Depression, like just about every other mental disease, is a strange and mysterious beast. We’ve reached the stage where most people finally understand that it’s really an illness, really a physical problem, not something can be controlled. We know that there are myriad drugs that can help: citalopram, sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine… But we still can’t reach out and touch it. We still can’t predict it. There’s still not a physical test that you can do. An assay that proves that no, this person isn’t just lazy or melancholy or antisocial: they are depressed.
Over the weekend, the news outlets got a bit excited at the prospect that scientists had finally discovered “the molecule responsible for causing feelings of depression” (Independent), “the brain’s most miserable molecule” (The Sunday Times) “the little bastard molecule that causes depression” (msn), “The Thing Responsible for Depression” (Jezebel).
And the science
I wish I could say I’m as excited as they are, but of course the science is never as simple as this. The actual paper released is a slog to say the least, and more Physics than Biology, but I’ll give it a go. Continue reading
When I was in my teens, the thing that I loved more about science was the opportunity to learn something new every day. I loved that what I thought I knew was never exactly true, and hated it at the same time. I wanted to know what we’d be told in our GCSE classes, or our A-level classes, or our undergraduate lectures long before I was old enough for it to be on the syllabus. I had this idea that if I kept studying science for long enough, eventually it would make sense.
It will never make sense. Continue reading
Posted in Biology, Genetics, Grad school, In the lab, Science
Tagged biology, conference, data, depression, FAIL, grad school, in the lab, poster, qPCR, ramen, science, valley of shit
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
Given that it’s that time of year when both my new undergrads and the new crop of postgrads appear like magic in the department, I thought I might scribble some thoughts about life at the start of Grad School. Call it egotistical, but given some of the rubbish I’ve been through in the last 3 years I feel like I might have a thing or two to share that newbie postgrads could find useful. Continue reading
Advance warning: this is a bit ranty, and more opinion than scientific. But please read it anyway. This is important.
For anyone who has had their head stuck in the sand since Friday, on 20th June 2012 a young man ran into a midnight preview showing of the new Batman film where he released gas cannisters and opened fire with three guns, killing 12 and injuring 58 others. James Eagan Holmes was in court yesterday for the first time to be charged with 142 counts of murder and attempted murder.
For the first two years of my PhD I lived in an undergraduate hall as a ‘responsible adult’. The friends I made during those two years are the people I love best in this city. Without them, I doubt I’d have made it to the end of my first year. Many have moved on: I haven’t seen several in months. I tell myself that we’ll see each other when we have time.
At the weekend one of those friends passed away, following a cycling accident. I heard on Monday morning. And I am numb.
This morning I have spent 3 hours holding a friend’s hand and listening with horrified fascination to how unable many people are to reconcile her sickness with her intelligence. How can you be smart and depressed at the same time? seems to be the general theme. If you’re not a vegetable, you can’t really be sick. There is still a pervasive attitude that mental illness and an accompanying inability to work are somehow a by-product of laziness, or ineptitude. But if that’s the case, then why are so many Type A personality, top-of-the-class postgraduates afflicted? Continue reading