Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Small beginnings

Hey! Well, since this is my first post I guess I'd better introduce myself and what I'm trying to do here. For now you can call me Ret, I'm here to give you an inside view of modern biological research. I'm an avid believer in communicating biology to everyone. The point of this blog is to introduce biology to everyone, in a way that is clear and easy to understand. To dispel some of the bad reputation research has gained over the years.

I am a 23 year old, first year PhD student. I am at the University of Cambridge studying animal development; how an adult animal is formed from a fertilised egg. This is a very popular field of study, especially since the advent of stem cell research. I will also be your guide to the "Cambridge bubble" hopefully giving you some idea what it's actually like here on the inside, and showing you some of the things that go on here, besides working. Personally I spend a lot of time dancing and baking.

The course I am on is unusual as it allows me to work in several different labs before choosing which one to actually do my PhD research in. Over the course of this year I will be working for short periods in three different labs, and I will be using them to illustrate some of the work that is currently going on in biology. This will also illustrate how these 4-year PhD courses work to anyone out there who might one day be interested in enrolling on one.

In my writing I hope to show you the real life of a science student (think of it as Big Brother but without the scary geordie), I'll take you beyond the walls of academia, and show you that we don't have all the answers and why it always takes so long to get them. As part of this I will most likely be explaining some of the work I do with animals, whilst i will work to keep this to a minimum and tasteful, I do understand that it may upset some readers. As such I will attempt to give fair warning where such work is involved so that you may choose to avoid it. I also feel that I should highlight the fact that I take no pleasure from this work and eagerly await the day when sich sacrifices are no longer needed.

The main focus of this blog will be an account of the things that I do in the lab day to day. This does not mean that I will be writing it as a diary but that I will be making posts explaining some of the things that I actually do, different tools that are used to discover new things. I will also post overviews of the actual long term goals of the research that I'm doing. I also have several other ideas, including a collection of posts which will define key words often used in biology which are not always well understood, building up a sort of phrase book converting science-speak into plain english. My final aim is to remove some of the hype and stigma surrounding new discoveries by telling it like it is. All too often the media finds out about some new discovery and distorts it into something that is more exciting and dramatic, but not usually accurate. I hope to remedy this by giving you the truth of these matters, straight from the original text.

I will be posting overviews of my work to the Wellcome Trust blog (my much appreciated benefactors), which will supplement my posts on here. The Wellcome Trust posts on a wide variety of scientific matters, many with significant public impact and is well worth watching.

I have started by studying chicken development and am looking at a group of cells found in the nose which have the potential to aid regrowth of nerves after strokes or paralysis, but that's a story for next time.

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