Sunday, May 30, 2010

NEB in Photos: the Grounds

Last week I posted some of my favorite pictures of my new workplace. The full set of pictures are available here, and will be updated with more as soon as flikr will let me upload more pictures.

This week I went walking out back again, and took many pictures of the grounds. NEB owns something like 160 acres in Ipswich. The main campus is kept up by an army of groundskeepers, but most of the land is left to run wild, like NEB's own nature preserve.

There are many trails out back, maintained by several volounteer groups in Ipswich. The land is freely open to use, and people apparently go horseback riding out here.

Much of the grounds are basically marshland.

And there are some areas of open water.

I've seen a ton of wildlife, including a deer who so startled me when I startled it I didn't get my camera up in time. I also saw a pair of finches on a date who were too tiny for me to get a good photo of. last week I saw mallards and a muskrat too. This week only squirrels and red winged blackbirds would pose for me, and by pose, I mean they would stand in the trees and scream at me for being there.

There were also swarms of butterflies this week.

And I saw evidence of beavers.

On the main entrance, there are some lovely wildflowers, some odd statues, and a warning not to squoosh the painted turtles who become determined to cross the road when its rainy and/or they have to pop out a million babies.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

NEB in Photos

This week, some photo documentation of the amazing new place I work. In this post I am focusing on the buildings of the campus. Next week, I'll have some pictures of the grounds. All the pictures I took can be found here.

This is the lab I work in.

Looks pretty normal, right? If I look the other way, though, this is the view from my desk.

Here is the break room, and the view from its window.

And this is the front entrance of NEB.

This is the Mansion, where our admin offices are.

It's called Mostly Hall, cause that's what it is on the inside.

This is the greenhouse, which is attached to the main building and visible from the cafeteria.

This is not a greenhouse.

It is in fact, the waste water treatment facility, which uses plants and magic to turn poop into water we can dump right on site.

This is the Gatehouse, where the gym and the massage therapist are.

And this is the Carriage House, where visiting students live.

Inside the main building, there is art EVERYWHERE.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Jobs!

Starting Monday, I will finally be off the Government Dole. I've taken a position as a Post Doctoral Researcher at New England Biolabs, which is widely reputed to be the best place to work in biotech/pharma. While the salary is a bit less than I was getting in my heady startup days, the company is pretty ridiculously great. The only drawback for me is that they are in Ipswich, which is going to mean some combination of complicated long commute and/or moving near North Station or up Route 1. I really love living in Cambridge, so I'm not terribly excited about that...but the company is definitely worth figuring it out.

I'll be studying T4 DNA Ligase biochemistry (mechanism and kinetics). DNA Ligase is a critically important enzyme to biotechnology, as its what you use to put together plasmids with specialty genes. Interestingly while Ligase has been a tool used for decades, not a whole lot of basic biochemistry research has been done on the enzyme, and there hasn't been a lot of effort to make mutants with different substrate specificity, so that's what I'll be working on. You may wonder how I can explain my project at a private company, but one of the awesome things about NEB is that they have such insane piles of money (they basically own the patents on every important enzyme in biotechnology) that they can fund a fair amount of purely academic basic research, and everything I do there will be publishable.

It's possible new products could come out of my work, but if it is going that way that portion of my project would be branched off into the hands of the product development team. But there's no strict need to produce a new product from my work. NEB is employee owned, so there's no stock and no shareholders and only the management sets policy. So it's completely possible to work on projects with no direct profit motive.

The location itself is awesome (though far away). The main building is basically an art museum that happens to have chemistry labs in it. It is located on a 160 acre nature preserve in Ipswich, with available hiking and other outdoors spaces. The company also has three historic buildings on site incorporated into the modern business (Mostly Hall). On site we get a free gym, free massage therapy, free lunch once a week, plus a pile of benefits like all the standards and even a pension plan.

The other thing I'm probably doing this summer is picking up some part time teaching work, doing MCAT review classes for the Princeton review. I'm signed up and accepted for training, anyway, and all approved from NEB to do a little moonlighting. It remains to be seen if a schedule can be created that will accommodate a couple classes, but I'm optimistic.

So soon I will go from having all the time in the world to like no time at all...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Scenes From Roast

Four days pre-roast, in line at a New Hampshire state liquor store with two full shopping carts. People behind us staring in confusion and/or alarm. “Its for a party! A really, really big party…” “Nah, we’re just going to have a really good night.”

Friday, 5PM, pit lighting. Piles of beef on a makeshift grill, fire from the sky, and mud wrestling, though with the stupidest commentary ever. Great costumes—much Victorian garb, several instances of obscure cosplay, gay men in heels, and one naked girl. Also a pack of old people and children there to “see the art.”

Dinner at Tommy Doyles with an escort-bot and most of the Victorians, an overworked wait staff, and beer in plastic cups for some reason.

On 4th Ware later that night, or Planet Earth, I guess. Bizarre dangly papers that somehow mostly survived the weekend, many informational posters. Much, much later: “ If this is planet earth, where are the other planets?” “Oh, follow me, I’ll show you.” Then, across the floor in a bathroom stall, an informative map. “Well?” “What I was promised.”

Much of Friday night, sealed in a bathroom with one to three other dudes, tending bar, guarded by a hilariously efficient bouncer who only admitted those on staff and sufficiently hot girls. “Um, who are you?” “Oh, I’m Nate, nice to meet you.” “No, I mean, are you a waitress or staff?” “No…” “Then why are you in here?”

Late, Late Friday, Basement Dance Party. Not much else to say. Shortly after: “You did this to me!” then getting punched in the face, mostly unintentionally.

Early morning, roast watching with a few dozen other dedicated party people, the heat off the pit still almost too intense to sit by.

Saturday dawn on the fourth floor balcony, listening to some fascinating rambling but too tired to respond. Wandering down to the pit to say my goodbyes, the home for four hours of fitful non-sleep.

Saturday afternoon, waiting in line for feast forever, never been so hungry in ever. Massive consumption, then some off the oddest conversation heard all weekend, including: “What’s your opinion on murder-suicide?” “I have no strong opinions on the subject.” Some speeches, then boffer battles, and one fighter who discovered tower shields are less useful when by oneself than he might have hoped.

Saturday night, wandering the halls. LED spheres, a room with Christmas trees and a box occasionally full of people. A hall with handing things, leading to a locked door said to lead to popsicles and icecream. Later: “Oh, there were popsicles. “ “Its true, we weren’t lied to, just misled.” “…what?”

Later Saturday night, watching the bands in the courtyard from the sky. Terrible, terrible rap turned into Tahitian dancers Tahitian dancing to Nirvana (I think Lithium).

After (or possibly before, can’t remember now), following some friends into a guarded suite to discover people being hog tied and suspended from a giant metal ring. “That can’t possibly be comfortable.” “Um, no, its not.” “I’m just going to bring you down now.”

Pink Void, the basement, Saturday midnight. Massive wall of sound. “Don’t fall asleep listening to a Pink Floyd cover band in the basement of Senior House during Steer Roast. We’ll never get you back!” Also: “Magnets have only two poles, and go in a straight line. This is all the toy does.”

Fourth Ware lounge, late night, taught about causality, granting me supreme power over the universe. Later, contemplating the large number of versions of that lounge I have sat in.
Sunday, dawn, balcony again. People steadily appear like “survivors crawling out of the wreckage.” Finally, home to sleep for twenty out of twenty four hours. Recovering from Roast takes longer than most serious illness.