#summergoals: How to survive July and August

At some stage yesterday, one of my Tweeps posted this article by Flora Poste about how to survive the summer without the structure of undergraduate teaching and other regular commitments to keep us in check. I think this is a topic I need to think about more, especially at the moment. I have a lot of … stuff … on my plate right now, and therefore not much lab work is getting done because I am easily distracted by a) moping about Alex, b) trying to fight fire in other quarters and c) faffing on the internet.  And I suffer from lab stage fright. The longer I go without doing things, the less gets done. And so now, after two weeks of moving house and giving a conference talk and … this week … I am getting to full on procrastinating-so-I-don’t-have-to-face-the-lab stage.

My friends and associates would have you believe that I am extraordinarily busy and organised. Little do they know that this is because I am incapable of getting anything done without structure. At school, university and in my first job I was superbly motivated and competent because I was busy all the time. As a PhD student I can regularly waste entire days achieving very little. At my best, I work incredibly efficiently by having every hour of the day scheduled: something that is very hard to do with a lab-based PhD!

So while my qPCR is running, and I am stuck here on a Friday afternoon while most of the lab skives off (PI is elsewhere today) here is my attempt to regulate myself for the next couple of weeks. The time scales are specific because I am really good at putting stuff off.

By the end of Monday (I am so slow to get started on Mondays) I will…

9am. Prep for the day by putting RNA, SSII reagents, plasmid, qPCR reagents on ice. 

* Run a beautiful triplicate standard curve for my qPCR primers. That should be today’s job, but I messed it up and now I’m just whining about it. I will set this up first thing, before I do anything else. By 10am it will be in the machine. It will require 60 samples aka 5 master mixes for 13.2 sample each. 

* Perform cDNA synthesis on the DNase treated RNA sat waiting in the -80 for me to be ready to use it for qPCR. I’m stalling. I will start this before coffee time. If I do this then I can go to departmental coffee where there will be biscuits. 

* During the long 70 min incubation of cDNA synthesis I will… Take my claim form to Finance so I can reclaim the money for that conference. Frustratingly I have missed the deadline to claim this month by procrastinating. I have the receipts and form ; it’s been signed… I just need to take the damned thing!

* Type up my director job description so that that is done. (Not a science thing, but is distracting me). 

By the end of next week (Friday 20th) I will…

* Ask the greenhouse man to sow me some more deletion lines. Monday or Tuesday.

* Sit down and write out all the lab problems I am having so that they can be discussed at lab meeting on Wednesday.

* Tidy my bench and desk ready for lab clean up. (This may be Monday afternoon).

* Do a plasi prep of epic proportions so I have some more plasmid as I’m running short. Can’t do this until the day after I grow some bacteria, so this is probably Tuesday.  

* Extract genomic DNA from the tissue in the -80 so I can use that, rather than my precious precious cDNA, to run genotyping experiments. (This can’t be done til at least Wednesday afternoon, due to us being out of N(l)) Thursday. 

* Repeat the genotyping for my four SNPs. Friday. 

* Desperately try to grow up my poor overgrown bacteria. Attempt 1 = Monday Night. 

* Have established whether I actually need a B1 visa, or can apply for a visa waiver by talking to recently travelled postdoc.

By the end of the month (July 31st) I will …

* Have laid my hands on (whether by rescuing the previous lot or doing another transformation) at least 30 plasmids. This is rather dependent on my attempts to rescuscitate / transform my poor bacteria, but I forsee having this out of the way by July 24th.

* Have sequenced them. July 26th? 

* Have completed round one of qPCR using the wild type tissue. Try try try to get this done next week. Failing that book in for 24th. 

* Have completed the RNA extractions on the deletion lines. That’s a whole day’s work. 25th? 

* Cleaned up that RNA. Half a day’s work. 

* Picked a topic and started writing something for the New Scientist competitionCould be a good one for the train next Saturday. 

* Have continued to stalk the PAG 2013 website until it finally reveals what sessions there will be and whether there is anything relevant for me to present at so I can suck up to the chair until they ‘invite’ me. (Apparently I can’t apply to talk, I just have to suck up and hope?!)

* Recorded a 2 minute summary of my research for the chance to have it animated by Jorge Chan of PhD comics.

By the end of August I will have…

* Written chapters about qPCR and protein for my end of 2nd year report. Start this at the end of July when I’m house sitting and have somewhere quiet with no internet to distract me. Ideally first draft to supervisor in first week of August. 

* Revisited my literature review in order to update it. Ditto. 

* Applied for a visa?

* Written my New Scientist entry.

* Have written a poster abstract for PAG so that I can apply for the Scherago International Student Travel grant. (Deadline not until November but it can’t hurt to get in there early?) There are a bunch of other grants but they say plant genome researchers…. Really I’m genetics so don’t know whether to apply :-S  


In order to preserve my sanity, along the way I shall also be:

  • Running at least once a week.
  • Trampolining at least once a week.
  • Making at least one from-scratch real-food meal per week.
  • Doing some more baking! (I am the baking biologist, after all).
  • Starting to write in my (recently unearthed) journal again.

So thanks to Flora for getting me on to this, and let the games commence!

2 responses to “#summergoals: How to survive July and August

  1. Pingback: Summer goals: dividing and conquering « shakespearescholarinprogress

  2. Pingback: #summergoals: End of July evaluation | bakingbiologist

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