Experimenting and Exploring

The picture is of Friday morning’s solar eclipse. Although you cannot really make out the sun, it was in the shape of a crescent. It was quite spectacular. The last solar eclipse seen in the UK was in 1999. I’m glad I got to see this one because the next one will be in 2090 which is quite a long way away.

Lab work
The work of a scientist is never finished. I have completed and analysed a tonne of imaging experiments in the last month. I took advantage of  having the new microscope all to myself, before the new postdoc arrived, to take hundreds of pictures and time series. The imaging part was fine, it was the analysis that took significantly longer to do.After the analysis comes the hard decision of whether to pursue an experiment if there is a trend, or to move on to different ones if there is nothing there. It sounds straightforward as I write it here, however it is usually a hard decision that should be agreed upon by everyone involved. In my case, after a chat with my supervisors, a negative result (which, I must stress, is still a result) is not necessarily the end of a branch of my PhD. Instead, it has opened us up to all these new experiments that we had never intended to do. I thought that that chapter of my thesis was finished, but I guess not. As I said in the first sentence, the work of a scientist is never finished. I am also continuing with the other branch of my project, setting up new models and using new techniques. So much work and so little time! (But still all so exciting!)

Edinburgh Neuroscience Day
Edinburgh Neuroscience Day was a success once again this year. The talks were really interesting and quite varied. It was really great to see the other neuroscience  research that is going on at the university. Because all the research is spread out across multiple research centres, hospitals and buildings, it is nice to have a meeting that can group everyone together. Although I didn’t win any prizes, I really enjoyed the poster session. It was good practice for the British Neuroscience Association’s Festival of Neuroscience which is taking place in Edinburgh this year and where I have gotten an abstract accepted for a poster. Neuroscience Day was also great for networking and talking to collaborators. Talking to collaborators was really insightful. We discussed our results and how they can be combined and what it all means for the field. This is particularly important as my work is quite presynaptic and their work is postsynaptic. Discussing results allows us to get a better idea of the big picture. I really find that the collaborative nature of the research at the University of Edinburgh is a major asset.

Discovering Edinburgh
Since coming back from Christmas break, I have spent some time exploring the city.  My mother and sister were visiting last week and we went on one of those haunted tours of the city. The tour that we went on boasted that it was the only one that went to two of the most haunted places in the world. As Edinburgh is an old city (at least compared to the cities in Canada), I’m sure that it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that it has its fair share of macabre stories and dark secrets (Burke and Hare, anyone?). I must admit that some are quite bone-chilling. It was definitely not for the faint of heart. For those who prefer not to venture into the world of the ghostly, there are other non-haunted city tours that are quite interesting as well. Here are some fun facts learnt on one such walk.
-The origin of the word “hangover”
After a family day out of watching the hangings, people would go out and drink and party until the early morning hours. After all of this drinking and merriment they would experience that sick, awful feeling which we now call a hangover.
-The origin of “the graveyard shift”
Body-snatching was a problem especially in Edinburgh at the beginning of the 19th century due to the opening of the anatomy school that promised cadavers to students. Because people didn’t want their deceased loved-ones being cut open by aspiring medics, they would sit by the graves at night to ensure that no one came to dig up the body.

The more you know…