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About ennui

  • Birthday 12/16/1986

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    PhD Virology, London
  • Favorite Area of Science
    Bunsen Burners
  • Biography
    Tentacle monster
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  • Meson

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Baryon (4/13)



  1. 25 too old for a PhD!?!?! No way. Some doctors are at least 23 when they start their MD-PhD, and a lot of people do master's degrees after their bachelor's before starting a PhD.
  2. (As a disclaimer: I took my degree in the UK. There is less of an emphasis on a liberal arts education.) I majored in BSc Molecular Medicine, but this contained roughly 90% of the same content as the BSc Biochemistry programme. And most of my friends are biochemists. As for Biochemistry being the hardest major - it really depends on what you find difficult. Horses for courses! My partner majored in English Literature and I found his stuff incomprehensible. It's quite a feat to escape maths in any of the sciences. Even Biology students eventually face those Hardy Weinberg equations. But Biochemistry shouldn't present too much of a challenge. I'm terrible with mathematics and I managed to pull through. Besides the obvious "don't leave studying to the last minute etc."... Here's some advice for good grades: - Make Powerpoints to summarise things you've learned. They're really useful for keeping track of concepts, key papers, diagrams, etc. - Form study groups. It really helps to talk things through with people. - Don't pay attention to the nerdy kids who seem to spend all day in books. They can intimidate you into thinking that you haven't worked hard. In my experience, their grades don't reflect their effort. They usually freak out come exam time because they're burned out. - Use Nature Reviews for studying a new area. They're great. I hope you enjoy majoring in Biochemistry. It really is a cool area. With a Biochemistry degree, there are many career doors opened. You can go into pharmaceuticals, academic research, government research, medicine, consultancy, science journalism, hospital diagnostics and teaching.
  3. This is a very thorny question. I used to research amyloid structure and I'm still not quite clear on the whole issue. There's still ongoing debate as to whether Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is caused by amyloid or tau. Broadly speaking, there are two camps: people who think that amyloid is responsible for AD, and people who think that amyloid has been given undue attention and that tau deserves more investigation. One Nature article even went so far as to call the amyloid camp "Church of the Holy Amyloid", because they are very devoted to the theory. (There's an excellent article called "The Amyloid Code" in Nature Medicine which discusses the contention in layman's terms, written by Apoorva Mandavilli). If you view the literature, you'll see AD classified differentially as either an amyloidosis or a tauopathy. The amyloid hypothesis is more popular, but the tau hypothesis is gaining a foothold. I'm not sure if hyperphosphorylated tau is found in all AD autopsies, but it is quite commonly found intracellularly -- whereas amyloid is extracellular. New papers (particularly from C. Dobson, a big name in the field) seem to like the idea of calling AD a 'spectrum disease', with various causative agents. Perhaps in the future it will be separated into several similar diseases, just like diabetes. In my opinion, AD isn't caused by the mature amyloid plaques or tau - but by the toxic oligomers that precede fibril formation. It could be that the amyloid and tau plaques are providing a protective role, a "least worst option" to deal with the toxic species. This is a newish theory which is becoming increasingly attractive. Sorry if this is a long non-answer, but it's a very complicated issue. The article I mentioned above is a good primer for the debate.
  4. Although they're are very inexpensive to make from scratch as needed, I'd like to have a small storage of agarose gels for experiments (e.g. checking clone inserts, plasmid sizes, usual stuff). What's the best method to store them? I usually make 1% agarose gels with ethidium bromide. How long do they stay fresh, without impairing the quality of the results?
  5. Lots of labs use lentivirus vectors for transfecting cells with certain genes. But are these safe to use? I know that they're genetically modified, and not competent for replication, so what would happen if you became infected accidentally? Would the virus just infect a limited number of white cells, and then be destroyed? Are there any cases of lab workers getting infected by them and developing disease?
  6. I thought I'd share some odd paper titles I've stumbled upon recently. (Of course, they're only funny if you're a big science geek.) "One name to rule them all, one name to find them: Lord of the Rings and 'seated immobility thromboembolism (SIT) syndrome'." - NZ Med J. "Kinky binding and SECsy insertions." -Mol. Cell. "A cunning stunt*: an alternative mechanism of eukaryotic translation initiation." - Science. Anyone got any more? *This one could just be my dirty imagination...
  7. Thanks for all the advice. As it turns out, the audience were all scientists! One was an expert in my field who asked me some difficult questions, but overall it went well.
  8. Interestingly, Oxford and Cambridge don't consider an A-level in Psychology to be a rigorous enough academic subject. And so if you apply for them with this subject, they won't actually accept you. As for whether psychology is a science - it depends which area of psychology. I've worked in fields of biochemistry which don't use double-blind experiments or follow a standard scientific procedure (no controls, even!), but are still considered a science. (In regards to serotonin, I thought that the "serotonin hypothesis" of clinical depression was severely disputed. From what I've read, it has waning scientific evidence to support it. One book I recently read argued that drug companies were selectively revealing evidence, and hiding findings of SSRIs increasing risk of suicide.) Part of me wonders whether there's a wee bit of snobbery in the scientific community. There's that invisible hierarchy of Physics > Chemistry> Biology > Psychology which has been lampooned in online blogs and comics.
  9. (As a disclaimer, this won't be the most profound post ever made on SFN. I'm not a physicist and have no real knowledge of quantum theory.) Has anyone else noticed that the word 'quantum' is being used bizarrely these days? I was in the supermarket the other day, and I saw some "Quantum Toilet Cleaner". It was next to the Finish Dishwasher tablets, which were also "Quantum". Accompanying the word were sleek, silvery graphics. In a local bookstore was a book called "Quantum Touch: The Power To Heal". Next to the book were some people discussing how quantum theory means that science has validated their beliefs in angels, chakras and crystal healing. Do any physicists get annoyed at the misuse of the word? It seems as though it's being hijacked by marketing and the New Age movement to promote their own agendas, while possibly misleading the public about the science along the way.
  10. You're being too hard on yourself. Nobody is expecting you to revolutionize biology within the next few years. All of my science friends have had the same fears of not being good enough for their future careers. I've recently graduated and I still don't know anything, if that makes you feel any better.
  11. As a regular patron of some dire PowerPoint presentations, I'm looking to avoid the same mistakes. It's rare that I've ever witnessed a presentation that was genuinely enjoyable and fun to listen to. Even ones with promising beginnings usually 'sink' in the middle with bogged-down details. In a few weeks I have to do a 10-15 minute PowerPoint presentation to a panel, and I really want to make it excellent. Aside from the problems which dog every presentation (keeping the audience interested, making it understandable, etc.) it has the added difficulty of being presented to some non-scientists. So it'll be a mixed audience of scientists, businessmen and others. None of them will be overly familiar with my specific area of science. So I'm not sure what level to pitch it. What would people recommend? What amazing presentations have you sat through, and what techniques did the presenter use? What keeps people entertained and interested? So far I'm planning to link my research to something familiar; diseases which are linked to the study.
  12. Has anyone noticed that after a summer of not being in education, you feel like you've forgotten everything you learned over the past year? I've just finished my degree, and am about to start my PhD in late September. But I can't really remember many facts at all about the subject! Even bread-and-butter lab skills like dilution and concentration calculations have escaped me. It's as though summer has absorbed all the science in my head and replaced it with stuff about the beach, Pimm's and pizza. What do you guys do to get "back into the swing" of things, after not being directly involved with science for a while? I'm very nervous about starting my new course.
  13. I'm terrible with lego, I could never build anything even as a kid. But I'm going to keep scouting Google to see if anyone could send something ready-made. That book looks cool - have you read it? Is it any good?
  14. Great idea! But I've had a quick look on Google & eBay and can't seem to find one . I'm not very creative or good at building things, or I'd buy a set and make it myself.
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