Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dog Days of Winter

Our family is getting bigger! After Andy and I talked about it for a few weeks, we have decided that we're ready to take our next big step together. We felt that we were finally at a point in our lives that handle the challenge of bringing another life into our home. 

We decided to adopt a dog!

Brining an animal into your home is a big responsibility. Both of us have grown up with dogs and we understand how big of a commitment it is. We also understand how much time it takes. 

Yes, we did discuss getting a puppy, and while puppies are adorable and fluffy and we love them, we decided against getting one. Heres why (soapbox warning): 

Puppies are more difficult to train. Yes,  you can weed out bad behavior before it becomes a habit, but puppies require more work than an adult dog. Not only do puppies lack full social skills, they also have short attention spans and tire quickly both mentally and physically. You are literally starting from ground zero. Building a relationship with a puppy as well as teaching obedience and social skills is a daunting task. Andy and I understood this and knew we couldn't take on that particular challenge at this time.

Puppies can be unpredictable. Puppies are not fully grown or developed, obviously. But this makes it quite a challenge to select a good fit for your family. At a young age, puppies all kind of act the same: they play, they bite, they run away, and then they nap. Although there is always a measure of behavioral uncertainty when getting a dog of any age, puppies are extra difficult. We knew we couldn't handle a highly active dog, but didn't want a total snoozer either. Those aren't traits you can determine from a hyper active, nap taking puppy.

Puppies are puppies. I know that's the whole point, but there are certain behaviors I did NOT want to deal with before getting to enjoy our dog. Teething. Puppies will chew anything. They don't understand what is ok and what is not; their teeth hurt, and they want to chew. Potty training. Any dog you bring home will need to be watched for accidents, but puppies have loose bladders and bowels. There's very little warning before they pop a squat and ruin your carpet, and with puppies being more difficult to train than adult dogs, potty training can also take longer than desired.

Overpopulation. Have you ever been to an animal shelter? There are so many good dogs (and cats) without homes. When you choose to get go buy a puppy, you are often depriving a homeless animal of having a home while simultaneously encouraging puppy mills and backyard breeders. Some dog activities require a purebred (AKC or other dog competitions), or a high content mix (recreational sporting), and there are registered and reputable breeders for that. If you don't care for a purebred, go to the shelter! Pet stores often get their puppies from puppy mills. Puppy mills are horrible places with terrible living conditions where dogs are kept for the sole purpose of making puppies. Backyard breeders are, in my personal opinion, irresponsible. Yes, everyone loves puppies, but there are too many dogs without homes to justify unnecessary breeding. I don't have anything personal against owners who choose not to spay or neuter just because they want puppies (not for reputable breeding or competition purposes), but I've been to the shelter many times and I've seen how many good dogs are there. If you chose to spay or neuter and not to have puppies, you would decrease the amount of dogs in the shelter and encourage adoption (even if only by a little bit). Ok, rant over!

Anyways, after deciding to adopt, Andy and I discussed in length what type of dog we would want. When I say type, I do not mean breed. There are breed specific personality trends, but by all means breed does not necessarily equal personality. We knew we wanted mid energy. We wanted a dog we could go out and play with but would also come in and snuggle. We also didn't want any underlying social or behavioral problems: our dog needed to be good with children, other dogs, be willing to be pet everywhere, and not be protective of food, space, or personal items. These were all safety precautions. Our families have other dogs that our dog would need to get along with. We also have nieces, ages 5 and under. They would want to play with the dog and we needed to know they would be safe no matter what they did (literally the instant they met our dog they were all over her--stealing her toys, pulling on her ears and even her three inch tail). Lastly, we wanted a dog that valued our attention over anything else.

We went to seven different shelters and rescue organizations and saw over 100 dogs. We only found one dog that fit all of these criteria. Not going to lie, I had been perusing the online postings from shelters and saw our little girl before we even met her. I ruled her out based on looks, I thought she was kind of ugly (she looked kinda chihuahua-ish, and they aren't my favorite), and she looked old. Old dogs are amazing, but Andy and I couldn't afford that right now.

Online Shelter Listing

I can't believe how wrong I was.

First off, she was only one year old--not 8 like she looks. Second, she is the cutest little dog ever.

When we went to the shelter, she ran up to the front of the cage, whining. She licked my hands and tried to snuggle through the bars. We decided to take her out and screen her for the above criteria. She passed with flying colors. We were surprised--we actually found a dog that would work for us! We came back twice more to continue screening, and introduced my mother and Andy's family's dog to her as well. She continued to pass. She even knew how to sit, lay down, and fetch already! We decided to adopt her and we took our little baby home. Andy and I, being science majors, named her Tesla after one of our favorite scientists, Nikola Tesla.

Her first night home
She has been such a wonderful addition to our lives. Our families love her to pieces and so do we. She loves snuggles, but will still play for hours. She was already potty trained, spayed, and declawed, suggesting she had a previous family. We have no idea what happened for her to be in the shelter, and why no one adopted her first (she was there for two weeks), but we're so happy to have her. 

I love our little girl
PS. Her breed has been the subject of much debate in our family. She obviously is mixed, but as to what we don't know. She has a short, double coat, heterochromia (two different colored eyes), and is only 20 lbs. We've guessed everything from husky-chihuahua to aussie-jack russell. We're getting a dog DNA test through dnamydog.com, and are looking forward to the mystery being solved!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


This summer, Andy and I both took on full time jobs at a small laboratory near our home town. My job included starting up, managing, and running both the microbiology lab and the thin layer chromatography assay. Big deal for an undergraduate. Andy was in charge of running the near infra red machine; a never ending and thankless job.

With our busy schedules, vacations and trips were near impossible. We did, however, manage to pull a few weekend trips.

One of my favorite places is Yellowstone National Park. My grandparents used to own a cabin a little over an hour from the west entrance, so I have many childhood memories of this grand expanse of wilderness.

Andy and I actually made not one, but two trips to Yellowstone this summer, one with his family and one with mine. Let me tell you about a few of the must see highlights.

What usually comes to mind when you hear Yellowstone? Old Faithful? Animals? Fishing? All of these are part of experiencing Yellowstone. When I was little, I remember going to see Old Faithful. My memory mainly consists of sitting in the hot sun and waiting. It's pretty faithful, but not entirely. If you've never seen it, you definitely have to, but there are a few other must see sights in the area.

The Old Faithful Lodge is a must see. Since you're already waiting for the geyser to spew, you might as well take a peek inside. The interior is breathtaking. It's so old, and all made of wood. The fireplace is huge, and the whole feel of it is adventurous.

Old Faithful Lodge
While marveling at the grandeur, you have to get ice cream. I mean have to. In Yellowstone, the huckleberry ice cream is to die for. There are plenty of other flavors for you non-traditionalists, but really. In Yellowstone, huckleberry is the flavor.

Some of the smaller geysers near Old Faithful are also worth seeing. Biscuit Basin has some beautiful hot pots (Sapphire pool is one of my favorites) as well as a few smaller geysers. Even just driving by you can see them spewing out boiling water.

Sapphire Pool
A bit further down the road is the famous Grand Prismatic Pool. It is massive and the colors are breathtaking. Don't be worried about weather, either. Even if it is cold and rainy, the hot pots are still worth the visit. The mist coming off of the hot pots is both beautiful and ominous.

Grand Prismatic
Another famous site in Yellowstone is Mammoth Hot Springs. I honestly had never been before this summer, and wasn't sure what to expect. It was amazing. The formations are incredible and completely cover the hillside. There are also plenty of placards telling about the formations and giving wonderful science lessons about the thermophiles that live in the hot water. Also noteworthy, there is a restaurant by Mammoth that serves huckleberry ice cream. I'm not joking; you have to have some.

Mammoth Hot Springs
If you're visiting in the summer, there is a swimming hole in Firehole river. It's just upstream of Firehole Falls. There's an area to change and everything. Unfortunately we didn't know that it had been opened up, so we didn't get to go swimming, but it looked so refreshing.

Swimming Hole in Firehole River
Safety note: Yellowstone is famous for its wildlife. When we went, we saw huge herds of buffalo and elk. We also saw cranes, a fox, and even two grizzly bears. Please remember that these are wild animals. I know it may sound silly to have to remind people, but while we were up there, some girl kicked a buffalo so it would stand up for the picture and she was mauled. We also saw people taking pictures within 20 yards of the grizzlies. These animals can kill you. They are massive, powerful, and alive. They are not simply backdrops for your selfie.

Maybe a bit too close guys?
Perfect View
Another safety note: Yellowstone is wilderness. If you have a medical emergency, there are no 24 hour pharmacies and the nearest hospitals are hours away. The rangers are willing to help, but even so, you should be prepared.

Our Emergency Kit we made after a horrible night in Yellowstone
On a last, happy note, I would like to give a shoutout to one of my family's favorite places. Around two hours south of West Yellowstone, there is a little town called Ashton. In this town, there is a diner that serves the BEST huckleberry shakes. Every time my family stayed at my grandparents' cabin, we would go and get huckleberry shakes at 511 Main Fountain & Pizzeria. We love that place. My dad would literally drive 5 hours to give a shake if he had the chance. To be honest, those shakes are part of the reason we went to Yellowstone as a family.
Enough Said
To conclude, Yellowstone is a great place to spend a weekend. There is plenty to see a do as long as your willing to take the time and do it. Happy camping, readers.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hepatitis C Virus: An Introduction

For those of you who know my blog, or have visited before, you know that this type of article is unusual for me. I don't write about serious topics. Ever. But today I was reminded of a situation that has always weighted heavily on my mind: the availability of medical aid.

In the U.S., we enjoy the many medical advances. However, these advances sometimes--usually--come with a hefty price tag. Anyone who has had a surgery or gone without insurance knows that medical prices are very high, but at least we have access to it.

I, like many people on Facebook, follow the Humans of New York page. I love seeing the inspiring stories of those overcoming poor circumstances or the heartwarming stories of every day life. Today my heartstrings were pulled violently at the picture of a woman suffering from Hepatitis C Virus. She had escaped with her child from an abusive relationship and is struggling with her disease and situation. As I read through the comments I saw how many people wanted to help and the lack of information these people had about this disease and its treatments.

Last semester I learned of the release of Hepatitis C drugs that cured the disease. Curing a chronic viral disease after contraction is nearly unheard of, so of course I was excited and intrigued. As I researched the topic, I was surprised and infuriated at the price. All of these drugs were over $80,000 per treatment, about $1,000 per pill. I couldn't understand how. How could you develop a life saving drug and charge so much? Is it really that expensive to produce? Is this price ethical?

That was how I found my research topic for the semester. I went on to write two articles on the topic of HCV. One is strictly on the virus itself (background, characteristics, genetics, disease, etc), while the other an analytical report on the ethics of the prices for the three main HCV drugs (Sovaldi, Harvoni, and Viekira Pak).

In my experience, information about this disease and the treatment options available is spread out and hard to dig up. I feel that accessibility to this information and public awareness is the key to fighting HCV and also pharmaceutical price gouging. Both of my articles in their entirety will be posted on my blog, and I will be looking into posting them on other forums as well. I hope that through my research I can help others.

Hepatitis C Virus: Part I

Hepatitis C Virus: Part II

Thursday, April 9, 2015

About Me

I realized that even though I started this blog a few years ago, I never formally introduced myself. I feel that with my ever small, but somehow growing audience, I should perhaps say a few words about me.

My name is Hannah. If you haven't gathered that, then have you really read my blog? 

I am a university student in a small university town. I am currently working on a B.S. in Microbiology and will hopefully graduate this coming December. I have worked in labs since my senior year of high school (so four years of being a lab rat!), and I love science. I even work as a teaching assistant in a laboratory class, sharing the love of science with students. To some of you, this may surprise you. I never mention science, I never talk about it here. It is, though, part of who I am. 

Bacterial growth from a student's phone
As you know, I am recently married. My husband and I are renting a small house close to campus. Although we are not allowed any animals, but we were able to keep my betta fish, Burney. You would think that having a fish as a pet is boring, but you'd be surprised. Burney is probably the most active fish I have ever seen. He freaks out when you walk in the room and you can literally play with him. With our living situation, he's a perfect fit.

Burney, our hyperactive fish
I like plants, but and am sometimes obsessed with them. The other times, I forget to water them and then they die or grow weird and look super ugly. I really need to start a routine.

The cool sunflowers I tried to seed and then killed
I ran track in high school. I ran the hurdles and an old track injury led to my surgery this past August. I am super lazy, however, and have not kept up running. I keep telling myself that I'll run when I'm less busy, but it still hasn't happened. Woops.

I love traveling, as you can probably see by my previous posts. I want to see the world and experience culture outside of my hometown "bubble". I love trying new food (but am also scared to). I love going new places and seeing new things.
Me squandering a perfectly good photo-op with Big Ben
During my university experience, I have taken two semesters of theater arts. I like doing theatrical makeup. While that may not come up ever again, it seems important to mention.

That time I grew (made) a beard
Lastly, I love life. I love my family, friends, and my companion in crime, Andy. I hope that the one thing everyone remembers of me is that I loved those around me and tried to make the best of everything. It's something I try to work on.

Andy and I

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Every once and a while, Andy and I have a Salt Lake Day. These excursions date back to our first big date when we went to the Leonardo, the Living Planet Aquarium, and Ikea all in one day. Our Salt Lake Days have continued and we've since taken trips to Tracy Aviary, Comic Con, Capitol Hill, and now Hogle Zoo.

Although my memories of the zoo have always included massive crowds, sweltering heat, the inability to see any animal, and screaming children, I have always enjoyed the zoo. To avoid reliving most, if not all, of these unpleasant memories, Andy and I planned to go to Hogle Zoo on a Friday morning. In the winter.

It was amazing.

There were a total of maybe 30 visitors to the zoo that day. Yes, it was a brisk day, but we could go to each exhibit and enjoy the views of the animals by ourselves!! There was no one around! We got to see every animal up close and personal (behind glass or a fence). There were no screaming children, and no one to block our pictures.

We were also very lucky to have visited around feeding time. All of the animals were up and active. The lions and tiger were roaring as they were impatiently waiting for their food. 

We also got to see this gem:

It even tried to woo me!

Our trip to the zoo was very enjoyable. The lack of crowds, due to the season and the time of day, made for a very quiet afternoon, and I actually preferred the cold to the blistering summer heat. I highly recommend Hogle Zoo and deem it an acceptable outing for any time of year.