A Cop Out

So I’ve been going through a bit of a valley of shit and was waiting to get out of the other side, so that I could write a post that goes something like this:

“Hey kids, sometimes life gets you down. But ya know what? *insert major realisation here*. In conclusion: it’s going to be OK.”

But I wasn’t getting out of the valley, and I still haven’t. I’m now getting to the stage where I have started to notice OTHER PEOPLE getting sick of my negativity. Instead of responding to this by readjusting my perspectives accordingly, it’s all turned into a kind of positive feedback loop, wherein I’m just left internally yelling, “I KNOW, RIGHT?! HOW ANNOYING IS PESSIMISM! GOD!”

When I take a step outside of my own brain (sorry Nikola), I can see how people would get confused and frustrated by my constant gloom. A lot of really (potentially) exciting stuff has been happening recently. Intrigued?

Reasons for me to not feel shitty:

-I got to talk to lots of *famous researchers at the Keystone Conference about my project AND THEY GAVE A SHIT (*in my field)

-I’ve had the offer to go and do some of my project work overseas.

-Because of this blog, I’ve got involved in a super exciting science careers/ gender equality project.

-I may have found myself a beautiful mentor in doing so.

-The inaugural EMBL PhD Australia Symposium, which I was on the committee for, went so so so so fabulously last week.

-I’ve finally got my teeth stuck into the Scientists in Schools project.

-I was invited (INVITED) to give a talk to a group of school girls about careers in biology.

…and yet. I’m not excited. I’m pretty sure that this is all about to come caving in, the minute someone realises that (I’m not actually supposed to be here). Despite all of the above, and the number of friends, family and co-workers spurring me on, my anxiety remains (see Fig.1). I’ve come to see that it doesn’t matter what’s going on externally, I’ll always find a reason to question my own validity, and that’s the way it’s always been.

self belief

Figure 1. Theories for self acceptance strategy A.Ideal scenario i.e. a falsity. B.Actual scenario.

When I realised this, I decided to make another list. A much more depressing one than the one above.

Reasons I have previously found to question my own validity as an actual human, capable of achieving things:

-Not having a boyfriend

-Not having enough friends

-Not getting along with absolutely everyone I have come into contact with

(warming up now)

-Being overweight

-Not being pretty enough

-Not wanting to play violin anymore

-Not liking sports

-Not partying “hard enough”

-Not being a mermaid

OK, so that last one hasn’t bothered me in a while, but it used to. I was thinking hard for a while about what it is that’s bothering me so much right now, so I could stick that one on the list too. Then I realised there were lots of reasons, and that made me sad and it probably didn’t matter anyway.

Putting that list together was a bit emotionally overwhelming for me. I saw how ridiculous it all looks now and consequently how ridiculous “Not getting a western blot to work” will most likely look in 5 years’ time.

You’d think now is when I’d start to write about how I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m moving forward and not sweating the small stuff etc. But if you were paying attention at the beginning then you’d know that’s not how it’s going to go, OK?

I’m still frickin’ crabby. I’m still worried. Writing experiment plans and literature reviews still makes me nervous. I’m still pretty sure things aren’t going to go my way. So here’s my shoddy excuse of a conclusion:

Creating things makes me feel better, and I just created this blog post.


Wisdom Nuggets

So I just got home from the EMBL Australia PhD course (a.k.a. Nerd Camp)  in Melbourne and I am EXHAUSTED. I am so grateful to EMBL for running the course, I have had such an insightful and fun two weeks, and it was a great ‘break’ from lab work; just what I needed to kick-start my enthusiasm after a few lab hiccups.

Anyway, here are a few precious wisdom nuggets from some of the great speakers at the course. Hopefully some of them are interesting for some of you non-scientists out there.

Professor Doug Hilton, Director of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research
When asked (by me, I might add) what he would say if he could go back and tell his 21 year old self something, Doug focussed his regrets about his attitudes when he was younger. Namely; that he maybe should have mellowed out earlier and been less jealous of those who got recognised before him.

Professor Trevor Lithgow, Protein Targeting and Molecular Machines Laboratory, Monash University
If you don’t have a good anti-body, you don’t have a good project.

Dr. Michael Kuiper, Computational Molecular Scientist, University of Melbourne
If you write down what you think is technologically amazing today, and look at it in 20 years time, you will laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to think of your data in the context of future technologies (for analysis), because there really is no limitation.

Professor Terry Speed, Head of Bioinformatics, Director of Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research
You can’t ignore bioinformatics: and if you don’t like it, you’re stuffed.
If you’re a mathematician, learn more biology. If you’re a biologist, learn more maths.

Dr. Bernhard Dichtl, Lecturer, Deakin University
Keep your eyes outside of the box; every step of transcription is significant.

Dr. Traude Beilhaz, Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences, Monash University
Don’t forget that we are all really privileged to s something which we are intellectually stimulated by.

Dr. David Barnes, Head, Image Analysis & Informatics, Monash Biomedical Imaging, Monash University
On the misrepresentation of data (this quote may have switched context from its original use, but it’s still pretty relevant here!);
“There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.” Donald Rumsfeld

Associate Professor James Bourne, Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute
Be ready to question things be prepared to take shit for it.


Professor Nadia Rosenthal and some very excited PhD students. One of whom might be me.

Professor Nadia Rosenthal, Scientific Head of EMBL Australia
If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it.