Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer "vacation"

Oh, hello. I've sort of forgotten to blog much this summer. The last month or so has been a blur, and now the academic year is starting up again. Where did my summer go?!

Well, let's see. In mid-July I left for the Developmental Neurobiology Course at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology. I admit, I was rather nervous about the trip -- Japan is so far away, and I was going by myself and didn't know what to expect. But I'm so glad that I went. I met a bunch of amazing scientists and learned about cool research that's happening all over the world. Plus, I got to stay on a beautiful island. The student housing was right beside a private beach! I put up a few photos from my trip in this Google Plus album, if you want to check it out. I thoroughly documented the bathroom, because I'm weird. (It was a really nice shower!) I also made a separate album with photos of the jawdroppingly beautiful new OIST research campus. Their plan to fly me out there for a course so that I'd come back and promote the new university is obviously working.

I also think that the experience empowered me. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get over my anxiety about the trip, the food (I'm deathly allergic to most seafood, so Japanese cuisine was a little intimidating -- thankfully, they were very careful with my meals), the science, the big group of strangers all thrown together. Yes, I am neurotic, hi. But while not everything went 100% according to plan, I was fine in the end. And neuroscience teaches us that exposure to anxiogenic experiences during which everything ends up being totally fine makes them less stressful the next time. I didn't even have to take any D-cycloserine to feel better about the thought of future international meetings.

Since returning to the USA on August 1, I've been keeping busy. Last weekend I flew to Boston for a friend's wedding, and I'm heading to another wedding in upstate New York on Labor Day weekend. I've also got the annual Emory Neuroscience Program retreat in north Georgia this Saturday. These social events are super fun, and I always enjoy hanging out with my friends, but I do find myself wishing that they were spread out a bit more. My experiments have been hampered by a month of busy weekends -- not all science can fit into a Monday-Friday schedule. But, I have been getting stuff done.

What kind of stuff? Well, I've been tracking down reagents to use for some tricky experiments that I planned for my dissertation work. I think I finally have a system that will allow me to observe most of my proteins of interest in the same cell at once, which is cool. I've also been helping with experiments for another student's paper (I get authorship, so it's cool with me), training the new grad student, testing new antibodies (I will be thrilled if they work, because if a commercial antibody is available for our lab's favorite protein, we won't have to keep sending our precious rabbit polyclonal to investigators all over the world), and exploring a new side project. I'm especially psyched about the side project, because it means that in the future, when my main project hits a snag (like this recent search for workable reagents), I'll be able to work on something else that's still "mine." Also because the side project was 100% my idea, which makes me feel like a science badass for coming up with an interesting research question by myself. Maybe I can run a lab someday...

Even though I haven't been writing much, I've still been reading my favorite science blogs. I hope everyone out there is gearing up for a great year of research and awesomeness, and I'll try to post more. Oh, and I'll be at SfN in DC this fall, so hit me up if you want to grab a drink with a fellow citizen of the blogosphere...!


  1. definitely a gorgeous trip to Okinawa -- bathroom and food included! i was jealous when you announced it earlier this yea, but man o man!

    i loved this post. it makes me so excited for my own future summer schedules and science projects.

    best to you as the fall rush begins!

  2. There are always cool workshops going on for various neuroscience topics, if you'd like to check one out someday. Although this one was fairly unique in that they paid for everything, including my flights! If I hear of any other cool neuroscience courses happening at OIST (you're in neurodegeneration, right?), I'll email you. :-)

  3. all tip-offs on optimizing the phd experience are always very much appreciated :) indeed, neurodegen is where i have been and hope to stay when i finally plant myself in a dissertation lab.