I make closing statements about how the past will influence the future, but it’s the present that we have to look out for. It’s about what is happening right this very moment that will shape our future. I see that drugs may not have such a drastic effect on people’s life, as I look to my friend. Perhaps drugs are their solution to do better or to overcome the burdens that overpower them. Maybe the reason they want to introduce others to drugs is because they want someone to be in the same mental state as them. They call me a hypocrite for drinking alcohol, and being in denial that alcohol results in fewer problems than taking drugs. We both take time to learn about our decisions and come to understand each other a little bit better.
For the first time I saw the effects of drugs on people I knew. I have experienced the effects of drinking too much alcohol on a night out, but I never saw how it affected others and how others would have seen me. I describe what I saw in detail, noting on how my flatmates changed in appearance from what they typically looked like. I describe how they lurched forward, as if their bodies were covered in slime that kept sticking to the floor with each step. I think about the extent of the damage inside their bodies, because their physical appearance looked ragged and consumed, that no amount of make-up could hide their pale faces and shrivelled skin.
I never went to house parties until I attended university in London, UK. Before this, parties were at the side of the Rhein in Germany, in a forest just outside city limits or going into the city for drinks. I occasionally went to friends’ houses, or even held my own drinking parties, but these were for a limited number of people. Parties in London were much larger, filled a three story house. I explain how I never really enjoyed going to house parties or clubbing, and could only feel part of it if I was myself very intoxicated, otherwise I wouldn’t understand the ‘drunk-talk’. I come to the conclusion that with such a high prevalence of drug use and its presence in the media and popular culture, it would almost be impossible to never come across it.
I Said No to Drugs
Life is about taking decisions. It’s the processing of reasoning about what we seek from ourselves and from others. I make the point in this chapter that drugs confuses our ability to make decisions, by essentially clouding our judgement. Those who say that drugs are cool, might still suffer with them and make decisions that even for seasoned drug users place their lives in danger. What I never understood is why it is that those who take drugs gain pleasure from tempting a non-drug user to try them for the first time. To imagine that behaviour, but to happen to a friend, how could I be responsible for that? While others try to convince me to try drugs for the first time, I continue to convince myself against it.
I Said No to Drugs
I focus my story on the use of weed, a common drug I encountered throughout my teenager years. It soon became clear that once I knew to detect the signs of drug usage, I began to see it more widespread. The things I hadn’t seen in the past were becoming an everyday reality. It became clear to me how many had tried drugs, and I hardly had anyone left to talk to about it. I describe how wanting acceptance from others may lead to making the choice to try drugs and become dependent on them.
Continuing through exploring my mental state, I try to identify the burdens that are affecting my life. I acknowledge that personal problems might not be understood by others, as some try to convince us that we should simply lead happier lives. I challenge what we perceive the ‘normal’ person to be, while I seek to become something that society defines as normal. I explain how traveling around the world has made me come in contact with other cultures and individuals, but whether there is a difference between the places I visit, I am less sure. I have a hard time answering the question of where am I from, and I wonder about our purpose on Earth.
I Said No to Drugs
In Chapter 1, I tell the story of a first interaction with a drug user. Then, I explore our natural need to learn from life, experience new things through the environment and reflect on the teachings of our upbringing. I describe the struggle between morality and greed, past and future and why I have made it a personal goal to say ‘no’ to drugs. I find the things that worries me most about drug usage, the power others have on someone who has never tried drugs. I learn that this is something that is very common, and I lay out my plan on how to fight against temptation, as I watch others succumb to it.
Shadows is the starting chapter of my story. It is the reflection of going to Boots on a Sunday afternoon to buy lip balm and how it quickly turned into studying the faces of strangers that were working and shopping there. I describe how my nature works against me when meeting new people and how I instead choose to create stories about strangers by creating their characters, instead of getting to know them. I come to realise that this is not solely something I experience with strangers but also with members of my family. I then breakdown social structure and family ties, learning to identify lies and misconceptions.
Like most non-essential work places, academic research in the UK was paused during the first stages of lockdown back in March 2020. In the months following, building management, health and safety officers and senior lab members would meet and try to bring the research spaces to COVID-secure standards. From one-way systems to temperature checks at the entrances and occupancy limits per room, it seemed to be major setbacks for research.
Have you guys heard of new movie remakes? They seem to be hiring academics to make movies a bit more educational. Here’s just a few that struck me:
1. The Terminator Sequence
2. The Extracellular Matrix
3. Twin Of Eyeless Story 3
4. The Lysine Ring
5. Lost In Transcription
6. Propellant Friction
7. She Wore A Yellow Ribbonworm
8. The Anticodon
9. The Glucose Oxyhydrase Father
10. Lord Of The Phenyl Rings
11. Back To The Fusion
13. V For Velocity
14. 13 Genes
16. Lethal Injection
17. Raging Bulbus
18. Operation Codon
19. Atom Of The Opera
20. Strain Man
21. American Pi 3.1415…
22. Malcolm XY
23. Dude Where’s My Car12 Protein?
24. Petri Baby
25. Petri Woman
26. American History XXY
27. Indiana Bonds The Last Crude Sample
28. The Overhang Sequence
29. Harold and Kumar Go To The White Blood Cells
30. Mole Rat
31. Knocked Out
32. The Transposable Element
33. The N-Terminal
34. The Flask
35. The Transporter Protein
36. Warm Antibodies
37. Phantom Of The Operon
38. The Last Strand
Original published on Wednesday, 23 October 2013. Rehosted to Pressure Ink.
Yesterday I was on MARCH 6th 2050 and traveled back in time just to write this note to you.
Hey ok, you, I’m talking to you. Alright now, dont question me why I didn’t come see you face to face, because you know the whole collapse of the universe thing is still a possibility, or maybe Putin will destroy the whole universe at some point, who knows you know, well I know. Don’t worry about that. Dammit I should also tell you to change your dumb side-notes and side tracking, because you know this conversation has turned out pointless.
A few days into the global outbreak and it seemed like most people didn’t get the memo. Supermarket supplies were still ample and we were all shopping as we normally would. There was no panic buying in stores, anywhere that we could see or that was being reported on the news. A few days later, the realisation that the virus could spread and be labelled as a pandemic saw shoppers rushing to buy anything they could, or you would think so.
Quality time in Quarantine
It feels that this lockdown will last weeks, if not months. And staying at home for many of us will be difficult to deal with in these challenging times. But some of us might be living under different conditions, which for them staying at home isn’t so bad. After all, it’s about balance of one’s life and activities, which can still be accomplished despite the social distancing measures.
New entries every day here.
This can’t be so bad, can it?
It is almost difficult to accept how one’s life can change overnight, more so when it’s the lives of a quarter of the entire world population. Many of us will either be entering into a period of self-isolation, or quarantine or have already been through the first couple of weeks. It is important however, that we slow the spread of the virus, ideally by placing restrictions on the way we essentially function as a population. But this mustn’t come as a surprise. Viruses will take advantage of tightly packed cities from which the disease can travel from host-to-host (effectively more like coast-to-coast).
Past, Present & Future
On July 20th, 1969, 50 years ago, a team of astronauts led by Commander Neil Armstrong made history by landing on the surface of the Moon. This was merely 55 years after the first commercial flight flew between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. The Apollo 11 mission was the culmination of the Space Race, and lasting just over eight days, it represents the challenges and opportunities of spaceflight. The question now is, what will come in the next 50 years?
New Website Design Update
We overhauled the Pressure Ink 2019 design and have chosen our new visual language to present our content. With also a better Policy page implemented, you can use our original artwork for your own media creations, as long as the original author is credited.
How should we approach and discuss climate change? Engage with illustrations or with data? At the Experimental Vlog we discuss climate change with two personalities: Steven McEntyre (an artist) and Prof Nicklebreth (a scientist). While they have opposite thoughts on how to present scientific data, they both can appreciate that climate change is real and that we must do something about it. Being our first episode, we hope that these personalities join us later for more exciting discussions. Like all our Spawn Theory videos, this was completely unscripted and unplanned, anything that would suggest otherwise is just a coincidence.
And 5 other health risks.
Most of our human body is covered in microbes—sorry germophobes. In fact, several of these microbes are good for us, and play very important roles in our organism. You might frequently hear that we have good gut bacteria that keep our intestines healthy, but did you know that Staphylococcus aureus are part of our body’s microbiota? This little guy is however most commonly associated with MRSA, which corresponds to specific strains of S. aureus that are resistant to antibiotics. This is something that we can expect in a world with five million trillion trillion bacteria (even Microsoft Word cannot handle this number and suggests to delete the repeated word).
Think about it: the air that we breathe, the surfaces that we touch or the water that we drink, all have these microscopic travellers. On a normal day, this is something that we might don’t think about. If someone coughs in their hand and then reaches out to greet you, then you might be more receptive to how germs travel from host to host. But what about those everyday things that we do that might be harnessing the health risks of everyday microbes?
Breaking down the personality of the scientist.
How does the personality of the scientist affect their leadership in research? Here I reflect on how important teamwork in research is (in both academia and industry), but also outline why bad leadership deters so many young researchers from continuing in research, particularly within academia. Academic research is somewhat predictable, it employs academics based on their career progression and it acknowledges that an academic can continue to build their careers and bring new opportunities to their institutions. Industry now has become either the place for recent graduates or those fed up with academic research. I once found myself in a room of fed up post-docs now employed by the same employer. In a way, I felt that my own linear experience through the academic lifestyle and specific interests where no place for this role in industry.
…but we also want a career.
As the new year rolls in and celebrations pass, we begin to wonder what lies ahead. For some of us this unexplored year brings excitement as well as insecurities that we might not be willing to admit. For most of us, however, we are in sync to the yearly rhythm of life, and neither look forward to the new year nor welcome it with fear. We welcome it as we would welcome any other day; with a gratefulness of being alive. The value of the individual is so often disregarded in our ever so growing population. To tackle the problems of the world we form collaborations and networks including a little something of each individual personality, bringing forth diversity in both intellectual and emotional intelligence, and create a much stronger force to solve complex problems. But we mustn’t challenge the importance and power of the individual. After all, what motivates us, as individuals, to pursue these projects can be a combination of selfishness and aspiration to make a difference to a world that needs much of it.
What’s a computer? Perhaps you have come across this question. It originates from an Apple ad showing a young girl working on an iPad with a Smart Keyboard and at the end she is prompted with the question: “whatcha doing on your computer?”. She replies, “what’s a computer?”. I personally don’t like the ad, since it exaggerates the places where you can take and work on an iPad, but it is Apple’s way of stirring up discussion and debate. It is a statement that could be perceived as ignorant, because it is very unlikely that an adolescent does not know what a computer is in this day and age. Or perhaps it’s just a question; a direct and open-ended question asking to the philosophical level. I would accept the latter, hadn’t it been the way the girl said it, being that she ignored the question she was being asked.
A PhD is by definition a degree that represents up to four years of original research. Within that time, you will be expected to specialise on something very specific, but which has a significant implication in a broader topic. You may feel like a PhD project is like throwing a pebble into the ocean, meaning that its contributions will not largely affect the broader context. A PhD requires a high level of maturity and professionalism, and its outcome will not only depend on your ability to collect results, but on the ability to be productive even in challenging situations. A PhD requires frequent planning and re-planning, as well as commitment. But this commitment comes at a cost. As you progress through your specialism, your knowledge will become very specific and while you may know basic concepts, you may become isolated from knowledge and skills that are obtained by other means.
Starting a PhD is a leap from your undergraduate or taught postgraduate. Like going to a new school, you will be faced with meeting and getting to know strangers, which may eventually be more than acquaintances or may just remain as colleagues. Then there’s the feeling that you’re sticking to more education, while everyone else you know wants to head out to the real world and search for a real job. Your good friends have graduated and most have left the university campus. Or maybe it was you that left, and embarked on your adventure, leaving behind everyone that you knew. It is not surprising that some prospective PhD students are scared of being isolated and left all alone during their degrees. In fact, I don’t think you have experienced a true PhD without feeling isolated and alone from time to time.
I went into the PhD thinking it was going to an easy experience. Thinking back on it, I wouldn’t necessary say it was hard either. I think the hardest part of it was accepting that there is a learning curve and an aspect of personal development. I started a PhD directly after finishing my undergraduate degree, and having completed a successful final year project, I felt I was ready to continue academic research. I wouldn’t say that I was scared about starting a new degree. To me, it felt like the next logical step in my education. I briefly considered doing a Master’s degree, but the mere issue that it would have involved going to lectures and taking exams, deterred me from it.
The last question of my PhD interview five years ago was: what do you want to do after your PhD? At the time, I wanted to go into industry with a plan to return to academia and perform my own experiments. Four years later, I am not sure I still think that way. Employability and the value of the PhD has always been in the background during the degree. On the first day of the programme, the Graduate Director told everyone that about 10% of PhD graduates get a post-doc and something like 2% of those get professorships. At first, I thought it was about the competition based on the mere number of applicants and positions to be filled, but in reality, competition has very little do with it. There is competition within science, of course, and that plays a significant part to an academic’s development (see here), but to say that only 10% of PhD graduates get a post-doc because they managed to out-compete other contenders, is too simplistic.
There is nothing original by writing about the PhD experience and how to prepare for the viva. If you have submitted your thesis and are waiting for the viva, you might spend a full day reading other people’s experience on blogs and forums. In fact, this article could very well be another generic guide on how to prepare for the viva, that you may or may not read. Reading through other people’s experience and advice may give you that tiny confidence boost that you need. You might already know everything about what to expect on the day. And yet, you are still reading this. I guess one of the first things that we learn on a PhD is to gather as much information from several sources before coming to our own conclusions.
The PhD is not a linear experience, and getting to know your subject and be comfortable with your results takes time. Some days you might feel really excited about the results and think you understand, then be faced with a complex question that you can’t answer. And then the entire project seems to collapse and those exciting new results don’t seem so great anymore.
We all must travel at some point in our lives. Whether that is short distance to and from school or work, or long distance like going on holiday. In fact, migration has been an important part of human evolution and enabled the spreading of genes—the principle of genetics. But travel, in which ever context, takes careful planning and assessment. While travel may pose some risks, the results are rewarding. Much like species that risk everything at a chance to mate, opening our travel networks, ensures the well-being and survival of our species.
Explaining our PhD research is as essential as conducting the research in the first place. And it’s already difficult to explain the research to other scientists in the field, but to present it to a non-science audience, in 3 minutes, now that’s the actual challenge!
What’s C4 photosynthesis?
Energy conversion in eukaryotes is strictly regulated. In C4 plants, solar energy is converted to chemical energy, driving the carbon fixation engine of C4 photosynthesis—a complex network of finely tuned biochemical reactions, tightly regulated transport networks and underlying regulatory mechanisms . It evolved from the classical C3 pathway, which solely uses ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) as the primary carboxylase for CO2 fixation . During C4 photosynthesis (Fig. 1), CO2 is initially fixed by phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC) in mesophyll cells producing a four-carbon compound that is subsequently transported and decarboxylated in bundle sheath cells, concentrating CO2 around Rubisco, thus maintaining a favourable concentration of CO2 for suppressing rates of photorespiration .
A poem that outlines our commitment in raising awareness of recycling and reuse in science.
The Challenge Episode 1 “Blinded Science”
Often times, we don’t get a chance to explain ourselves. Ironically, when we do get ample time to explain ourselves, we don’t exactly know when to stop. I know, I often run into those moments when my partner in conversation is grinning at me, with a look of confusion on their face. Or when explaining an idea to a colleague, that I should have rehearsed beforehand, but thought I could explain it well. When asked by a job interviewer “why do you want to work here”, those unprepared would have a hard time finding an answer to such a broad question. Even if prepared, getting all the thoughts together, so to sound natural, can be as difficult.
Do you ever the feeling that you’re being watched? Judged? Isn’t that what we scientists do most of the time? We selfishly study areas that intrigue us, searching for new problems and explanations so that we feel that we reach understanding. We take a living thing, like a plant or a cute rodent, and destroy it; break cells open so that we can study what’s inside. We play with reason and rationale to justify our methods, and for what? To write a paper that may or may not be published? To build libraries of information which are never reviewed?
There is a special relationship between art and technology that has impacted the way that we live, think and envision what the future may bring. Pioneer science fiction writers such as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Isaac Asimov, to name a few, introduced ideas that were well beyond their time, fuelled by their experience, passion for science and ability to artistically link fact to fiction. Although science fiction writers often paint scenarios that go beyond the reachable scope of science in a given era, their works are written like dreams of scientific capabilities and adventures. Film adaptations bring these novels to life and artistic interpretation takes the fiction into a new dimension.
As students, we are constantly being tested. We can be assessed by the way we approach a task, complete a task or report the information we have gained from a study. Our hard work is rewarded by high marks, but sometimes it’s also about the reward of completing the assignment. Institutions, universities and companies need a measurement that indicates how competent a candidate research student, academic researcher or potential employee is for a given position. As a scientist, we are also being assessed, but in a different way. While we are given more freedom in our research and how we get to answer a research question, we are expected to be able to present our data to an audience and make the effort to ensure that the research will move on forward, be funded and go beyond what was originally planned. At the core of it, it’s ticking boxes of small accomplishments during the duration of a long term project and providing sufficient evidence of progress being made. We aren’t necessarily being graded, but instead pushed forward by supervisors, the university or our own uninhibited desire to do more research.
In today’s day and age technology is all around us. We depend on it for our work, communication, transportation and health among other things. From the first computer that filled up a single room, technology has stretched through our lives such that we would have several pieces of tech around the house, on our desks, nightstands, kitchens and even bathrooms. For most of us, the use of technology is key in our work, we use it create documents, presentations, keep in contact with colleagues and store information. The transport of information has increased as the number of personal computers and the use of them increased. We know about the risks of viruses that jump around from infected computers to healthy computers and protect our devices by using anti-malware software. We protect our technology with passwords when we can and that is practically it.
Communicating science amongst researchers and university students is something that we are aiming to improve. But there is another age group that we must not forget. Anyone who has taken biology during early school years can remember how different it was from any other class, that is if you allow me to not call physical education or lunch, a class. Sometimes even referred to as the fun class, or is it just me? Well anyway, the reason why I recall it being more fun than another subject was because of the opportunities to do hands-on experimental work. Not every school has a Large Hadron-Collider to aid in the teaching of physics and young children and volatile chemicals don’t mix well—literally. But never mind these extreme cases; biology had the fairest range of experiments that were safe, fun and interesting.
Every story needs a beginning, but I am not sure where my story begins. I guess we can trace it back to my early days when I was diagnosed with a case of attention deficit disorder, after showing interest in several toys during a psychological assessment. A toy was given to me every five minutes and apparently it would have been normal to finish playing with one toy before moving on to the next. I have always argued that if the doctor handed me a toy to look at, I would look at it, regardless if I already had one to play with. I felt that they rushed their diagnosis and defined me into a category.