Journal Club, 10-Week Report and Experiments… Oh My!

It is starting to get colder and the days are getting much shorter. It is dark when I get up and it is dark when I leave the lab. I don’t mind the darkness that much, it is the cold that I don’t like. I know, I know, I am Canadian, I should be used to this weather, it isn’t even as cold here as it is in Montreal where it snowed yesterday. It is just that the cold in Edinburgh is a different type of cold, a damp cold. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to this type of cold- well I do have 3 more years to find out! As a solution to this dampening cold, I have perfected the art of layering clothes though so I can brave the weather to make it to the lab where my cells eagerly await me on this fine Saturday morning.

So far, the month of November has been flying by. I can’t believe that I am already into the third month of my PhD! Everything is happening so fast! Here is an overview of what I will be doing for the next couple of weeks:

19/11 Journal Club
In our lab we have a monthly Journal Club where one lab member chooses a paper to discuss. This month, it is my turn. I chose a paper looking at the vesicular glutamate transporter in the hippocampus. It is my first Journal Club presentation ever! Of course I presented papers during my undergraduate degree, including a particularly gripping paper about neural circuit reconfiguration by social dominance in crayfish. This Journal Club format will be very similar. I present the background of the paper that I chose and then I go through each figure as the other lab members comment on it. It is slightly more nerve-racking than my undergraduate presentations because, as far as I knew, none of my classmates were experts on crayfish, whereas I know that members of my lab have been working in the presynaptic field a lot longer than I have. I’m sure that it will go well, I will keep you updated.

21/11 Postgraduate Open Day
If anyone is interested in postgraduate study at the University of Edinburgh, Friday is the day to come out and see the University, to discover the different programmes that it has to offer and to talk to current postgraduate students, including myself. I will be at the “Ask a student” stand at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine session in Teviot Dining Hall from 12h30 to 13h30 ready to answer any questions about doing a postgrad degree in the College.

26/11 Lab Meeting Presentation
It is that time of the month again, lab meeting presentation time. I have mentioned before that it is a great opportunity to practice giving talks. It is also an opportunity to have other lab members comment on your work and give suggestions about future experiments and troubleshooting advice. What it is also good for is getting you to do your data analysis on time! In having to present every month, you never have more than one month’s-worth of data analysis to do!

28/11 10-Week Report
The 10-week report is one of the milestones in the first year of your PhD. The first year of the PhD is probationary. You have to have  made “adequate progress” in the first year to go on to become a full-fledged PhD student. Your progress is determined by your thesis committee based on your 8-month report which in turn is based on your 10-week report. Your 10-week report serves as a guideline for your first year of research. It is about 2 pages long and contains background information about your project, your hypothesis, aims as well as your research plan for the next year. This report is a great exercise to do as it gets you to think about your project, plan out your experiments and talk to your supervisor.

28/11 Graduation
I am finally graduating! I will be awarded my MSc by Research degree. It is very exciting!

Add in some transfections, imaging, and cell culture and that is how I will be spending my days until I go home for Christmas. I really don’t mind, I like keeping busy and I like what I am doing. I like what I am doing so much so in fact that I voluntarily spent last Saturday night watching a webinar about visualising the presynapse. It isn’t exactly related to my research but it was quite interesting.

In the rest of my spare time, when I am not in the lab or watching science-related webinars, I spend my time trying to decode Scottish English. I thought that I was fluent in English before moving here (I am a native English speaker), however I don’t think that it is the case. Here is a list of expressions that I have learned since coming here. Some expressions may not be completely Scottish, but they are foreign to North Americans none the less.
Aluminium- notice the extra “i”, it means the exact same thing
Aye- yes
Ceilidh (pronounced Kayle-eee)- a dancing party, or the dancing bit of a party
Dodgy- something that is suspicious (my word for it would be sketchy)
Manky- filthy
Minging- disgusting
Minted: rich
Ropey- not very good, of bad quality, also used to describe you if you aren’t feeling well
Schooner- 2/3 pint (according to Wikipedia, in Canada a schooner is larger than a pint)
Squidge- to squash or squeeze
Ta- thanks
There are more expressions to add to the list and I will do that as soon as I figure out what they mean!

At the end of the next two weeks of madness I will give updates on how all of these things went. Now, off to make my presentation!