Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bob the Euglena, and Back to Biology

Click here for a picture of a Euglena, a greenish single celled organism that moves around via a little flagella. I was looking at these live and up close via microscope this week as part of a Biology class I started taking. I decided to go back to college after all this time and get another degree, in Biology, if I can swing the hard math and science classes that I avoided during my first trip through college for my B.A. degree.

This time is all sorts of different. Since I already have degrees and a job, there are a lot fewer unknowns. I am older so my experience and approach to school is different. It's been 20 years since I had high school bio or chemistry, so I am rusty rather than freshly tuned up on those subjects. The field has changed a lot in the last 20 years too. The school is totally different than where I did my undergrad. Textbooks are different - they have interactive online components. Registration is different - everything is online, even paying tuition. Living off campus and being a married adult also makes for a different social scene than that present at my tiny, on-campus only liberal arts college in the nineties.

The biggest difference I am struggling with is that my study techniques which were tried and true for my undergrad and graduate school are not well suited to science, and I am having to adapt those. I also hate the fact I am not allowed to throttle people in the lab who move the slides, bump into the microscope, bump into me while I am looking in the microscope, and generally create chaos as we are racing around to prepare, view and draw 10 slides in 45 minutes or some equally impossible task. My patience for such things is less than when I was younger. My eyesight is also poorer, so while I am not yet 40, it makes me feel in my '50's. I am struggling to make my study time effective and minimize it so I am not spending sooooooo much time on this one class each week.

So back to Bob....or rather, that is what I named the Euglena I spent the most time looking at. They were all so cute. They all swam really fast under the microscope and passed in and out of view. Then we added some "quieting solution" and the swimming slowed down. Bob was industrious though, and way more beautiful than any image I could locate on the web. The light lit up his little organelles and other contents beautifully. His movements were graceful. I was very distressed that the end result for Bob and his buddies was getting washed down the drain. Truly, life even in that simple form is really neat to watch and I have to admire it - not want to destroy it, particularly because it seems to me we could either destroy one slide per lab instead of 10, or maybe even let them live and reproduce in peace, just wash them back into a jar. Why the needless single cell deaths?? Sigh. That's a bit hard to take, but the subject matter is still really interesting, as I remember it was all those long years ago now.

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