Graduate Student Retreat: Fun at Friday Harbor

I am just now sitting down, decompressing, and unpacking from a lovely weekend on San Juan Island courtesy of UW Microbiology. Every year the grad students pack up and get away for a weekend of fun, sun, and rigorous science…ok I’m pulling your chain: usually it’s rainy, and mostly we wander around the woods and drink beer. It’s still always a great time! So come along with me on a photographic adventure

We left Seattle Friday morning bright and early to catch the ferry in Anacortes. SDOT was doing maintenance on the normal boat, so we were worried we wouldn’t get a spot.

Turns out our fears were misplaced, and we showed up to the Ferry terminal 2 hours early. So we had some time to explore.

Other Sam found his inner cormorant

I found a shell for my rock collection

The ferry terminal had a nice nature trail

We made it onto the ferry and journeyed across Puget Sound to San Juan Island.

The ferry ride was gorgeous

After we were finished getting nautical, we drove to Friday Harbor Labs. The University of Washington owns the property and uses it for fisheries research. Fun fact: the jellyfish that we get the fluorescent protein GFP from was discovered right at this spot!

We unloaded our provisions:



 Our van arrived early, so we killed some time by going down and exploring the docks.

Check out those barnacles!

 After we finished exploring (and dinner) it was time for Science! We give 5 minute chalk-talks, but turn it into a game by assigning each talk a “drinking word.”

This is a virus, or maybe a spaceship. Tough call.

After some extremely rigorous scientific inquiry into the properties of yeast-fermented malt beverages, it was time to say goodnight  moon.

The next morning I got up bright and early, ate a banana, and ran 14.5 miles.

The run  was delightful. San Juan Island is beautiful, and I passed a ton of farms with baby cows and baby sheep to look at. My iPod died about seven miles in, but it was a blessing in disguise because I got some great thinking in for the end. Maybe a little too much thinking, because after 2 hours on the road I realized I had made a wrong turn… 

This is the face of a glycogen depleted runner, who has no idea where the hell he is

Luckily, thanks to the magic of the iPhoner, I was able to surmise that I had only ended up a mile from where I intended to be and I didn’t have to make a lean-to and live on San Juan Island forever, surviving off of forged mushrooms.

That’s for next year

Once I made my way back it was time to go to the North side of the island for a tour of Spy Hop Distillery. This place is  super-cool! They pick local apples to make cider, and they distill some of the leftover cider with hand-foraged aromatics to make gin.

After the distillery we headed to downtown Friday Harbor to hit up the Hot Sauce Shop


I got to try the hottest sauce that he carries: 4 million Scoville Heat Units! (Link is to the wikipedia page explaining how a Scoville unit is measured. For reference: a jalapeño is 3,500 SCU and a habanero is around 200,000) 
Hey this isn’t so bad
Holy crap!

The second night was pretty mellow. The first years entertained us with some fun trivia, and we went to be early so we could be up and at ’em on the first ferry back to the mainland.

We got back with enough time for me to do some DNA preps,

French braid courtesy of Mimi

Go for a swim, and do a little blogging.

Yes, my onesie is my official blogging uniform

All in all it was a great weekend (although I did discover upon my return to Seattle that my bike had been stolen, but I’m not going to dwell on the negative right now). It was great to get to know some of the new students better, and spend time with some of my favorite people.  Now it’s time for me to hit the hay. Happy Sunday everybody!

3 thoughts on “Graduate Student Retreat: Fun at Friday Harbor

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  1. So I study conflicts between replication (copying DNA) and transcription (making DNA into RNA). Both processes use DNA and they happen at the same time in bacteria. For a gene to be turned on it has to be made into RNA, and for cells to grow they need to copy their DNA. If a cell is copying its DNA and the copying machine encounters a gene that is turned on the two machineries can crash into each other. It turns out these crashes are way way worse for genes on the lagging strand of replication (sorry to flash-back to high school bio). We showed that these crashes make mutations. Mutations cause genetic diversity, which can lead to adaptation. We think these crashes help specific genes evolve faster in bacteria. What Ive been thinking about lately is how bacteria might turn these crashes to their advantage in other ways besides just making mutations.

    Email me if you want to know more Jill! I'd love to chat bacteria some time, I just didn't want to overwhelm the comment thread [or give away my latest model :)]. I just heard a super-cool seminar you might be into about bacteria that live inside of bugs (hemiptera specifically-true bugs!) that provide them with essential amino acids!


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