…by Katherine / from Canada / PhD Biomedical Sciences 2015-2018
It is a positively splendid day in George Square. It is 13C! In January! I could definitely get used to this. Unfortunately the rain is coming back and the temperature will go back to the single digits by the end of the week. It was nice while it lasted…
Hitting the ground running?
There will always be slower months in a PhD career: waiting for constructs to be shipped, colonies to be established or equipment to be ordered. Unfortunately, scientifically, 2016 has been off to a slow start. Luckily, things should finally be up and running now so I am starting my imaging next week and I have received the sequencing from my latest batch of plasmids and I should be good to go with those experiments. This just goes to show you that even when you plan things, there are so many variables out of your control that can put a wrench in your plans. You just have to keep going. I have used all this unexpected spare time to catch up on my reading and analysis.
During my weekly meeting with my supervisor we made a tough decision. Probably one of the toughest decisions a PhD student has to make. We decided that I should stop pursuing one of the branches of my project. This is the branch that I have been working on since the end of my MSc and I have dedicated countless hours doing experiments, lysing cells, transfecting, imaging and analysing all the data. However, it seems clear, now that I have compiled all of my data together and made all my figures, that I am not really seeing anything. Instead of bashing my head into a wall to see if I can maybe find something, we decided that instead, I just tidy up the data sets that I already have (to have a complete story for my thesis) but not to press on starting new experiments and learning brand new techniques. I do agree that this is the logical choice, however it is still hard to “drop” this project. I have invested a lot of time and effort in to it, but it is time to cut my losses so that hopefully (fingers crossed) I come out of my PhD with positive results and a few (I am an eternal optimist) first author publications. The good thing is that I did not have all of my eggs in one basket and I have other projects that I have been working on with very promising preliminary data.
On the topic of papers, my first paper has been published! I am third author on a JBC paper that was accepted just before the holidays. I did a control experiment and the analysis that was missing for the paper and as a result was included in the list of authors. Let me just say that submitting a paper may seem straightforward but the whole process is tedious and, at least in our case, involved a lot of back and forth with the reviewers, though they never required any new experiments to be done. In total, it took about 4 months from original submission to acceptance, including going back to the reviewers twice, but now it is published. Now I can officially search my name on Pubmed! I think that doing that is an important milestone in every researcher’s life, and if it isn’t, it should be!
This week, the astronaut and ex-commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, was in Edinburgh at Usher Hall giving a talk. Being the proud Canadian/ somewhat-obsessed Chris Hadfield fan that I am, I went. Let me just say that he is incredibly accomplished and very eloquent. I highly recommend reading his book, it is very motivating. He suggested mental exercise for the whole crowd to do: imagine your perfect life, even if it will not happen, imagine yourself in your perfect life and then just make your everyday choices based on what you want for yourself. I think that this thought experiment is the perfect way to set a focused goal and slowly work your way toward it.
Now, I must be off to work, because even if I’m not quite sure what my perfect life looks like, I am pretty sure that procrastination is probably not the way to get to it…