Monday, 21 November 2016

Christmas lectures: Day 36

Winter has definitely decided to settle its gloomy damp self in today. Rain rain rain. Thankfully though, I work indoors! (It has brightened up a bit since I started writing this)

I had news last week that my big experiment for my PhD has finally ended (thank you again everyone who helped out!). In some ways I’m glad – the experiment was quite restricting on my time and everything I did had to fit around it. On the other hand, I will miss certain bits of it.

When I get back though, I can finally start working on my data collection. Ah data, that thing that is so important for a PhD, and also that thing I currently have next to none of. I keep saying to people how I’m going to have so much more time next year as I won’t be constrained by the exercise experiment. Honestly though, I think I’m being ambitious saying that. I have all of my behaviour data videos (about 21 hours worth) that I have to manually go through and score, plus having to go back and re-track a large number of them (~75 hours worth) as likely the settings won’t have tracked properly the first time. Thankfully though, those can be done at high speed by the computer, so it will take a lot less time. And I already did a bunch of them before I left, so it shouldn’t take me too long (I hope).

My first supervisor was actually like this...My current one is not thankfully

On top of that, I now have all of the samples from the big experiment that I now need to start processing. This will include sectioning of ~65 samples (Slicing them up very very thinly), and staining all 124 samples for neurogenesis (The formation of new neurons). Plus we want to investigate adipose tissue, and protein markers and genetic expression. And I will have less than 18 months to do all of this! To put things in perspective, the sectioning and staining alone, if all works out well, will likely take 3-4 months of my time, if I’m super-fast and nothing goes wrong. Which never happens. So my saying I’ll have more time next year is probably not at all true. But I can hope!

Anyway, enough musing about the future. That’s future me’s problem. I should be talking about what I’m doing here. I’ve been helping out with some more demo’s for both the lectures, and the online advent calendar which will go live in a couple of weeks. I’m still not supposed to give too much away at this point, as it will spoil the surprise!

I’ve now managed to completely sort out the travel for the bursary group that we have coming to the lectures. They’re also now booked in for the behind the scenes tour on the same day so hopefully they will enjoy that as well. We now have to sort out the winner of the other bursary this week so we can let them know on Wednesday. Sadly we only had three entries, despite us emailing every single school we could find in the area – most of them twice! Hopefully the winner will enjoy it.

One of my snaps taken from within the Lecture Theatre

Things are ticking along here at Lecture HQ. We’ve booked out an entire day to simply stuff envelopes with all the tickets next Wednesday. That will be an enjoyable day! Apparently there will be mince pies though, so it’s not all bad.
What else…I finished watching the old lectures now, which kind of makes me sad as I was enjoying those. When I have more time I’m going to go back and watch more of them anyway. (If you’re interested, some of them are here) I’ve also been sorting out and updating some of the webpages to keep things up to date and helped set up newsletters and such to members. Making big spreadsheets with lots of info in them has also featured heavily this last week – I think the skills I gained from making my giant year long timetable last year are paying off finally.

Again mentioning advent, I’ve helped with some of the research and demo making for that which has been fun. That moment when you get asked to nip to the shop to buy eggs, cream and milk in the middle of the working day, and then later have to nip down the road to Pret to buy 4 apples (The number of weird looks I got that day…). The thing the apples are for is going to be spectacular though, I guarantee it, especially if it is as fun to watch as it was to make!

A small hint as to some of the fun we have been having

So, this weeks plans. Currently there are some more newsletters coming up which I’m giving a hand with. There are some books to post soon (Including one to the queen herself!). Not much else on the books at the moment, but I’m sure things will show up pretty quickly.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to so far. Apparently this blog is going to be featuring on the university’s placement blog which is exciting, so hello to anyone who arrives here from there! Also (cheesy as I know it is), I want to say hello to my family, including my awesome Grandmother who is following this and sending me lovely emails of support which just put a big smile on my face. Thank you to you and mum and dad and Catherine, you’re all amazing. (Anyone thinks this is cheesy? Deal with it).

That’s all for now. If you fancy being extra helpful, you could fill in our survey which I helped to construct here

Have fun!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Christmas lectures: Day 25

So, day 25 and all is well. Much of my time at work is still being taken up with re-watching the old Lecture series and marking out the time stamps of third party content. The 1990 series took forever as it was on space with Professor Malcolm Longair, and so there are a lot of images and simulations of things in space. The 1992 one is taking less time as it is on chirality and that is much easier to display in the theatre.

Chirality is also known as handedness. In simpler terms, an object has chirality when it is present in two forms that are mirror images of each other. An easy example of this is your hands - your left and right hands are chiral because they are mirror images of each other. Chirality is really important in chemistry, and you get quite a few chemical molecules that exist in mirror image forms but are otherwise identical. Something is called achiral when it has a plane of symmetry (a.k.a it is symmetrical, like half a cube is symmetrical to its other half).

Hands have chirality, as they are mirror images but not symmetrical. The chair is achiral as it is symmetrical

There you go, hopefully some of you have learned something new today. I've also been doing other things that have been pretty fun. My engineer got to come out to play on Tuesday when I got asked to build cubes
Anyone else remember playing with this stuff as a kid?
I have to point out, there is a legitimate reason for me building these cubes. And if you watch the Lectures at xmas you might just spot them! Hopefully further construction involving the cubes will continue next week and I'll see if I can get some more sneak peak yet meaningless photo's. Obviously I can't spill the beans yet.

Outside of the lectures life is going pretty good. Living in London is definitely different to living anywhere else. Travelling for an hour or more to get somewhere is common place here, whereas in Nottingham if you have to travel for an hour or more that tends to be more of a day trip. I'm hoping to be able to go do something Londony most weekends, to make the most of the time down here. So far it hasn't really worked, but fingers crossed for this weekend.

It's also getting pretty cold now, which is in some ways more irritating in London. You step out of the warm flat into the bitter cold, all wrapped up in fluffy hats, scarves and gloves and a fleecy jacket. You walk down the road, all cosy warm and feeling the brisk air on your face. Then you hit the tube station. At first its ok, especially as I get the overground, which funnily enough runs above ground. So you stay nicely warm. Then you hit the underground tube. At which point you have to take off all the hats, scarves, gloves and fleecy jackets in order to avoid collapsing from overheating. The sardine tins of trains are like their own mini-ovens, which would be a nice change from the fridged outdoors, only its too hot for too long. Then you get to your destination, and once more step out into the freezing cold air, and you're shivering again in seconds unless you decided to layer up before exiting the station.
Oh well, at least we didn't get snow (yet). Unlike some...
Snow from my home
So, things are starting to heat up at work whilst it's cooling down outside. Deadlines are looming, and the stress is starting to make its appearance in peoples grins (or grimaces). Still, I do feel a little good for my role in spreading the word about our event in Edinburgh. It is kind of nice to see the ticket sales steadily going up and up after all the hard work we put in.

Until next time, have fun!