10 August 2007

Getting closer...

Raw DNA data
It may not look like much. And it isn't. Nevertheless, it's my first little steps into a new area of research: DNA analysis.

The traces above show a small snippet of an attempt to sequence a bit of DNA. Ideally, there should be a nice sequence of evenly distributed peaks of about the same height. Each peak indicates a single nucleotide. Unfortunately, our sample is not ideal and there's a lot of noise in the measurement. My student Unnam and I need to do some troubleshooting and try again.

Another indication of our problems is that DNA is made of a sequence of four letters: A, T, C, and G (nucleotides, really, but the names need not concern us here, and the letter symbols are universally used). The sequencer gave us A, T, C, G... and N. "N" is a symbol for "any nucleotide," which basically means that the machine couldn't figure out what it was and spit out a "I dunno."

We were very excited to be sequencing -- finally -- yesterday, so that it was really not all that usable was disappointing. Or, as Unnam wrote, "THAT SUCKS. A lot."

Still, after my buddy Virginia was always bugging me... "Zen, you have to get into molecular biology to show the world that you're a modern biologist," I do feel the need to point out that I'm moving in that direction.

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