The Mucus Impropriety

So after a week of sore throats, funny coloured mucus, subsequent blocked nose and a hypothalamus with temperature issues…it seems that the fresher’s flu has finally settled. And fresher’s have once again proved why we research students wish for the summer to come quickly. And with a nearing deadline, the mucus must wait, science comes first.

This week has been a bit of an odd one, high emotions, tense environments and stormy minds. Western blots, Langendorffs and cardiomyocyte cell isolations. I’ve been quite irrational…emotionally this week, to the point that simply hearing Prince Caspian introduce Lucy and Edmond Pevensie in the Narnia third film…made me tear up! Seriously! Darn hormones, and darn experiments that must be done! No wonder I’m going loopy…I’ve got so much to tackle, and very little time to complete anything. I just have to press on, and hope for the best.

Often we need a kind of motivation that’s different. One that can lift our spirits when we’re down and struggling. One that affects the heart and simultaneously empowers the mind. I think I may have found mine today. Let’s hope we all can.

Bubble Pop (PhD Edition)

I’ve spent 45 minutes, reading reviews on TripAdvisor…and then subsequently adding my own reviews (oh dear!). In fact, the entire day has been quite fruitless…summarising the mood of the last few weeks. With the addition of polishing off a box of salted caramel Fingers…and getting halfway through a tube of Munchies (oh dear again); I’m clearly avoiding writing up my results chapter and my data analysis (oh dear…I’m clearly in trouble!)

It seems as though I’m willing to do anything but my own work…avoiding it like it’s a contagious disease requiring quarantine. It’s already quarantined inside of my brain. Not good. (At this rate, I’m going to finish that tube of Munchies…yup…the last one just got shoved into my mouth) I feel like I’m not ‘here’ anymore…sounding just as odd as it feels. And in a way that makes sense, it makes sense because my mind is in disorder. Just chaos and no order. I feel as though I’m drowning in my own thoughts, unable to control my ideas and to-do’s, and instead of calmly sorting through them…I’m stood incapacitated, unable to do anything. Where my feet are no longer touching the ground…as I continue to be elevated by the mountain of thoughts and stress that accumulates beneath me. And that’s translating to outside of my cranium. I’ve been working with cardiomyocyte isolation, and although it started of amazingly well…I’ve almost certainly jinxed myself. I’ve spent the last few weeks just fixing my cells, with no knowledge of the success rate. All will be revealed in a painful session of flow cytometry. But the issue is the fact that despite having developed and modified protocols on my own accord, my colleagues benefit from ready made protocols and I’m the one who then gets stuck. And I also end up having to accommodate my colleagues’ wishes of wanting to run the same experiments as me…at the same time. Perfect. Odd, since they wait for me to optimise before they run…and that means they spend weeks not doing any lab work; and then everyone suddenly decides that they all want to play with the troll doll at the same time. Brilliant. Nazra…you’re stuffed. I don’t like sharing my troll doll.

I just need to get on top of all those thoughts…need them organised, filed and checked off. I need to know exactly what’s going on with my data, and right now it’s all a bit overwhelming. I have a bucket load of data which needs to be re-visited, and knowing where to start will be very useful. I’m thinking of making my way through the newer data first, finalising that and then moving onto the older stuff? I’m not sure if that seems like a reasonable choice. But I need to start somewhere. Ideally, somewhere with Harry Potter in the background, fantastic encouragement, makes the mundane tasks more desirable (think of that what you will).


Slightly less stressed NQ, out. (Typing things out is the best kind of procrastination and motivation)


PS. Titular reference is with regards to the game I ‘invented’ during my MSc, was fun then (Langendorffs should never have bubbles!)…now it just makes you cry! PhD edition is really hard!

‘Bah, Humbug’

It’s been a rubbish week, and yes it’s only been a week. I keep having to remind myself that despite this week feeling like the equivalent of six…it has only been a seven day week. And the outstanding word of the week is *drum roll*… knackered.  In every sense of the word, physically, mentally and emotionally. I don’t know if it’s the change in seasons (officially autumn now), or if it’s the lab environment (far too many flies, and not enough “people”), or if it’s that time of year again. That’s right ladies and gents, it’s freshers season. New students, busy campus, new viruses to catch. Splendid(!) And of course, my one wisdom tooth doesn’t want to be ignored either, it wants to remind me (painfully), that it’s still there. Add in hormonal fluxes and sniffles…makes the perfect recipe for a very grumpy Nazra.

So all in all, I’m in a very ‘bah, humbug’ mood. I don’t want to be spoken to, I don’t want to get on with the million experiments I have remaining to complete my PhD, I don’t want to write my thesis and I certainly don’t want to write any papers! I give up! I hate everything right now…except my bed…that, I love. And it clearly loves me too, because I’ve been “spending” a good nine hours in bed every night, waking up exceptionally late…after doing my usual ‘bunny hop’ routine of: jumping out of bed, hitting snooze on my phone (I’ll explain), and then jumping back into bed and snuggling down into my covers. And this continues at ten minute intervals…for an hour (so I do this six times, and still manage to fall asleep every ten minutes!)

Now, most people tend not to require leaving the bed at all, usually just an arm reaching out to turn off that alarm. See, I thought I was being clever by purposely placing my phone/alarm halfway across my bedroom, thinking “I have to get out of bed to turn it off, which means that I’m already up…so I can’t possibly fall asleep again” WRONG. So very wrong. Well, anyway, aside from spending a good nine hours in bed…the quality of my sleep has been terrible, so despite the long hours, I feel in no way rested, just a lot of REM sleep (very odd dreams, my subconscious is bleeding out chaos) and little deep sleep. That needs to be corrected. Not entirely sure how. I just think that I’m a lot more stressed out than I appear to be. Yes, I’ve repeated that end of year review and now officially progressed to my third year (I sincerely hope that it is my final year); but I feel like I’m getting very mixed messages, on the one hand I’m expected to complete my experimental studies and my write up this year, which I understand, however I’m also expected to churn out papers. The latter, is something my DoS wants very much so, to the extent where he is ‘encouraging’ me to spend the entire year simply focused on experimental studies and then take an additional year to write up! I can’t afford that! Are you crazy?? I’m a PhD student without a stipend! Where do you think I’ll get that sort of money? Absurd. And don’t get me started on the silent pressure from my mother for me to get married. She doesn’t even say anything, but that look on her face is more than enough.

So to summarise, I’m stressed out. I hate freshers flu. I hate science…no I don’t, I just don’t love it right now. And I certainly don’t love my supervisory team and CM being a right pain in the rear.


NQ out.

“Here you go, Future Husband”

It feels like it’s been a while since I last posted, and with my ‘Dori’ memory, I also have no recollection of the content of my last writing adventure. That’s right. This is all an adventure. Yes, I am sad. You can’t blame me, I’m doing a PhD…which equates to living in a very small, bubbly world. I feel like September hasn’t started off in the greatest way…in fact, my end of year review didn’t go as expected…and I feel like I’m repeating myself?

Anyway, I’ve now tried to spearhead my project and I think it’s going somewhere. I’ve got an incredibly busy year ahead of me, with a million different things to do and only a few months to do so. So I figured, initiative. Have to start now and get things rolling, and I’ve got a good two weeks of absolute focus and science-indulgence. And hopefully…I’ll have more luck with the next technique I’m venturing with.


Nazra's first cardiomyocyte isolation!

Nazra’s first cardiomyocyte isolation!

Nazra's second cell isolation.

Nazra’s second cell isolation.


PS. Second isolation (with tweaking and a new protocol devised by myself and Thor) is inspiring for a complete novice! Another check in the Marriage Résumé.

The Soy Milk paradox.

I don’t even know where to start today, and although that’s not entirely unusual…in a strange way, it is. This week has been chaotic, and possibly the longest 4 day week I can remember, where we’ve transitioned not only months, but also seasons. But that’s not the point. The point is the chaos, and disturbances. I had my end of year review earlier this week, and I won’t lie…despite all the heartache that Western blots have caused, I was relatively calm about it. I was wrong. Although my presentation and ability to defend my choices and experiments, were fine…I was penalised for something beyond my control. Control which reigned in the sticky hands of my supervisory and the incompetent hands of the registry department.

So, what does that mean for poor old Nazra? It means a repeat examination. How do I feel about that? Honestly? I feel a heck of a lot better than I did a few days ago…and although my sleeping pattern has yet to return to normality, I’m optimistic about the future. Something which I’ve not been able to say for a while now. Despite the initial mindboggle…I think I’ve taken some positive from the entire experience. I’m more determined than ever to complete within my designated three years. That September deadline…(although looming)…is not unattainable. I have a new plan now, I’m compromising (gosh…never thought I’d say that!). I think it’s certainly a kick up the rear, a well needed one perhaps. Perhaps I had become complaisant, unable to fight my cause, to just become passive. I have a rejuvenated vigour to complete my stipend-less PhD and move ahead with my life.

A life which is going to dramatically change in the very near future. Where dreams may become a reality…where a battle isn’t going to be necessary, but there are going to be tantrums for sure. I wouldn’t be Nazra without my tantrums. And I refuse to wear all things ‘make up’…and all things jazzy, snazzy and bedazzly (not quite a triple rhyme).

As for the rest of the chaos, I have an abstract to write for the Pharmacology 2016 conference, I have a new presentation to prepare for my end of year review (not too much hard work), I have a supervisory team meeting (after an aeon) which needs an agenda prepared and a way for me to not let my DoS take over…again. I also need to make headway with my writing so that I’m not forcing a serious catch up, I need to work towards the rest of the techniques I have remaining (cell isolations, flow cytometry and PCR), and lastly…finding a job for next year. Because from then onward….Nazra has many more changes to make. Big changes.

But it’s not all been about the chaos, the end of August was very good. A very important friend and I made good, she’s happy with some big changes in her life (changes that are certainly ahead of me also); and another friend who’s mere presence makes me feel less stressed out. And of course, there’s that all important apprentice (reference?).


PS. Titular reference…soy milk isn’t giving me a tummy ache = great! But…soy hot chocolate isn’t quite the same = not so great. Hence a paradox.

Mr Muffin: "I have seen things I cannot describe"

Mr Muffin: “I have seen things I cannot describe”


It’s easy to drown. Drown in your emotion, in your work load, in your everyday life…when everything seems to submerge you inch by inch. Whether it’s that pile of paperwork you need to go through by the end of the week, or packing up your house before the big move, or even just hearing for the 100th time “when are you going to get married?”…it’s so very easy to drown.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any metaphysical buoys that I know of which can rescue those who find themselves submerged. So what are we to do?…learn how to hold your breath? Maybe. We drown, because we let ourselves be overcome by things which in reality can do no harm. If you can’t complete the paperwork, state it. If you know that’s not an option, then buckle down, and get yourself working. If you’re overwhelmed by all that packing, and don’t know where to start, just pick up a box and start putting things in. If you’re tired of having to answer to the whereabouts of your pending nuptials, think of something clever to say. And if you can’t be rude (which you shouldn’t), let sarcasm do all the work.

And then sometimes…you just need chips and curry sauce. I’m hoping that chips and curry sauce does the trick! I don’t even like curry sauce but I’ve been craving it! No idea why!


NQ out.


PS. Why is it so easy to write 200+ words for my blog, but writing even 20 takes forever for my thesis?!

And that nausea feeling…

You know that feeling you get when you’re so incredibly stressed out that your body and mind are in complete conflict…where one wants to the run away, whilst the other wants to complete the marathon? The only answer? Indigestion relief, because this particular feeling wreaks havoc on my stomach. Ouch. Acid reflux…no thanks!

Anyone chasing a PhD will know exactly that, IT IS a chase, a bit of a tease sometimes. A very mismatched opponent, with cards incredibly close to it’s hypothetical chest, sitting opposite you on that green table, staring at you, poker faced. If a PhD was a poker player…but to me it’s best described as a 26.2 mile run. You start off thinking, that it’ll be “fun”, you’re pursuing something you’ve always enjoyed and the title is just a bonus. And then you get mid-way, and the lactic acid begins to kick in, and you start to think, it’s still okay, I know it burns and it hurts, but I can do this…right? And then about 2/3 in, and you really feel it, the anaerobic respiration is too much, you can’t even take shallow breaths…you want to throw in the towel, but you’ve already done more than half the distance…so what do you do next? You cry and forget the run…it’s now just a limp…and you hold it together for those last few miles…wishing you could collapse on a stretcher and just be taken across the finishing line.

I wish there was such a thing as a stretcher in a PhD…perhaps there is one, but I’ve yet to come across it.

It’s just been absolute manic since we came back from Saudi. With my nan’s surgery, my cousin’s wedding, me falling ill and then frantically trying to catch up with my PhD…and the complete chaos in the lab (no supervisors, no technicians, no orders, no reagents, no gas!)…of course I’m getting heartburn! I know that I often joke that my PhD will probably kill me (as long as I don’t ingest anything funny!)…but I didn’t think it’d actually come to a point where my stress is giving me an upset digestive system. What did my tummy ever do to you!!

All I know is that I’ve spent the majority of this weekend planning for my end of year review, and sorting through my data for the last year. You know how much data that is? Four graphs. That’s right, just four. I spent over 300 days of the year looking at one protein in four different conditions…and that is all that I have. Just four. So sad. And yet the story has barely begun…I have so much more to do, and with only a year to go…that little fire of hope (which was mainly extinguished after Argentina) is slowly burning out…with no more fuel.

Just need to make sure that I can still limp across my finishing line…only one more year…

Need to get on that writing bandwagon asap!

NQ out.


PS. Can’t I just play Pokémon Go instead? I know it drains my battery, but that Oddish is so cute! He makes my day🙂