Let the pep rally begin…

I, a full-time administrative workerbee, recently started taking a biology class at a community college in a state with cheaper tuition. I live and work in DC and the magic of the interwebs is allowing me to take this class. The idea was to apply to attend nursing school and to take biology before I take Anatomy & Physiology. I’m toying with the idea of med school as well.

Why am I taking this course online at a community college not in my own area?  I don’t make very much and couldn’t afford the $1,000+/per credit price tag Georgetown offers its biology courses at. I could attend UDC at $75/credit, but their lab classes start at 5:30 pm and I don’t have that kind of flexibility in my work schedule. UMD is an option, but they end up being just as inflexible as UDC. Northern Virginia Community College offers classes on the weekend, but DC residents have to pay $276/credit. My out-of-state community college in charges $50/credit. Sweet, especially for someone who is carless and on my salary (though even $200 can be a hit to my budget).

Anyway, I started taking this online bio class and it’s turning out to be a great class, mainly because I don’t have to be in the classroom. I’m learning a lot and, amazingly enough, learning more than I ever did in high school biology. (I don’t know what I learned in high school biology and I went to one of those “best public high schools in the US”-type places, yet I don’t remember anything at all. I remember my teacher talking about her love of Amy Grant and that a classmate saw her at the grocery store wearing a tube top. That’s about it. I was even a member of biology club and that’s about all I remember. I did run into her about six years ago and I said, “Oh, are you still teaching biology?” and she made a face and said, “God, that was years ago.” She was pushing a stroller which seated two toddlers.) Hmmm.

So we started a chapter on proteins and there was a text box discussing the folding of prions, and how it is important that the prion proteins fold correctly. If the mutant versions of these proteins are introduced into the system, they can influence other proteins to change their shape to the altered form. In humans, this can result in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or kuru.”

The defective protein can be transmitted by human growth hormone (hGH) products, Immunoglobulins (IVIG), corneal grafts, dural grafts or electrode implants (acquired or iatrogenic form: iCJD); it can be inherited (hereditary or familial form: fCJD); or it may appear for the first time in the patient (sporadic form: sCJD). In the hereditary form, a mutation occurs in the gene for PrP, PRNP. Ten to fifteen percent of CJD cases are inherited. (CDC)” (Thank you, Wikipedia, for proving quick reference knowledge.)

To conclude, I’ve been grabbed by prion folding and I want to explore that a little more. If I wasn’t ending my twenties and was still in college, I could major in science and beg a professor to let me be his research assistant. As it is, I have only myself and have to pay my rent, bills, etc. Luckily, I don’t have children and have a long life ahead of me, to do as I please during my free time.

It would be nice if I could finagle a research assistant position from Georgetown or American or UMD or NIH. My inflexible, weekends-only (except when I’m needed at my paying job) schedule makes this an unlikely possibility. I don’t think there are virtual research positions in the sciences (but I’ll look into that).  But I still have my bio class and my books, and a universe filled with information.

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