Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: academia

Life at the MiMe research lab

I’ve been part of the Microenvironments for Medicine Research Group (MiMe for short) for 20 months, so it’s really about time I write a post about my awesome lab, the place I spend a majority of my time nowadays. Research, science, experiments, papers, seminars – these comprise my professional life, but work can be fun too, especially when you’re around a group of people who know how to enjoy the fun bits of everyday life πŸ˜‰

To begin, here’s a pictorial description of what we do in the lab. Obviously cells also need to exercise, party (drink a martini or two), eat their veggies, and dwell in a comfortable environment in order to become strong, healthy tissue! (By the way, that is a bone cell, not a snowman πŸ™‚ )

Sometimes the lab could be a dangerous place to work, and that is why everyone needs to put on their thinking caps (90% common sense and 10% consideration for others) before entering. Let’s all be safe and happy when we do science!

Living and working in Glasgow means that we endure lots of rain, as you probably know. Someone very considerate came up with a remedy that would be helpful in cases of emergency…if only you use a bit of your imagination!

Here at MiMe, not only do we investigate some of life’s most profound questions, but we also hide Scotland’s national treasure…Nessie. Shh…don’t tell anyone that Nessie prefers hanging out with us. Maybe that’s why no one’s been able to find her at Loch Ness all these years, because she’s with us! (Whoever drew this spelt “Nessie” incorrectly…but it was a nice attempt πŸ˜‰ )

Someone wanted to say hi…and gently remind everyone in the lab to work hard πŸ™‚

I think the most amusing and amazing thing that I’ve found around the lab so far was the home/hand-made Christmas “tree” that was standing at the corner of the lab entrance. How creative! I had no idea who was involved in the construction of the tree and when the tree was constructed, but all I could say was, GOOD JOB GUYS. I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of talent in the group!

But of course the tree had to die after a few weeks and we were forced to say goodbye to it 😦 This also signified the end of the holiday season – back to work we go!

Spin-coating could be a monotonous procedure, especially when you have to go through hundreds of samples. That’s why the spin-coating hood has truly become a creativity outlet for many people. One of my favourite creations is this crossword puzzle of the names of the members of MiMe (though some new people have joined since this was made). Of course the author of this remains a mystery…unless someone bravely accepts credit?!

And here is a group photo of a lab event, finally! We love science but we love food even more, so we had our very own potluck a couple of months ago. Most of the group was here but unfortunately the boss wasn’t – I promise I didn’t pick this photo on purpose because he wasn’t in it! What a bunch of lovely people πŸ˜€

Around last Easter, we were visited by the mysterious lab Easter Bunny who showered us each with a Kinder Surprise! I actually got a roll of mini measuring tape, which should be quite practical, but I never found a good use for it. Still many thanks, Easter Bunny!

We also have some very thought-provoking discussions in the lab during downtime, including a very informative session on the discovery of gravitational waves. I didn’t understand it very well…so a colleague drew a diagram, albeit a VERY simplified one. I’m not sure if I could explain gravitational waves now by looking at this drawing, but at some point several months ago, this made perfect sense, believe me!

There is an appropriately labelled container in one of the labs – approach this area carefully! I would not trust anything that comes out of this container…

And finally, if anyone wants to support MiMe Research financially, here is our order list. On it are several items that we currently don’t have…such as a lab technician 😦 We will be more than grateful! Oh, more whisky is also very welcome anytime…

Wait, what do you mean I’m doing a PhD…Part 3

It’s been a year since I wrote part 2 of the PhD series, which means…I am graduating soon? Soon means I am defending my thesis in December, which is just another 6 months away. Uh oh. WHAT. IS. GOING. ON.

As I enter the critical thesis-writing stage of my PhD, I often get asked, “How’s your thesis coming along?” Well, fellow non-academia friends, let’s go through some grad school etiquette, shall we?

Thank you, Jorge Cham, for putting it in an understandable, acceptable manner. In short, do not ever ask a PhD student the two taboo questions (or questions remotely similar to them). These questions may induce unnecessary stress, irreversible brain damage (either to the PhD student, or to you, when the student goes berserk and attacks you), loss of appetite, or (in extremely rare cases) increased motivation.

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Wait, what do you mean I’m doing a PhD…

Sometimes I forget the reason why I’m in Europe in the first place. In the midst of hopping every few months between France and Belgium for work, I have been mesmerized by the discovery of the backyard which is Europe. Somewhere along the road, I think I am slowly starting to forget that my purpose here is to get my PhD.

Wait, what? PhD, that can’t be right…

But indeed, something struck me like an epiphany last week, as I was working in the lab. PhD…that’s serious business. I have to write a thesis and defend it in about a year and 8 months…um, whaaaaaaaat?

Usually I get shocked by sudden realizations when things don’t work out at the lab, leading to frustration. And indeed, work hasn’t been proceeding as planned lately. I also noticed that I’m almost halfway into my supposed 3-year PhD, and it’s a little scary to admit that I don’t have nearly as much done as I THINK I should.

Of course, all my friends see is me travelling here and there every weekend, enjoying the freedom of the “European lifestyle” and experiencing what the world has to offer. No one really sees between the weekends, where hours are spent on trying to get one process to work, where frustration and disappointment turn into silent curses, where time is too precious to lose.

Just some thoughts…let’s reflect on them with a walk through a weekday in the “real” life of Annie.

Annie’s desk at work in Belgium…messy or not?

When there is nothing to worry about, it’s so easy to say, “Do not worry about tomorrow.” (Matthews 6:34). However when it does strike, worrying can be so nerve-wrecking. When I have to delay an experiment because a chemical is out of stock or an equipment is booked, I can’t help but worry about the progress of my work.

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