12 December 2008

My virus is apparently superior to my immune system

I am now on Day 8 of this neverending cold/flu. I have transitioned (for better or worse) from my-head-is-exploding to I-can't-stop-coughing. And I'm tired all the time. If I can make it through my Cell final on Monday and bang out my take-home final for Core II (aka electrophysiology aka kill myself), everything will be okay. 

The lab has been exciting lately. The causality study I'm working on got the green light to go from behavioral testing to the scanner (yay!). Subjects will have the unenviable task of watching my exhilarating stimuli for 20 minutes while being bombarded with loud noises. Sorry. We did some preliminary analyses for the other study on motion processing and got brain activation. Yay! Lit up brains are probably the coolest thing in the world. Diffusion tensor imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation are also very cool -- variations on a theme, somewhat. Anyway, this all makes me sad that I am leaving the lab at this high point in awesomeness. Hopefully, my next rotation will be even better.

Finally, I think I have decided to teach myself Matlab. It seems inevitable and it is something that will likely make this whole getting-a-PhD much easier. I now regret selling the Matlab book I bought for O'Connor's class and never opened...

06 December 2008


I've been sleeping most of the last two days, since I seem to have fallen prey either to a bad cold or the flu. As an unfortunate result, I'm going to be missing Kate and Laura's holiday party tonight. And I was looking forward to putting on a dress... :(

However, I am very happy that for the first time since Brian and I moved into our apartment, our upstairs neighbors did not have a party on Friday night. Yay for some semblance of peace and quiet.

Next week, I have 8.5 hours of faculty talks to listen to. I've already decided who I'm going to do my next rotation with, so this should be sufficiently mind-numbing. Perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised.

One last thing: RIP H.M. Cognitive neuroscience and psychology will forever be indebted to you.

30 November 2008

Namby pamby

Brian and I went down to Atlantic City on Saturday night to gamble and watch the finalists from Last Comic Standing. As per usual, I lost money ($150) whereas Brian made money ($250). Perhaps he should be my designated gambler. We were a little late to the show and missed the first comedian, Louis Ramey, which makes me sad because he's one (if not) the best from the show. Jeff Dye showed his inexperience during his performance, which was at times painful. Marcus didn't do enough impersonations, but he was my favorite by far. He picked out a guy named Randy from the audience who apparently had a pedophile 'stache and kept referring to him throughout the night -- and then teabagged him with the microphone. Sooo basically that was the best part. Eliza went on later, but largely recited jokes from the show. Womp womp.

Today, Audrey had her regional championships for Irish dance. It is waaaay more stressful to be watching than it is to be dancing. I never got so emotional when I was the one on stage. Unfortunately, she didn't make it to the final round, which is complete bullshit. She's a total trooper though and didn't let it get to her. I can't express how proud I am of her. I know she'll make it to world's one day.

Anyway, tomorrow is my journal club presentation. This pretty much all hinges on whether or not Jon Raper decides my paper is crap. Let's hope he's cool with it and doesn't inquisitively berate me as he is apt to doing...

28 November 2008


I didn't go to class on Wednesday, so I still have no idea how I did on my last Cell 600 exam. I'm not too concerned, but I do wish they would post the grades online.

Oh, and the long Thanksgiving weekend? More like Lindsay cooks a lot, then spends hours and hours on a journal club presentation that will inevitably be ripped to shreds by Jon Raper. Then add in that I've been extremely fatigued for seemingly no reason for the last few days.

A + B + C = :(

26 November 2008

Rap Cats

Story the First:

You may be familiar with that irritating song, "Whatever You Like" by T.I. (See below if not.) I have been mishearing the beginning of the chorus for this song since it came out, and quite frankly I like my version better. The artist claims the lyrics are "Stacks on deck, Patron on ice..." Anyway, I've been hearing it as "Snacks on me...," as if he has so much money, he can pay for all the snacks you want. Twizzlers? No problem. Tortilla chips? You got it. I said snacks on me.

Story the Second:

I was on my way to lab, and I round the corner and there's this tabby cat meowing at me. It had a collar and tags, so I figured it was one of the lost cats that people had put up signs about in my neighborhood. I had Brian get some treats so we could lure it towards us to put in the kitty carrier. Brian called the number and it turns out that Chairman Mao (a name which could only be better if it were actually Chairman Meow), is apparently an outdoor cat. In Philadelphia. Okay. Evidently I'm not the only person to make this mistake though -- the owner posted signs that the cat isn't lost, sorry it meows a lot, etc. I think the cat likes us though, because it follows us around when we're outside. It probably just wants more treats.

Story the Third:

Caught up with my good friends from high school (Lauren, Leigh Anne, Colleen, Melissa aka Jone, Ian, and Nick) at Kildare's last night. So weird. Lots of reminiscing, too many drinks, and a long bus ride back from 3rd St to 46th. Definitely a great night.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I have to cook everything for the family -- this is not a good time to be sick.

21 November 2008

Late to the party

Hey, maybe I should do one of these, too. I'm going to attempt to describe my adventures in obtaining a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Here's what you can expect:
  • 2 years of complaining about classes
  • 1 semester of complaining about TA-ing
  • Approximately 3 years of complaining about how my thesis work is not going as well as I planned
As of right now, I'm about 3 months in. It has been difficult to say the least. I had never doubted myself or my own intelligence before grad school. I had also never spent 3 hours on an exam with 5 questions. And I had never realized how little I knew about experimental biology despite spending 4 years studying it at Drexel.

Although I studied biology at Drexel, I spent the better part of 3 years working in a developmental psychology lab at Monell. As a result of these two experiences, I have landed somewhere in the middle at cognitive/behavioral neuroscience. (Though I will admit, my heart still goes a-flutter when I read a great molecular biology paper. I'm not sure how to reconcile this just yet.) Anyway, I've set out to understand how we think about things. (Vague enough?)

So here's how things stand now. I'm taking two of my three required classes for the program. The first is Cell 600 and has largely been the bane of my existence. Mostly, I have realized how much Drexel never taught me in the way of experimental biology. I could go on for ages about how Drexel's biology department is failing its students, but I digress... The other class is Core II and largely involves electrophysiology. I now know that I hate electrophysiology. Voltage-clamping and current traces make me want to hide in a closet. I have a feeling that this stems from my complete lack of understanding of electricity and circuits and physics in general. I'm also in a Journal Club, where each week students present papers from the speaker that will be talking later in the week (sort of like an advanced version of Senior Seminar). I picked a speaker that is as close to cognitive neuroscience as was available, and yet sadly so far away. He does single neuron recordings in monkeys to understand decision making processes. Interesting stuff, but the animal lover in me cringes at the thought of it.

I'm also doing my first lab rotation. I love my lab and the people in it. I'm lucky enough to be working under 3 postdocs on 2 different projects. It's been a true immersion in cognitive neuroscience and I'm loving every minute of it. Taking pictures of people's brains is awesome.  To be honest, this has been the only thing that has kept me sane during the semester. [A brief aside: WTF semesters last foreverrrr. Drexel quarter system, what?] 

This post is already entirely too long. Next time I will discuss rap music and saving cats.