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☘☘☘ Letters by Vivek Rai
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Working With Pore Forming Toxin - I

An introduction to my research internship

A learning experience is one of those things that says, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Douglas Adam was correct about Experience. It is a harsh teacher. The fact that words like “struggle”, “fail fast”, “don’t give up” are commonly used to describe some of its lessons, speaks about the inherent difficulty of the whole process — and none of it more visible anywhere than when learning something new.

Splendid beauty of proteins. Ribbon diagram of α-hemolysin 7-subunit membrane protein (PDB file 7AHL, view down transmembrane pore). Wikipedia.

The two crucial summers of my freshman and sophomore years were mostly spent exploring new subjects and trying out everything that I can. I was greatly (I am!) interested in programming and spent considerable time learning algorithms, doing competitive programming, learning Python, and mastering tools like Vim and git. It was a time spent well.

However, during this time, exposure to various aspects of biology opened to me an altogether new world - a fascinating, microscopic, living world, the organization and structure of which cannot be matched by anything that we have created. It is my effort to take a closer look at this world and understand its underlying intricacy that brought me to Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

I applied for a summer internship through the Bio Engineering Summer Training program (BEST) and was selected to spend two months in Prof. Sandhya S. Visweswariah lab in the MRDG department. My primary project was to working with her talented graduate student Pradeep S. on Characterization of pore forming toxin ClyA in E. coli.

The program has been actively designed with students like me in mind. Besides your primary internship work, it also features a mini-lecture series, and opportunities to attend seminars, interactive sessions and special talks. It has been a week since the program started, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my stay within the lab. The interaction with people working in the lab, attending grilling lab meetings, and discussions with my supervisor have enriched my understanding and experience of research.

I feel responsible for the work I do and every moment that I spend in lab, and it is in this regard that I have decided to document my daily and weekly activities in a neatly maintained log book. These logs will describe the experiments I undertook in lab, any papers I read, or even a friend that I met. This will not only serve as a milestone but also help as a marker to recollect and present whatever I have been able to learn. This intern diary is maintained at my GitHub profile and publicly accessible. I will be glad to have any pair of eyes going through them and offering their constructive criticism - regarding any approach I took or any mistake I made.

While you may get a bit of idea about my work from these logs, I shall reserve the details for another post, mostly in order to stick to the essence of calling this a short.