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 So any relevant posters are also really good to see, as it is new and unpublished work.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,