Today’s highlight was a tour of the University of Cambridge’s Sainsbury Laboratory, on the forefront of research and design. We were met by the peppiest English receptionist who immediately lightened up the day. She showed us into a room with a long grandiose meeting table where we would here a talk from a lab leader on epigenetics with methylation and transposons. Epigenetics is the study of different expressions of the same piece of DNA without changing the sequence of nucleotides. It is interesting to note, that transposons were discovered by Barbara McClintock, another female scientist.
The Sainsbury Lab itself was quite incredible. After working in a UCD lab for almost two years, this laboratory was a magical glass castle compared to the dark dungeon of Davis. As opposed to an enclosed workspace, this lab was all glass walls surrounded by office desks that were surrounded by more glass walls looking out over the botanical gardens. You could almost get a light tan in lab. (In my lab, the best sun you can get is on a field day.) The building itself was structured to encourage socializing with everyone in the lab rather than just your department- no two people with the same interest could have their desk next to each other. The tea and coffee machine was in a central location and there were small booths to collaborate with one another on their work and personal lives. It was the lab of all labs, the piece de resistance, and the milk to my tea. And yes, even though we were on a tour, we stopped for a tea break at exactly 3 o’clock. Even the tea couldn’t get away from socialization with a see through mesh bag!
The Sainsbury Botanical Gardens demonstrates part of the beauty of science. Our tour guide looked straight off of a safari with his wide brimmed hat and plant guide book. We walked through the gardens and straight back into biology 2C filled with gymnosperms and angiosperms. The guide was evolutionary based relating to Darwin and his mentor Henslow, as well as Carl Linnaeus and his nomenclature. The garden was organized based on what Linnaeus named organisms, but as DNA was being used to compare ancestral roots, the garden was constantly being rearranged. I could talk about the plants I saw 5ever, but here are the highlights: California Poppies that were a shock to see in this garden, large water lilies in wetland greenhouse, and a ginkgo tree that I specifically learned about in 2C and asked the guide 2C. It is a living fossil, with unique shaped leaves, that I thought was only seen in China.