Life After Ripon — Raymond Allen ’15

Chapter 3: Escape

[Editor’s Note: Raymond Allen ’15, Karena Schroeder ’15, and Madeline Poullette ’15 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]

“Press buttons two and five,” my partners yell through a one-way mirror. I do as instructed. I hear a click, and a small door opens by my feet! I yell in excitement and push away debris to discover a locked briefcase. I rush into the other room where my partners work on uncovering more secrets and solving other puzzles. “10 minutes remaining,” the device in the corner of the room rings out. I take the key we discovered earlier and unlock our newly discovered treasure: a chess piece with a number on it and another elusive key.

With 4 minutes remaining, the device chimes over the bustling room again. My partners and I continue to struggle cracking open a safe, hopefully containing the final clues we need to escape. It’s my turn again. Three minutes remaining. I quickly turn the dial to the numbers we’ve gathered. . . failure again. We are frantic and frustrated with our safe opening skills. Two minutes remaining. We holler in panic. I try one more time, barely paying attention to how many times I’ve passed the numbers, but keeping pressure on the safe handle. Click. The safe finally swings open and I yell, “Quickly!” Our hands invade the safe, taking a numbered chess piece and third key. We insert the key into the device and turn it; the keyhole glows bright green like the other two activated earlier. A single minute remains. The other chess pieces are gathered and placed in the proper order. We key in the code. A yellow light flashes. . . Only 45 seconds remaining. We try the code in other sensible combinations. Yellow light flashes. . . A measly 30 seconds remaining. My partner pays attention to how the device reacts to our entry. We have five numbers. . . the device requires a six numbered entry, she sadly states. We’re missing a piece of the puzzle. The last 10 seconds remains. We scream “no” in unison, as–Ka-boom!

Happy New Year everyone! These past few months have been a whirlwind of experiences for me, which include starting my second lab rotation, finishing my first semester of graduate school, and visiting my loved ones scattered throughout Wisconsin during the winter holidays.

As I mentioned, I started my second rotation in the lab of Dr. Kenneth Poss, who specializes in regeneration in zebrafish. For a vertebrate animal, the zebrafish has a surprising amount of tissues that can be replaced when lost, including scales, pieces of the fins, the retina, and even the apex of the heart! The focus of my rotation project is to assist in uncovering more information regarding fin regeneration, an area that relates to limb development and regeneration. It feels good to reconnect with zebrafish research, mostly because it is the model organism I have the most experience with and was my focus during my research career at Ripon.

Adjusted bright field image of zebrafish fin taken in the Poss lab at Duke University.

Adjusted bright field image of zebrafish fin taken in the Poss lab at Duke University.

Simultaneously to starting in the new lab, I finished up my first semester of courses at Duke through a combination of final exams and a symposium. My partner and I were required to come up with a basic science research proposal, alongside other first-year students in the course. After reading a multitude of papers and taking the reviewed criticism that comes from our first-year peers and professors, our final product was a research proposal looking at the normal roles of proteins known to group together and cause disease. An example of such an ailment includes Alzheimer’s disease.

With science still on my mind, it was time to recuperate back in Wisconsin for the holidays! Having not seen a fellow Riponite since July, I had to get my Ripon fix. I was luckily able to spend the first part of my holiday with my fellow alumni (shout out to my friends and hosts Serge and Sam, and my pals Shane and Andrew!). And what is a visit back to Wisconsin without a trip Ripon? It may have been finals week, but it was the most fulfilling experience to meander the Ripon College campus and visit with those at my second home.

For the remainder of my holiday, I returned to my hometown of Lac du Flambeau, visited lots of friends and family, ate far too much, and relaxed. Before returning to my life of research, I was able to visit a Ripon alumna and my friend Mariya, who was able to arrange a trip to an “Escape Room.” These physical adventure games work by “locking” you in a room where you solve clues and puzzles to escape a room in a limited amount of time before an event occurs. In our case, we were locked in a room with a ticking “bomb” and had only 60 minutes to diffuse it, which can be difficult when you start out handcuffed. As you can tell from the retelling in the beginning, the movie stars make it look easier than it actually is!

Enjoy the start of 2016 everyone, and make it a good year!

Raymond (or Ray) Allen

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