Category Archives: Just me

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Starting Grad School: The beauty of a clean lab book

Occasionally, I have the realisation that I am not entirely sane. Not in a catastrophic hearing-voices type way, but when I talk to myself and then remember that this is not normal. This morning I arrived at the sports centre to discover that circuits wasn’t on, and I would just have to go run in the gym instead. Upon finding my mp3 player in the bottom of my bag, and realising that I had in fact remembered to put it on hold (therefore meaning there was enough battery to get me through a 40 minute hill slog) I smiled and mentally called myself a good girl . Continue reading

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I’m still here!

Sorry for the radio silence, folks. I’m currently at PAG XXI. (That’s the 21st annual Plant and Animal Genome conference for those of you out of the loop). Long, long days (Workshops from 8am-6pm), a poster to worry about (no, I don’t know why a poster is making me nervous when I really should have been trying to give a talk) and jet lag into the bargain. Still, I might get a blogpost up before the week is out, and if not there will be one coming pretty much as soon as I’m back in the UK. (I have Friday off work since I’ll be too jetlagged for the lab, landing at 7am!) For a geneticist, at a genomics conference, I seem to be doing an awful lot of sociology…

Anyhow, bits and bobs still going up on Twitter, if you wondered whether I was still alive (or wanted to know more about QTL mapping, de novo assemblies and meiotic crossovers!)

Starting Grad School: Get Sociable

Moving to a new city to start my postgraduate studies was one of the most daunting things I have ever done. Going to uni in the first place as an undergrad was a piece of cake: I’m musical, I’m sporty, I’m religious and I like giving people food. I’m not amazing at making close friends but I am very good at making friendly acquaintances. And everybody else was in the exact same boat, desperate to meet their new best friends and super keen to be involved with everything.

After I graduated I worked in a lovely, supportive school, that expected all of the staff to be involved in much more than just teaching. Even if there hadn’t been the immediate camaraderie of bitching in the staff room about disruptive kids, I got to know people through the musical side of the school, and Duke of Edinburgh, and Christian Union.

Moving here was a whole other ball game. The postgrads separated out neatly into:  Continue reading

Starting Grad School: There’s a fine fine line

There’s a fine fine line… between a post-doc and  a friend

(To paraphrase Avenue Q)

Starting a PhD, especially if your most recent degree was your undergraduate Bachelors, and not a Masters degree, can come as a little bit of a culture shock. There’s the working hours (Forget watching Countdown. Forget being home in time for Hollyoaks! Actually forget being home ever). There’s the lack of deadlines. But there’s also a very different relationship with your professors.

I was fortunate to have a very good working relationship with several academics at the university where I did my undergrad, but of course there’s always going to be a certain amount of distance. You don’t know their wife’s name. They don’t know what your Facebook profile looks like.  Continue reading

Molecular Biology is like baking because … Part II

Over the years I seem to have acquired a reputation as a competent baker. My second set of Bristol housemates decided that I was really quite awesome in the kitchen because of my ability to – 30 minutes after someone said I really want some chocolate… (We lived a 20 minute walk over a rainy, windy, barren field from the nearest supermarket) – produce a plate of hot-from-the-oven damned-good-if-I-say-so-myself brownies. This is slightly hilarious given the clear link between lab and kitchen and my ineptitude at the bench, but is really down to one simple secret.

I’m good at baking because I have a small selection of recipes that work and I never ever deviate from them. Last weekend I tried a different brownie recipe for the first time in about 4 years (two recipes in fact). Utter disaster. Continue reading

Lab fright, and how to fight it

If you have happened to glance at the About page, you’ll know that when the baking biologist isn’t doing biology or baking, she also sings. What you might not know is that when she sings she gets major stage fright. Those who are not involved in any kind of performing arts might not have ever experienced stage fright. It’s not about being scared. It’s about the racing pulse, the sweating palms, the ringing in your ears as the panic rises…

But on a stage is not the only place the baking biologist gets stage fright: she gets it in the lab too.

When I walk into the lab there is sometimes a little voice that tells me You don’t belong here. It’s one part a Professor with a very dry sense of humour, who was single handedly responsible for me dropping molecular biology after first year (only to decide when I graduated that I wanted to do a genetics PhD….) It is one part a real badgerwaffle of a scientist that I had to work with after graduating, who went as far as telling me to do things wrongly just so he could enjoy watching me screw up. But though there are specific reasons that lab work unnerves me I don’t think I’m alone in finding a molecular biology lab a scary place to be, and I don’t think I’m the only one whose imposter syndrome stretches to the bench.  Continue reading

#summergoals: End of July evaluation

A few weeks ago I decided to get a handle on my summer by setting myself some goals (thanks to  Flora Poste for giving me the idea!) . I’m a very target driven person and also prone to floundering without a schedule (someone remind me why on earth I wanted to do a PhD?) The aim of the game was to make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound). In other words I set myself a whole bunch of tasks to be achieved; some big, some small; that would help my PhD in a noticeable way, and that were supposed to be complete by certain deadlines. The end of July was one of these deadlines.

My first recap of #summergoals was pretty successful. The end of July… less so.

Continue reading