Cohen Lab

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Congrats Ryan on your F31!

Congrats Ryan for recieving a F31 award from NHGRI ("Interpreting function of non-coding sequences with synthetic biology and machine learning").

Virtual Reunion

The virtual celebration for Dana’s paper turned into a lab Zoom reunion on April 7, 2020. It was great to see everyone who could make it and hear stories from different eras of the lab.

First Cohen Research Conference

The first-ever Cohen Research Conference was held Feb 25-27, 2020 at Stonehaven Castle, Eureka Springs, AR. Every conference attendee registered online for the conference and presented a talk. Other activities included communal cooking, board-games, day-time and night-time hikes, a meditation session, sciencing around a campfire, spotting constellations on a clear black sky, balancing the entire lab on a log, and impromptu midnight performances with the guitar by Barak. It was a truly special experience. Thanks to Clarice and Jeff, the chief organizers of the conference.

Photo credit: James

Sailing fun

The lab spent a fun day sailing on Barak’s boat last week. The weather obliged with some great sunshine and good winds. The rejuvenated crew are now back in the lab to tackle smaller amounts of liquid.

Photo credit: James

Max K99 Success

Great work Max for recieving a K99 award from NIGMS for his project "High-Throughput Functional Interrogation Of Mammalian Activation Domains".

We do science, too

We have a lot of fun in the Cohen Lab. We sail, and we eat donuts, and we brainstorm big ideas over tasty cocktails. But at core, we are a band of renegades, uncovering secrets of the genome. The only evidence for that claim that you’ll need is the picture below, showing Max and Maria and Clarice taking care of their cells, on a Cohen-Triple-TC-Hood-Combo-Day.

Back to back to back!

Congratulations to Clarice, to Siqi, and to Jeff on successfully proposing their theses! The three have hitched their wagons together so as one wagon advances ahead, the others are pulled alongside. In such a way, the three have boosted each other’s science and buoyed each other’s spirits. A regular Cerberus of science. What a team!

We look forward to seeing what comes out of each one’s thesis work.

Sailing through graduate school

When a few Cohen Lab members found themselves listlessly floating through the doldrums of graduate school, Barak came to the rescue. Quickly navigating rivers and creeks and roadside puddles, he sailed across Illinois and arrived in lab to the shock and awe of the other landlubber labs. His new crew gave a quick “yippee” and climbed aboard.

Might there be merits to guiding the ship into international waters where the rogue scientists could set up a nautical lab? Benefits would include easy access to fresh seafood, plenty of salt water for buffering our enzymatic reactions, and the inspiration of the fresh sea breeze. That said, we may need to invent new nautical approaches to sequencing DNA, discover internet-free ways of reading new papers, and identify some Atlantis-based funding source.

For now, we’ll keep residence within our lovely coffee-laden abode and escape to Carlyle Lake when the siren song becomes too much. But when the floods arrive again, look to the Cohen Lab for the beginnings of the NNIH: the National Nautical Institutes of Health.

Donut Day in the Cohen Lab

Mary Poppins sang that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. This morning, we sang that a dozen John’s donuts helps the Washington University in St. Louis Institutional Biological & Chemical Safety Committee Protocol go down, and an additional spoonful of sugar helps that lengthy name go down.

Around the rooster’s crow, Barak, Max, Clarice, and Jeff gathered round a table piled high with past protocols, laptops, safety certificates, and a hearty collective knowledge ranging from the origins of reporter genes to the dangers of graphite in space. And then there were the donuts. Our lab has a storied tradition of sweetening unpleasant days with samplings of St. Louis’ fabulous donut scene. For RNA extractions, we grab a dozen from World’s Fair. For library preparation, we grab a dozen from Vincent Van Doughnut. For Clarice’s seven-hour-long marathon of a practice talk, we grab a dozen from Strange. And for the latest effort in maintaining a safe and accountable lab, we grab a dozen from John’s.

Perched next to our venerable coffee source, the four toiled as the sun progressed across the sky. Time’s passing was marked only by the regular flow of fellow scientists, coming to refill their receptacles with the dark brown life fuel that surely represents far too high of a proportion within our electrolyte-deficient bloodstream. Some offered sympathies, while others jealously eyed the donuts. The latter group hoped to only experience the sweet without the accompanying sour.

As the crescent moon rose on the horizon, the protocol neared complete. The four, splitting the final donut into quarters, each raised a piece in cheers to renewed safety and accountability. And quickly retired from lab to find some vegetables.

Big Ideas Night

Aaaand we’re back for round three. This time with some new faces! Ah, time ticks on and people come and go. Fortunately for us, whiskey and science persist.

Back at the Scottish Arms, we tackled the problem of detecting simultaneous binding of two proteins to DNA; the proteins each must bind to the DNA and thus are not co-localized due to protein-protein interactions. In Barak’s words…imagine the TF a cowboy. Once on its DNA horse, it can lasso other TFs around it, but only those TFs also on horses. A wild west of a genome, indeed.

Some ideas included FRET-seq, 2-dimensional gels, and combination usage of accessibility and binding footprints. Without a clear winner, we’ll wait another day before discarding the lassos hanging from our bench top shelves. Until next time, keep thinking big, you crazy scientists.