Saturday, July 2, 2011

PhD's and the Weekend

Correction on my last post: destination 4. I guess you could say I’ve already messed up with numbering my destinations. So, at destination #4, or Wednesday night, the family of Jean-Michel, the family of Gabie(new farm), and I enjoyed dinner together; we had a feast that lasted until 11:30pm! Of course those in primary school (Ines & Esteban) had class the next day, but they only had two days left so the parents didn’t appear too concerned. This new house was beautiful: three large gardens with fruits, veggies, and flowers, several beautiful and genetically favored cows, heifers, and calves, chickens, rabbits, a large house that was finished not too long ago, and a super kind family inhabiting it. I only stayed there two days and may return Sunday depending on my departure time Monday (explained later on- and no, not for home sorry :/ ). The next morning, Thursday, I was able to sleep in until ~7:10! (no sarcasm- it wasn’t 5:30am like my previous 2 weeks) Luc, a research scientist, picked me up to drive to INRA; INRA is a company that is found sporadically in France for work with dairy cattle, pigs, goats, and possibly more. My day was set up so that I would meet with several employees who do several different things. Many of them were working on or had completed their PhD. As a result, many told me that I could come back to France and complete a PhD there as well as have an internship there. (Too bad I don’t want to work with cows or pigs, but that’s just the way it turned out.) Still, I’ve made many relationships and that’s always a great thing… Several of the researchers were working with dairy milk and ways to improve and understand it. For instance, some were researching the composition of milk, the mammary gland, mammary metabolism, etc. Others were lab technicians, wherein one was working with histology (study of tissue) and another with spectrophotometry and chromatography. Two interesting project I heard of were to decrease the Nitrogenous secretions made by cows, for the sake of protecting the atmosphere, as well as one to minimize the amount of energy used on the farm. The latter project was especially interesting because Matteu was comparing three regions: two in France and one called “Reunion”, an African island right next to Madagascar. Accordingly, he travelled to Reunion and showed me some pictures. He told me that the majority of cattle farms in Africa are different than what we would expect. He said that the people buy and sell cattle for money; the meat/milk market is secondary to that. The reason being is because the African region is very hot and dry, consequently difficult to grow food for the cattle, and reasonably poor. There are actually breeds of cattle that have a water reserve on their backs (like camels)! I had no idea.

After lots of appointments, Luc dropped me off back at Gabie’s farm. Crystal and Pierre(her son) cooked boeuf(beef) bourguignon- my first French bourguignon and it was, as always over here in France, delicious. The next day I left with another research scientist who brought me to the farm where the research is actually done. It was really interesting the way they collected their data. There are rooms made for fistulated cows; these are cows that have plugs, enabling scientists to collect hay from the rumen. Each room holds 5 cows which stay there for 3 months; they do not even leave for milking, for that is done with a “mobile milker”. There are several measurements which are transferred electronically to the computers so that all of the data is electronically stored; this includes the amount of water drunk, food eaten, time of rumination,  concentration of gas in the room, and more. For a bit of insight, the amount of food eaten and fermentation taking place is recorded by a “tap-tap” mechanism wherein the cow has a strap around its head with an attached “plastic balloon” placed under the mouth. The power and rate of the tapping(or eating) is transferred onto a graph for interpretation. Later on, I saw the goats and would have been licked to death if I had gotten any closer! They were very curious, cute animals. This species only has two teats, with a smaller udder, and so milking is much faster. After lunch, I met with a few other scientists, hearing about their research; in order to have a PhD in France, you have to basically learn the English language because there are several required presentations and papers(thesis*) in English. I finished two hours before I was to leave and so I went outside, under the sun by an apple tree, and read the rest of my book. (Now I’m starting Water For Elephants!) Once I got back, David picked me up to stay with him and his family for the weekend- this time at their house.
            I’ve “rented out” Lily Rose’s room and so have a large, pretty pink flower as a bed light, with several pink and green colors surrounding the toys surrounding the bed; I love it- makes me feel like a child.  As for today, we went into town to do some shopping; today is the town’s “Black Friday” with sales and several vendors outside. We bought cheese, bread, and clothes. I finally found an inexpensive shirt/dress in France (which I of course bought). We returned back home for lunch and then put the girls down for a nap. Currently they’re still sleeping, while the rest of us are watching the Monaco wedding … and multitasking of course. Tonight we’re going to a friend’s house for dinner and tomorrow may go to the beach. Je veux bien aller a la plage, mais on verra(I would like to go to the beach, but we’ll see)

The first birth I've seen!

The second live birth - helping Isabelle transfer the calf

Helping fill the large sack of wheat for the cows.

With Gabie's and Jean-Michel's family for dinner

With Colette and the Chromatogram - thanks to chemistry I actually know what that is.

Me with Sandra - she's the one who studies histology(picture seen below)

This is a picture of the mammary tissue - you can see the alveoli which hold the milk in the udder -- they're the pink blobs (this is shown with fluorescence)

The front view of the cows' 3 month placement

The cows with the plugs - the two on the left have an "American" plug while those on the right have a "French" plug
The research farm's milking parlor

She's smiling at me!! :D

This morning - just though it looked cool :)

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