The beginning of the end…

…by Greg / from the United Kingdom / PhD Precision Medicine / 4th Year

Current status. Location: New Town, Edinburgh, UK. Weather: Snowing! Beverage: Espresso. Currently reading: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

I’m Greg, and I have been a scientist for the last nine years. I’m studying for my PhD in physiology. I have completed my final set of in vitro studies of my PhD, but this blog is all about the last few weeks of my research.

Before I begin, please take a moment to check out my colleague Theo and his new YouTube channel using the link here.

Finishing a project is as complex as starting a project. I find it challenging to define the end of a project from the perspective of that project. My project is coming to an end because my studies will finish, and I need to write up. There is always another question, but there are not unlimited funds and time to ask it! I have been incredibly fortunate in my studies because I have gotten to use various methods to answer my research question. That is a big boost going forward because I’ve carried out most of the standard basic biomedical techniques in regular use. This doesn’t make writing up my methods chapter easy, but it does help me during my job hunt!

Research is complex and uncertain in the best of times. You can never know with complete certainty what your data will show. During the Covid-19 pandemic, this was often put to the extreme because I could not precisely reproduce the same experimental conditions. The UK Covid-19 laboratories use the same equipment, so sometimes things are in short supply for me! For my final dataset, I wanted to replicate data produced 5 years ago by another researcher. Still, I would be using completely different materials! I am fortunate that it worked out in the end because it wouldn’t have been fun to troubleshoot.

It can be challenging to see the steps forward in a project. I am the one at the coal face, so I get to the coal that could be mined and not the coal that has been mined. It is only now that I can sit back and write up the project and everything that I have done. One of the most surprising things for me is how my project has changed since it began. It was initially conceived to be a majority engineering project, but now it is a majority vascular biology project. This is because that is where the most interesting and accessible data was found. Secondly, I’m surprised by the redundancy in the project. Over time, I have shown similar findings in different ways. For example, I have shown the function of a receptor using antagonists and genetic tools and using different types of tissue from immortal cell lines to human models. I’m encouraged that the data is so broadly consistent over all this time, models and techniques! The final step is the write-up. Now I need to organise my data into chapters, have all my graphs looking pretty and write down what I think my data says and my interpretation. That will be my next four months. Wish me luck.

You can find out more about my life in Edinburgh and science on my Twitter @endothelin1 and about my career on LinkedIn here.

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