My reality nearly always crystallizes from the crumbling ruins of normalcy. After decades in research, I spend the past five years working tirelessly to put together Proteomics Resources from scratch at the local Cancer Institute. It was thus a rude shock to be marginalized in 2009 due to the shrinking economy and evaporating positions. I took it in stride. Maybe it was time to use what I had learnt in masspectrometry, proteomics, bioinformatics, in the past five years and get back to basic research.
Deciding to re-make myself, I shook off the ill feelings and set forth searching out newer projects while conducting part-time research in pancreatic cancer at the Institute. I started writing here on Open Salon, The Indian American and News India Times and while doing so, tried to seek out on-line bioinformatics courses to teach. Information technology towers in its scope and vitality. (See Google award this year of 2 million dollars to Khan Academy) I hit upon a research-based science program from Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in the Department of Energy (DOE) and recognized its potential as a dynamic research-based education program.
After much searching, I finally connected with the University of Buffalo. They were interested and when they offered me a part-time clinical assistant professor position, I grabbed it. We applied and were one of twenty selected at JGI headquarters in Walnut Creek, Calif., where we received training in the computer-based Integrated Microbial Genome Annotation Collaboration Tool.
Returned back to Buffalo after the whirlwind training to implement the program as a workshop for local high school teachers who would then take it to their schools. We obtained funding (WIB, DOL) and steamed ahead. Let me just say that it was one of the most satisfying projects I have ever undertaken. I interacted one-on-one at the schools troubleshooting and teaching the kids how to use cutting edge bioinformatics tools for research in genomic annotations.
Our efforts are being prominently showcased by the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences from March 7, 2011 on the University of Buffalo website in Buffalo Physician http://medicine.buffalo.edu/news_and_events.host.html/content/shared/smbs/news/2011/02/hs_scientists.detail.html
The program ended on 18th December with a Capstone Symposium where 68 area high school science students and seven teachers filed into Farber Hall in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The week before was spent in a flurry of critiquing posters, re-writing and editing. The kids were all humming with energy as they came in to UB that morning posters tucked under their arms protecting them from the snow and rain. Precious cargo indeed!
One of the emails I was forwarded from Director of Planning Buffalo and Erie County WIB spoke of mothers who claimed this to be a life changing program for the kids that I worked with.
Epilogue: Till date I do not have a full time affiliation with any institution. However, I refuse to sit still and wait. If we can get it introduced to enough teachers, maybe it will take hold and the students of Western New York will benefit and be as enthused about science! I realize that someday my clock will simply run out of time .......but in the meantime I intend to keep trying and will not allow them to “take that away from me!” No one said that the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness would be easy as well.