look at the slide for a little longer.  I get the broad idea of replication, transcription, and translations, and the POGILs helped with this, but am shaky on some of the specifics, such as the proteins involved in replication, what transcription factors are exactly, and the sequence of events in these processes.  Also, I do not really understand Beadle and Tatum’s experiment.  
This shakiness, I am sure, will get better once I have a chance to sit down with the material for a while.  That will be my starting point in bettering my understanding, but I will also look at other sources, such as the Adv. Bio vodcasts (I like the combined visual and audio, and I also feel that I don’t really understand these Prezis very well), the textbook, and the videos by Mr. Anderson and Crash Course Biology.  Lastly, I will, of course, interrogate Mrs. Cole with all my remaining questions! :)
DNA is the blueprint for life, and so is obviously a very important part of the course.  This unit basically explains the how and why of the cell’s workings: how and why DNA, mRNA, and tRNA are structured the way they are, and how this dictates the way the cell operates, that sort of thing.  DNA’s ability to replicate, be transcribed and be translated is the reason that the cell operates the way it does, the reason that we can inherit information from our parents, the reason that proteins are produced, and why certain proteins are produced in certain cells.  This unit connects to our first unit on evolution, because evolution is based in genetics, our second unit on matter, especially the organelles section, and our third unit on energy, because many of these processes require energy.  In regards to unit two, it has been fun for me to remember how some of the organelles that we learned about in unit two function together to accomplish what needs to be done by the cell.  For example, how the ribosome, when it creates a special “signal peptide,” goes the RER and creates the rest of the polypeptide there.  I’m not exactly sure why or how that happens, so I guess that’s another thing I need to clarify!