Week 9 March 23 - Columbia University Field Trip Part I

The first visit to Columbia University was a great experience not only in exploring a professional research lab, but also the experience of walking around on campus gave me a whole new perspective of what Columbia is like. This was the first time that I had been to Columbia and I was really impressed with the architecture and overall vibe. It’s a much different university than The New School as well as NYU; it has a feeling of enclosure and cohesiveness that I had not experienced in an urban school before. We spent the day in the Northwest Corner Building, here is a link to some additional information about it.

After meeting up, Sid gave us a presentation on some of the areas he has been exploring recently and most interesting to me were the brain examples. We viewed monkey, shark, dolphin, whale, earthworm hydra and cockroach brains. We then moved on to helisoma snails which were particularly interesting, and I learned that snails have uniquely identifiable neurons. Here is a link to a blogger talking about snails found in New York City.
Once the presentation ended we took a tour through the research lab. Having been exposed to this world really left me with an appreciation as to how complex and involved it can be to study biology and science at such a high level. All the machines and microscopes were cutting edge and futuristic. The lab is split up between electronics and liquids, some things on the electronic side of the lab looked vaguely familiar to me, but most of it was very complex.

There was a student who was working with chemicals and was cleaning a specimen. After he applied the cleaning agent, he viewed the particles under a very powerful digital microscope. It was really interesting to see him navigate through the software and get to him someone in action. Even though I did not fully understand what part of this project he was executing, I could tell that he was meticulous and careful when using the machines throughout the process. He said that the chemical agent he was using for the cleaning was very dangerous and if exposed to the skin will eat away at the tissue but will not react with your nerves rendering no pain. You could hypothetically, get some on your skin and not know it was there. This example just reinforced the seriousness of the research lab and makes you realize that the people working here have to be well educated as well as experienced.   
Below are some images from the trip: