Blog Post #2: laboratory skills

This week has been one of the most significant learning experiences thus far in my fellowship in the lab.  On Monday, I learned how to use a microtome for sectioning paraffin blocks.  For those of you who aren’t lab rats, when researchers wish to preserve tissue and further section it for histological and morphological analysis, they process it to preserve it and then fix it in a type of wax called paraffin.  Once processed, these blocks can be sectioned using a microtome.  The microtome allows sections as small as 1 micrometer thick to be placed on a slide for future use in in staining or to be treated with antibodies for other purposes.

Using a microtome is a very tedious process that requires concentration, patience and the ability to be practically ambidextrous.  I’m the type of person that has to be able to do things well the first time I attempt a new task.  One can only imagine my frustration.  My instructor was not the most patient or well spoken, however I later realized her intent was to help me gain confidence in my abilities.

This was an important learning moment for me.  As I continue to prepare my application and myself for medical school, I have to accept that I will not always perfect skills on the first try and I have to learn how to adapt quickly to new perspectives and challenges.  Most importantly, I cannot convince myself I am unable to achieve something if it takes longer that others to understand.  Confidence and patience are key.

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