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Archive for February, 2011

The woman scientist

Call me a SCIENTIST.

This is what I do. This is what I like to do. This is what defines me. This is what I do best. Does not necessarily mean that I am a GOOD scientist. No, I am NOT. At least not YET.

The life of a budding scientist is FUN. A little exciting. A lot more frustrating. Full of anxiety. Overflowing with uncertainty. And loaded with reproach. Like a lab rat´s. Subject to constant experimentation and a lot of thinking. Not necessarily research related thinking. It is actually more of a how-to-live-life kind of thinking. In fact, I am constantly confronted with when-does-life-begin kind of questions.

But yeah! It is fun! It is a LEARNING process. An education. A TRAINING.

And I highly encourage you to indulge in science. And in math. I do like to recommend that parents expose their children to early scientific endeavors. Take a day trip to a museum. Or a zoo. Watch Discovery channel or national geographic.

It is fun. Really.

Scientists can be the coolest! Don’t they look peppy on their lab coats? They are one of the most respected personalities in academic institutions and in multi-million dollar agricultural and biomedical companies around the world. People look up to them. People actually believe them. So don’t you wanna be one of them?

This may sound a lot of fun, but wait. Let’s take a look at the behind the scenes of becoming a scientist. So what does it take to be a hard core scientist?!

First of all, hard work. You must be dedicated and focused. (Get focused alright! Not facebooking!) You do not have to be smart. But you really have to work hard. Success is dependent on effort (and sometimes on luck).

You have to be charming. And a good salesman. You should be persuasive and persistent. If you are eloquent, then that´s a plus. This is needed because you have to get funds. The lab is one of the most expensive places you can ever think of. Thousands of dollars can be spent on a single day. But this is not my problem for now. This is my boss´s job. 😛

You should be friendly too. And be able to work with a team. Scientists need to work with one another. Work together. Help each other. Science is unlike business. It is not about competition really. You only got each other. You speak the same language, and it is only you who understand each other. And especially for young scientists, you need to establish connections. So why not try to smile a little bit more?

Resistant. Or get immuned! If you know what I mean…

Resistant to and be able to work under extreme conditions. One time in my previous lab, the air-conditioning shut down. It was the height of summer. No electric fans are allowed as this will result to contamination of samples with dirt and dust being flown into the air. With the lab gown on and gloves on, it was like hell. And when you are handling proteins, the need for a cold room is apparent. Shifting back and forth from 37 degrees C to 4 degrees C is a big sh*t! To say that that is terrible is an understatement. But when you are paid to work, you have to work. Work in extreme conditions that is.

If you can, try hard to develop immunity. The lab is one of the most dangerous places you can ever be. So develop immunity to all the harmful chemicals and reagents you are handling everyday, be extra careful with everything you do, and be a freak, if that will help you at all.

Speed eating. Stretch-bladder-stretch. And automatic reset. These are some of the most useful features too!

Messed up body clock is not uncommon among lab rats. Most often you won´t be able to eat, pee, and sleep on time. Not regularly. You tend to develop faulty sleeping habits that will automatically turn on during seminars and conferences while it is almost always off during the wee hours. You also develop unhealthy eating habits. You crave for caffeine and MSG loaded instant noodles all the time.

When working in the lab, eat when you have time to eat, pee when you have time to pee. And do it fast! I probably can win an eating contest if I must! Hmmm.. May be that´s not a bad idea. I can even put it on my CV as a talent, don´t you think?

So now I ask, do you have what it takes to be scientist? Before you answer YES, put in mind that scientists are often tagged as WEIRD. And when that happens, you must be proud to say “Hell yeah, I´m a scientist. I´m supposed to be weird.”

J.

 

(The picture of the woman scientist isn´t mine. I got it somewhere from the web.)

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Perfectly ordinary

Just a thought. May be all I ever really wanted is a quiet, ordinary, simple life. Why do I want to have a PhD? Is this really for me? A question I sometimes ask before, but now becoming a regular question popping up my head.

1 Thessalonians 4:11
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.”

A simple country girl with a small farm would be quite a goal. Don´t you think?

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Slow down. Take precaution. Life is fragile.

__________ Weird. This is how I describe it. This is a blog entry on an encounter to one’s own self. A foreign self. An alien. And I did not know this about me. I am changing I think. Over time, I am metamorphosing. Somehow I am scared. Scared of what I’ll discover about myself.

I’ve been always not certain about me. I do not know me. I do stuff that I do not even think I would ever do. This happened a lot during my teenage years. It happens to many others I guess. But suddenly, it is all coming back to me. Just today, I realized it. And I am afraid. I do not want to go back to this phase. I know I can do things I will regret doing for the rest of my life.

Sunday. Today. I did not plan to go to the lab. But somehow I am looking for something. Something to do. To kill time. I have my Sunday routine, but not this time. I did not go to church. I don’t feel like going. I do not know why. I went to the lab instead. I was determined to do some experiment. And a lot of reading. I was determined. Yet, I did not do any of these.

I went facebooking instead. It was quite a while I did not open my facebook account. I thought it will be worthwhile to update myself on other’s business. Once in a while it is.

I hoped to have some conversations with good old friends. And this I did. The usual chitchat with some friends. It gave me some entertainment. And it felt good. Did not notice the passing of the time. When I looked through the window it was starting to get dark. This prompted me to go down to the lab to, at least, clean and organize my space. Took just a few minutes to do this. I decided to better go home than to waste time on more non sense internet surfing. I had a lot of mess to clean in the apartment too, and maybe I can cook something. Or bake a cake I thought. I prepared to leave. While leaving, I spotted a cigarette box which was laying on my desk for quite a while. It wasn’t mine. I found it just there. I took a stick and came looking for a lighter in the laminar hood. I lit the cigarette, puffed a little, unlocked my bike and went biking while finishing off my stick.

I wonder. Why am I doing this?! I got over this thing years back. Why would I want to smoke this time? I asked questions in my mind. Lots of questions. I answered them. I tried to answer them. But I can not find appropriately satisfying answers. I know I am rationalizing. Trying to defend my smoking. I shivered.

I knew right then I am indeed “changing”. My usual defense mechanism upon encounter of an emotional baggage. I will not deny it. I am not happy. Well, I say I am happy. I got all smiles on my face all the time. However, loneliness is a constant visitor. A daily visitor I should say. And when this happens, I develop a habit. Weird things I start doing. Stuff I hate, I do. I despise vices. I never like being addicted to something like a stupid computer game. I always believed being addicted is to be a prisoner. And I despise it. I do not want to be a prisoner. But somehow, somewhere, at some point, I lost. I always lose. In the battle with my own self.

When I broke up an engagement last year, I went through a bad depression. Similar emotional baggage. I could not sleep. This resulted to bad performance at work (..at some point, but I managed to keep my track after a few weeks, thank God). Bad performance made me hate myself and this resulted to stress. I could not eat. And I lost a lot of weight. I tried to find things to help with my depression. Finally, I sorted to alcohol. I began a habit of drinking alcohol every night. Not that I get drunk or something. It just helps me sleep. I could not sleep, no matter what I do and how I do it, without alcohol. I do not drink (and get drunk). Not that I condemn it. I have nothing against drinking. I do drink occasionally, but I seldom do it in public. I drink alone, for the sake of enjoying a drink. However, getting drunk is a different thing. Well, I did. During college. But I managed to get it out of my system. But this particular situation brought me back to alcohol days. I would even wear the title “alcoholic” if you would ask me. I reached the point that I became dependent on alcohol for sleeping. Days, weeks, and months passed. I became better. I regained “freedom” and I started to love myself again. I have forgiven me. I am happy and whole again. This I thought.

Today, I smoked my first stick after years of not having it.

………………..

I moved to Europe last month. I know I have a mission to finish here. A project to get done, and a learning to do. To learn to live life. Got experiences to take… to refine my character and test my attitude. But it is hard. It is hard. Of course, I know it will get better. I am just starting. I am adjusting. Just starting to lit the fire. The flame has not been put up. Not yet. I am not in a hurry either.

The lonely star girl

For the past weeks, big changes have happened. It was overwhelming. Time passed by too quickly and I guess I was not prepared just yet. Weird habits have developed in me. I am not aware when did it start. Every night here in the foreign land, I look up at the sky and stare at the stars. I stare and stare until I fall asleep. I never knew you can actually stare at something so distant that it looks so tiny… On cloudy nights and no stars are visible, I feel deep sadness. Somehow I associate it with looking back home, trying to remember how home feels like, how it looks it. What my family and friends back home look like. Obviously, it is homesickness. Loneliness. I never felt so so far away before. Time zone made it even more difficult. More than anything else I need someone to talk to. I tried to be online whenever I can. But usually when I am online, nobody’s there on the internet. It tears my heart apart every single moment. I cry. I thank God that I am not embarrassed of crying. Almost every night, I cry myself to sleep. It helps me. A lot. It is healthy.

I know in the days to come, I will sort to drinking beer and smoking again. I have started drinking beer for the past few weeks now. And the last time I went grocery shopping, I found myself checking on cigarette and beer prices. I sighed.

It is a battle. This is a battle with one’s own self.

 

 

(Note that photos here are not mine. I got them from the internet. )

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Two cats (or bosses) and five rats (labrats or “rats” who work in a lab) went to Winterberg on a Wednesday morning, on official business, using the institute’s car (shhhh!) for skiing. Fun in the snowy mountain filled with evergreen trees with their everblooming ever green green leaves decorated beautifully with fresh snow like a powdered sugar atop a chocolaty cupcake.  (They looked fantastic!) It was a gloomy freezing (!) day. Nevertheless, the ski resort was filled with people, mostly Dutch from the neighbouring The Netherlands, as evident of their yellow plated cars, as opposed to the white plated ones of Germany.  The two female rat ski rookies were lucky enough to be tutored on Skiing 101 by Cat #1.  And there we went trying our way for skiing.  Skiing is hard work!  A very hard work.  Much harder than being in the lab playing labrats. Even harder than doing an experiment.

That’s what I thought. At least in the first hour or two. Of trying to learn which is horizontal versus vertical.  Which is downhill, and which is uphill. Learning to bend forward and not leaning backward, where the former means you go faster (which is scary! and even made scarier by the fact that I may hurt people who BTW is not covered by the shitty health and accident insurance policy in Germany.  Are people hearing me? Do something about this please!), while the latter means you stumble down with your battered butt into the cold snow which, BTW melts in your ass and gets your battered butt wet (!).  Well, as I’ve said, that is what I thought – hard work.

After an exhausting hour or two, the two rookies gave their battered butt a break and decided to stock up energy for later.  Nibbled on some comfort foods, high energy of sort, Currywurst mit pommes (Sausage with potato fries) and heiße Schokolade trinken (hot chocolate drink).  After getting full, we set our minds and mentally run the “Skiing-is-fun program”. We bought our lift passes, went up the hill and tried skiing down.  This we did for the next 3 hours or so. After indefinite number of falls (which I hate because it is very hard to get up as your legs and feet have very limited movement, and I am too embarrassed to be picked up by the boss, I mean Cat #1, every time I fall), I started enjoying the “play” as I learn to balance, ski down, go faster, snow plow, turning left and right to create beautiful curves, slowdown and to break.  Oh boy, I was loving the slopes! It was so much fun!  The cats and the rats were all very tired and happy by the end of the day. The two rookies, especially, have battered, aching, exhausted, at-the-verge-of-hypothermia bodies, but a refreshed mind. Our bodies ached for at least 2 days, but it was all worth it.  Who gets to have a hard core scientist as a ski trainor anyway? Not so many I guess.

Ski rental, 10 euros

Lift Pass, 16 euros

Currywurst mit pommes and heiße Schokolade trinken, 10 euros

Smiles on our faces, fun bonding time together, refreshed mind, PRICELESS.


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