OK. So you ought to know who this blogging fellow is. Graduate of Neuroscience with Biochemistry. Currently residing in Birmingham, though hopefully not hanging about here for too long.
My fascination lies within the natural sciences, from particle physics right up to supersocieties in the animal kingdom. I like looking at the grand scheme of things, and how it all fits in.
Science is my passion. I also enjoy exploring life, in many different ways and on different levels - the quiet countryside, the grand natural wilderness, sprawling cityscapes and deceivingly tranquil suburbia.
I value variety, diversity, peace, ambition, wonder and hope.
Not sure what else to say, but let's pretend I've written something you like and now you're chuckling to yourself.
A few days ago, I was looking through my extensive collection of photos from the past 3 years. I was struck with a paradoxical wave of happiness, nostalgia, melancholy and even a twinge of sadness as I relived some of my happiest memories.
Exactly 3 years ago I got my A level results and gained my place in the University of Nottingham. The past 3 years have been amazing, and I feel a single post couldn’t really do them justice. However, as this blog flourished as a result of my university life, I believe it is fitting closure to provide a summary of some of the highlights from the past 3 years. Once again, as with my previous review post, I think pictures would be more accurate in describing just some of what went down over this time.
So without further ado, I inundate your dashboards with epic gpoy and my own memories, from the old photo collection.
There was of course, the University of Nottingham - a beautiful place. many fun and brilliant times were had on campus, whether it be David generally goofing around, or meeting Josh for the for the first time - the first time I had ever met somebody from the internet.
Trent building at dawn
Sunset at Jubilee Campus
Sunset by Jubilee Campus lake
Sometimes, if it was raining at night, I’d wander around campus to gather my thoughts, and think. I like rain.
Midnight fog at the Queens Medical Centre
And the volumes of work that came with being enrolled there
All of the hard work that paid off in end, the hundreds of hours spent in the library, the all nighters, the frustration of difficult work, the satisfaction of cracking it - wouldn’t have been possible without some of the most wonderful people in the world
and of course, the musical times.
Rise Against at Rock City (Tim singing Swing Life Away)
Rise Against headlining the Zippo Encore stage at Download
And through it all, the amazing experiences that were had outside of university
Finding amphibians in Nottingham
Taking a nap in a Central London street
Displaced Afghan refugees camped out on the steppe in the northern Punjab, Pakistan
Getting lost in the small towns and villages in Northern France in the middle of the night
Exploring rural Switzerland
Climbing a Swiss mountain overlooking Lake Geneva
Sitting on the banks of Lake Geneva, observing Montreux as the light of day fades
Now as a graduate, a long and uncertain road lies ahead. Life’s quietened and slowed down, as I work towards the next step towards a successful and stable life. Who knows what the future holds, but through these uncertain times I can look back and smile. To everyone who has helped me along the way so far in this journey; from the people around me to you glorious members of the Tumblrverse who actually followed, read my stuff, and kept this blog alive - thank you.
"Open the past and present Now and we are there. Story to tell and I am listening. Open the past and present And the future too. It’s all I’ve got and I’m giving it up to you.”
The Viva was supposed to be an interview with the external examiner, on pretty much anything I’ve been taught on the course, with some emphasis on my dissertation. I had 5 days notice that I had to do the Viva. There wasn’t much preparation I could do except for re-familiarise myself with my dissertation.
A grueling nigh-on 40min interview with the external examiner, a professor from The University of Oxford. A reader of Pharmacology, and fellow in Neuroscience. He grilled me on my dissertation, the purpose of it, what the value of the research was, how the experiment was conducted, how parameters were calculated and he asked me to really specifically dissect a graph of a compound action potential I included in my work. Like, I didn’t think very much of the graph when I wrote the work; it was merely there to demonstrate the effects of temperature on mouse optic nerve function, but he was fascinated by it.
It’s a mouse optic nerve compound action potential…. what does it mean?
He inquired about the mechanisms of the action potential, the molecular mechanisms of exocytotic vesicular trafficking, release of neurotransmitter and neurotransmitter function. Then he asked me some historical questions on pioneers in fields such as neurotransmission, astrocytic glycolysis and glycogen/lactate metabolism, the ionic basis of action potentials, visual transduction pathways and how energy failure affects axonal function.
All this followed by him asking me to explain the genetic basis of schizophrenia, the underlying neurochemistry, which drugs are used to treat it, how and why they do/don’t work. Following this I was asked to link molecular epigenetics into all this by explaining why and how schizophrenia isn’t entirely genetic and how the interplay of the environment with the genome may precipitate schizophrenia.
Later in the day I was told I have a First Class honours for my degree. Apparently the examiner liked me, thought my viva was the best by far and I was a ‘pleasure’ to discuss science with or something.
Hellooooooooooooooooo, beautiful members of the Tumblrverse!
I haven’t posted in a while. It would’ve been a while longer but it’s 3am, I’m in the library and I’ve kinda hit a wall so I thought instead of procrastinating on failbook or twatter, I’d Tumblr up - if only briefly.
I’ve been abroad/drowning in work/crying/drowning in tears (Well not literally crying. CAPTAIN NITROGEN CANNOT CRY - unless it’s like ammonia tear drops or something…). SO I’ve been doing a lot of drowning. Well my tumblr URL isn’t exactly www.aquaman.tumblr.com. I CAN drown and I have every right to. Not the point.
I’ve got posts lined up and asks to respond to and all, and hope to have them online soon but I’m on an incredibly tight schedule to get stuff done on time and simply put, I don’t think there’s enough time.
There I was, on the eve before my plane jetted off East (before anyone tries to condemn my jetting-off so close to finals and deadlines, I kinda didn’t have a choice…), thinking that I’d go and sort out business wherever, do my thang, get back and have everything ready in time for the much anticipated LostProphets concert I’ve been waiting months for, with a day to spare to update you lovely Tumblonians on what’s been going on in my life with wonderful tales on how I’ve got work done and everything is shiny and blue.
About 6 weeks later, and here I am with nothing but a nigh-on-insurmountable pile of work to get through, despairing over the shittiest drudgery of statistics to somehow get right (amisanthropichumanist has essentially been re-teaching me our entire stats course from scratch, and still has his hair. If he can deal with stress like that, Med School will be a doddle). On top of that, people in the computer room who are eating their snacks are chewing so loudly, even Jesus H Christ himself must be thinking ‘FUCK OFF’. Well, no time like the present to bust out my new SkullCrushers. I think ’Prayer of the Refugee’ will drown out Chewbacca nicely.
Can’t lose hope, though. Giving up will only make things worse.
Oh great, Chewbaccas friend has decided to join in with the chewing. Evidence against intelligent design - who in the right mind would intentionally make mastication so annoying? They’re like, chewing in rhythm. I think they may be doing a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Erm. Where was I? Oh yeah - back to work. For all the good it’ll do me.
So we began in labs last week. We’re working on some electrophysiological experiments on mouse optic nerves. There’s four of us students in the lab, and the supervisor (the scientist whose research project this is). We’re investigating the neuroprotective effects of hypothermia during energy failure in white matter tracts of the central nervous system. The optic nerve is a very good model system to use with translatable benefits to the rest of the brain. So it’s work in progress. It’s been rather educational and I’ve learned a lot about how labs actually work during the progress of scientific research.
Here’s the lab we’re working in. (Amisanthropichumanist's head is at the bottom cause he's crouched down, drawing something)
Here’s the experimental setup.
This is Albert. We made him to watch over the lab while we’re gone…
So I’m in the library deleting old text messages from my phone (which is relatively primitive and seems to run out of internal memory every day, and doesn’t allow me to move text messages onto memory card) and I come across this old message from amisanthropichumanist which says only this
“Crystal Meth looks like dopamine.”
My first thought is 'does it? hmmmmm', looking for an excuse to procrastinate from the task at hand, which is deleting messages to free up space for more messages - which is just procrastination from the REAL task at hand - which is doing my dissertation (so this Crystal Meth/Dopamine conjecture is a form meta-procrastination, I guess).
I promptly minimise the MS-Word file I’m apparently working on (cheerfully entitled ‘Efficacy of the clinical use of hypothermia therapy as a means of neuroprotection during ischaemic insult’, which is actually very interesting - when I’m not working on it. If that makes any sense. Anywho) and jump onto google.
Oh yeah! They are pretty similar. Just thought I’d share that with you. In fact, amphetamine looks even more similar!
Though now I’m getting adverts for 'Talk to FRANK' (which is a helpline for people taking illegal drugs). We neuroscientists have an odd internet presence.
Dammit guys, my science posts have been lacking recently. Many apologies! This is for various reasons, some of which I may explain in more detail very soon. These reasons include illness/visiting family/Uni Work/Some social pursuits. It is only now that I’ve got this infernal cold (which just won’t go! I have a hunch that it might be flu… where’s a medic when you need one?) have I realised that my science posts actually require some energy to execute properly. So, to compensate for the recent lack of science, here - have some science!
One of the many functions of astrocytes in the brain is to ensure neurons have all of the required energy in order to transmit information. Astrocytes can achieve this through mediating neurovascular coupling by monitoring synaptic activity to discern the energy demands of the local neurons. During synaptic transmission between two neurons, some neurotransmitter binds to the local astrocyte, (debunking the idea of the dominant bipartite synapse and replacing it with a tripartite system). The Neurotransmitter-astrocyte binding stimulates an increase in astrocytic [Ca2+], which stimulates production of prostaglandins (in particular PGE2) which, when released from the astrocyte, cause local vasodilation. Local vasodilation increases local blood supply to the active neurons, increasing their O2 and glucose supply, thus meeting the increased energy demand and allowing prolonged neural function in the central nervous system. The system is not so simple, however. The glia can mediate vasoconstriction or vasodilation depending on the local pO2. In low pO2, vasodilation occurs due to astrocytic anaerobic metabolism, causing an increase in [lactate]. This inactivates the [lactate]-dependent Lactate-Prostaglandin antiporter, causing increased PGE2 action on the local vasculature, mediating vasodilation. In high pO2, the astrocytic metabolism remains aerobic, thus the antiporter functions normally, and removes PGE2 from the local ECF. Instead, CYP2E mediated systems cause release of 20-HETE which mediates local vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction limits the O2 supply in high pO2 as excess O2 will mediate free radical formation and induce excitotoxicity.
This basic principle underlies the assumptions relevant to the interpretation of the BOLD-fMRI scan.
The Tripartite Synapse and its role in neurovascular coupling. Though I really dislike use of the word ‘dilatation’. It’s DILATION dammit. Apart from that, it’s a good diagram.
There, just take that in while I write a proper, decent post. Most likely will be on obesity/diabetes, which I’ve been learning about in the Biochemistry of Disease class. Biochemistry of disease lectures have been fascinating this semester. They’ve really demanded one to think about all of the various factors which contribute to obesity, and the effects of social stigma on those with certain diseases. It’s really challenged and molded the way I look at disease states, not only from a physical/chemical point of view, but also from a social and medical point of view. Dr Bennett really encourages inquiry and looking at things from different perspectives. Dr Bennett is the lecturer who has given the lectures on obesity and diabetes, and I think he’s really good. He knows his stuff, and knows how to engage the class in the topic. He’s delivered some of the best lectures I’ve had since I started university.
D of E and I commandeered one of the seminar rooms in the med school to discuss our Dissertation/Lab Research project. Here, we’re getting to grips with a type of electrophysiological recording method known as the ‘Suction Electrode’ (which involves measuring voltages and currents from a nerve to gain an idea of its functionality), and its advantages and disadvantages in measuring compound action potentials.
We may well be using this method in the ultimate lab work in the Spring. Currently being plagued by the role of Direct Current and Resistance Ramping in rodent optic nerve electrophysiological measurements. Got some ideas floating about, but it seems as if we may have to pester the Supervisor about this one.