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I wrestled open the door, juggling the unwieldy fruits of my labor. Here I was again at Sequencing, that cavernous machine-laden room on the 15th floor of the Alkek Building in the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center, repeating the same procedure followed with every set of cloned DNA that I created. I shuffled past the rows of Applied Biosystems 3730xl DNA Analyzers, those mechanical gods that demanded their daily sacrifice of genetic material. I continued on past the temple attendants in white lab coats to the sacrificial altar, a nondescript white freezer where DNA samples to be sequenced are placed. I dumped the pile of DNA trays, filled in the requisite information on the sign-in sheet and turned to go.

For three weeks I had been doing this. For three weeks I brought my humble little trays here and never saw them again. Before reaching the door, I looked out the window across the expansive Houston cityscape. On the horizon I noted the smokestacks and cracking towers of the great petrochemical complexes to the south and east, steady streams of condensation billowing from their heights. On a fundamental level, is this building so much different from the ones in the distance? I came to do research, to...

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