Expert Effective Procrastination

My supervisors are looking over my thesis draft and the paper is trying to get submitted to a journal. What does one do to avoid just twiddling their finger idly?

Apply for travel grants and conferences I decided to apply for the enable symposium. A European symposium targeted at young researchers and seems perfect. Not only will there be the usual academic talks and poster presentations, but there is evening networking session with speakers, outreach opportunity to talk to the public about your research and workshop to help you develop transferable skills. The focus of the conference is not just about research but career development too. It’s in Barcelona and for the short effort of writing a CV (which I desperately needed to do anyway!) and a motivation letter, I’m hoping to be awarded the travel grant to attend.

https://enablenetwork.eu

Enter competitions I have been thinking about making an entry for Max Perutz competition for a couple of years now. For an 800-word article answering the question “Why does my research matter?” regardless of whether my last minute entry gets anywhere or not, the exercise itself I feel was very valuable. The article was to be written for an intelligent lay audience. The first thing this does is force you to really think about why your work is important and why anyone should care. Secondly, it forces you to write it in a way that others would understand. I sent my first draft to an intelligent friend, thinking it was simple enough. To my surprise, after his reading, I realised he had misunderstood a lot. I realised things that seem obvious to me, don’t come across the same way to others. I have no expectation of being shortlisted but I’m still glad I tried.

https://www.mrc.ac.uk/skills-careers/studentships/for-current-mrc-students/max-perutz-science-writing-award/

Update and work on social media Social media is a wonderful tool, particularly for science communication. I’ve started reading more articles, finding fascinating things and sharing. Hopefully, I can build myself a good, positive online presence and digital footprint.

@priyahari14 😉

Think about jobs and careers OK, honestly, I still find this a bit daunting, as much as I’d hoped this wasn’t the case by now…but the thought is always there…the thought is always there…

Start preparing for the viva This is going to be the worst part of 2017 and I know it. I am dreading it. But one way to not dread is to be prepared. The more I read, the more I talk to people, the more I think about my research, hopefully, the easier it will be.

Relax and plan a holiday I think I work hard enough to deserve some time off!

Sort of essential household stuff laundry, maintenance, shopping, taxes…that list is endless

Write a blog post!

 

A Special Conference

One of the perks of being a PhD student is the opportunity to go on conferences, and often in much sunnier places than the UK. As a chancellor’s fellow student we are allocated £300 per academic year, which can roll over if unused. I saved mine up for 3 years and landed myself £900 to go where ever I wish (within the budget of course). As much as I would have loved to go to a Keystone conference in the States, that sum just wasn’t going to cover it, but a nice European city would work, right?. After a little bit of research, I had two options that interested me, the annual cellular senescence conference being held in Paris or a more general cancer-related conference hosted by the American and European Associations for Cancer Research in Florence. Of course, my supervisor was attending the senescence conference and I have a great interest in the field but I opted to widen my horizons and hear something different and see what’s hot in other fields of cancer research where I may consider a postdoc (and I’ve never been to Italy before!).

So after my usual drama’s related to sorting out flights and hotel, off I trotted to experience something new at the EACR, AACR 2nd Special Conference: The Challenge of Optimising Immuno- and Targeted Therapies. And boy, do we have challenges…

Florence was very welcoming  and the conference venue was spectacular. It was literally around the corner from the hotel I chose to stay at (though I did begin slightly dubious knowing that it was just a small hotel where I would be sharing a bathroom, like many people had said to me already…there was nothing to worry about). Having arrived the evening before the conference, I had a few hours of daylight on Friday and all of Saturday morning to pack in some sightseeing. A little cautious I was, being a little lone travelling female, though I didn’t want to be held captive in my hotel room when there is a world out there to explore. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, I had basically walked around the main touristy parts of Florence, taking pictures of all the key  sites and grabbing gelatos on the way.

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The conference itself started off with all the excitement and we had a wonderful networking evening with the exhibitor stands…the food was incredible as well as unexpected….even though people tended to stick to they’re own groups and were having their “first day shyness.” The next two days were full days 7.30 am to 7 pm. And with all good intentions, I just could not make that first talk. The rest of the talks supposedly comprised a mixed bag of different themes from immunogenomics, tumour microenvironment, tumour cell metabolism and cell plasticity but somehow everything always came back to the immunology – T cells, PD1, CXCR4, MHC Class II…As much as I appreciate that immunotherapy in the hot topic right now and has the potential to solve many types of cancer, including the big ones such as melanoma, based on the variation in studies displayed on the posters, it was evident that many of us do not work in the immunology field and a good introduction would have been very helpful to the understanding of the talks.

As for the poster sessions itself…I took a poster of my recent work and had it on display on Sunday. There were about 300 posters on display each day and only 1.5 hours had been dedicated to poster defence. In the first instant I found this quite strange as there was to be a poster prize and I wondered how judges were to get by all those posters in that short space of time. We were not really told how the judging was going to work. Nevertheless, I enjoyed talking about my research to three very different ladies, one an editor, one a researcher and one a member of EACR, all of which have different interests and perspectives. The following day was my day to go and talk to other poster presenters. This is usually one of my favourite parts of conference as in quite a short space of time you can learn a lot of things and you can directly ask the researcher any questions or thoughts you have. Honestly, I was quite disappointed in this session though. There was just one poster that had caught my eyes as I saw a potential connection to senescence, but having then spoke to the researcher it turns out he was presenting a very old poster and that since then they have found many other things (and that the cells were not senescent). I found that many of the posters were of poor quality but worse still, as I walked around, most presenters were just leaning against the wall with their phones. Nobody was even trying to engage and I found little interest in the posters themselves…I hate to say it but I decided to spend the last half an hour of the session making the most of the sunshine which I rarely have the pleasure to enjoy! Finally, it turns out, you had to be Italian in order to be eligible for the prizes so, in hindsight, the lack of enthusiasm from anyone could seemingly be related to this cause. With a conference from such big funding bodies, one would expect  at least one general prize where all are eligible, right?

One of the other things my eye was opened to at this conference as it appeared there was a significant number is delegates who had attended as representatives from big and small industrial companies. They were the ones who were taking pictures of every slide or recording all the talks so that they can provide a thorough feedback upon their return and work out how the company will benefit from the research. From the perspective of someone in academia, I actually found this thought quite intimidating…people literally stealing your years of hard work!

Through all this, my main thought at the end is that I wish I had been able to attend more conference during my PhD. Maybe I would have realised these things sooner. Maybe I would have a better understanding of immunotherapy. I definitely would have had greater opportunity to see other research. Either way, we take what we’ve learnt and move forward.

 

 

Writing locations in Edinburgh 

Patisserie Maxime, Queensferry St, 9 am. Quite a quiet cafe considering the location. Nice coffee, but very small!

The Potterow dome, beautiful indoor setting with an outdoor feel.

New Amphion at Teviot, my favourite place with lovely jazz music and well-priced food. A little lonely at this time of the year though.

Pattiserie Maxime on Queensferry St. Quieter than expected. Very small coffee. Has wifi though!

John Lewis’s new restaurant has the best views of Edinburgh…choose to see the sea or a demolition process!

Time to signify the end

It’s almost half way through 2017 and just over 2 months until my student card expires (I better make sure I take full advantage of my student card by then!). Ooooof…just writing that sent shivers down my spine as I take in the thought of that sentence I just typed. As the end is in sight, a new beginning needs to be sought. During my time in Edinburgh, I have relished countless options to explore the potential careers options that are open to me, from academia to industry, from biotech and pharma to business management, from editing to public engagement….yet honestly, I still can’t pinpoint exactly how I want to spend the rest of my life….actually, do I have to decide what I want to do for the rest of my life now? I think it is ok to try things, see if I like and if not, take the skills and experience and apply to a position where I feel happier. But anyway, the first step for any job application is a CV. I have long put off updating my CV. Quite frankly, like most people I assume, I hate applying for jobs and anything related to it but there come a time it just has to be done. There is a conference coming up, the enable symposium for early career researchers that is not only about sharing science but thinking about career too. In order to apply for it and the travel grant, you need to submit a CV and hence that’s been my kickstart to getting one sorted for myself this weekend. In order to write a CV, one must reflect on their past and decide what relevant skills and experience they need to showcase for the position being applied for. Having done this, in this blog post, I have created some diagrams to show you a rough schedule of my events from the last 4 years as a PhD student. The first 3 years are in black as these were my core-funded years. I was fortunate enough to get an additional funded year and hence have marked the final year in red.

All the experimental things that worked well for the PhD and paper – these are very rare but significant things to happen that will (hopefully) make the PhD and paper a success.

good things timeline

 

And these all the things in between that just would not cooperate and were constant hinderances to the success of the project.

bad things timeline

 

This timeline shows some of my major accomplishments in terms of presenting and showcasing my research to a wider audience.

achievements

 

And finally just some of the science communication/ public engagement activities I have done.

communication

 

As you can see, a lot can happen during a PhD if you want it to. As with any walk through life, you will always look back and think of all the things you would differently if you could do it again. I would probably have made better use of the time I had in the first year and one thing I would definitely do in obtain more teaching and demonstrating experience. I was always put-off due to long distance travel from my institute to the campus where teaching and demonstrating for undergraduate courses in based, but this would have been easily feasible with good time management during the early years of the PhD. I also regret not being very proactive in obtaining additional funding to attend more academic conferences and enjoy the opportunities of traveling and talking science in different places.

I’d like to end with an old quote though, that it is “never to late” and if there is something you would like to do, don’t hold back. You are more likely to regret never trying, than trying and failing.

Working through pictures

Again, it’s been a while since I wrote a post. But to be honest, not much exciting has been happening. So I’ve decided to blog through pictures and show you where I’ve spent much of my time:

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This is my coat. Quite often I am the last to leave the labs.

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This is our Category 2 tissue culture suite. Many member of my lab, including myself spend up to 5 hours here in one go. It is small room and despite the cosy incubators at 37ºC for the cells, unfortunately room temperature is slightly below comfortable for us working bodies. (We’ve even had our DMSO freeze at “room temperature”)

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This is my section of the lab bench. It could be tidier. But, I seem to prioritise everything else over tidying until it become necessary to do so. This is where I most often will be extracting RNA and setting up qPCRs, conducting many stages of western blotting or preparing plasmids.

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This is  my office desk. It could be tidier. I actually don’t get to spend too much time here as I am more commonly found in the lab. This is where I do my calculations, plan experiments and eat biscuits!

 

 

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This is our high content analysis microscope in it’s new location. This microscope automatically captures images from cells plated in multi-well plates. We even have a robotic arm to automatically load plates, which is useful for screening experiments.

 

When I’m not in the lab, I have a thesis to write. I try to vary the locations and find the most productive spot. Home is usually not the place. But I like the university libraries and I quite like Teviot Row House too.

 

And finally the hindu society, after 4 years of being an integral part of the committee, we had the final event (we attended a local Holi party) and enjoyed indian food together. The baton has been passed down to some enthusiastic student who will continue to strengthen the society and I look forward to seeing what they achieve.

 

Thoughts

You don’t just wake up one morning a become a different person.

This is just one of the phrases from a diary I have started this year that I intend of being my book of thoughts, ideas, experiences, realisations, words, quotes, phrases, actions, prayers…mainly positive, motivational things that have captured my attention. The phrase above represents quite possibly why many New Year’s resolutions fail. As opposed to resolutions, I think we should have aims for the year. Something that will take time to develop and might not even necessarily be achieved in the year but to work towards, because even the simplest of things require a large personal change. For example, I like and prefer things to be clean and tidy, but usually it’s not my priority (I’m writing this post, still not having taken my dinner plate to the kitchen). As much as I’ve tried, since I do believe in the concept of “cluttered environment, cluttered mind,” I’m a person who follows my heart, and my heart told me my priority is to bash out this blog post before I forget what I was going to ramble about. But on a larger scale, my point is, as much as I tell myself, I want to be more self confident, I want to be a more positive or realistic person, I want to portray myself as a better person, these things definitely don’t happen overnight and definitely don’t happen just by thinking it. One step I have taken though, is to write such thoughts down, things I’ve picked up from TV, Facebook posts or conversations with others and I’m going to share some of them:

  • Have faith
  • You can wait for something all your life and then finally get it (your childhood dreams may come true), but then still be unhappy with it as it didn’t turn out to be what you expect it to be.
  • Live in the present, live for the present. You can’t change the past and there is only so much you can do to shape your future. Do what’s going to make you happy today.
  • We always complain and worry about the things we don’t have, instead be grateful for what we do have. Otherwise you won’t realise until you’ve lost it.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • Negativity attracts more negativity. Don’t think negatively of anyone. You don’t know what they’re going through, what they’ve been through and when you might be in their position.
  • Be happy with yourself and others around you will be happy.
  • Everywhere you fit in isn’t where you belong.
  • Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others
  • Don’t pretend to be optimistic, be realistic and prepare yourself for failure.
  • Life is too short to be angry or hateful. You are still in prison if you have anger, hate or bitterness. (Nelson Mandela)
  • Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
  • There are some people who could hear you speak a thousand words and still not understand you. There’s others who will understand you without speaking a word.

 

 

The Art of Resilience

It has been a while since my last post. Times became incredibly busy over the last six months, trying to juggle PhD life with personal life. In September I entered into my “extended” year of my PhD. The condition upon which my supervisor extended my PhD was mainly that I would continue to work full time in the lab and use my “spare time” to write my thesis…and lab work is ever more important, not only for my thesis, but to publish my research in a journal (with the aim towards a very high impact factor journal). So, believe me, the pressure is on. The pressure to perform well in the lab stems from the weekly meetings with my supervisor where we are expected to show all the experiments we have been working on and the pressure of tight deadline to bash out a full thesis. On top of which, being the president of the Hindu Society, running a society and organising the big annual Diwali is on my agenda alongside many other big and small tasks in life. Although I felt like I could do this and was telling myself everything is fine, my body began to feel the stress in other ways…it became a rare occasion that I would sleep through the night without waking at least once, I began losing weight and I developed a form of eczema which the doctors said the most likely cause was stress.

 

But this post isn’t about the hardship I seemed to have encountered (and I’m sure not all of it is PhD related) but the sources of support that I already have and came to me:

 

Family: People will always come and go in life but your family will always be there for you no matter what. My mum always has some words of wisdom for me, and even if at the time it sounds like she’s giving me a lecture, her advice is always sound. Sisters are there to cheer you up and Dad, just knowing that he’s there for you is more than enough.

 

Friends and colleagues: Often it can seem like everyone else’s life is better than yours, everyone else always seems to have more friends than you do, but its not about the number of friends but how good the people you know are. I personally find that talking to other people helps, whether they are PhD students as yourself going through the same situation, colleagues who may have been through what you are going through or people you know from other walks of life, you never know what helpful things their own life circumstances may have to teach you. And just talking your own thoughts through can help to clarify your thoughts.

 

Zumba: Exercise is known as a stress-relief and I do love my zumba class. It’s the only form of exercise I seem to wilfully do. But not only do I really enjoy the dancing part of the class, but it is an excellent community of people where again I can talk to a wide range of people. The instructors are incredible at making you feel welcome and take an interest in each person. After the class, the group will go out for coffee in order to just socialise. The majority of people in this class as much older than me, but I take motivation in working out with these energetic people and enjoy being with them too.

https://www.facebook.com/AF-Zumba-970605859629020/?fref=ts

 

The Art of Living foundation: As the president of the Hindu Society, I was approached by an instructor of the Happiness programme of The Art of Living foundation. This was something I’d never heard of before but in summary it is about using breathing and meditation as a tool to having a better, calmer life. It may well be that I was more interested in this for personal motives rather than the society but after a taster session for the society I was sold on completing the 3 part Happiness Programme, mainly learning the Sudarshan Kriya technique that is proven to reduce stress. In all honesty, I found the technique itself quite stressful to carry out! But, I got a lot of other things out of this course but mainly a community…a group of people who always send positive messages, a group of people I’m sure I can call up at any time, even if all I want is a hug.

http://www.artofliving.org/uk-en

 

Religion: Now, despite being the president of the Hindu Society, I never really was a supremely actively practicing Hindu. In fact, I am still exploring my personal belief and take interest in all faiths. I usually only partake in festivals and pray because “my mum told me too.” Recently however, I found great strength in praying upon own accord. Praying not just to ask God for things (I’ve always considered it wrong to ask), but to be grateful, grateful that at times when the going seems tough, I am simultaneously shown paths, provided supports and the right people to talk to, to help me get through this phase.

 

I’m sure there are many other factors I can mention here too, but these are the main things. I am very grateful for all the people and support I have in my life. I sent my supervisor a first draft of my thesis yesterday, which I know is far from complete, but to have something down and sent is a huge relief. I am taking some time off to enjoy the Christmas break with my family but I am also looking forward to heading back to the lab as we have some exciting experiments planned that could potentially answer the question I’ve been aiming to answer during my PhD!!! Hopefully it all goes well. I can only reflect positively on 2016 and can wait for the excitement 2017 may have to offer 🙂

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!

 

 

Three very important minutes

The 3MT (3 minute thesis competition) is a global competition. PhD students condense their 2-3 hundred pages thesis into a 3 minute monologue that is comprehendible and engaging for an intelligent lay-audience. There are several rounds of the competition from local institute level, school/college level, university level, national level and international level. Our institute held a heat back in April and I decided to take part as someone once told me that the first question you were likely to get asked at your PhD viva is “Describe your thesis” and having a three minute answer is all you need. Since I find the prospect of my thesis defence already quite daunting, I thought this would help. (Also I liked the potential of winning a £100 even though I knew I had no chance of winning with so making great, confident speakers at our institute).

Despite feeling very ill that week and having lost my voice, being someone who never backs out, I made up some rambling speech and gibbered it out in front of a very packed seminar room one FriCe9vyJgWwAAV8WGday afternoon and then left to attend to my cells. Until my supervisor came running to find me, telling me that everyone was waiting for me in the seminar room. I didn’t dare hurry to find out who of the other 8 contestants had won but as soon as I entered the room, I was greeted my an overwhelming round of applause. I received a big check for £100 having won both the judges and audience votes. The whole thing was recorded and links are available through the university website but I still can’t bare to watch it. Little did I know that this was just the beginning.

 

The next step was the College of Medicine and Veterinary Science round. This time there were 18 contestants from across the college. It wasn’t actually necessary to have been in a previous heat before this one, but I did have a little added confidence knowing that I had once won with a very unrefined speech. This time I actually practised to a less rambling point and updated my slide so that it looked like I had made an effort. This round actually turned out to be a little less daunting, being in a big room but with majority empty chairs I gave out my performance and somehow was voted as 1st runner up by the judges, bagging myself £75 Amazon vouchers.

HRHThis meant that I was through to the University finals. But before that, just having been through these two rounds led me to gaining some recognition for my presenting skills. I was asked to attend the Race for Life in Edinburgh and gave a speech as a guest of honour to motivate the racers before their run, for which I was very grateful to be given the opportunity. I also got to start the race by sounding the horn (and also got almost trampled on by running enthusiasts!). As well as this, our institute (the Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine, IGMM) has recently has a new building built and an official opening was conducted recently by HRH Princess Royal, the Chancellor of Edinburgh University. I was given the opportunity here to present a poster to the guests of this event and even had the opportunity to meet and greet with HRH Princess Anne herself. This was such an honour too, another opportunity I may not have had if I hadn’t have taken part in the 3MT.

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But back to the official competition itself, having got through to the finals, the University gave us the opportunity to have some vocal coaching and presentation techniques, as well as having some one-to-one feedback on our 3MT from the vocal coach. Again, this was another valuable experience I am very grateful for from the Institute of Academic Development (IAD). This time at the finals, I knew I was up against much tougher IMG-20160623-WA0002competition, particularly as at least 3 of the contestants had to have been better than me as they would have come 1st in the college heats. But, I was only in it for the experience anyway. The final round is live streamed and first the first time, I really wanted my parents to watch me, hence I put as much effort into this, just to make them proud, regardless of the outcome. So, with a re-made slide and refined speech I happily gave my best shot at the finals and wished for the best person to win. I was gob-smacked when it was announced that I was 1st runner up again! With such good presentation from other contestants, I was not expecting to be the winner of an iPad. What I had also done, which meant more to me, was made my parents proud too, and even my supervisor said he was proud of me.

So after all this, I have now been invited to give my 3MT presentation at the University Senate meeting in September. Hopefully, I haven’t forgotten it by then! My initial intention with the 3MT was to have an answer to the first question for my thesis defence. A successful 3MT is not a few sentences on your project, it is an engaging and informative performance adapted for the specific audience. I don’t think breaking out into this performance would work in my thesis defence but I have been able to develop the skills to talk about my project confidently to a wide range of audiences, and that is the most valuable outcome.

Peace

http://www.ed.ac.uk/chaplaincy/events/camino-peace-pilgrimage-2016

Around last December, I had got several emails informing me about the 2016 Camino Peace Pilgrimage hosted by the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy. Most of them I ignored, until I realised this was just what I needed. My family follows the religious beliefs of the Hindus, but growing up in Britain meant that we also celebrate Christian traditions too. As such, we celebrate Christmas in much the same way as the majority of people in England: Christmas Dinner + Family + presents. Whilst I was living with my parents, I would just go with the flow with the religious aspects of life, doing just what my parents told me to do. Having fled the nest, I have not been carrying on this practice. Quite lost in my own beliefs, I relished upon the opportunity to meet people of different faiths and to just go away from my daily life for a week. With no expectations of actually getting a scholarship, I didn’t see the harm in trying and I was successful 😀 I cannot thank the University and the Heartbeat foundation for allowing me the opportunity to take part in this experience.

Now, there is so much I can say here about the week in Spain, the walking, the people, the experience, the food etc. etc. but I am really struggling to word it. To this end, I am going to try this in pictures.

Camino Group before

This the group at a dinner before we started. Nobody knew each other. WE sang a song together: “Walk with me for journey is long” awkwardly, but we were all happy and excited for the journey we were about to take.

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We walked straight out of the airport and this was one of the first views we had. I have tonnes of landscape picture and would have had more if I had a convenient pocket to keep my phone in. At the same time, the camino was a great opportunity to detach from our usual tech-heavy communication and feel grounded to the Earth.

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Several times a day, we had group time. We checked in with each other discussing the day, how we felt and what we had learnt. Everyone had the opportunity to share something personal. This could have been a prayer, a spiritual practice or something about their faith background. Many people opted to tell their personal stories. It created a safe place for people to speak about their feelings, gain confidence and know that they are not alone.

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Each night we ate at the hostel/albergue. The majority of them provided exceptional hospital, a beautiful place to stay and exquisite food. I found more types of cheese I likes and how a new found fondness and respect for bread.

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Everyday we had a word to reflect on. During our times of silent walking, we would reflect on our lives and the lives of others based on given word such as violence, fear and hope. Towards the end of the week, it is here, near Pendueles, where we took two rocks. One to represent the things we want to keep hold of in our lives and one the things we want to let go off. We stood at the edge of the cliff and screamed with all our might as we through the rock we wanted to let go of. It was acknowledge that letting go of things in life is not as easy as throwing a rock into the sea but with time and perseverance it will happen.

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These are the boots I walked in. After exploring the hidden little cave, they definitely looked like they had been on a little adventure! We walked a total of 85 miles over the week. The only time I felt any pain was when going up hill. The leader taught me to tie my laces around my ankle and that seemed to do the trick! 🙂

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We visited the caves of Tito Bustillo and learnt about the the hidden painting that mark the vast dark walls,

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There was a large map of the Camino de Santiago at the station. It was nine tiles wide and we covered exactly one, from Santander to Ribadesella.

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This started as a blank canvas and over the course of the week we annotated it with our feelings.

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We walked a portion of the Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James. A route often taken to retreat for spiritual growth.

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We appreciated the architecture of Gaudi’s house

 

Camino Group after

A final group photo. Here our smiles conceal the grief of our separation. In just 8 days we were a strong family that could not bare the separation. We shared our gratitude and delayed the inevitable for as long as possible before we returned to our usual life, but this time with a new perspective.

A big confidence building exercise

Last week I attended the Young Researchers in Life Sciences (YRLS) conference at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. For me, it was a list of many firsts:

  • First conference I’ve asked my supervisor to let me go to
  • First conference I have attended alone
  • First conference at which I have given a short talk on my project
  • First time in France
  • First time couch surfing at a strangers place!

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I heard about the conference through an old friend of mine, Isma, who was on the organising committee. The conference was a “for young researchers, by young researchers” and this really appealed to me. No heard of “top dogs in your field” you have to try to impress or at least not fall asleep of in front of their talks! I knew this would be a good opportunity to practice talking about my research to a scientific audience but without it being too daunting.

As my budget for travel is very low, I was completely reliant upon securing one of the travel grants for the conference which I was thankfully successful in obtaining 🙂 To make it even more affordable for international delegates, the YRLS had set up a page on the couchsurfing website to allow us to match up to a Parisian delegate who is happy to host us. I contacted a lovely girl who happened to already be good friends with Isma. This made facilitating contact between everyone very easy!

The conference itself was great. The talks were divided into different groups ranging from microbiology, gDSC_0088enetics and develop. I spoke at the cancer biology session. I was pleased at how my talk went (all the practising definitely paid off) and I was quite overwhelmed by the number of people who approached me to tell me how good they tho
ught my talk was. This was actually really helpful as being in the small minority of delegated who was not only international but coming alone, it helped to build friendships with people.

It was also really good experience to gain insights into different fields I might also be (or not be!) interested in. My most memorable talk though has to be from thCivO6K4WkAAnD6a.jpg-largee keynote speaker, Dr. Buzz Baum from UCL. He gave a talk mainly on the field of evolution of eukaryotic cell and how the organelles came to form. I might never be going into work in the field of evolution but there was one thing I will definitely take from this talk. In a slide talking about the work of Charles Darwin, we saw an extract from Darwin’s lab
book on which at the top was written “I think…” Just in case I do happen to become the next Darwin, I better be sure to write “I think” on the pages of my notes where I’m drawing up a potential hypothesis!

 

I absolutely loved the food provided at the conference and can’t imagine a time when I’ve ever eaten so many pastries!!! I really got into the art of eating bread and charcuterie, which was something than never made sense to me when I was introduced to it by the Spanish.

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Above all, what I learnt and liked the most about my trip to Paris was that I was amazed at how great the hospitality of the people was. First and foremost, the students that hosted me were fantastic. I have never felt so at home and was surprised at how well they took care of me and would go out of their way for me. It was absolutely fantastic and wish that there be more people like that in the world. The organisers of the conference were also very good at making sure that we were ok. Of course, I would never have got to have this opportunity without the invitation from Isma who went above and beyond to make sure I had a good time.

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And now, since it has been officially confirmed that I have a one year extension on my PhD, the search for the next conference continues!