19 hours and 8 timezones later…

Winter is upon us, or rather it was last week, but the weather has been quite good this week, we are hitting double digits tomorrow! So it would be the absolute perfect time to head down to the Christmas Market or up Arthur’s Seat or even perhaps have a Meadows barbecue?

A few weeks ago, I went to the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting in San Diego. As I mentioned last month, it is the biggest neuroscience meeting in the world! There were over 30000 attendees! That’s 1.5x bigger than the town I grew up in! It was so incredible to have so many neuroscientists all in one place! And the lovely San Diego Convention Centre managed to host all of us for 5 days. The conference itself was slightly overwhelming with dozens of overlapping symposia and mini-symposia and nano-symposia. It did take me a full day of preparation to figure out which talks I would attend, which posters I’d go see and which exhibitor booths I’d check out. I mostly stuck to presynaptic talks and talks about Fragile X syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. While the talks were very interesting, I thought that the poster sessions were most useful. It’s a way to see what other labs are doing, meet other people (and network) and actually ask questions and talk about your work and give advice and get feedback. I also attended the Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) social and got the chance to catch up will some of my old undergrad professors from McGill (and jokingly/ maybe-not-so-jokingly ask them if they’d have any openings for postdocs in their labs in 12 months). I have managed to make several new connections which will benefit my ongoing research and potentially lead to me getting a postdoc position. I networked my little heart out. Going to this conference has whet my appetite for big international conferences. I am already preparing my abstract for the CAN meeting and looking for more travel grants to allow me to go back to SfN next year! I definitely have to acknowledge and thank the CMVM and Guarantors of Brain for providing me with the travel grants that made attending this conference possible.

On a side note: San Diego was gorgeous. It was definitely a long way to go and the jetlag was horrendous, but it was 100% worth it. It is an incredibly vibrant and welcoming city. I would highly recommend visiting! The palm-tree lined roads are so inviting and all the fresh seafood and Mexican-inspired dishes are delicious. I may have overdosed on fish tacos hehehe.

Lab stuff
Despite being in sunny California for a week, I have still managed to be productive in the lab this month (please don’t tell the lab fairy). It is currently the run-up to Christmas and everyone is trying to get stuff done- the mad dash has started. I think I have finally optimised an assay that I started working on in August! August! Yup, it has been a long process and there have been lots of different steps to work out. I am really hoping that now it works when I try it out with the mutants tomorrow. It’s all well and good that the WT works, but if the mutants don’t… back to square one. I’m not superstitious but please knock on all the wood, cross all your fingers (and toes) and send all of the positive vibes my way. Science is definitely a journey.

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day! If you are in Scotland you must go find yourself a ceilidh to go to! It is tradition after all.

Where are we? When are we? 

That is how one of the postdocs in the lab suggested I start off this blog post. Perhaps because I am a tad frazzled these days.

Time warp
I know that I have already mentioned that I do not know how time is going by so quickly, but I feel the need to reiterate this point. It feels like just yesterday I looked out the window and saw the multi-coloured Fringe posters and Underbelly tent. Then I blinked and entered some kind of time warp that has brought me to November. November! I really do not know where the time went.

I suppose that a lot of my time this term has been spent teaching. I am a facilitator in two new courses: Our Changing World (OCW) and Clinical Biochemistry and Endocrinology 3 (CBE3). The former is composed of a series of public talks on various issues that affect our global society including happiness, traffic and multiculturalism. After each lecture there is a group discussion which I facilitate. CBE3 is in a slightly different format: problem-based learning (PBL). The students are given an actual case report from a patient and go through it meticulously to try to understand all the components (from blood panel results to vague symptoms) and how they relate to the diagnosis. After the first session, they come up with questions they need to research to fully understand the case. During the second session, they get the opportunity to give comprehensive answers to all the questions raised. I facilitate these sessions and make sure that the students stay on track and discuss the relevant information.

Last May (which really doesn’t feel so far away now), I submitted an abstract for a poster at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in San Diego. My abstract was accepted, I was awarded travel grants and I will be on my merry way to the Pacific coast next Friday. The catch, my poster is still not made and the data is not yet fully analysed because of the little hiccough that I discussed last blog post (that base insertion knocking everything out of frame). This meeting is the largest neuroscience conference in the world with over 30000 people attending from more than 80 countries! This will be quite an interesting experience. It’ll give me the opportunity to present and defend my work in front of the leading experts in the field.

On that note, I am off to finish up my analysis and make my poster!