Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Dream Come True...

Job searching can be frustrating- especially now that most applications are online. There is basically no way to check the status of your application besides logging in daily to see if anything has changed. I had been searching for any type of job (administrative assistant, chiropractic offices, general retail, etc.) since we moved here and hadn't heard back from anywhere. At the same time, I had been applying to Disney for different corporate and hourly jobs. Finally, last week, I finally received an e-mail (!!) to schedule an appointment for an interview.

My interview was yesterday at 9 am. I went to the Casting Center, which is across the street from Downtown Disney. The building itself is actually pretty cool.

(I didn't actually take this picture- it's not currently under construction or anything) The doorknobs on the front door are designed like the doorknob from Alice in Wonderland.

And once you are inside, there is a ramp up to the check-in area that has painted murals of Disney movies and rides. On the actual website for casting, there were only 3 positions open (Housekeeping, Custodial, and Quick Service Food and Beverage), but when I went to check-in, I was asked what areas I was interested in and was able to add Merchandise and Attractions to my list for consideration. About 9:10, five or six of us were brought into another room and watched a movie on employment at Walt Disney World. Then, we were brought to the computer lab and took an online interview. After a series of events, I met with my recruiter Beth. She asked me basic questions- verifying information and asking why I wanted to work at Disney and asking about my major. Then suddenly, she asked me where I wanted to work! My previous experience with Disney was being randomly assigned to a I was a little shocked just to be asked what I wanted to do.

I asked first for Merchandise, since my emphasis at Belmont was in marketing, but the only location available was at the cast center of merchandise- no guest interaction. Then, she looked at the Food and Beverage locations. They were all resort restaurants, and I decided I wanted to do something different, so finally, we went over the Attractions locations. I will be working at Epcot in Future World West- the Land and Living Seas pavilion, home of one of my favorite rides- Soarin'!

Since we live about an hour away from Orlando, my recruiter got me an appointment that afternoon to do all my paperwork- instead of making an additional trip! I had about 2 hours until that appointment so I went across the street to Downtown Disney and ate lunch while I called Darren, Megan, my parents, my aunt, Jill, and the TCA office to tell them the news!

That afternoon, I went to do all the paperwork and get fingerprinted. I also signed up for my Traditions class- new cast member orientation based on the history of the Disney company. It's an 8 hour class, and I'll be going on Saturday. It starts at 7:30 in the morning, and it will be at Disney University- which is located behind the Magic Kingdom and happens to be practically the farthest thing from I-4. So it will be an early morning. I'll find out about the rest of my schedule after that.

It's only part time work for now, but it's my foot in the door!

Edited to add:

I forgot to mention (or rather, I forgot to upload the picture until JUST NOW) that Darren surprised me with a celebratory ice cream dessert when I got home from Disney. Mmm...chocolate chip cookie dough- my favorite!

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Start in Marine Biology

Mary and I have been in Florida for over a month, and it's about time that I talked about why we came down in the first place. I started graduate school for biological oceanography at the University of South Florida. In other words, marine biology, sans dolphins.

This is the main building of the marine science campus in St. Petersburg. It houses mostly labs, consisting of biological, chemical, physical, and geological focuses. One of the things that make the USF marine science school so successful is its cooperation between subjects and other research institutes in the area, like the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) and Fish and Wildlife Services.

Side Note: An airport is right next to this building, and it's unnerving to be walking down the sidewalk when a plane flies by 10 meters above your head.

Before I get into the nerdy science stuff, first, I have a quick slide show.


Here's a shot of my drive to work. Notice the ocean on both sides. This is a strange experience to see this everyday, especially coming from living in Tennessee all my life. As strange as it is, I can't express how good it feels to be finally be studying my dream. Grad school is worth it just to be able to study exactly what you're passionate about, and its reinvigorates me every time I see this view every morning.


This is the building where my lab is.


Here's a shot from the top floor of the research building. Our school is nestled in a harbor in St. Pete, right next to the US Coast Guard, US Geological Survey, US Wildlife and Fisheries, and a few other oceanography insitutions. Like I said earlier, there's a lot of collaboration between research groups around here. And the coast guard is useful when we fall in the water.


Did I mention there's sailboats? I recently got certified to take these babies out. By the time anyone visits, I'll be certified to take out the larger keel-boats in the background of that picture.
And don't worry, the Coast Guard is close by, so you'll probably be safe.

And now, for the nerdy science stuff. Dont' say I didn't warn you.

Our lab focuses on identifying viruses from different sources, from sea turtles and seawater, to more urban sources. A big problem with identifying microbes (bacteria, viruses, etc) is that to fully identify one, you have to be able to grow it in the lab. Unfortunately, only about 1-10% of the microbial population is able to be grown in the lab.

Let's look at the numbers. It is estimated that there are five million trillion trillion (5x10^30) prokaryotes on earth today. More than 85% of this population is currently ungrowable in the lab, and therefore we know NOTHING about them, and how many there could be. And this is only once branch of the microbial population.

You can see the problem here. Our lab focuses on methods that will be able to indentify viruses without ever having to grow them - to use the actual term, metagenomics. In simple terms, we look at the fingerprints left behind by viruses. While we can't really use this data to figure out EVERYTHING about the little guys, it's a necessary, big step in the right direction.

If you're bored, here's our lab's website. If it's any consolation, I think there's some pictures of sea turtles on there, WHICH WE ARE SAVING. Awesome.

Alright, that's all for now. Thanks for keeping up with us down here, and know that we miss all you guys! Call us sometime! Come visit!