Thursday, April 30, 2015

State of the Blogger Address

Alright, I've decided to do a quick "state of the blogger" address.

1) I was selected to serve as a member of the jury for a criminal case last week. That was 3 full days, and absolutely awesome! Although I don't always feel it's "just", I actually enjoy participating when the justice system is at work. In light of this, I definitely understand the weight and importance of considering the evidence seriously and carefully, and helping to deliver a verdict that reflects my objective capacity to apply the law. I promise to tell more details of the trial later!

2) I'm in Boston this week for a conference, so I haven't been able to devote much time to writing, or much else other than packing and preparing for the conference.

3) I had family visiting last week and this week, so that took even more of my time. They've been a huge help, and I love them bunches!

4) I met a guy for frozen yogurt. Nice guy, but he's definitely not for me.

5) An ex (one that I haven't mentioned yet...) posted a tweet that I'm pretty sure was directed at me. It wasn't mean or rude. It was actually a little flattering. I'm not concerned about it though.

6) Met some super cool guys in Boston went we went out last night. One was a former research scientist, and the other was med student at Harvard. They literally had us laughing the entire time we were all together. Of course, we'll never see those two again, but they were great fun while they lasted, lol. :-)

More details of each of the points to come!! I hope everyone is having, has had, or will have (depending upon location) a fantastic day!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Blurred Lines

You're in control of your life.

Obviously, we all start off on a certain rung of the ladder based on our parents and our family circumstances.

However, at some point, the decisions we make begin to influence the paths we find ourselves taking.

Aside from the socioeconomic side of things, I've recently decided to be more forthright with what I want and don't want.


As my last relationship neared it's end, my ex-beau began to create distance between us in several ways. He reduced the number of times he texted me and the number of times he called me each day. He definitely wasn't seeing anyone else. Rather than having a discussion with me and attempting to make a clear plan of action, distancing himself was how he decided to deal with the frustration of not being able to see me when he wanted. In my mind, he gave up. When things got difficult, and when the situation wasn't perfectly ideal for him, he quit it.

When it came time for me to tell him that it wasn't going to work out, it was difficult because I cared for him, but the fact that he gave up when things weren't ideal for him made it a little less difficult. Honestly, I was okay with not seeing him ALL the time. I tend to like my space sometimes.

Anyway, we ended the relationship. The days that followed were difficult emotionally. I didn't really discuss the break-up with anyone in detail, so trying to harbor everything didn't make those next couple days any easier.

A couple weeks after the relationship ended, he texted me to say hi, and a day or so after that initial text, he said he missed talking to me. After that, we either talked via telephone or text, daily.

I hated it. Immediately after we broke up, I deleted his information from my cell phone and deleted his events from my google calendar. I never remove bandaids slowly. I prefer to rip them off in a single, rapid movement. That way, once the wound is no longer oozing liquids, it can get the air it needs to heal properly.

Him contacting me after the fact, left my wound raw, and unable to heal the way it needed to heal. Being in contact was emotionally confusing for me in lots of ways.

After about a week of this, I called and told him "I needed time to miss him less." I wanted to stroke his ego a little, while ending all ties. Later, I realized that up to that point, I let him take control of how often we called and texted each other (which was wayyyy too much). I decided to take control, and I was proud to do so.

About a week after virtually telling him I needed time to completely forget him and everything I loved about "us", the regret kicked him.

On a daily basis, I contemplated texting him to tell him I missed him and wanted to be friends with him. When this happened, I reminded myself of the list of reasons I knew he and I would never be together long-term. I also reminded myself that he gave up on our relationship. That led me to decide that I didn't need a quitter in my "corner".

My advice to self et al.: hold tightly to the people who are there when you need them, who support you, who listen when you think no one cares, and who listen when no one else seems to have time to listen. Cherish, above all else, those who will stick with you when your life takes a turn down a dark, winding path you can't bear to go down alone.

Remember, those who are all too willing to forsake you at the mere semblance of your path becoming anything but perfectly straight, are dispensable. You have to be willing to let them go.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Unemployed Dollar

Today, I had my very first meeting with a financial adviser.

It felt a little odd to to this, because I'm merely a graduate student, and the compensation I receive is a stipend that's only intended to cover living expenses. For that reason, I've never looked into professional financial advice in the past.

One point the adviser made during our discussion today  is that there is no minimum salary for investing and making wise financial decisions. I totally agree with that point. [I know it sounds like a line they all say, but truth is truth regardless of who says it.]

Although I'm not a multi-millionaire, I agreed to meet with him for several reasons.

First, he's a high school friend whom I've known for most of my life, so I know he's a genuine, honest person. Second, I've been secretly pondering seeking professional financial advice for several months. Third, I've been pretty well at sticking to my budget, and I'd like to start making my money work for me. I've always loved this concept, and am beyond excited to finally put it to practice. Fourth, I'm at a position now, where I can only really depend on myself financially, so it's important that I have a big, fluffy cushion in case an emergency arises. Fifth, I'd like to set the proper example for my daughter. I plan to teach her how to save and use credit wisely, so it's important that I show her by example. Finally, when my life mate comes along, I want him to see that I'm financially responsible just as I expect him to be.

Despite the first reason I agreed to meet with him, I will still do my research prior to investing or buying any products. He's a former classmate and friend, but he's also an employee working to advance himself. I trust that he's open and honest, and he even provided information that shed his competitors in positive lights, but at the end of the day its my money. That means I have the most to gain, but I'm also taking all the risk.

With that said, I'll keep you updated with what I learn and how I decide to begin making my money work for me.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Heart of the Matter

I recently had the opportunity to present recent updates of my research to my research group.

How does this happen and why? Let's get through a little background prior to answering these questions.

Our lab studies heart development. Before I get into the details of what we study, let's first discuss a little cell biology background. Within every cell in the body, minus mature red blood cells, there's a central compartment, called the nucleus, where DNA is packaged.

DNA can be divided into several units, one of which is genes which can be transcribed into RNA. The RNA can then be translated into protein, and different proteins serve different functions. There are several factors and events that determine whether a gene gets expressed (i.e. made into protein), one of these factors is the transcription factor, which can bind the DNA sequences upstream of the actual coding sequence of the gene, and either repress the gene or drive expression of the gene.

[Sidenote: Some examples of proteins are the keratins in your nails and the enzymes in your saliva that begin to digest your food as soon as you eat. This shows that proteins can function as structure components or they can perform an energy-requiring action, like in the case of enzymes.]

Transcription factors that can bind DNA, have domains within their structures that dictate exactly where they can bind.

Our lab focuses on several transcription factors that have been shown in previous research studies to be mutated, and to function improperly due to these mutations. Such mutations are usually discovered through their link to specific disorders. In my case, the transcription factor I study contains mutations that have been linked to congenital heart defects.

Congenital heart defects are abnormalities in the structure and/or function of the heart that exist at birth.

So in my research, I work to understand how dysregulation of specific transcription factors affect expression of the genes these factors regulate and more. Based on the outcome of the meeting I recently had with my lab, my project has taken an interesting turn down an avenue that I'm excited, but apprehensive to go down.

I'll be sure to tell you more about the project and where it goes as progress is made.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Exposing Students to Scientific Theory

So I'm very passionate about exposing children to science early, but I'm cognizant of the fact that not all children are raised with the opportunity to meet and speak with a scientist, or to attend local activities that teach basic science.

For this reason, I've devised a method for a class of middle school students to visit my lab. This will be the first time students will visit our lab, and it's an isolated event, but my hope is to have more classes visit in the future.

There are several reasons I wanted to do this. First, I find it important for students to see that scientists come in lots of different shapes, sizes, and colors. This is especially important for students of lower socioeconomic status, those from underrepresented ethnic and racial backgrounds, and those who affiliate with underrepresented groups. Second, seeing the diversity that comprises scientific labs can encourage students and make careers in science more accessible goals. Finally, students need to begin to understand how useful scientific theory can be, and how it can be used to make incredible scientific and medical discoveries.

How did I arrange all this? I didn't really.

One of the guys I dated had a daughter, who was about 13. Based on information he gave me, his daughter didn't seem to have a specific interest in any school subject. Therefore, I offered to have her and her classmates from the military school she attends visit my lab for a field trip. I assured the guy that she was welcome to visit my lab regardless of how things ended between he and I.

Anyway, he passed my contact information along to her science instructor, who in turn, contacted me.

The guy I was seeing didn't inform me of the timing of when he passed my contact information to the instructor or when the instructor would contact me, so I was surprised and excited to receive the instructor's email.

Since that initial contact, the instructor and I have been working to pinpoint an exact date for their visit. For now, they plan to visit in May, but an exact date hasn't been established.

Over the next couple weeks, it's my job to 1) find out what the students have learned this year, especially most recently, 2) identify topics that would be of specific interest to the students, and 3) identify where the science we do in our lab overlaps with what may most interest the students based on what they've learned this year. I intend on discussing these 3 items with the instructor. I certainly want to do my best to incorporate his recommendations for what we should teach the students and show them through experimentation into the sessions I develop for the students.

I look forward to meeting the students, either those of this class, or another class of this instructor, if this class isn't able to visit prior to the end of the school year. In the future, I'd also like to identify additional local science instructors that would like to have their students get hands-on learning experience in a university research lab.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

My time is my time

In my last post, I mentioned that one of the things I've gotten into lately, is dating.

My husband and I have split, and now I'm starting to "get out there" again.

My feelings about dating are beyond mixed - 1) it's really nice to be fawned over, 2) I don't like that dating can be such an emotional roller coaster, and 3) I absolutely hate being single some days.

Through dating over the past couple months, I've identified several new character traits that I either love or detest in a man. I'll get into the details of that in the future.

I've also learned that being single is exactly what I need at this point in my life for several reasons. In my last post, I listed several activities in which I'm involved, and mentioned wanting to get involved in a few more. One reason I need to stay single for at least a couple months (uh-oh!) is that I literally don't have time to date.

A major problem with the last couple guys I dated, was that they felt I didn't have enough time to devote to them. My evenings are spent cooking dinner, and preparing my daughter for bed. My weekends are normally spent taking my daughter to the library and to local culturally-enriching activities, and preparing for the week ahead. Of course that leaves weekday evenings, after little one's bedtime at 7:30p, for dates and such, but that isn't always sufficient for the fellas.

It's flattering that the guys want to spend as much time with me as possible, I mean I am pretty awesome. I just don't think the previous suitors were prepared to accept just how low that "as much time as possible" was. Time spent with my daughter is non-negotiable.

Considering 2 of the guys I dated were divorced with children, I anticipated they'd be understanding of my need to spend time with my daughter, but that wasn't the case. Sadly, the last guy's inability to empathize with my need for mommy-daughter time reflected his own failure to invest time and interest into his own son.

[To provide some context, he was divorced with joint custody of his sons, who spent most of their time with either him or his parents. His ex-wife (and her fiancé) and parents lived in close proximity to him, which was in the town in which he grew up. Therefore, several family members were "involved" in raising his 2 sons. His ex-wife commonly took their 2 sons to his parents' home on her weekends. From my perspective, consistently choosing not to spend time with your children when you have the opportunity sends a negative message to the children - one that they pick up on over time.]

Questions about his son's schooling and extracurricular activities revealed his disinterest in these topics. On the surface, he seemed to be a good father, especially since he spent several thousand dollars in legal fees to secure joint custody of his 2 sons. I can't claim he isn't a good father, maybe he is, but it's certainly sad to see a father care so little about his son's schooling, interests, and overall life.

Despite all that, at this point, my concern is for his sons. His elder son, the only 1 of the 2 I met, seemed emotionally troubled. Something about the 14 year-old was unsettling. I intend on keeping the young man in my prayers, in hopes that he gets the emotional support, encouragement, and time investment every child needs and deserves.

Anywho, that story chapter has ended. On to the next!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Return

It's been several years since I last posted to this blog, and so much has happened in that time frame. I'll start from today, and fill in details of the past as needed.

In light of several recent events, I find it necessary to vent in the form of writing, so here goes...

Currently, I'm in school earning my doctorate, going through a separation, dating, raising a toddler, planning several research symposia, and chairing a social committee for students. As if all that isn't enough, I'm still trying to get involved in a few other activities.

Crazy, I know! I've found that I LOVE contributing to big projects. As part of that, I enjoy working with peers to accomplish tasks, I enjoy working with companies and institutions to host events, and I enjoy being very busy. I'm happiest when I'm doing several things simultaneously.

Anywho, let's start with school.

Earning my doctorate has been an extremely enriching experience. I've grown a lot academically, of course, but I've also evolved in several other areas of my life. I've learned to identify my wants and needs, and I've developed the capacity to distinguish the two. I've also developed the skills to communicate those desires and needs in a way that establishes my unwillingness to waver. These are invaluable skills that I desperately needed, and am glad to now have.

I've also learned to not take everything personally. This one is HUGE for me, because I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. Therefore, any small criticism would offend me and cause me to experience a deluge of emotions that I could barely control. [Sidenote: I've never been a fan of showing emotions. I'll discuss more on that in time.] Now I'm able to accept criticism, constructive or not, selectively. From there, I can decide whether, when, and how to apply the criticism.

What else have I learned from graduate school...

I've learned how to work with people at several different levels. As I've mentioned, one of the things I'm involved in, is chairing a committee of students that works with faculty and staff to develop activities that improve the camaraderie among graduate students, and provide settings for students to relax and decompress. Relaxing can be an extremely difficult task in graduate school, as there are always numerous pressures testing the existence of peace. The purpose of the committee I chair, is to organize activities in which students can clear their minds (as much as possible) and enjoy some fellowship, free food, and fun.

This is committee is one that I'm very excited to run, and I look forward to future activities we'll plan for the students. I also look forward to including it on my curriculum vitae and explain to a potential employer one day. I have had the unique opportunity to head a group of students while communicating with administration to get things accomplished. I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of this position I hold, and hope that students learn to appreciate the time and energy that's been devoted to executing these activities.

Graduate school has also helped me develop several friendships that are very dear to me. I've been very very fortunate to meet some truly incredible, bright, kind-hearted people, that I look forward to knowing throughout my lifetime. These people provide advice, kind words, shoulders to lean on, constructive criticism, and whatever else I might need.

I'm one of the weirdos who values people over money, so having met people like this in graduate school is something I wouldn't trade for anything. I truly value the amazing people in my life. Maybe in one of my next few posts, I'll tell you about the amazing people in my life.

The awesome thing about knowing dependable people who love you and would do absolutely anything for you without a second thought, is that it teaches you how to be that for other people. I feel a little sad to know that there are people who don't have that type of friend. It makes all the difference. It really does.

His Awesome Splendor

His Awesome Splendor
Upon seeing this view, I knew I had to capture it.

My Fave...

My Fave...