My Insight into CLSB

By: Marilynn Sandoval

I’ve become a huge fan of the new Collaborative Life Sciences Building on the South Waterfront. Sure, the transportation there might not be ideal for some folks. But the new labs, lecture halls, research space and restaurants are really nice.

Photo provided by: Portland State University

Photo provided by: Portland State University

I’m a science major, and I started at PSU the same year they began construction in 2011. I didn’t know if they’d be done on time for me to experience having classes in the new building, but they must have had amazing people working on it, because it opened this fall. I’m sure we have broken in this building quite fast. Almost every seat in the 400-student lecture hall is filled from class to class.

The most exciting part about this building is that we get to interact with students from OSU and OHSU. As my chemistry professor put it, “You never know who you can run into in this building.” I hope to experience the new labs and research space and meet more students from other schools next term.

I also enjoy taking the streetcar there for free. You just have to play a game of puzzle trying to fit everyone after class has ended. I’m there around lunchtime, so I’m grateful when my stomach is growling and there is a Starbucks located just right in front of the classroom. Oh, and there is an Elephants Delicatessen, too!

However, one thing the building is missing is a spot to print papers quickly. If anyone does know about a printing spot in there, please share your knowledge! I’m still trying to figure out the building myself.

Has anyone else been able to explore the new building? If so, what did you think about it?

When I Grow Up

He grinned at me from atop my desk, and I burst into giggles. “Oh, wow!”, I exclaimed. I snatched up the stuffed T.Rex to examine him further; his stubby arms, long tail, and reptilian eyes.

“I’m glad you like it,” said my husband. “I thought you could use a present.”

“Yeah, he’s great!”, I replied happily as I marched the toy around on my desk.

When I was a child, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would reply, “I want to dig up dinosaur bones!” I would spend hours in my backyard digging holes and dragging whatever I found into the house: old bottles, interesting rocks, and sometimes even bones, which I was convinced had once belonged to some ancient creature. My parents were encouraging; I owned countless dinosaur picture books and toys, a chemistry set and a rock collection.

When I grew older, my mother would often take my brother and me to the Natural History Museum on the University of Michigan campus. I would stare in open mouth wonder at the articulated skeletons of dinosaurs and mammoths and stare dreamily at the dioramas of ancient landscapes and their inhabitants. It was in this same museum that I discovered what came to be my obsession geology. I would press my face against the glass cases, marveling at the museum’s rock and mineral collection. I wondered how these things that were not living could grow with such perfection and beauty. I was always allowed to pick out a few rocks from the gift shop to add to my collection, which I still own.

T.Rex is keeping me company here on my desk as I study for finals. He reminds me that I’m doing this for that little girl who loved to play in the dirt and and stuff her pockets with rocks.

Mark of the Chemist

In the early days of chemistry they didn’t have things like “laboratory safety protocol” and other such hindrances to the fun of blowing things up and producing toxic gases in the name of science. As a result, new chemists would often wind up jamming pieces of glassware through their hands as they set up their equipment. The tell-tale scar became known as the “mark of the chemist”. Thankfully this kind of thing doesn’t happen too often these days, but majoring in science does leave its mark on your life.

Being a science major, certain things are understood; I won’t be able to go to happy hour with you because I have lab, I always carry a graphing calculator, I am obsessed with “the curve”, and I frequently sport goggle marks. It also means that although I only have 10 credit hours this term, I am actually inside of a classroom or laboratory for 20 hours a week. I spend several hours a day reading and memorizing, and am never without my thick stack of flashcards.

Being a science major has its bright side, of course. I get to play with microscopes and mix toxic chemicals together, reduce complex natural phenomena to mathematical equations, and marvel at how amazing our universe really is. I am encouraged to ask questions and investigate my interests. I get to play in the dirt and bang on rocks. There is also a great sense of comradery amongst us future professional scientists. We appreciate the challenges and long hours that we all face, and no one ever makes fun of your goggle marks.

How has your choice of major impacted your day to day life?

Secrets in Stone

I’m in ththin sectione mineralogy lab in the sub-basement of Cramer Hall. I’m seated in front of a petrographic microscope, a tool that I will come to know and love as a geology major. I place a slide carefully on the microscope stage. I look through the eyepiece and gasp- I never expected it to look like this. It’s beautiful! I eagerly press my eye to the ocular and take in the sight; a patchwork of colors, shapes and textures shines up at me. I rotate the stage and am shocked to see the light shift and play over the quilt of mineral crystals like a kaleidoscope. This is my first time observing a rock “thin section” and it’s blowing my mind.

After a few minutes of open-mouthed awe, I remember that I have a task to do; I need to identify the minerals that make up the slice of rock on my slide. Being a novice, I begin at the beginning. ‘Ok, so plagioclase has black and white stripes.’ I peer through the eyepiece looking for the tell-tale zebra stripes. My untrained eye is dazzled by the menagerie of shapes and colors. How am I ever going to pick out one mineral from all of this? I move the slide around on the stage, hunting for plagioclase. I finally spot one, and then another, and then another… suddenly I see them everywhere. They seem to pop out at me from the noise of the background.

I slowly work my way through the rest of the thin section, reading the rock like it’s written in an ancient language. I find myself totally lost in my work, and am surprised when I look at the clock to see that 3 hours have passed. Sadly, it’s time to go. I can’t wait to get back in the lab and continue to learn what the rocks have to teach me.