The concept of democracy is lost on student’s strikes

What a sh***y morning! So, I assume you are more or less aware that Catalunya want to be independent from the rest of Spain, right? So they want to vote on it and have it somehow count as it did in Scotland… (I hate to tell you this, but Scotland IS a country… Catalunya is not…). But well, so the students at my University decided to do a 2 days strike in order to raise awareness (I guess) and in the name of democracy!

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That’s fair game, right? It’s a democratic right, the right to strike, but isn’t also your right not to do it?! Here at the university, we always have some trouble when the students decide to go on strike, because they barricade the entry that connects the FGC (trains) to the campus, which means, that either you got off on the previous stop and walk a long while to get there, or you have to know your way around the university pretty well and still deal with this a**holes (pardon my french). So, I decided “I’ll go super early, I won’t have a problem then”… and damn it, I was WRONG! Apparently the guys slept in the university so to be there super early!

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As soon as I went towards the entrance to the university, I saw them putting up the last of the elements of the barricade, when I approached them, they were sending a poor kid away and…

I told them to “open up”…

to what they responded that “there’s now way, there are other entrances to the university”…

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“go around”

“no” – by this time, 3 other university employees were there as well, trying to get in – “I’m not spanish, I have absolutely nothing to do with this stuff, I need to get to work, you’re going to open up”

to this the guy responded in catalan – which is always nice when you just expressed how you’re not even from his country – “I’m not going to let you pass! There is a strike!”

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at this point one of the ladies trying to get in appealed to the fact that the students may go on strike, but the personnel still has to go to work… this did nothing for them.

so, in a desperate attempt I said “well, you know, not everyone that sets foot in the university does so to study… some people have to work!” – to this the looked at me and laughed… I don’t know if it was the fact that I was wearing jeans, a hoodie and a backpack, but somehow this children (yes, to me that’s what they are!) thought that I was being ironic or something like that!

some other lady said (in catalan) “yeah, she’s right, there are a lot of companies based in the campus!”…

so some of the other kids convinced the first one to let us go through… quite a feat… if it wasn’t for the fact that has we were going in, they looked at a guy that was there as well and said “you can’t come in, you’re a student!”…

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This made curse loudly… (with 3 policemen in front of me)! Do this people understand their rights? Because their freedom ends when somebody else’s begins! I would give them the benefit of the doubt if this was a strike about educational related subjects… but that was not the case. You have the right to have a divergent opinion, and you shouldn’t have your life disrupted because a group of people thinks that you opinion is not as valid as theirs.

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God! I don’t miss being twenty!

A much needed Saturday!

When did Saturday became my most awaited day on TV? Usually there’s nothing good on TV on saturdays, but hey, now we have Doctor Who, Outlander and Sailor Moon!!! =D

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Man, I’m in real need of a day off! Between working all of August, having a conference, and lot of deadlines, I’m exhausted… I’m so looking forward to a day of doing nothing and playing Sims 4 (if I ever manage to get over the error that the website is giving me when I try to buy the game).

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Still, I’m being too optimistic here, I have 2 days to present results I haven’t obtained yet, and 5 days to present a yearly report that I haven’t finished, so my best guess is that I’ll end up working most of the day, whether here or at the lab. 

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So… here is to a good day, a good Saturday (I’m not even being ambitious enough to ask for a whole weekend…). I just have to hold on for 5 more days, then I’ll be home for a brilliant amount of 4 days!! Eheh! 4 days of running around in Portugal, I’ll wager I’ll get here on the 15th more tired than the day I’ll leave 😉 !!!! 

Amazon delivery day!

Happy day!!! Getting my 9 books I ordered last week on amazon today, totally made my day!

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The Maze Runner trilogy + prequel; The Infernal Devices trilogy, The Mortal Instruments: City of Heavenly Fire and The Neanderthal Man. Yeah… The Neanderthal Man is really out of place there! =P

Thank you AMAZON.CO.UK, for the very fast delivery!!! =D

PhD Movie: Kickstarter for a sequel

Do you know phdcomics.com?! If you don’t, you should definitely check it out. If you already know it, you know how awesome and sometimes scarily acurate they can be.

In 2011, they did an independent movie based on the comics. “The PHD Movie, based on Piled Higher and Deeper (phdcomics.com), featured real grad students and scientists in many of the lead roles (including producer and director), and was screened at over 500 Universities and Research Centers worldwide (including Antarctica!) during its release.”

In the beginning of this month, its creator Jorge Cham, announced that they were starting a kickstarter campaign in order to found a sequel: The PHD Movie 2: Still in Grad School. And I think that it’s a brilliant idea, and for the first time ever contributed to a campaign.

**** PLEASE SHARE THE LINK FOR THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN SO THAT THEY CAN ATE LEAST REACH THEIR BASE GOAL****

During this month, you can watch the first movie free on their website: phdmovie.

If you’re a grad student or part of academia somehow, you can relate to some or most of the topics in this movie, here are some key points:

  • Some subjects are tabu: “So, how’s research going? Don’t you know you’re never supposed to ask a grad student that question? It’s just rude!” “How’s your thesis going?” “Come on, why don’t you ask her weight and age while you’re at it! Gosh!!!”
  • You’ll sometimes feel like an imposter: “I’ll let you in on a little secret: around here, everyone is an imposter”
  • It’s OK to have no idea what to do afterwards: “I mean, what happens when I graduate? I can’t get a professor job anywhere. These jobs only open up when someone dies.” “I can’t go into industry. What have I been working all this time for? I’d be selling out, like… like…” “Like a regular person?”

  • “You don’t get credit for having a life.” – You should still try to have one and not feels guilty all the time.
  • You might think that you failed your professor, but remember… “he probably doesn’t think about you that much.”

  • You publish or you perish… “You ever wonder what the point is?” “Eh. Not really.” “I mean about this research we do. We publish so that people can give us more money so that we can do more research so that we can publish more! Ad infinitum!” “Ad nauseum.” “See, I thought that I was gonna be working on big problems, but it seems like I’m just working on a subproblem of a subproblem of a subproblem.” “We’re all just research tools.” “I don’t wanna be here forever, like…, like…” “Me?”

  • Cynicism is key! “Nobody believes anything in academia. That’s the whole point. Evidence is king. The only thing you take for granted is that there’ll be another grant.” 
  • You’re there because you want to! “Life is tough. And then you graduate. Everybody’s here because they want to be here. There’s nothing reasonable about pursuing a life of reason.”

  • You are NOT ALONE! “It’s easy in research to get tunnel vision. You feel isolated, like you’re the only person with your problem. But the truth is” “you’re not alone. But whenever I get stressed I just ask myself the question:” “Do I really care?” “Would I rather be doing anything else? You’re not a machine. You have to embrace the things you’re passionate about.” “Every great idea, every great moment of “Eureka!”, came when It was least expected. Google,” “Facebook, Newton and gravity, Einstein and relativity, all of these things happened when they weren’t doing what they were supposed to be doing. When they were following their passion.” “Procrastinating.”

  • In which 50% do you wanna be? “Are you guys graduate students? This is for my thesis. I’m studying why there’s a fifty percent dropout rate amongst PhD students. That means that two out of every four graduate students will never graduate. But I know that there’re a lot of issues that I should be really concerned about, especially as a graduate student, because, you know, no one’s really going to be you advocate. So. How’s Research?”

An unexpected trip to Galway, Ireland

Sunday, about a week ago, late at night, I came across the news of a symposium being held in Galway, Ireland, in just a few days (23 to 25 May) and so I was torn between the fact that I really wanted to go, and the fact that the symposium was only 4 days away!

from fossils to genomes

So, I did what any normal person would do: I searched the flights, hotels, prices and so on, and within 24 hours I had all of my trip booked and I was ready to go!

Thursday, 22nd May, after a long day, I got on my way to the airport to make my way to Dublin, where I got around 00:30 AM… Next morning, after 2 and a half hours on a bus seeing nothing but green fields, sheeps, cows and horses, I got to Galway =) !

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Galway is such a nice little city, I really liked it. The symposium was well worthed, even if in the middle of a lot of interest things was stuff that I really couldn’t care less about… (sorry Geology!). But all in all, well worth my very long trip to Galway, mainly for Prof. Svante Pääbo‘s public speech on the Neanderthal genome, which had Ireland’s president Michael D. Higgins in assistance.

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Prof Pääbo is the director of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the director of the The Neandertal Genome Project.

TGIF… so tired!

I’m exactly 5 days away from going home… I still have at least 3 and a half hard days work ahead of me! But today was a freaking hard day for me, I woke up and literally drag myself to the university and kept dragging myself all day! This is how I felt…

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When you need stuff to work… they don’t!

What a stupid week!!! I know it’s only Monday, but has been a kind of weird couple of weeks. It’s almost Easter break, which means I get to go home for a few days and then I’ll be travelling to the US for 10 days, so I should be ecstatic, right? I am, don’t get me wrong, I never needed to get home so bad as I do now! But being away for roughly 3 weeks, means I have to leave a lot of things done, mainly projects that are not directly related to my PhD thesis.

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So, a merely 9 days left of my work schedule until May, I desperately stuff to go right, to work, to not get contaminated. I need my extractions to work, my PCR’s to work, I need that the blancs turns out, well, clean. I need the equipment to work properly and to not run out of lab supplies or extremely important solutions and reagents. So, obviously, all of this goes exactly the opposite way…

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The extractions work well(ish), but then the blancs emit some signals that shouldn’t be there, and that probably aren’t… because the some primers decided to act out! How I love to have a contaminated primer solution!!! Then there are my sex typing primers that decided not to type anything really… Obviously by now the only thing that was actually working fine was the real time PCR, until today, when someone (stupid motherf*****r kid decided to steal the ancient laptop that ran the machine). I’m not even going to mention the fact that I have to sequence stuff before Thursday, because of the break, and now I won’t be able to because of some stupid person!!!! OMG, I’m so damn mad right now!

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I hope you remembered to shower

Each lab is a bit different, so the procedures are adapted, but the main things are all here!

Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD)

By Andrew Farrer

A fairly common statement, perhaps, but at ACAD remembering to shower is not just about the risk of offending your workmate’s sense of smell, not showering could ruin a project and destroy precious samples. Contamination is a major risk for any DNA analysis but is particularly true for highly degraded DNA specimens, such as ancient DNA or forensic samples. Even small amounts of modern DNA entering your sample can be disastrous for a project. In order to overcome this, ACAD has a purpose-built ancient-DNA lab, self-contained and kept hyper-clean, especially for the analysis of highly degraded DNA.

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A Week from Hell!

Finally my week from hell is at its end… and by week I should clarify that I’m referring to the period between the 16th and today 28th, so in fact my week had 13 days.

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I’m exhausted! Not only because I just spent 13 days in a row at work, but because my brain is on the fritz from all the stress… And this is why I’m behind on my favorite shows, such as Castle or Psych, whose episodes lay forgotten on a remote corner of my computer because my brain does not have the ability to process them now and so I turned to old favorites, shows that I already know and love and that I already saw and don’t have to think about them… so I started to watch Chuck and How I Met Your Mother from the pilot… It’s like comfort food for my brain!

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So, why I’m I so stressed out?! Well…

1. I miss home! My dad’s right, I do get jumpy and irritated when I don’t go home for a while. It’s natural I guess. I don’t particularly like the place I’m in, I don’t particularly like the people. I miss my parents, my house, my bed, my nieces and nephew.

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I miss my food, my oven and my cakes. I miss my friends. I miss the supermarkets, where I can get anything (and I mean anything…). And I miss not having to program almost a week ahead to be able to catch a movie, because here there are only 3 original version movie theaters and they’re all 1h30min away from where I am! OMG, I miss my movies (so that I can clarify, while in Portugal, I would go to the movies every week!)!

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2. I’ve got one undergrad! God, I hate undergrads (no offence…), but I hate to have to train one. I honestly do not get the point, not the way they do it here, anyway.

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The point is, suddenly I have a person inside my lab, which obviously makes the risk of contamination rise, which means I’ll be working some days to throw away stuff. And There are the moments when you don’t actually know if they give a fuck about what you’re trying to teach them, because they don’t seem to want to be there. And what’s the deal with the gloves? How hard is it to put a pair of gloves on?

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Then there’s the speed… or lack of it and the realization that while they are doing that one simple task, you could already be done and drinking your fourth coffee of the day! And the fact that they can be brought down by a micropipette, an eppendorf, a parafilm strip, cleaning or really small volumes of anything.

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3. Huge workload and 24 hour days! Directly related to the one above – I HATE being dependent on somebody else’s schedules.

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I HATE it, can’t cope with it. One of the worst things about having an undergrad is that they still have classes, in the middle of the day (crazy schedules they have…), which means I cannot work at the pace I want to work… so this week (13 days), it meant working weekends (to compensate de slowness and contaminations)…

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…and arriving at the lab before 8 a.m. some days, to get some work done before the kid arrived. Which means, I’m so behind on my sleep…

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4. I’m not a people’s person… which means that my tolerance for stupidity, idiocy and lack of common sense, is incredibly low! And my week was full of such events, some more “normal” than others, but all kind of: “wow! are these people for real? O_o”…

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5. It’s not working! It’s when you have the most things to do, that’s when the universe decides to screw you! So, for the past couple of weeks, nothing is working! The PCRs whether turned out contaminated or they just won’t amplify, which is cool, is kind of normal… but then the restriction enzyme is not cutting (WTF!!!). Really Universe? On this particular time? When I have so many damn things to do? Data to obtain? Haven’t you screwed me up enough during the summer, when I came to work by myself all August and the PCRs decided that they needed a vacation too?!

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So… here you have it: my brain is trying to hibernate at the moment (reason why I haven’t been able to post anything with real content for the past days), avoiding the simple and truthful realization that this weekend I might get some sleep, but I’ll still have to go to the lab, still not sure when, but I have a 7 hours work ahead of me before Monday comes… and then it’s the beginning of the week again and I have a lot of stuff to do…

In the meantime, this is my plan for the little free time I’ll have:

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