“Quick, someone throw me a buoy!”


You know sometimes everything can be so very confusing…and sometimes you don’t feel like a mid-20 something, and sometimes you feel like that very confused teen…back in the day, when the stresses in your life seemed so much like ultimatums. If it’s not been very clear already, this month has been stressful and I know exactly why that is. And the stress certainly won’t clear…not by itself. I’ve been an unrecognisably stressed version of myself…all due to the impending completion of my research and the procrastination associated with writing my thesis. With all of this ‘delightful’ additional stress…I’ve been snappier (I would duly advise all to avoid the circumference for the next few weeks), more emotionally charged  (which only means one thing…something I’m not proud of, and often unable to explain…waterworks) and of course, more aggravated (even in situations where normally a triage system would be applied…I just throw all of that out of the window and go straight to the most immediate response…yelling, screaming and throwing punches…yup that’s right…I’m sorry J).

And what does all of this mean for normal physiological function? Not good, not good at all. I’ve been eating more to: a) distract myself from everything that’s piling up and b) procrastinating…in a horrible way. My muffintop is staying. And other functions have been…impeded also. But let’s not talk about that shall we? I talk about it more than necessary with people who really wish I wouldn’t!

But you know what? Despite all of that stress…I feel very light today (not supposed to be an ill-timed pun!…but very appropriate). In fact, I’ve felt this way since this weekend. After a series of unfortunate events, starting with my car blinking out on me (Get Well soon sweetie!), I had time to mull a lot of things over, and it’s strangely odd how those events somehow led to me realising that the stress is simply not worth it. It’s not worth me losing my composure, my balance and to some extent my sanity. I’ve felt horrid the last few weeks, I let myself be controlled by a hormone, when I should be the boss and be telling IT where it should go. And that simple realisation was enough to free me from my self-made prison. It’s a horrible feeling knowing that you’re drowning and being unable swim or float…

 

PS. Throw me a buoy…or better yet, get the RNLI, Nazra needs a hand…or two.

 

The build up of it all…


” And when the levels rise, the whole world drowns.”

I didn’t really want to post anything in the immediate aftermath of such an occasion (ironically…my post title lives up to the post…without even intending to do so)…unless you’ve managed the impossible and avoided all dialogue or social interaction, you will know exactly what I’m referring to. In fact, before the wrong idea is embedded, I should probably point out that…as with many of my posts, I had started this a few days ago, regarding a completely different matter (more on that).  But plans rarely stay on task, and nor do expectations, not now, nor back in June (still incredibly disappointed with the outcome. In fact, disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings).

The above line…says a lot, (also…what’s with VR headsets? They’re absolutely everywhere…sorry! TV advert…again!) it can apply to everything in this post. Initially it was simply referring to being overwhelmed. By responsibilities, by experiments, by corrupt politics. There’s just far too much to think about. About how a single step, or a win can impact a life or several million.

Perhaps I’m extrapolating, but I’m certain that the sentiments are echoed. But nonetheless, I shan’t deviate from my initial thoughts. I have a lot of stressful work to carry forward, and very little time in which to do so. Add failing experiments, unreasonable expectations (personal), a work-life balance thrown out of the window and the inability to see clearly beyond the foggy disposition…all create an unrealistic and almost bound-to-fail prospect.

But as someone said…”no matter how tainted your past…your future is spotless”. I want to carry that forward with my approach in life…for myself and others. I can’t judge anyone based on their past, and I can’t judge my experiments based on the data I’ve collected in the past. Just because something was unsuccessful to begin with, doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved.

You just don’t get it…do you?


Sometimes, having to explain yourself is just far too much frustration to bear…in fact, often it’s just overwhelmingly nonsensical. And repeatedly having to do so, has no words to express the associated exasperation. There are a couple of sore points in my life right now…which to some people just appear to be hot topics. I don’t want to talk about them, so stop asking me! It’s really just as simple as that!

I’ve been working hard at trying to round up the rest of my missing data for my first results chapter…which is due very soon. But for some reason…everything that was working perfectly smoothly (up until now) has decided that it would much rather not cooperate with me. Of course not. I’m at a stage…where although panic is lurking closely…I’m still trying to keep positive and move forward. If only that weren’t so difficult for the people in my life to understand. Guys, I’m doing a PhD…it’s worse than a standard 9-5 job…it requires my full attention at all times. Like a child (don’t even get me started on that).  If I have to work 12 hours in the lab…yes I will be tired, yes I will be hungry and cranky, but at the end of the day, if it means that I’m one step closer to completing my PhD on time…then why the heck not!

Is it so hard to understand that what I do requires time? My experiments aren’t going to magically run themselves, and they certainly won’t run any quicker than the minimum three hours. So why can’t you just support me, instead of questioning my choices? Is it not bad enough that I question my choices everyday? I don’t need someone else (with no experience of it!) to question me also!

Having to explain a PhD time frame is almost equally as bad. I have chapters due, for that I need data. Once my data is collected, it requires analysis and compilation in the form of a chapter (something we all struggle to juggle). Then it needs to be sent to the DoS, who then sends feedback at will and requires you to proceed, and send to the rest of your supervisory team. Following all the ping backs, the final amended version is once again sent to the DoS who then advises on final revisions. This process continues for each of your chapters. For me, that’ll be 7. If the team decide that the data is not good enough, that means going back to the lab and repeating, which could add weeks, if not months onto the time frame. After everyone is happy with everything, the thesis is then submitted for examination. A 6 week period is required before a Viva date can be set, following this period, the examination can take place. During this point…there is endless panic and often questioning of one’s knowledge regarding their subject matter and of course all the doubts and imperfections become amazingly apparent. In a Viva, the external examiner is sure to put you through paces…(and hopefully not murder the tiny scientist that you are), and following the hours of interrogation, you are most likely to be told to make amendments. Once again, these may be minor (only writing issues) or major (which may require going back to the lab). Once the revisions have once again been submitted, you can then inform registry of graduation. And since graduation is usually only twice a year, and you need to have informed registry at least 2 months before the graduating period…you’ll have to wait. And of course, during this entire time, you’ll have either have already found yourself a job, or be busy finding yourself one, or finally writing those papers your DoS has been asking for. That is the administrative aspect of completing a PhD. I don’t even have time to discuss the scientific and emotional ups and downs experienced. But as you can tell…it’s stressful as it is, without the addition of people asking “why are you in lab so late?”, “when are you going to get married and have a life?” Seriously! I don’t care enough about the answer to those questions! All I’m going to say is that for now, I just want to finish and get a job!

 

PS. Sorry for the rant. I’ve just had a lot of very unhelpful questioning lately, and to be quite frank…it’s draining having to repeatedly explain yourself. And of course, I enjoy ranting on here, far more therapeutic than snapping at people…which I’ve been doing a lot of lately. Sorry, you know who you are. Also, the above (regarding the admin of PhD completion) is specific to my institution and may vary to others.

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.