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Posts Tagged ‘science’

I love doing experiments.

I need to do experiments.

I enjoy working in the lab.

This, I know, is what I am born to do.

As much as I love experimenting in the lab, I too, love experimenting in the kitchen.  I somehow associate experimenting with cooking.  And these words are interchangeable in my dictionary. 🙂

AT WORK:  The lab is my kitchen and my samples are my recipe.  My results are the products of my hard work- they are the food I have created.  But I also understand that doing science is not just about the fun part- cooking.  It is actually about serving your meals to the people a.k.a. your costumers.  It is about the purpose- the costumer´s satisfaction and their nourishment.  It´s purpose is to nourish- to promote growth, to better knowledge and deepen understanding, to foster the development of research and technology for the betterment of humanity.  Science involves writing and making it known to the public.  It is about publishing.  “Publish or perish” right?  And so, the pressure is up, but the projects are most often than not frustrating.  This cooking career requires skills, patience, lots of troubleshooting, and tons of faith and prayer. But I enjoy it anyhow…

AT THE KITCHEN:  I experiment on new recipes. I search for ingredients and I get a bit creative and flexible with it.  I look for alternatives, and this is the fun part of it. It takes courage and experience to create new things, and this is what it takes to create new recipes.  And resourcefulness wouldn´t hurt either.  And this is what I just did.  I used my resourcefulness 🙂

I picked some fresh sour cherries at my institute´s garden, washed them thoroughly and patiently pitted them one by one. I then transferred the pitted cherries in a cooking vessel on a low heat. I added a handful of white sugar and I brought it into a boil.  I set aside some of the juice extracts from the marmalade and then I poured a half bottle of red wine into the pot.  I continuously heat it up until the alcohol from the wine was reduced.  This is to concentrate all the rich flavors from the sour cherry, the sugar, and the wine.  I came to a product I call cherry wine marmalade.

Oh my, I love the taste!  It is perfect for my early morning (plain) yoghurt (I also tried it with freshly cut banana, and it´s wonderful!), or top it on a vanilla ice cream.

I also turned the juice extract from the marmalade into a wonderful cherry cocktail.  I filtered the extract it into a bottle, added some sugar for added sweetness, or vodka, for a kick.  I gathered some ice cubes and put it in, gave a hard shake  and  wahhhlahhhh!!!! My refreshing cherry drink.

I served these to my friends when I hosted a dinner one Saturday night in my apartment and they loved it.  It just complemented the pineapple chicken and buttered veggies I served for the main course. We did enjoy the ice cream topped with cherry marmalade and the cherry cocktail while we sang our hearts out in youtube karaoke and laugh our night through it.

That´s the thing with experimenting in the kitchen over cooking in the lab – I always get good results, a smile on my face and a happy stomach.

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Started it a foggy day.

This is a view from my apartment window.  I was a bit delighted with the foggy, misty, fresh feel of the air this morning.

I went to the lab and, one by one, begun crossing out the to-do list of the day.

It was a struggle to get it through the day- packed with meetings, experiments and failures.  Experiments are yet again playing hard to get!  A slap on the face; a dagger right through my chest!  Science is more often than not frustrating.  Yes, I know.  Thank you very much for the constant reminder.

I walked home with a heavy heart. But found myself consoling me by taking pictures of…. hmmmm.. what else?  Plants. Of course.

Thanks to the therapeutic photoshoot with the plants, I was feeling a lot better.

Later in the evening, I, S and A headed to the city for an Iranian dinner with the rest of the lab.  Tonight we will say goodbye to F, one of my favorite postdoc in the lab.  It is sad.  I will definitely miss my mentor. But also happy for him with his new job!

One thing in science is people come and go so fast.  As a scientist you really have to move around. I think it is a curse (not necessarily bad) that comes with science.  Although, I still have to figure out if this is actually good or bad.  It is an essential and inevitable change that scientists have to live with, I guess.

This is a typical yogurt drink in Iran. It is a sour yoghurt with salt!  It actually tastes like a green sour mango dipped in salt, but in liquid form. Hehe.

F, who is half German and half Iranian, explained that since it is so hot in Iran, you need salt to replenish all those perspired salt from the body.  Hmmm… that make sense.  But then again, if you take in salt in a hot weather, better be sure to take in lots of water too! =P

So F, goodbye, but see you later! Okay?

I thought I will retire to my bed feeling a lot better despite today’s frustrations in the lab….

until I saw something (or someone) that just broke my heart. 😦

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I, together with my labmates went to The Netherlands last Monday and Tuesday to attend the Dutch Plant Science Meeting in Lunteren. It was my first trip outside Germany which adds up to my excitement. We started on a car from Max Planck at 07:00 and arrived at the De Werelt Hall at about 09:00.

It was a full 2-day conference- some talks are very nice and interesting. Most are very informative. We listened and learned from the “stories” of other scientists- their projects, their methodologies and their strategies in coming up with their scientific produce.  And this makes me wonder about my project and how I would author my very own story. This, for the next 3 years or so, is the goal to achieve.

It was also intriguing how scientists behave and act. It mostly is about “how to do science” really. And how to survive in this scientific world.  To make a name, to be recognized, to be accepted by the community, and as noble as it is, to make a contribution to the never-ending world of discoveries, innovations, and inventions.

This got me thinking, am I really for this?

Do I have a room for breakthroughs and scientific bonanza?  I am not good enough- this is what I’ve always believe.  And will never be, I guess. The future in this world is still fuzzy. I still can not  see through it.  But somehow… somehow God put me here and I enjoy being here.  So perhaps, this is really is the place to be.

So rather contemplate on things, I reveled on it. I took pleasure on being here. I took pride on being privileged to be here. And I  delighted on being favored by the most high God that He poured overflowing blessings on me.

My take homes from this trip are:

1.  My boss is great!  It was my first time to see him present, and oh boy!  he rocked the center stage.  That was a speaker up there. Plus, the very interesting technology he pioneered in plant science.

2. I was inspired big time by all the presentor’s stories and is now dreaming of being a presentor too, one day.

3. Learned that Dutch gets cold lunch of cheese and bread.  While the dinner is protein-rich and warm.

4. Got a taste of my first Dutch beer, generously sponsored by the boss.

5. I saw the giants! 😛  They are really tall. Almost had a stiff neck after talking for almost half hour with two Dutch guys.  They say it’s in the milk. Apparently, I had had too little milk to drink when I was little.  No. I take that back. I am still little.  Hmmm…. when I was younger.  Now that’s more appropriate. *sigh*

5. I fell in love at the first sight of The Netherlands. The scenery at least in Lunteren is captivating.  That is my kind of place- vast greenery, country houses, wide yards, the gardens, the barns, the horses, and oh! the smell :P.  The misty feel of the place early morning upon our arrival added up to the mystic mood and fairytale touch.

6. Not to forget the scientific take homes, of course. Well, it’s just surprising to be hearing a lot about comparative genetics, evolution, and next generation sequencing! Hmmm… perhaps the next generation sequencing is not surprising after all.

7. Papers and awards makes one scientifically more attractive. But I must add, scientifically more attractive, may even mean physically more appealing.  Well, at least for me!

On our way to The Netherlands, thanks Mr. Navigator!

De Werelt, Lunteren, where the meeting was held

That's my boss doing his presentation.

The poster hall

Time for the infamous Dutch lunch

Dutch "cold" lunch of bread, cheese, and salad

We also did a bonus side trip to Wageningen University.  We toured the Laboratory of Phytopathology, greenhouses, the SOL lab, and took lots of pictures!

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The plant chemetics laboratory had an international dinner party on a Thursday night in one of the member’s home.  It is a potluck party where everyone brings his or her own national dish to the table and everybody gets a taste of different cultural cuisine. This is particularly special as our team is very international- no two people are from the same country! We are composed of a Dutch, German/Iranian, Colombian, Indian, Pakistan, Chinese, Japanese and a Filipino!

And for me, this is just one of the best part of being in a multicultural world.  Science, fortunately, offers this unique setting where people of different backgrounds come together to do science, for the sake of science. The Max Planck Society especially recruits the best from around the world. (And exceptionally encourage women scientists!).  Now that’s a great bonus to be here!

I used to organizing similar “international” dinner back in Taiwan too.  I love meeting people of different nationalities and learning the differences, as well as similarities across different cultural grounds. I specially love sampling different cuisines, tickling my taste buds with different flavors, and learning different ways of preparing food.

Aside from the fantastic food served on the table, we also had a good long funny conversations and smart talks over dinner.  We ate, and laughed, and drunk, and talked, and ate, and giggled, and photographed, and teased each other, and ate, and drunk, and ate for over 5 hours!

The dinner was a blast!  It was a dinner to remember, indeed!

Typical German apple pie

Dutch (cheese) finger food

German meat patty

Colombian coconut rice

Chinese shrimp dish cooked in wine

Indian butter masala

Colombian guayabana drink

Japanese cookies

Bread. I think this is common to many cultures...

Since I was consumed by the fabulous dishes (or I consumed these fabulous foods? :P), I forgot to take photos of the others, including my pineapple chicken 😀

So, till next  gluttonous dinner!

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The IMPRS PhD program in the Max Planck Institute holds a retreat once a year, attended by all the students as well as the supervisors/teachers. And March 28-30, 2011 was my first retreat. It was held at Hotel Nassau Oranien in Hadamar.

I do not know what to expect. But I know that I need to give a 20-minute talk or presentation about my project.  Every student should. And we will do this for the next 3 days.  It does not sound a lot of fun, does it? Nevertheless, I was excited.  The week before the said retreat, I was already looking forward to it, even though I was not prepared for my talk until the very last night before my presentation.  I was scheduled to present on the last day, so I thought, I still have some time to prepare during the retreat itself.

I was excited.  To take pictures, what else? (!).  I just bought this new camera just in time for my retreat. And hell yeah!  I  made myself lots of pictures.  And beautiful photography it was!  (more photos can be seen here!)

Aside from my photography, I actually enjoyed the talks given by my classmates.  I admired them for the work they have done.  I admired me, for getting myself into such a beautiful PhD program.  And I praise and thank God for this wonderful opportunity He has given me.

I learned a lot from my classmates’ presentations. I enjoyed the discussions and exchange of ideas after every talk.  I embraced the opportunity to interact with the professors and scientists. I delighted in smart talks with beautiful smart people of our very own scientific community. I savored the meals (specially the fish and sea food dishes) served at our hotel. I celebrated the visit to the lovely town of Hadamar. And I cherished the bonding times with my mates.

And so, until the next retreat!

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The path to becoming a scientist

Wow, I actually survived the first retreat!  Thank God.

Although I have not gotten over the hang of it, today is “back-to-work” day.  I have to admit I somehow missed the lab and my labmates. Seriously. That should not come as a surprise actually.

So as much as I want to share and write about my experiences during the retreat, I do not have much time to do so at the moment.  I need to be back to the lab remember?  Nevertheless,  I will show you some snapshots I took during the retreat.  I think pictures speak louder than words. So enjoy the photos as much as I did enjoy taking and admiring them!  May these photos lure you into our world.  So go on, come on in, and maybe, just maybe, you can join us in our travel into the PhD world!  It can be fun, you know? Believe me, please.

I will post some more retreat stuff this weekend. I promise.

The first Arabidopsis plant seen during the retreat. Thanks to Maarten 😀

Parasitic plants growing on tree branches; that looks like bird nests from afar. Interesting?

I've learned that hotels here in Germany, perhaps especially in religious regions, provide bibles in every room.

The view from our hotel room- the big mansion on the left is a private music boarding school for boys.

The conference hall on the second day of the retreat

"Time for coffee- Do stupid things faster with more energy" 😀

Caffeine is a regular part of the PhD life, at least for me.

A picturesque view of the small lovely town of Hadamar

Lovely Hadamar

Ah... the sound of dripping water!

A church on a hill

On the church wall

Stained church window in black and white

The city hall of Hadamar at 10 minutes before 18:00 in the evening

The PhDs on their walk looking around admiring the city

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Stop complaining and shut your mouth up!

It was a long full day in the lab packed with experiments, lab meeting, and junkfood from the Rosenmontag celebration yesterday. By early afternoon I was already tired, and feeling hungry even just an hour past lunch time. While setting up my western blot, I complained as I always do.

 

“I´m hungry.”

“I´m tired.”

“I´m sleepy.”

 

T. heard me and said “Those are the words of a woman in her late pregnancy period with her big protruding belly.”

 

I kept my mouth shut the rest of the day.

 

 

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