**This is a continuation from my previous post**
I finished my Bioinformatics final on Wednesday afternoon, reaching the intended conclusion that genome mutations in cancer do not necessarily lead to dysregulation of the corresponding genes, nor do they all contribute to the development of metastasis. It turned out to be a very interesting assignment, even if I don’t study cancer.
I spent my Wednesday morning helping a couple classmates (one in particular) work out the kinks to their programming code. The TAs wrote this final assignment and brilliantly gave each student a different set of original data, so no two students would have even remotely the same answers on their submitted projects. I think it’s brilliant because it is a nearly-guaranteed way that every student will write their own programs. Though it does complicate their work in grading.
I left campus in the early afternoon to, of all things, help my father catch my cat. When we’re out of town, my cat typically stays with at my parent’s house with their cats so he’ll have some company for the duration of my absence. As anyone whose owned a cat knows, they don’t necessarily (or at all) like car rides, and especially don’t like being in their little cat cages for any period.
I came home for a grand total of maybe 30 minutes, 15 of which was spent waiting for my father to get to my house. As soon as he arrived, a called my cat in from the backyard – he actually responds when I call for him – and put him in his carrier. He immediately started whining and looking at me like I had betrayed him. I hope he forgets my betrayal by the time we get back. Unfortunately, I had to return to campus for an afternoon seminar. I would have much preferred to stay home.
Every Friday, the Biochemistry & Cell Biology faculty and students get together at lunch, eat pizza, and listen to one of the PhD candidates present recent data or general overviews of their doctoral research. I count on this gathering as a source for lunch every Friday. Don’t get me wrong, the research is awesome and it’s a nice way to take a break from the lab every Friday, but I come for the pizza. However, Friday morning, the lecture for that day was cancelled because the woman scheduled to present defended her dissertation last month and didn’t want to come back in to give another one. In her position, I probably would have done the same thing.
Unfortunately, it meant that 10 minutes after getting to campus, I realized there was no reason for me to be there. I did some busy work for a couple hours, wrote some notes to myself about how I should proceed with experiments in January (assuming I’d forget them while on vacation), and left.
We flew out on Saturday night. I don’t usually board early enough to get one of the seats up front but was able to get an aisle seat in the first row (yay for extra leg room), at which point I snapped the picture above before we took off.
I don’t also don’t usually talk to the people around me but overheard the couple next to me talking about their vacation plans. We struck up a normal small-talk plane conversation; the kind you have with someone you know you’re very likely to never see again. I told the woman sitting next to me that I was a PhD student and explained my research in clinical context. I’ve found that the average person connects far more to the idea of what your research is going to do for them than what the day-to-day operations are really like.
We talked for a bit about medical issues relevant to her and the research I was familiar with that was working towards to treatments for them. I most used to having that conversation, where people pick my brain about cutting edge therapies for whatever ails them and their family/friends. I love having those conversations because it tests how much I’ve been paying attention to biomedical research, though I freely admit whenever there’s a disease/disorder I know nothing about.
After talking for 20 minutes or so, the flight attendant stopped us, having overheard most of our conversation, to suggest I check out an organization she was a part of called P.E.O. (People Educating Others). I had never heard of the group, but she said that over the past 20 years, they had awarded grants totaling almost $25 million to PhD students in the last 2 years of their program. The awards are very competitive (~10% of applicants receive the grant) but can involve projects from novel treatments for viral infection to women’s education in developing countries. She recommended I apply for the grant when in that stage of my training and gave me her contact information if I needed any help getting in touch with the chapter closest to me.
The entire flight was an odd but unexpectedly pleasant experience. I happily take advantage of any time I can bend someone’s ear about my work and even happier when someone points me towards an organization with similar interests/values to mine. It goes to show that you never know when someone can help you and many people will do so if given the opportunity.
I sometimes need to remind myself to be kind, excited, open-minded, and patient. This is why.