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Perhaps I suffered a record-long bout of writer’s block; nothing of interest to expound upon, years older but not wiser, apathetic with life’s daily events.

More likely, however, life threw me for a loop. We did, after all, move away from sunny Santa Barbara to the Rocky Mountains, eventually landing in Laramie, Wyoming. Yup, the wild, wild west at its finest, where the winters are long, the wind is incessant, and the people are few. Along with the new environment came new challenges: a new job, new friends, a new (old) house, and as if a metaphor fall all these new challenges, new athletic pursuits.

(Now brace yourself because I’m about to say something that might shock you.)

I’m not a runner anymore. I no longer fall asleep at night reliving each corner of the running track or wake up each morning to lace up my shoes with the goal of making myself more quick and agile on two feet. My calluses have faded, my hamstrings have weakened, and my running shorts are out of style.

But I am still the same Annie, perhaps more Annie than ever before. I’m still mentally ill in the minds of many, sensing pleasure in what most perceive as suffering. I expect the worse only to experience the best, and I still dream big.

Perhaps that is why I caught the cycling bug. Certainly years of running made me susceptible to it but I think it goes deeper than that. I’ve always needed an outlet of some kind, a non-verbal way to express feeling of frustration, anger, love and joy. So from here on out, or until I sell myself to some other sport, my blog entries will most likely be about cruising around on two wheels. Or, more accurately, powering up mountain climbs, cornering at high speeds, or descending gloriously down mountain passes. Ah, the thrill, the freedom. Will it never end?

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In March, I moved to Golden (Colorado) after I finished my thesis at UCSB.  I was certainly sad to leave Santa Barbara — my friends at school, the great running community, the all-the-time sunshine, the bike riding lifestyle, the beautiful oceans and mountains.  I also found it difficult to leave my work in the lab — once I left, who would finish my (never-ending) projects?

However, I do have to say that the Rocky Mountains are not at all a bad place at all to live.  I first visited them when I was in high school.  My sister Amy was conducting research at Rocky Mountain Biological Station (near Crested Butte, Colorado), and my mom and I went out to visit.  I fell in love with the region immediately.  How could I not?  Majestic snow-capped mountains, gigantic blue skies, purple columbine, meandering streams, beautiful blue-green colored glacial lakes, humming birds, marmots, the list goes on and on.

In college, I returned to Colorado for a National Science Foundation sponsored research program at CSU.  What a great experience!  Not only did the program provide me with the opportunity to do some cutting edge science, but it also enabled me to return to a place I felt drawn to.  Not to mention, my two summers in Colorado would very positively and drastically change my life for good — it was in Fort Collins that I met Carl, who would later become my husband and all-time best friend.

So now I am back in Rockies, and I am definitely high again!  Carl is currently working for the USGS in Golden, and in August will be starting his professorship at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.  In June, I’ll be starting a post-doc up in Laramie, but for the time-being, I am enjoying the unemployed life, spending a lot of time doing things that I’ve wanted to do for years, like cooking, baking, birding, pleasure-reading, and, most importantly, recreating in the mountains with Carl.

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Academic injury

I pulled an all-nighter last Thursday night to try to get my thesis finished by my 29th birthday (Friday). I haven’t done that since high school. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best birthday, but hey, I eventually got what I wanted – A FINISHED PRODUCT! It may have only been only 25% the thickness of Carl’s, but my heart went into every single one of those 196 pages.

The sick thing is that through the whole month of writing I didn’t miss a day of running. Even on the Friday after my all-nighter, I went out for a run in the rain around 11AM. I saw John B. on the path on my way out. We said “hello” to each other. On the way back I saw him again. He said “I thought you were gonna catch me.” My reply, “Not today.”

So maybe my fitness has suffered somewhat. But now it’s done — or at least handed off to my committee. But in reality I know that the work never stops. Immediately after handing in my thesis I was back at my lab bench, pipette in hand. Perhaps that’s the great thing about science — there is always more to do.  Depressing?  Maybe.  Exciting?  Definitely.  Perhaps I am insane for being so upbeat right after obsessing for weeks over that stupid document that no one will ever read.  But I guess I can say that my graduate experience has been a COMPLETE success, because I’ve acquired the wisdom that I really know nothing at all.

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Chapter 6:  Overview

Regulation of ADAR1 is a complex process involving multiple promoters [115, 120, 121], alternative splicing [115, 117], SUMOylation [131], and presumably proteolytic degradation [123]. During our study of ADAR1 biology, we learned much more about how ADAR1 is regulated and processed. This chapter describes a diverse range of experiments that although seemingly unrelated, were all motivated by one simple question: “Where are all the bands on the gel coming from?” Needless to say, I spent a great deal of time trying unsuccessfully to answer that question and in the process created more bands on the gel and even more questions. The projects described here are by no means finished, and I don’t wish it upon anyone to ever try to complete them. However, I hope the results summarized in this chapter serve as a reminder to the chosen few people who ever try to comprehend these pages that, with ADAR1, as in life, anything is possible.

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I haven’t had time to blog in a long time.  But I have been doing a lot of writing.  Writing can sometimes be very soothing.  Other times it gives you a buzz.  But right now it is driving me absolutely crazy.  Here is a sample:

The measles virus (MV) accessory proteins V and C play important roles in MV replication and pathogenesis. Infection with recombinant MV lacking either V or C causes more cell death than infection with the parental vaccine-equivalent (MVvac) virus, and C-deficient virus grows poorly relative to the parental virus. Here we show that a major effector of the C-phenotype is the RNA-dependent protein kinase PKR. Using human HeLa cells stably deficient in PKR as a result of RNAi-mediated knockdown (“PKRkd cells”), we show that a reduction in PKR partially rescues the growth defect of Cko virus, but has no effect on growth of either WT or Vko viruses. Increased growth of the Cko virus in PKRkd cells correlated with increased viral protein expression, while defective growth and decreased protein expression in PKR-sufficient cells correlated with increased PKR and eIF-2a phosphorylation. Furthermore, infection with WT, Vko, or especially Cko virus caused significantly less apoptosis in PKRkd cells compared to PKR-sufficient cells. Although apoptosis induced by infection of PKR-sufficient cells with the Cko virus was blocked by the caspase antagonist z-VAD-fmk, growth of Cko virus was not rescued by treatment with this pharmacologic inhibitor. Taken together, these results indicate that PKR plays an important antiviral role during MV infection, but that the virus growth restriction by PKR is not dependent upon induction of apoptosis. Furthermore, the results establish that a principal function of the MV C protein is to antagonize the pro-apoptotic and antiviral activities of PKR.

If you made it this far in this post, you’re probably thinking two things:

(1)  What on earth is z-VAD-fmk?

(2)  This girl has got to be crazy.

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On Art and Passion

I like to draw, and as the daughter of a music teacher, I think that I am somewhat musically inclined. I enjoy writing, and feel that I have a deep appreciation for music, journalism, and film. But by no means have I ever considered myself an artist.

Recently, however, I came up with a new definition of art. In the midst of a deep conversation at the dinner table one night I said to Carl, “I think that art is anything done with passion.” “Well said,” was his reply.

By that definition, I am a true artist. I approach the lab bench each day with passion. I ride my bike with passion. I love my husband with passion. And if and when I am able to run again, I will do so with passion — more passion than ever before.

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It’s been 3 months now since my last run. My foot feels like it’s on the mend, but the tenosynovitis is really persistent. Some days it feels almost normal, but other days I question how I ever ran with this injury. The physical therapist is encouraging me to try it out a little, or at least get on the elliptical, but I don’t want to. At this point, I have no specific running races planned so there is no point in trying to train through pain. All I really care about is the problem going away. Completely.

I’ve been injured so long that it no longer feels strange to not be running. I never thought that I’d be able to go so many months without doing my favorite activity and still feel as good as I do. That said, I certainly have not been sitting still — I don’t think I am capable of it. To keep my mind and body occupied, I’ve found plenty of surrogate activities. I’m working hard at school, perhaps harder than ever, but with much more focused goals. I am excited about my results and eager to set foot in the lab each day. But cells and viruses take time to grow, and sometimes lab moves too slowly for me. A life without speed is, well, boring.

To satisfy my craving for endorphins, I trained like crazy on the elliptical (read my “Machine Woman” post if you want to know more). But a few weeks back I gave this up because I thought it might be aggravating my foot. Moreover, setting world records (a 4:26 mile, sub-28:00 minute 10K) started to seem a little silly, as no one else in the world was really trying for them but me. So I decided that I was going to do nothing but bike.

I love it. On my road bike, I’ve coasted through wine country and looked down at Santa Cruz Island from the top of La Cumbre peak. I’ve explored roads that I never knew existed. I’ve cruised by the waterfront downtown at 23-24 mph and down some hills at more than 35. In addition to these thrills, I feel like I’m actually becoming pretty good at the sport, too. I’ve been doing workouts on the exercise bike at the Rec Cen, and have gotten to where I can do 10 miles in under 25 minutes. I have no idea if I could do this on my real bike, but as I get better at my workouts on the exercise bike, my times for climbing Old San Marcos (“OSM”) seem to be improving, too. A few months ago I could barely do it in 21 minutes; recently I did it in 18:56!

I am thinking about doing some semi-competitive cycling events — that is, if I can get over my ridiculous fear of “hard core” cyclists riding $5000 bikes and decked out in all the right gear. There is a 10-mile time trial put on by Echelon that happens the second Monday of every month during day light savings. The next one is this coming Monday. I just might give it a try. More excitingly, Carl (who is also injured with an Achilles problem) and I are signed up for the “Heartbreak 100,” a century ride with over 8000 feet of vertical that starts and ends in Lebec, CA.

So, unfortunately, my respite from running has been longer than I ever would have thought, but I feel that being forced not to run has made me a much stronger person in so many ways. Running will always be my first true love, but for the time being I think I will try myself at cycling.

Carl on Cat Canyon Rd., Wine Country

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