Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Research Explained: Introduction

People always ask me, "Anthony, what is your research focus?" I provide either a lengthy description of what I do which ends in the receiver of my mouth zoning out and not understanding, or I give a short answer, "I study DNA unzipping using a laser." That later response usually gets some follow up questions, but with little to no responses from me because it is obvious I don't want to talk about it.

It's not that I want to sound condescending but in truth most people who ask either don't care, or I simply don't have the time (or they don't) to explain everything. It is also a matter of how much a person can withstand in the time it takes to explain things. When I am on the receiving end I can only handle so much new information before I start to lose focus or interest.

It is in this light that I provide an escalating explanation of my research. For the next few weeks (months, years, etc) I will discuss all aspects of my research interests as I understand them. I will begin with the basics and cover a number of topics in the realms of biology and physics. Each lesson will build on the previous lesson and hopefully I will remember to do a lesson a week. This week I will start with an overview:

My lab uses optical tweezers to study DNA interactions. DNA can interact with several things: itself, proteins, enzymes (fancy proteins), molecules, etc. I am interested in DNA structure, modification, and processes. There are two main processes that my research lies in: DNA replication, which is the physical copying of DNA to make new cells, and DNA transcription, which is how our DNA is used to make the things that make us us. Don't worry I will explain all of this in depth in due time.

The main thing to come away with today is that we have the ability to unzip DNA using the tweezers and explore forces that arise from the interactions it has with its environment. We are also developing the technology (using these techniques) that will enable us to map important locations in a genome (all the DNA in a single animal (could be human too)). I am oversimplifying this to a great extent, but I will cover everything when I get to it.

Next time I will discuss what optical tweezers are and how they can be used in our experiments. I will also make some cool pictures for the purpose of these talks. See ya next blog.


Mom said...

LOL, glad you are doing this, next time someone asks me what you are doing I can tell them to read your blog:)

Dad said...

Yeah but can you pull out a splinter with those tweezers????

Or do you have to tear the DNA apart one cell at a time to do it... (smile).

I have many more questions if you like... :) Love Ya.

Antman said...

Make all the jokes you want now Dad, but soon you will be glad that I am posting all this information. People ask you what I do and instead of giving them some general information that leaves them confused, you can say specifically what I do and leave them confused!

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