3 months in

I am about 3 months into my PhD now, so I thought I’d give an update on what it’s been like up to now.

So far I’ve mostly learnt things about myself and the way I work best, rather than anything to do with understanding a scientific question. I guess that isn’t surprising as I’ve mainly been playing around with different techniques, trying things, and seeing what works. Having the chance to explore different ideas has been great and I think it’s really important to have that kind of opportunity at the beginning of any scientific project. Much of my life is now spent staring at zebrafish embryos, fortunately they are very beautiful.

Looking down the microscope at a zebrafish embryo

As well as doing things in the lab I have also had some interesting work experiences outside of the lab. I had the opportunity to go to Switzerland for a conference on ‘Organoid Systems’ in November. Labs from all around the world are growing things that resemble organs (or parts of organs) such as the intestine and brain, and trying to figure out how they’re organising themselves (among other things). As well as providing insight into the development of organs and their specialised structures, these organoid systems also open up the possibility to model diseases outside of the human body, using human cells. It’s amazing how close we are to being able to use these ‘organoids’ for medical applications. They are already being used to screen for drugs and offer the possibility to design personalised medical treatments for people – as the affected patients’ cells can be used to grow one of these organoids. In the free time we had I managed to eat a lot of fondue and catch a glimpse of the beautiful scenery outside the conference centre.

A lot of cheese
Mountains just outside the EPFL

With the intention of keeping a good work/life balance and wanting to keep on top of exercise I decided to sign up for rowing around the time I started work in the lab. Getting up before 6am to cycle in the cold and dark to rowing 3 times a week has been an experience, but the positives really have outweighed the negatives and overall I think it’s helped keep me sane over the past few months.

Rowing into the sunrise (actually this was in the afternoon but you can imagine…)

Going into 2018 I am looking forward to improving the way I work, staying focused on the important questions, and hopefully travelling to some new and interesting places.