The Karolinska Institute, project breakthroughs and Thanksgiving dinner…

…by Doireann / from Ireland / studying PhD Precision Medicine / 2nd Year

One more month closer to the end of this all-round awful year! As we all know, once the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, 2020 will be behind us, taking all of our problems and pandemics with it (wishful thinking, sadly).

This past month has been a busy one! I had the opportunity to take two courses with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden (virtually of course, but Edinburgh has been very cold this month so it’s almost like being there). The first course was about the theory behind fluorescence and microscopy, which was definitely useful considering my project is based on fluorescence! The second course, multivariate prediction modelling, was exciting and I learned about so many possibilities for playing with data using machine learning, but admittedly it was very overwhelming for a biologist who hasn’t done maths in a long time. They were an intense two weeks, and apparently I was very grumpy, but I survived (just about).

On top of that, I achieved some actual science too! We made a small breakthrough with my project which will push it forward a bit more. On the day of the breakthrough, I had to manage my courses and experiment, so I was up at 7 and didn’t get home until 10 at night (luckily a rare occurrence), so I treated myself to some mac and cheese (self-care 2020). I remain surprised that the science actually worked.

As the Americans reading this will know, it was Thanksgiving this month, and I was very grateful to have an American boyfriend and the accompanying excuse to make a full dinner. I spent a lot of time deliberating over how I’d cook my first turkey (my dad always cooks the Christmas turkey), contemplating spatch-cocking, dry or wet brining, or just cooking it with an enormous amount of butter. Eventually deciding on the dry brine, I embarked on my quest to prepare a full spread, spurred on by the pressure to honour this turkey who’d given her life to be with us (whom I’d fondly named Belinda). I am pleased to report that she turned out great. It was possibly the most stressful part of this month.

Alas, things won’t be slowing down in December! I have signed up to help out with COVID testing of students so they can get home for Christmas, but I’m not sure it counts as a good deed since I’m getting paid to do it. On top of that, an assignment, and lab work, I’ll be moving flat with the many, many items I have somehow accumulated (looking at you, unnecessary toastie maker and popcorn air popper). And hopefully I will be getting home to Ireland for Christmas, where the pressure will be on as I have now been assigned to cooking the turkey. Good luck to all my friends who have to deal with my sleep-deprived self!

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