Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Society for Neuroscience conference (New Orleans)

I just got back from a long weekend in Paris and a weekend trip to Harry Potter in London! But before I post those, I still have the Society for Neuroscience conference/ New Orleans trip to post about first.

Society for Neuroscience is the largest Neuroscience society in the world and the SfN conference is the largest global Neuroscience conference. It was overwhelmingly huge. The were a lot of of talks going on for 5 days straight. So many so that it was impossible to hear everything at once. Even with only going to Alzheimer's-specific talks, I couldn't see everything. On top of the talks, most attendees present posters. So any relevant posters are also really good to see, as it is new and unpublished work. There were thousands of posters.

In the sea of posters, I presented my own. I had a good amount of people coming up to look at my research and ask about it. It was really nice being able to field questions and get others opinions. Most excitingly though, there were two professors who want to collaborate with my research. Professors are well-established people in the field, and having someone like that respect my research enough to want to collaborate is a really really big deal. So I am really happy about that!

Mom, Dad, and Danny came at the end of the conference and I stayed for an extra 4 days to explore New Orleans and see the fam. Here are some pictures of the epicness that was New Orleans. Places we hit: Bourbon Street, French Quarter in general, French market, Garden District, Lafayette cemetery, and the bayou!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A long overdue post

Heeeeey...... hi....... long time no see.
And its totally my bad. To be fair, I was busy moving and haven't had internet since the move. So my only internet access is currently while I'm at work. And with mega conference preparation this past summer, I was just too busy.
But now that I have some time and internet access (which never seem to coincide), let me catch you up on the past few months.

My memory is too bad to actually remember what happened all the way back to the beginning of August. I know that all summer long I was working really hard to get my research done for the Society for Neuroscience conference. I also know that this summer was the summer with the least amount of sun that I've ever experienced. I know that I moved and it was extremely stressful. And I know that a lot of my friends moved back to their countries of origin, which made me sad. But I'll try to recall what else I was up to, and touch on the above mentioned in a little more detail.

In August, Caitlin and I explored Rottingdean (a nearby town that is ADORABLE)! We went for cream tea, which is quickly becoming something I love. I've always loved tea, but now I like to drink a proper cuppa! Also- scones. WOWY WOW WOW WOW. Especially when the cream and jam are extra delicious. I used to keep the butter low and the cream/milk out of me beverages. Now there's a lot more dairy in my life. I guess this happens when you move to a country where there are a million types of cream. I thought there were three: sour cream, heavy cream, and half and half. But no. There's a million.
Pebbles in Rottingdean was nice, but Talk of Tea in Brighton is still my go to tea shop. They are just the best around!
The big news of August was moving to Brighton. The search for flats wasn't too bad in the end. But the whole process of actually getting in there was a nightmare. The biggest problem was that our letting agent was a complete and total idiot. He lied in response to questions he didn't know the answers to. Which isn't the biggest problem ever, but one of his lies REALLY almost screwed us over. The lie- that my form of income would be fine for renting the flat. So we signed a contract and paid to take the flat off the market. We were then processed by a third party referencing company and I didn't pass the references. Since my finances come from the US, I don't qualify. So I found out (with a week before our move in date and two weeks before my other lease was up) that I either had to pay 6 months rent up front or get a guarantor. NO ONE who I knew in the UK qualified to be my guarantor. That left me with the option of scrapping together over 3k (including deposit) when I had only a months worth of money left on my loan. Luckily, I had saved for the deposit over the summer. But the 6 months up front completely blind sided me. I had to borrow money and was VERY lucky I had the ability to do this. At least now I know what to expect for the next two or three Augusts that I'm in Brighton.

September was a real race to finish my research for the conference. I also got trained in fluorescence microscopy, which is a technique I'll be using when I've returned from the conference and have to move away from the molecular work I've been doing. I'm really excited about the FM work because it *should* wrap up the imaging work of my PhD. Which means that's a chapter of my thesis completed (just needs to be written)!
This month also brought in headache number two regarding our flat. The issue with internet. Which still hasn't been resolved. It took me a long time to not only figure out the names of internet suppliers (surprise surprise, its different than the States!), but I wasn't understanding a term they were using for a long time. Each company said they had to "install" a phone line. To me, install means to physically put something into the flat. And if you are installing a phone line, you are putting it in the wall. Our lease clearly states that we can't make any changes to the walls at all- we can't even use tape to hang things, let alone push-pins or nails. So my thinking was "well, we can't go with them". It took me a month to find out that "install" meant "flip an external switch to activate it". Once this was realized, there were options galore! So we signed up for internet and they told us they would activate it... in two months. Wow, how hard is it to activate a phone line? Not hard at all. But this is what happens when you live in the UK. You deal with a million third parties and this slows down any and all housing-related processes you need to do. But I digress.... so, we are still without internet. But we will have it next week! And I am literally SO excited for it.
But there were good things that happened in September, like seeing my friends coming back to University. And getting excited about autumn, which is beautiful in England.

I wrapped up September with a trip to Stanmer Park for the Apple Day celebration. For anyone Northern California based- think Apple Hill but way way way less exciting. However, Apple Day was still delicious and it boosted my excitment for everything autumn at least ten times. I love fall- the trees change, you get to start baking again, its ok to put pumpkin in everything, and fall just smells good. You walk outside and it just smells like fall. I don't really know how else to put it.
So not only was autumn starting, but I got my loan money in October as well. AND IT WAS AMAZING! After the fiasco with rent, I had very little money to get by. So, needless to say, I was really looking forward to having income again.
The beginning of October also brought scrambling to finish up research, writing about my data and putting it into a poster presentation, and working on writing a PhD grant with my supervisors. I fit in another, different, behavioral experiment and was training an undergraduate student in basic research methods as well. It was a good but hectic first half of the month!
Then, I went to New Orleans for the conference. The biggest gathering of neuroscientists in the world. With a poster to present that summarized all of the work I've done this past year.
I will do a specific post just on the conference next. And yes, I'll get it to you in a somewhat timely manner!
When I got back from the conference, we finished up writing the PhD grant (which will fully fund my studies!!!!) so please please please send your best wishes/thoughts/prayers/voodoo/whatever else you believe in. Because getting this funding would take off my own personal financial burden AND let me have over two times the amount of money I'm currently working with to fund more expensive research. Which is actually quite crucial for me. It would be absolutely amazing to get this grant.
I also taught my first class EVER the day after I got back from the conference. I'm a tutor (TA) for a beginning neuroscience course and have 15 students to teach during tutorials (discussion sections). I'm excitedly awaiting my first paycheck.... which I just found out hasn't been sent out on time so I won't receive it until next month. But I'm not going to let that squash my excitement!
I also got some training in sample prep for my fluorescence imaging work, so all I have to do now is finalize my protocol and then I'll be ready to do the experiment! I'm hoping to get that finished before Christmas, as well as repeat my molecular experiments completely by Christmas. That means I can get a lot wrapped up by the end of the year. When I will get a HUGE break and get to go back to California. And to those who don't know already- Ben will be spending Christmas with me! Poor guy, doesn't know what he's getting into haha
There was more catching up with friends in October, as well as an epic Halloween night! I dressed up as a strawberry (IT WAS GREAT) and went to my favorite bar, The Mesmerist, for some awesome big band/swing music presented by the band The Swing Ninjas. It was a really fun night.

Posts to look forward to in the future:
Posts that will actually have pictures
Society for Neuroscience conference
Paris trip, Ben and Lenzie's 6th month anniversary trip
Christmas (when Lenzie goes back across the pond and brings a Brit)

Till then,

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spain. Portugal. The Jurassic Coast. Stonehenge. Salisbury. Part 4- The English adventures/ End of the trip

I got back from Portugal on a Thursday afternoon with a great surprise awaiting me! Ben was at my terminal, waiting for me so that I didn't have to take the train back on my own.
And then the next day (Friday) we were off! I really didn't know where we were going- it was a surprise to me. But I found out on Saturday that we were spending the day along the Jurassic Coast.

 Durdle Door:

 Lulworth Cove:

Fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast:
And I found a fossil!!!! If you look closely, it looks like a fish :)

Lyme Regis:

Do you see all the people? Well, Lyme Regis IS a beach town, but its little. There usually aren't this many people. We accidentally stumbled upon a Red Bull sponsored water sports show. So we watched it for awhile and enjoyed the sun.

The next day, we headed to Stonehenge and Salisbury (which is famous for its cathedral):



A cute little town!

Sadly, we made the trek home which means I had to go back to the real world and back to work.

Since them, I've been preparing for the conference in October- This includes hearing that I received a travel grant! Everyone likes a little free money in their life :)! On the sadder side, I've had to say good bye to two good friends- Chad and Fernanda. And besides those things, life has been pretty normal.

I hope you have enjoyed the travel blogs. Sadly, it might be awhile until another one comes around...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spain. Portugal. The Jurassic Coast. Stonehenge. Salisbury. Part 3- Lisbon and Porto

Unfortunately, the trip around Spain had come to an end.
But the trip around Portugal was just beginning! To be honest, I didn't have high expectations of Portugal. I really thought the highlights of the trip were going to be in Spain. But I was so wrong! I loved Portugal! It is very underrated, but that's why its so amazing. The culture is SO rich there and that's because there aren't nearly as many tourists forcing the cities to modernize. I highly recommend Portugal. Both Lisbon and Porto are great :)

 Pictured above: The Alfama district. Colorful and beautifully tiled!
 ...and hilly.

 My new food addiction- Pasteis de Nata. I literally miss these custard tarts every day.
 Ginjinha is a cherry liqueur that is pretty intense, but good too. And this is the original shop.

Pictured below is a city view of the Barrio Alto district

 More Pasteis de Nata. These are the famous ones in Belem. Truth be told though, the ones closer to our hostel were better. Don't always trust the travel guides!!!
 Loved the cable cars!
 In the Monastery in Belem. This is the most famous area of the monastery- the cloister.
 More cloister.
Pictured below is the tomb of de Gama- the famous navigator!
 Pictured above is my FAVORITE Fado singer!!!
 The three of us at the top of the Tower of Belem
 The guitars used in Fado. And the drunken old man who became friends with us throughout the night.
 Me being too tall (typical) to fit in the Tower of Belem.
 Cutesy pose at the Tower.

I think I should explain Fado a little bit. It is famous in Portugal- a music made with the two different guitars pictured above and a singer who basically is lyrically lamenting. When done correctly, it is beautiful. We went to a local bar and listened to a bunch of different Fado singers perform. We ended up staying for 5 hours! It was probably my favorite part of the trip, if I had to pick one.
Also- because this really does deserve an honorable mention- YOU MUST EAT PASTEIS DE NATA AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE. Seriously, if you have a bucket list- add it to the list. Its life changing and I'm not even joking about that.

 This amazingly beautiful, hand-painted tile room is.... a train station. Let me repeat. This is a train station. The tiling is so so so amazing here.
 Completely hand-painted tile church

 River front
 Loving the colors
 I feel like this picture speaks for itself. But.... Do you understand yet why I love Portugal so much???
 Since Port is grown in Porto (surprise surprise), we went wine tasting. This is Graham's oldest year. Only a few bottles left.
 The view from the winery.
 A ruby and two tawnys (that's Port talk for all you fancy pants)
 All of us wine tasting, with our new friend!

I really only got one full day in Porto. I would've loved another day, or even a half day, but I feel like I got to see the majority of the city.

And in a flash, the trip was over. I had to head back to England to continue work on my PhD. However, luckily for me, I still had a few English adventures to go on before work really started back up again.

Watch this space for the next travel-related post!