Ten more days have passed without blog updates, but since I don’t like making my blog posts potpourris, I will keep this rather focused, and instead follow up this post with the long-promised photo gallery.
From a work productivity perspective, my time down here has been close to a disaster. The reasons are many, but at least three are outside of my control.
First of all, since my arrival in BsAs (almost three months ago!) I have barely had any full working weeks, that is, five consecutive days of work. A huge number of public holidays have been accompanied by general bus strikes (why does this remind me of Lisbon?), and this week my lab group had its yearly lab retreat from Sunday-Wednesday. This absence from the lab obviously makes the experimental work in the lab suffer. I usually need a couple of days only to set up my experiments, and a mid-week break is enough to make any experiments impossible for the entire week.
Secondly, things in the lab are just not working as well as hoped. But this is nothing new; t is simply biology, and there is no reason to discuss this further.
Thirdly, after two months of modeling my system I have finally been able to convince my boss that the original working model for my project will simply not work for our purpose. Therefore, everything I have done so far (= nearly nothing, see above) has been for nothing, and I am basically back on square one.
Then there are of course other reasons well within my control; some of which some self control could solve, but also one which I wouldn’t like to compromise. In Spanish we could call this uncompromisable reason una chica.
Nevertheless, although my thesis project might be suffering, I am absolutely not unhappy with my situation at work. I may have no results “on paper”, but that does absolutely not reflect my learning curve, which is steeply and steadily pointing upwards. And since I couldn’t really care less about how well my project will be graded (as long as I manage to pass), I am much rather working on this project, which is intellectually challenging, and where I feel that I’m making a clear contribution; than having a safe project where I am doing nothing more than what I am told by my supervisor. In fact, during the lab retreat I was privately and spontaneously told by boss that he thinks I’m very good and intelligent, which is of course a very nice confidence boost.
I will end this post by mentioning a subject that now and then comes back to my mind, namely Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). As a molecular biologist and/or biotechnologist I am more or less expected to praise this as one of the most important technologies for the future. I am also expected to rather sarcastically mock people who express fear against GMOs and the potentially dangerous effects introduction of such organisms in the nature may have. “After all, biotechnologically produced GMOs are no different to what humans have been doing for thousands of years through cultivation and breeding”. I will not dig deeper into this subject now, and I may or may not return to this subject some other time; but reading a paper like this by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (who also wrote the excellent book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable) does make me cautious.