My name is Ena and I’m a scientist in motion. That phrase sums up three things that I value, but I’ll start with the most literal one.
Firstly, I’m a scientist that likes to move. I like the rush of alpine skiing, the calm of running, the quiet energy of yoga, the smoothness of a good bike ride, the rhythm of rollerblading, the technical puzzle of a tough climb. It’s easy to forget how great it feels to move, especially when other parts of life start to crowd out time that used to be set aside for physical activities. I had built a good, steady jogging habit back home this summer, logging almost 300km, and I proudly ran my first half marathon three weeks ago! However, I haven’t made time for running or any other kind of fitness since then and it’s time to change that. I hope to remind myself (and maybe others!) how enjoyable it is to get outside, sweat and push your limits.
Second, I’m a scientist that likes to move. I know, I already said that; this time I’m talking about movement on a larger scale. I like to travel and explore new places, try new foods, and learn new languages. Two months ago I undertook my furthest move ever by flying in three planes for 22 hours. I crossed the dateline, never experienced August 2nd 2014, and set foot on a new continent. I’m now a Canadian expat, living a mere 15028km away from home for the next three or four years. My new home is Brisbane, Australia, which gets an average of 8 hours of sunshine a day, 261 days of the year. In contrast, Toronto averages just 5.5 hours of sunshine a day, and I won’t even mention the cold (yet). I’ll be talking about similarities and differences between the two countries, and sharing pictures and stories of new adventures and friends. I’ve got less than a handful years to explore this side of the globe and I intend on using the time well!
Finally, the scientist bit (aka the reason I’m calling Australia home for the next several years): I’m a new PhD student and my field of research is cartilage regeneration using stem cells. In the first two months of my PhD, I have learned an enormous amount. I completed my Masters of Science in Biology in April, but it was in a completely different field and I’d primarily learned three things: cell culture, western blotting, and confocal microscopy. Here, cell culture is still a large part of what I’ll be doing, but I’ll also be handling mice (and hopefully sheep!), as well as using flow cytometry to characterize and sort cells, running PCR to determine gene expression patterns, slicing frozen tissues on a cryostat to prepare them for a variety of stains, isolating and quantifying DNA, RNA, and proteins, optimizing cell loading into hydrogels, and more. Don’t worry if you don’t understand anything I just said– I didn’t understand it myself until recently! I’ve already learned the basics of these techniques though and I dove headfirst into the literature when I got here, so I’m feeling ready to tackle my project on cartilage repair. As an obesity epidemic coincides with an aging population, we will experience great social and financial losses due osteoarthritis, which is a major cause of pain and disability. My aim is to create a stable, functional cartilage repair construct that will improve quality of life for people with degenerative joint diseases. It will be challenging but if I can do anything that will advance the field, I will be satisfied. I’ll be writing about difficulties and triumphs as I move through my program and project and I’ll also write about other interesting science news as I hear about it.
That’s all for my first post! Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave comments. I’ll be writing weekly from now on — until then, keep moving!