Thursday, 6 June 2013

Who needs time off?

I finished my BSc. I should know how I did in about two weeks. Scary stuff. I'm staying at Uni to do my Masters year and finish with MBiolSci, which somehow makes the end of my third year a little bit less final. After all, technically I'm still not done with my degree.

While the majority of my friends are embarking onto adventures and exotic travels to celebrate the end of their degrees and to relax and experience freedom before finding jobs or falling into their PhDs I am staying right were I am. I will travel one day too. One day. But what will I do instead this summer, you ask?

Well, most of my plans for the summer holidays were up in the air till very recently, but everything is starting to slowly fall into place. I love it when things come together - I feel very blessed. It might not be Nepal or India or even a roadtrip in the USA, but I think life is what you make of it. I can be miserable stuck where I am longing after trekking through Cambodia, or I can enjoy my summer and make the most of it. Or die trying.

I have been lucky enough to be awarded a Genetics Society grant to carry out a project over the summer. This is great, not only because I get to do an exciting project, work with great people and learn a number of new techniques (I have no practical molecular background), but also because I spent quite a big chunk of the beginning of last term preparing applications and proposals - I invested time I could have used to work on my dissertation. One by one my applications were rejected and my heart was sinking - what if I get no funding at all? I will have to frantically look for summer jobs... Maybe I should have just put that time and effort towards my dissertation? What if I not only don't get any funding, but also do worse in my dissertation? Uncertainty is not a great feeling and I'm so glad that my effort paid off.

I got the grant and I have started my project on Monday. It's been going great (or so it seemed) till today when it turned out that my sequencing didn't work. Back to square one. Tried to catch up and thought that I might be even able to run another sequence overnight, but then it turned out the lab is all out of big dye. And one cannot sequence without it. Or at least that's what I'm being told, I guess there is more than one protocol in existence... Research, right? Need to wait for the dye. Fingers crossed it gets here tomorrow morning (unlikely, but possible!), otherwise I will probably have to wait till Monday.

So anyway, I'm going to be carrying out this rather exciting and tricky project over the next two months. Hopefully little will go wrong and I will get some results. After the lab work and analysis are all done I will need to produce a report. I'm hoping to be done by mid-August.

The plan is to then jump ship and go into another lab - my MBiolSci lab - and do a little prep consisting of learning programs used by the lab group and of butchering some quail... I mean learning to dissect quail. They are bigger than the zebra finches I will be working with and so a good starting point. Poor birds, they won't know what hit them. I'm not very squeamish, yet I worry the tiniest bit that I might not like gutting birds much... I used to keep zebra finches as pets. I preferred them alive and unopened. Oh well. In the name of science, here I come.

My September is filling up quite nicely too - I will be doing some workshops with the Genetics Society and I am also going to the Biology of Spermatozoa conference. Which is hugely exciting, as I have never been to a proper conference! I hope I don't make a fool out of myself... I have a tendency to do that.

Even though I'm staying were I am, I shouldn't be bored. I have all of the above planned, I still have my part time job for another month, I have lots of reading to do and catch up on, painting, climbing, maybe some weekend trips up to the Lake District... I'm thinking of taking up yoga/pilates too. Should be a good, productive summer. Bits and pieces in the second lab will probably take about a week or so in August. Which means that I might be able to fly home for a week at the end of August, if everything goes well. It would be nice to see my family before Christmas. On the other hand, that would probably mean that I don't get to have a single week of holiday this year... But who needs time off?