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Don't think I have the stones [Research] (Update p2 for the curious)

ceresceres Your photo framedRaw within my mindSuper Moderator, Moderator mod
edited November 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
I am a cell and molecular biology major. Yesterday I went to work in my professor's lab, as I frequently do on Monday. He works with fish, and his research is fascinating. It has potential applications for use in things like refining chemotherapy. Plus, the fish are awesome. I got in early yesterday and ate my lunch at the table while watching some fish swim around in bags sitting on the table.

He came in a little while later and told me that I'd be cleaning fish tanks today. I said 'cool' as my back punched me in the face in advance. Everyone starts out cleaning stuff though, because you gotta start somewhere, especially as an undergrad.

I pointed to the fish on the table and smiled. "You guys breeding tonight?" They breed rather a lot of fish in this place.

"No," he said. "Actually, these guys are going in the homogenizer."

"Oh." You probably couldn't see it by looking at me, but my heart just fell through my feet.

I haven't really been the same since. Now, I'm not even a vegetarian. I probably kill a million insects by accident just walking to class. I know that everything dies, and that the research is important. What's more, I recognize that there is only so much cellular research you can do before you have to kill something, and this is my field of interest. But I don't like it. I don't know if I can do it. I don't know what I'm going to do about it. I knew what I was getting into, but I'm not comfortable with this.

I'm sure everybody has a hard time starting out. I'm sure nobody walks into work in the morning singing "Yeah baby, gonna kill the crap out of some animals today!" My dad was in research. He said the first time he had to put something down to study it was a frog for a lab, and it wasn't easy, but it was necessary, and you get used to it.

It's not a religious thing. My religion pretty much says that people come first, and helping them is the most important thing. It's not like I would be forcing rabbits to eat lipstick; this research, and most likely whatever other research I'll get myself into, has medical application. I love learning about this stuff and I know that this is what I want to do. And they're "just fish", but that's not a distinction I can easily make. I feel like it's wrong for me to do this, and it's got me really depressed and feeling kind of melodramatic.

Is this something I will get over? Should I get over it? Am I lacking perspective here? How do I make this kind of decision? I'm going to school for this.

Post edited by ceres on
And I am done with my graceless heart,
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart.

The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.

Comments

  • MetalbourneMetalbourne Tube's Favorite Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    It's a decision you're going to have to make for yourself.

    What's more important to you? The fish or the research?

    A lot of people say "It's just fish" and that seems to be enough to get them along, but others have to actually believe that they're doing more good than bad by killing fish for research.

    So, really, there's no easy answer.

  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    Don't be hard on yourself for feeling the way you do. Remember that these fish are going to the big tank in the sky for the "greater good". You (gender non-specific) guys aren't pulling the wings off of bees to watch them suffer (I assume). Death without purpose is a tragedy, that's not what is going on here. Sounds to me like you need to let this sink in and maybe just toughen up a bit, which if you decide to stick with this, will likely happen with time.

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • Bliss 101Bliss 101 Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I worked on a project involving metastatic cancer and mice, and after a year I felt a lot worse about it than when I started out. Personally I decided to never work on more complex animals than Drosophila after that. YMMV. Luckily there's plenty of research out there where all your samples come from human blood and tissue samples and/or cell cultures, for example.

    MSL59.jpg
  • starmanbrandstarmanbrand Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Anyone watch community? http://www.imdb.com/video/hulu/vi168493593/
    "I can pick up this pencil tell you its name is steve and go like this /snaps pencil/ and part of you dies... People can connect with anything"

    Sounds to me you've formed a little relationship with these guys. You have to clean their tanks, you have a closer connection. You may be viewing them as PETS rather than as parts of RESEARCH.

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  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    So, I just posed this question to my Mom, who happens to be a molecular biologist that just retired after over 40 years in the field. She said that she started out performing research on salamanders and frogs and didn't have any trouble when they had to kill the animals during the course of their research. When she moved to working with warm blooded animals, she noted that it felt a little "weird" at first, but that eventually went away the more she was exposed. She said that she was always aware of their "warmth". Due to this, she instead focused not on the fact that they were killing these animals (as it is what they were bread for), but rather on how they were treated while they were alive. When she was running a research lab of her own (and did so for many many years), she always instilled this in her students and workers and ensured that the animals were well taken care of during the course of their lives. I'm not sure if that helps, but it's a point of view from someone in the field.

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • SideAffectsSideAffects Registered User
    edited November 2009
    I used to have to inject caterpillars with viruses. Pick them up, push them on to a needle, step on to a floor pedal that would inject the few uL of virus in to them, and then put them back in to their little cups. They didn't die from the process (the virus made them change into cool colors) but I used to imagine that I was that big, and suddenly the tiny guage needle was like a garden hose being stuck into my abdomen to inflate me with a gallon of water. Whenever I think of it that way, I start feeling uncomfortable. I think that with time it just sort of fades to the back of your mind.

  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    I used to have to inject caterpillars with viruses. Pick them up, push them on to a needle, step on to a floor pedal that would inject the few uL of virus in to them, and then put them back in to their little cups. They didn't die from the process (the virus made them change into cool colors) but I used to imagine that I was that big, and suddenly the tiny guage needle was like a garden hose being stuck into my abdomen to inflate me with a gallon of water. Whenever I think of it that way, I start feeling uncomfortable. I think that with time it just sort of fades to the back of your mind.

    So, how do you put that shit on a resume?

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • ceresceres Your photo framed Raw within my mindSuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited November 2009
    I think part of the problem is that I feel wrong taking the life at all, or even being around it.

    Underdonk, your mother's way of looking at it, that it's how they're treated when they're alive that matters most, is a good way to see things, and that helps a bit.

    Another part of the problem is what SideAffects said.. that I'm imagining myself in that place. I mean this guy just put a fish in a blender, basically.. what if I was that fish? What would it feel like, what would I see? He says that they're anesthetized to the point where they're gone by the time they get to that point, and somehow it's still a small comfort.

    I would so much rather work with human tissue.

    And I am done with my graceless heart,
    So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart.

    The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
  • SideAffectsSideAffects Registered User
    edited November 2009
    underdonk wrote: »
    I used to have to inject caterpillars with viruses. Pick them up, push them on to a needle, step on to a floor pedal that would inject the few uL of virus in to them, and then put them back in to their little cups. They didn't die from the process (the virus made them change into cool colors) but I used to imagine that I was that big, and suddenly the tiny guage needle was like a garden hose being stuck into my abdomen to inflate me with a gallon of water. Whenever I think of it that way, I start feeling uncomfortable. I think that with time it just sort of fades to the back of your mind.

    So, how do you put that shit on a resume?

    That actually had nothing to do with my personal research. It was a pretty cool experiment though.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_worm under "Research Use"

    We basically had them produce green or red flourescent proteins. Imagine normal gray caterpillars being tomato red or cucumber green.

  • RookRook Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    ceres wrote: »
    Is this something I will get over? Should I get over it? Am I lacking perspective here? How do I make this kind of decision? I'm going to school for this.


    I've never worked with animals directly, I narrowly missed having to do so in my industrial placement when I would have probably coped. Now that I'm a good deal past that, it's slightly annoying that I still have that barrier that doesn't really exist for a good reason. I'm fine with it happening, and I don't mind other people doing it. Yet I still see good opportunities that I want to pass by because of this.

    The flip side to this, is of course that there's many jobs where all the work is on cell lines, primary cells and tissues and more than a fair few things I've been involved with would make other people squeamish. So there's plenty of work out there in this field that doesn't involve going near an animal and the idea that sooner or later you'll have to kill something to learn more I don't think is correct. It just depends what path you go down.

    I'm not sure what part of your degree you're in or even how the program is structured. But I would talk it through your professor first, even if it's just to make him aware that there's an offchance that this might turn into a problem. It's definitely not uncommon for people to be moved around projects even in companies that I've worked in where animal handling is an issue. More than likely after the first couple of times you'll see it as trivial.

  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    ceres wrote: »
    Another part of the problem is what SideAffects said.. that I'm imagining myself in that place. I mean this guy just put a fish in a blender, basically.. what if I was that fish? What would it feel like, what would I see? He says that they're anesthetized to the point where they're gone by the time they get to that point, and somehow it's still a small comfort.

    Remember that fish don't think or feel like we do. They have no concept of "blender" or "death" and perceive reality much differently than humans. There's all sorts of research out there detailing this. Just don't read anything sponsored by PETA.
    ceres wrote: »
    I would so much rather work with human tissue.

    You think putting people in blenders is any easier?

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    so molecular physiologist here.

    it does get easier and i work regularly with cohorts of 50 something mice each.

    Here is how i think about it. these animals were bred for research, otherwise they would have no point in existing and unless you are doing some pointless research any data you get from the animals should be helping whether it is knowledge base or trials etc. I personally try and treat all my animals with respect when i handle them, not throw them around try to keep noise down, not bang carrying containers around etc. i think its better for the animals which in turn is better for me since i get better results. a coworker of mine is not a good mouse handler and his animals are stressed off their gourd and his data is all over the place.

    it is hard at first especially for undergrads. the first time i had to kill a lot of mice i had a huge pang of guilt. now i only get a blip when i have a huge sacrifice. and that is really when i deal with my mice that i have had a long time.

    but keep in mind all molecular biologists don't do animal work. so if it is something you ultimately can't get over, there are plenty of other systems such as cell culture, yeasts bacteria etc. or you can work in industry and hae your own mouse group to handle the dirty work.

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  • SideAffectsSideAffects Registered User
    edited November 2009
    And if you work in manufacturing instead of R&D you will most likely never have to see that "dirty work" ever again

  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    to add. even i fyou get comfy killing small animals you still don't have to lose the compassion. hell i had a mouse have a seizure in my hand about an hour ago.

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  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    mts wrote: »
    to add. even i fyou get comfy killing small animals you still don't have to lose the compassion. hell i had a mouse have a seizure in my hand about an hour ago.

    ...and you felt great about it? I think you need to finish that post.

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • RookRook Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    underdonk wrote: »
    mts wrote: »
    to add. even i fyou get comfy killing small animals you still don't have to lose the compassion. hell i had a mouse have a seizure in my hand about an hour ago.

    ...and you felt great about it? I think you need to finish that post.

    ...and had to wipe the shit off?

  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    well i thought the holding it rather than let it bounce around its cage implied that i cared.

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  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    mts wrote: »
    well i thought the holding it rather than let it bounce around its cage implied that i cared.

    You tried to imply compassion! That's not one of those things you can imply, man. For example: I held a baby while it choked to death about twenty minutes ago.

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • admanbadmanb the bored genie Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    underdonk wrote: »
    mts wrote: »
    well i thought the holding it rather than let it bounce around its cage implied that i cared.

    You tried to imply compassion! That's not one of those things you can imply, man. For example: I held a baby while it choked to death about twenty minutes ago.

    Man you are having way too much fun in H/A today.

    twitter, github, resume/portfolio, if you like to play or host boardgames online, check out handtracker
  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    admanb wrote: »
    underdonk wrote: »
    mts wrote: »
    well i thought the holding it rather than let it bounce around its cage implied that i cared.

    You tried to imply compassion! That's not one of those things you can imply, man. For example: I held a baby while it choked to death about twenty minutes ago.

    Man you are having way too much fun in H/A today.

    I know! Thanatos is totally going to hit me up with an infraction by COB today. As we all know, he hates fun.

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • ceresceres Your photo framed Raw within my mindSuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited November 2009
    Thanks for the input, guys.

    When I started working in this lab, the professor said that most of the work was actually done on embryos, which bothered me a hell of a lot less I think because they don't have developed nervous systems. He said they would rarely need to kill an adult fish.. I guess I just walked in on the wrong day.

    The reason I would prefer to work with human tissue is that I think humans very rarely die to give it to you, and it's usually volunteered. I also would probably enjoy working with HeLa cells, which are basically immortal lumps of cancer. As far as I'm concerned, fish in a blender wasn't really part of the deal here.

    But I mean, I'm going to be trying to do an independent study with this guy. He's working specifically with a certain DNA polymerase.. maybe he'll let me take apart some HeLa cells to look for it instead of working with the fish. >>

    And I am done with my graceless heart,
    So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart.

    The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    I wouldn't avoid getting involved in a project just because you may have to do something that you find uncomfortable, especially when it is something that is considered a normal course of action in your chosen career path. Instead of avoiding working with the fish, ask to be involved, and confront this head on (APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD) so you can work out these issues early on in your career. I can't imagine that this is something you want to have to confront when the chips are down and you're going to be expected to actually do something like throw a fish in a blender.

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    or you know you can just keep throwing fish in a blender until you don't care anymore, or you crack and start talking to the fish

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  • underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2009
    mts wrote: »
    or you know you can just keep throwing fish in a blender until you don't care anymore, or you crack and start talking to the fish

    This is hilariously spectacular advice.

    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
  • ceresceres Your photo framed Raw within my mindSuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited November 2009
    I hate to think how many fish that would be.

    Seriously. If the number is too low, I'm a terrible person who enjoys throwing fish in blenders for the hell of it. If it's too high it doesn't matter because there is a number equal to the number of adorable fish carcasses it takes to buy my contentment.

    I don't think you can win that scenario.

    And I am done with my graceless heart,
    So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart.

    The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
  • GdiguyGdiguy San Diego, CARegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Honestly, if it bothers you that much, my advice is just to pick a different topic for research

    And I don't mean that in a mean way at all - my girlfriend works in a mouse lab, and I've worked in a couple different labs where other people are doing mouse stuff, and I just know that there's zero chance I could do what they do (partly because of what you mention, though probably more because I'm a bit squeamish about blood)

    Drosophila is about my limit (though they're gross for different reasons), but there's no limit to what you can do in bacteria/yeast/worms/flies/human cell culture / tissue samples, and eventually you have to limit your choice of research based on SOMETHING, so a good first pass is always 'there's no way I could do this for years'

    *edit

    To expand more specifically, I have a BS in biology, am doing a PhD in genetics, and I think the last animal bigger than a C. elegans nematode worm that I've done anything with was when I pretended to participate in dissecting a fetal pig in AP Bio in 12th grade (maaybe discounting some zebrafish embryo lab class things in college). There's a ton of biology that you can do without having to do that kind of stuff (pretty much regardless of what field / kind of research you want to do, even), so I wouldn't worry about it too much

  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    ceres wrote: »
    I hate to think how many fish that would be.

    Seriously. If the number is too low, I'm a terrible person who enjoys throwing fish in blenders for the hell of it. If it's too high it doesn't matter because there is a number equal to the number of adorable fish carcasses it takes to buy my contentment.

    I don't think you can win that scenario.
    but just think of all the crappy Deuce Bigalow jokes you can make. it's like at least 1.

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  • ceresceres Your photo framed Raw within my mindSuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited November 2009
    Update: I spoke with my professor, and he said that he has a ton of projects I can work on that involve either cloning using E. coli or pre-harvested mouse tumors that he gets from (interestingly) his wife's lab, which works with mice, so I really shouldn't panic about the whole thing.

    He also said that while, in my chosen field, there's no reason I should have to work with animals myself if I don't want to, I will need to deal with people every day who do, either to compare research or because they are somewhere along development process for whatever I'm working on, and I need to be able to interact with them without looking at them like they have two heads. That's not the problem I have, I just really don't want to kill anything with a nervous system myself.

    The more I think about that, the worse it sounds, because I am not a vegetarian or anything and I have a leather coat and all that business, but that's a matter for me to work out and the crisis is, basically, averted.

    Thanks to everyone who responded with their experiences; it really helped me figure things out. I was especially surprised to see that mts, who is always posting pictures of adorable kittens up for adoption, works with mice for a living. That one threw me. I guess it's probably not the end of the world that I like to make every new decision out to be.

    And I am done with my graceless heart,
    So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart.

    The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
  • ZombiemamboZombiemambo Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Well, put it this way: if more people had to kill the animals they eat, we'd have more vegetarians.

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  • ceresceres Your photo framed Raw within my mindSuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    edited November 2009
    Well, put it this way: if more people had to kill the animals they eat, we'd have more vegetarians.
    Truth.

    And I am done with my graceless heart,
    So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart.

    The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.
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