…by Katherine / from Canada / PhD Biomedical Sciences 2015-2018
Can I just express how happy I am that the sun is already up when I get up and sets when I am leaving the lab? I am delighted! I know that that first part will change when we set our clocks forward this weekend, but the sunlight along with the daffodils in the Meadows are a sign of Spring (and potentially some warmer weather)!
Again this year, I facilitated group discussions in Medical Biology 1. One of the topics up for debate was the same as last year: “Should triparental embryos be used as a treatment for families with mitochondrial disorder?”. It was interesting to see how a new group of students approached this question, particularly since the UK has since voted to allow more experiments to be done in this field. This topic was debated in the first report. After submission of the first report, each student was given individualised feedback, followed by a general feedback session for the whole group. This feedback was given before the submission of the second report, the grade of which does count toward the student’s final mark. It is so fulfilling to mark reports that have taken all the feedback into account. I feel so proud that these students have listened to what I said and, in doing so, have improved their mark.
Alas once again our lab has been plagued by unhappy cells… I’m sure that I jinxed it by writing about how well things were going last month. So does that mean that in writing about my sickly, unhappy, unimage-able cells this month, they’ll go back to being perfectly happy and responsive next month? Well that is the strategy that I am going for! At least my break in imaging has allowed me to get back on track with my data analysis. I have been analysing my little heart out. I have t-tests and ANOVAs coming out of my ears! I have become one with post-hoc tests. My relationship with GraphPad has now evolved to a whole other level. GraphPad has definitely seen me in the best of times (p< 0.01) and the worst of times (What do you mean that’s not significant?! How can that not be significant? The error bars are miles away!). As a minor caveat, it is important to note that in science, particularly in biological/ biomedical science we should not have the sole goal of getting those asterisks above our graphs. Sometimes data are not significant and that is okay. It is important to keep the hypothesis in mind and look at our results in the context of our original research question and not concentrate wholly on the quest for significance. In a biostatistics course I took in college, the teacher pointed out something super important: statistical significance does not always equate to clinical significance and vice versa.
What lays ahead
Although I am mid-way through my PhD (MID-WAYYYYY!!!!!! Deep yoga breath. Okay mini freak out over), the other 3 students in the lab are all in their final year and all in the process of writing up. It is nice to view them writing up from a safe distance, nonchalantly commenting on their figures and offering data analysis advice (I am one with GraphPad) when needed. It is foreshadowing the events to come. What I find slightly unsettling about the whole ordeal is that I will be the only PhD student left in the lab in August! Our numbers are dwindling, send in reinforcement! I jest, but the high turnover rate in our building is incredible. I guess that is what it is like with 3-year PhDs.
I will leave you on that note of contemplation (I think that my GraphPad will be jealous that I spent so much time away from it! Happy Easter weekend!