Like a swan paddling furiously underwater

Appearances may be deceiving. Although it was bright and sunny in the Meadows this morning, the temperature was below freezing due to the chilling wind. That didn’t stop anyone from taking advantage of the “good” weather and going out in the Meadows. I, on the other hand, am happy to be in the confines of the nice warm lab.

Lab work
Although I am not even six months into my PhD, I feel like I am scrambling to get all of my experiments completed as soon as possible. This eagerness to get everything done is due to my curiosity. I want to finish everything I have started and pool all my data together and decide where to go from there. I want to design new experiments based on the phenotypes that I observe (if there are any that are observed). I find it all very exciting and motivating. Since everything with the microscope has been sorted, I am happily going along imaging and then analysing my results. I also had a meeting with my first and second supervisor a few weeks ago. Explaining all of my results to someone else (my second supervisor) was very insightful. It was good for me to look back through all of my results and explain the conclusions that I had drawn from them. It was also very nice to have a fresh pair of eyes looking at the project. He had some very interesting ideas of what I should pursue next (after I have finished all of these initial experiments!).

Edinburgh Neuroscience Day
Edinburgh Neuroscience Day is fast approaching. It is in less than two weeks. This is a great opportunity to see what other neuroscience research goes on in the university. I have even submitted an abstract for a poster in the poster session. I have not presented a poster in years, not since I used to participate in science fairs when I was in high school. I will be presenting the results that I obtained during my MSc as they present a more complete story than what I have done since starting my PhD. There is a poster competition where participants have to prepare a quick two-minute tour of their poster. The posters will be judged on the quality of the research, the quality of the presentation of the poster and the quality of the spoken presentation to the judge.  I have entered, wish me luck!

Facilitating Medical Biology 1 (MB1) is different from what I expected. Based on the questions that the students are given to debate and the required readings, I thought that I would have a hard time getting them to stop their discussion at the end of the hour. This has not been the case. It is taking them a little while to actually start discussing the topic at hand. They all seem very shy and unsure of their opinions. Slowly, I am starting to see them coming out of their shells and expressing their thoughts. As a facilitator, my role is to ensure that the students discuss the topics and I am not allowed to express my point of view or arguments for either side of a debate. I have found this to be particularly difficult because I have so many ideas for the discussion! I guess that being a few years older and having completed an undergraduate degree gives you more knowledge, confidence and a different point of view. After these discussions, each student writes a report. I have spent the last three weeks marking these reports and providing feedback. I think that it is really great that all of these students will receive individual feedback as well as general feedback (during a feedback session) before they write their second report. It will be interesting to see if they really do take the feedback to heart to improve their report-writing.

Although I have a lot going on right now, between my experiments, making my poster for Neuroscience Day and facilitating, I am very calm and stress-free. I feel like a swan that looks incredibly relaxed and graceful all the while working hard to glide so effortlessly along the water. Except, unlike the swan, my calmness is not just an outward appearance, I really feel it. I want to attribute this new-found inner peace to starting to practice yoga about six weeks ago. Before starting, I was very sceptical that doing yoga would actually be beneficial, I was worried that it would just be something else that was going to take up my time. I was wrong.  It is calming and soothing to do a class where a trainer isn’t pushing you hard (though I do also enjoy those classes) and where you have to focus on taking deep breaths and meditating. I now go twice a week and I would recommend it to everyone.

And now I must be off to analyse some results and make my poster!