A Week’s Worth of Lady Advice, as Inspired by The (Still Functional) Internet

I have trawled through this week’s deluge of lady-mistakes, so you don’t have to. As Mary Schmich/ Baz Luhrman would say,

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

(NB I cannot actually promise to paint over all the ugly parts. Especially when it comes to twitter trolls.)

Ahem.

1. Before you go getting your body out in public, you better i) not have done it of your own free will, without any apparent coercion, ii) PLEASE THINK THINK OF THE CHILDREN and iii) not have ever had any previous stance regarding nudity, regardless of context. Also, while it’s never OK for a woman to display her own body, it is definitely OK for everyone else to ridicule it.

2. If you really must get breast cancer, you had better eat locally grown organic food. Doing these things will switch your cancer genes off. If your cancer doesn’t go away, it’s because you are incapable of taking care of yourself. Obviously.

3. If you’re going to interpret blatant sexualisation of women in a supposedly professional setting as offensive, then you had better shut up about it. Because sweat shops (?!). And men have feelings too!

4. If you call someone out for telling you to “shut the f*** up” because you didn’t want to get drunk and make out with another woman, then you are victimising the perpetrator. You need to reassess your pre-existing feminist agenda and apologise (properly.).

5. If you’re going to call society out for its apparent double standards and sexism, then it appears the best way to do this without getting rape/ death threats is to simply get a sex change.

OK ladies, I hope we’re all clear now on how to get by without getting judged/ overtly sexualised/ threatened/ cancer! Good luck to y’all.

Project Verification

Although my supervisor and I are already set on a project theme/ idea, I’ve spent a lot of time this year brainstorming for new project ideas, the results which I been subconsciously storing into a sort of ‘worst case scenario’ back-up category.

I believed that I needed these back-up ideas, in the instance that we were unable to verify the observation upon which the main project theme was based. Specifically, we had spotted an isoform behaving differently to its wildtype counterpart in response to drug treatment of various cell lines. However, this observation was made using microarray data. For those of you who are unaware of gene expression studies, microarray data is a fickle thing, and has to be verified by more specific methods before anyone can get too excited about it.

I had made the assumption that, because we work in a cancer research lab, it would be improper for us to do protein/ gene characterisation studies unless they were part of a very specific question which had arisen from our “cancer-based” experiments. Hence all the brainstorming. I thought there was a chance the isoform studies could potentially be unsuitable. This is despite the fact(s) that:

i) the gene is significant in a major cell survival pathway,

ii) it has been implicated for a role in prognostics for a number of cancers,

iii) current drug trials targetting the gene are ongoing with mixed success

and iv) the gene is so well characterised and implicated in cancer, that you can read about in just about any generic cancer genetics review paper…

…yet the isoform is nowhere to be seen in the literature. It is obvious that this poses a window of opportunity for research. It hasn’t been studied before, yet due to the significance of the wildtype protein, its likely that the isoform has some interesting stories to tell too.

I think my supervisor was confused about why I seemed so unsure about the significance of the project, and why I kept on asking about alternative project ideas. It wasn’t until a conversation (where I told her about my apparent misconceptions) this week that she reassured me that, even if the microarray data can’t be confirmed (which is apparently far less likely than I thought), the gene/ protein characterisation studies can still go ahead, and are still perfectly relevant to cancer research- for all the reasons listed above.

This was a massive relief, and I am finally able to settle myself somewhat calmly into the knowledge that my project was ‘OK’.

P.S. I have a stinking cold, sorry if this post is a bit all over the place. Hey, at least I’m sticking to my own deadlines 🙂

Fear in the Face of Criticism

I’m finding it tough to stay motivated. With the bare bones of my project laid out, and the rest of it hanging in the fates of pending experiments, there’s not much else to think about while I’m waiting for some data: except for the quality of my project proposal itself.

Me being me, I keep on coming back to the same conclusion, namely: the project isn’t good enough. I feel as though my aims are of interest, at least for the sake of science, but in the context of cancer research, do they still stand strong?

In an era of personalised medicine, where words like ‘biomarker’ are more than commonplace, is it “enough” to study cancer cell function? Without blatant linkage to drug optimisation or discovery, or even to prognostics and diagnostics, those of us stepping ‘back’ into the more obscure field of cellular/ cancer cellular function are risking much scrutiny from our colleagues.

I know that my aims will unveil some mysteries about cellular function, and maybe (?) answer some questions regarding the failure of some drugs in the past. I also know that biomarker hunting and drug discovery can’t really function on their own. Whatever targets are identified, should (in an ideal world) be understood fully (or at least as far as is possible) before we start using experimental drugs.

Logical thinking should lead me to believe that my work will be valuable. However, I can’t help but feel that those who dabble in cell functional studies, for however long, can be more vulnerable to criticism…and that’s just a bit terrifying.