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Hello livejournal, I thought this afternoon I should make a post since I've been so bad at catching up with everyone this year.... that is to say, since I've caught up with nobody in Brisbane this year... It's not that I've been all that busy, just busy enough for Brisbane to be a very long drive away I guess. I had a week of holidays but a group assignment I did 90% of the work for was due at the end of it so I didn't get much of a break. Honestly, I'm a little bit jaded what with doing research over my entire Summer break and then much the same over this last week break. Anyway, enough of that, significant life events in dot points.

  • I was diagnosed earlier this afternoon with Narcolepsy. Sleep study with electroencephalogram confirmation. Which was a little bit interesting. It doesn't mean I'm going to fall asleep without warning anytime soon though, don't get too excited. I am an impaired driver however until my medications get sorted out.... Bit annoying. Still, interesting.
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  • Last saturday I competed in my first Olympic distance triathlon, which was heaps of fun. A bit long, honestly Olympic distance was a bit ambitious, but still fun. Especially the swim, wouldn't ever be game to swim that far out to sea without a bazillion lifeguards around. I did the Byron Bay Ocean Swim the week before in much rougher conditions and that wasn't nearly as nice. Gold Coast Half-Marathon is next.
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  • Tonight is a farewell dinner for the students going back to Sydney in a couple of week (i.e. students like me). I'm going back to Sydney at the end of the month. All a bit sad but there you go, exams to be written. I'm going to apply to Qld for internship but I'm applying to NSW as well and to be honest I'm a lot more likely to get a good hospital placement in Sydney than I am in Brisbane. I'm not sure how I feel about it, I dunno. It's all good I suppose. I'm really not looking forward to graduating though, full-time jobs are hard.
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  • I examined a lady the other day with cancer in her liver of unknown origin. Breast cancer being so common a breast examination was obligatory so the team got me to do it and I found a lump. Which was sort of interesting, too. Fortunately the patient had already had the bad news about the liver broken to her so my findings didn't create any extra anxiety.
Hope things are cool with everyone else. At this stage its looking like I won't be able to visit anyone until the end of June/start of July.

Back!

Just thought I should mention that I am back in Australia now. I've been in Sydney last week and started back at Lismore this week. Pretty hectic, had trouble getting over jetlag first week back and compensated (poorly) by just not sleeping very much and now my attachment has 7am starts and lots of study associated with it, which also means < 6 hours sleep per night. It's 8:30 here and I am seriously considering going to bed.

On the plus side my year's goal to start competing in triathlons is going well. Joined the Ballina triathlon club today and participated in a swim/run event. Did ok in the swim but was left pretty buggered for the run. Pretty sure this will all improve once I get back into training again seriously.

Looking forward to heading back up to Brisbane-town but also wary about final exams and the need to become a super study-hermit.  Hope the new year is treating everyone else well!

I am a transient post-whore

Ok, everyone, do not tell this to my mother, but I just realised I've lost 5kg while I've been over here. WTF? Ok, so it's probably mostly the result of not going to the gym, but still, 5kg? That's not fair.

Guys! Guys! I has a Swedish lulz!

So, it was late at night and I was walking to the train station after a swim at a local pool. First time I've exercised in, if I'm being honest, about 2.5 months.... Anyway, as I walked along the path I came to a fork in the road, a triangular roundabout of the footpath. Seeing the footpath I wanted to take directly across the way I, all-terrain Matt that I am, decided to traverse it instead of simply walking around. Feeling rather chuffed about the 30 seconds I was saving from my journey, something odd happened.
"That's funny, the ground seems to be cracking beneath my....... SH*T! SH!T!! SH*T!!! SH!T!!!!

And that's how I (narrowly) avoided going for a swim in the frozen over pond after my swim in the pool. A very near miss in fact. Stockholm has had an unseasonably warm week with temperatures of +1 and +2. I think I was very lucky. The whole thing was also very funny, but I'm pretty sure no one was there to see it. I did meet a lady afterwards after she had dropped her bag and I went chasing after a receipt that had fallen down. She shouted that it wasn't important but it had blown away the first time I went to pick it up and I'd be damned if I was going to let it get away a from me again. I fetched it, she said she understood the situation I was in having had the paper blow away from me once (i.e. how a worthless piece of paper suddenly became very important), and we chatted the rest of the way. Turns out she had been an international research student at the Karolinska Institutet 11 years ago and had made the move to the Stockholm for good.

All in all a very pleasant night. I also seemed to have forgotten (and now realised I have sorely missed) what an appetite exercise brings on.

Update

I'm not posting very regularly, I know. The truth is though, that I spend a lot of time at the lab while I'm here in Stockholm which is both a good and a bad thing. A bad thing because technically I'm meant to be getting out and seeing things and doing things, but a good thing because it means I'm doing the research thing properly.

And really, there isn't too much I really want to do in Stockholm, I'm enjoying just being here and walking to the train station in the snow and talking about current affairs in Sweden to Swedish people and, not least, having a research project that's my own and having my opinion on other people's research taken seriously and received gratefully. I like that I'm not just in this city to be able to say that I've been here, but that I'm here doing something and that that something is worthwhile and important. It's pretty cool, makes me feel all grown up and accomplished. :D

Yesterday there was a placenta meeting where I got to do a 30 or so minute presentation on the background to my research, my proposed methods, and how I was going so far. It went really well, and it was excellent exprience because there were postdoctorates, professors and obstetrician/gynaecologists in the audience which is exactly the kinda audience I want experience presenting too. I also think it's the kind of thing I can put on a CV since even presenting a poster at a research conference is CV material.

Only downside is I'm a little bit lonely. The lab here is really great, full of friendly people and I get along well with everybody... but my accommodatin isn't nearly as social as I'd hoped since all the rooms are self-contained. I guess it's ok though, just means I busy myself with other things.


This whole thing also makes me think that, yeah, I do want to do a Masters, and then a PhD, and I want to involve research in my clinical practice, and I want to become an expert, and I want to give lectures in my field and be involved in designing curriculums for medical schooling and postgraduate training. I always get kinda scared when I think like this though, ambitions like expectations are kinda scary.

Things about Sweden

A double entry post, but only because the posts aren't so related. Sorry for clogging up pages >.>

  • Swedish people love dogs. Seriously. If Stockholm were Brisbane, you might expect to see dogs in the Myer Centre, on the bus, on the train, just about anywhere save in restaurants.
  • The Swedes really like music from the 80s but otherwise pubbing and clubbing in Stockholm is much the same as in Australia.
  • You get over 400 days maternity/paternity leave (it must be split) in Sweden.
  • Stockholm is so incredibly beautiful because it has a rule against skyscrapers in the city and, not having been in any major wars, the city is beautifully preserved.
  • Sweden is responsible for this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw and makes absolutely no apologies for it. Also this, which is just amazing anyway http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcv3v6XfEvM. And this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4_-Ha-KsSY and I could go on and on but I won't.
  • In the North of Sweden, in the Wintertime, there is no sunlight but there is snow, and it lights up everything. Seriously.
  • Swedish literature is awesome, but more about this once I've read through more of it
  • Also, this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Diaries

Edit: Not Sweden related but the tuna pesto pasta bake with cherry tomoatoes I made tonight was at least three kinds of delicious even if it was really simple.

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Laboratorier

So, I want to make a post about where I'm spending my time in Sweden, that is in a research laboratory. I'm not sure if it'll be interesting to the friendslist but in anycase it'll be good for my own reflections when I get back home.

Sweden happened purely by chance. I was talking with a Professor of Allergy in a children's allergy clinic one morning and we were discussing the differences in healthcare, comparing Australia to Scandinavia. She mentioned she had contacts at this top research facility called the Karolinska Institutet and said she'd be more than happy to link me up with the people there. At this point I was fairly undecided about most everything, much as I am now, but Sweden sounded like a fantastic place to visit and I've felt for a while that tourist trips to a country are completely different from what it's like to live and work in a city. I hadn't really thought much about research but, like most things, I was interested in it and very keen to get a bigger focus. Sweden seemed to tick all the boxes, it still does in fact, many more boxes than I would have thought in the beginning.

It makes up nearly 100% of my work for honours, it is teaching me basic laboratory technique, it's introducing me to research in a fashion unlike much else I'd be able to get anywhere else - developing an understanding of the background, critically analysing the subject matter, designing my own project on the back of this, doing the experiments, learning the techniques, and eventually, presenting the results. Not to mention the opportunity to spend time in a dedicated research facility of the highest standard (only medical university in the world top 10 outside of the states), get to know professional researchers, and hear and get to comment on other people's presentations on an almost thrice weekly basis. My supervisor is very highly regarded and is on the committee that selects who wins the Nobel prize for medicine. My other supervisor back in Australia, who through this project I've come to get to know, is similarly impressive. In response to an email describing my first days and asking about how her conference in Singapore went she mentioned how she was no president of the Asia Pacific region for Allergy and Immunology. Connections count in medicine and I have a lot to be grateful for through this project.

The laboratory is a pretty terrific place to work, just about everyone is friendly and genuinely interested and concerened for your well-being. I don't know if this is Sweden or whether I just lucked out lab wise or, more likely, some combination. My direct supervisor (not the nobel prize committee one) is a postdoc (afer PhD) and has been dedicating huge amounts of time towards teaching me lab techniques. Which I'm hugely grateful for but, and I suppose this is similar to most attachments I start anyway, it's an awful lot of learning to be processing in very short amount of time. She's very approachable though, and a good teacher, but we're covering a lot. It's lucky I like basic science because the theory behind many of the techniques is pretty complicated.

The basic science, by the way, behind the research, is kind of fascinating. It's around something called epigenetics which is changes in the structure of DNA that are inherited BUT distint from the actual DNA sequence or code. If you think of the human genome like a massive book and DNA being like the letters, this is almost like where things are underlined or put into italics or else (the opposite) with a line struckthrough... and it's inherited from one generation to the next AND it's reversible AND it's influenced by environmental factors like cigarette smoking. Specifically my research is on a stress hormone and how it changes the genetic expression of receptors and enzyme in the placenta.

Which is cool, cause it means I get to chop up placentas and put tiny pieces into tubes and plastic slips for DNA analysis... amongst other cool things. These things do need to be pretty exact, though. When people say such and such is not an exact science, what I'm doing is what they're comparing it to. Exactness to the microlitre (1/1000th of a millilitre). I'm feeling not so bad about this though because the curves on the graphs displayed by the computer analysing my samples (read this twice), were "better than I dared to hope for", according to the postdoc student. Given I haven't really used a pipette before (device that draws up tiny amounts of liquid used for transferring between tubes), she was encouraged by my results. So that's nice. That being said, I'm still completely lost 30 seconds into most of her explanations so..... I've got plenty of learning to do.

The thing that comes of all of this, especially the connections bit, is do I want to really grap this opportunity with both hands and start building a CV that will look attractive to those who decide on jobs for registrars (specialist apprentices). If I do, how far to I take that, do I move to Perth for example and see if I can use this experience to become a part of what an Allergist over there is doing. Sure, I'm fascinated and interested in immunology and allergy... but really, I fascinated and interested by most of medicine so..... do I jump on this because I mightn't be as well placed in other things and I like this as much as like anything at the moment?

The sensible approach for someone so junior in their career is to wait and see..... but next year is final year, where I do my internship will be important. Decisions, decisions.

Kink on tap

katrina_splat reccommended this kink on tap podcast and, the other day, I decided to give it a go. To be honest, I was less than impressed. While it was refreshing to hear people talk about topical issues from a viewpoint even more toward the left than my own, I couldn't help but be frustrated by the lack of sophistication of the podcast. Which, I think, really, is a big shame. When I say lack of sophistication I mean that the podcast was full of rants and soapbox moments, with an inexcusable number of personal attacks on Republicans and, seemingly, anyone who didn't share the homogenous viewpoints of those running the podcast. It was almost like listening to a bunch of high school students berate society. Basic social curtesies like not interrupting someone and waiting your turn were completely thrown out the window.

In one sense I suppose preaching to the choir doesn't create big problems and obviously a lot of people take solace in listening to people who share their point of view but in order to achieve change through social media I think you need to be a bit more professional. TV shows like Q&A and Insight do a really good job of this but so do a lot of podcasts and I was expecting this one would as well. Even if you are preaching to the choir you can still provide insightful and intelligent discussion on things like why the Tea Party movement has gained so much momentum so quickly and why people like Christine O'Donnel are able to relate to Americans so effectively instead of simply calling them crazy.

I'm not completely giving up on the podcast after listening only once, perhaps the previous podcast was a catharsis of sorts that the podcasters needed to get off their chests. The problem though, is that the guy running the show claims to have made huge differences to people lives. I really think if you're going to adopt that sort of position (which he does unabashedly) you need to incorporate a high degree of accountability into what you and your podcast is saying.

I am interested in hearing rebuttals to this argument because, as I was saying, I've only heard one episode. I think it's an interesting concept for lefties like us to have our opinions challenged from a point of view even further to the left than our own when so often the attacks come from the right. Hopefully this next podcast will do that for me.

Matt, meet Sweden.

It's a been a couple of days now in Sweden and still nothing on the blog front. My only reasons are that it's been pretty busy and jetlag makes me sleepy at 7pm. Leaves me a bit short on time when I get home at 6.

My Sweden journey began very early on Sunday morning, the plane touched down shortly after 6am. Good in a way since it meant I could manage some sleep on the plane but fragmented sleep isn't the best way to begin a full day. Anyway, after I got through customs and collected my luggage getting out of the airport was exciting.

Catching the bus into Stockholm was almost frustratingly easy. It was waiting for me right outside the door, I was kind of hoping for a foreign-country challenge but challenges can wait (I enjoy foreign-country challenges, there's something very satisfying about working something out for the first time). The motorway was pretty cool:
"Oh look, trees in Sweden are different!"
"And look, even rocks in Sweden are different!"
"Hang on a minute....", *concentrates hard* "Are we driving on the wrong side of the road?"
..... : o..... : D : D : D
"We are!" We are driving on the wrong side of the road.
Nevermind that I didn't realise this until 15 minutes into the journey. I was not expecting this at all 'cause I figured if Britain drove on the same side of the road to us then surely the rest of Europe did too. As exciting as this was at first though it has quickly become kinda difficult to the point that it's also kind of dangerous. I've gotten a lot better at learning to cross roads but I've got some way to go and, not for the first time in this country, it does make me feel a little bit like I'm 6 years old.

I got into Stockholm just before 8am and the city was pretty much like a ghost town. I still don't quite understand this, it was about what you might expect Brisbane city to look like at 6am on a Sunday. I found a Maccas that opened at 9am but that was pretty much it, the earliest things opened otherwise was 10am and most stores didn't open till 11! Can't even blame this on the sunrise because the sun was up by 7am. So whatever, I walked around in the cold for a while found a McDonalds, got some coffee and hash brown and read some Sookie Stackhouse on my laptop. I was planning to meet the person I'm renting a room from this morning but I was a bit early and given the general ghostly nature of the city I figured an early knock on the door mightn't be well received.

Transport to student accommodation where I'm renting my room was actually pretty simple and my landlord was there ready to meet me when I arrived which was nice. As was the room I'm renting. It's in one of the newer complexes and has a little kitchenette and an ensuite! Pretty much self-contained. I later found out it's the 'PhD student's complex', which means it's very quiet and that I never see anyone. I haven't met any of the people on my floor and I'll be surprised if I do meet any of them any time soon. Ah well, there's always the university for making friends.

Internet access is included in my rent so I'm messed around online for a bit before realising I was hungry and venturing out for food. My initial plan, knowing nothing of city was just to catch the train into central station and simply stumble upon a supermarket. This didn't turn out to be such a clever plan because, as one might expect in a city, there were really only convenience stores and the occassional express stores, which aren't the best place to be purchasing all the stuff you need to buy when you move in somewhere. In the end I gave up and just bought a couple of things in one of the express stores.

Monday saw my introduction to the laboratory but I'll leave that for another post. In afternoon I got clever and planned my shopping trip to a place called Lidl, which is bascially Aldi (a German competitor chain). My plan was to go back to my old style of student accommodation living which is to make enough dinner for two nights so I don't have to cook so often. Starting with the most basic of dishes and staple for male students across the globe - mince, pasta, vegetables and pasta sauce. My goodness you can not go wrong with that.

I'm getting a bit more settled now though, tonight I'm making tuna pasta with chilli and parsley and the plan is to tackle more and more ambitious dishes as my kitchenette becomes more comfortable. I only realised yesterday when I had every intention of reheating my leftover pasta that I have no microwave. This also makes no sense to me.... no microwave? Pasta tastes fine cold but this does limit my cook for 2 nights and reheat plan somewhat.

Wins for the trip so far:
  • Definitely mastered public transport in this town. Exciting because it's not that simple here, Bangkok was ridiculously easy but there are a lot of different lines in Stockholm.
  • Am getting pretty good at sticking to the right-hand side on footpaths and elevators, haven't been startled too much by speedy cyclists ringing their bells.
  • Experiencing snow for the first time and seeing a city transform through being coated with a blanket of snow AND having been dressed appropriately enough to enjoy it.
  • Incredibly cute tiny babies in winter jumpsuits. Seriously most adorable things ever!
  • How organised this country is. ZOMG. Recycling, trains, city design, transport, even the way the tea room is set up in the Lab!
Trip fails:
  • Essentially flying by the seat of my pants when I'm crossing the road. I normally think I'm ok with directions but I think the habits you form earliest in life are the most difficult to shake. So much thinking is required just to konw where to look for cars!
  • Feeling a little inadequate in response to how pretty everyone in the country seems to be. WTF Sweden?
  • Knowing zero Swedish. I now know hello (hej) and thank you (tack). I know other words but I wouldn't feel comfortable using them in conversation (especially when I'm yet to meet anyone who isn't fluent in English)

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Thought this was funny

At the end of year our medical school does a Med Revue, you guys have probably heard of the law revue at UQ. This video was shown:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vh8V9MhfCws

And this is the report on channel nine news if you can see it:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=10150282935365567