A bear ecologist walks into a lab…

Science is one crazy magic show!

I sure feel like I am performing the best magic tricks in the world. If only science talks could be as insane as they are in my head, I would always end with:
\”And now, for the final act of this show, I will pull a bear out of a fly\’s butt!\”

If nothing, by the end of this PhD I will have taken \’pulling rabbits out of hats\’ trick to a whole other level. Take that, Houdini!
However, one must admit that carrying out science experiments, especially my shit science (literal shit, mainly), comes with a somewhat reduced dose of grace and consistency. And, unfortunately these days consistency is all a woman wants.
I have been running various tests to refine my extraction methods and set a reliable amplification, with the wild hope I can soon pack my gear and go collect a gazillion more fly samples in the field. The bears are out and about at the moment and I am missing it all, sweating in my massive yellow lab coat in an uncharacteristically hot England. Bugger off, jolly summer heat.

So, what I am asking is simple and everything in science works in a pretty logical way. It should be straight-forward. But noooo! The other day I almost started a fight with a purple machine because it just would not switch on. The note of the colour here is not a racist think, by the way. I just thought I\’d mention it because I hadn\’t had a purple enemy since those purple dragon-chickens in Golden Axe. (yaaaaas, vintage games!). \”Yes, I have checked all the cables were plugged in. And the plugs switched on, ya. Ah, come oooon… Yes, I did check that the USB was connected to the computer, I am not a total moron. But thanks for pointing it out, I wasn\’t feeling stupid enough when I came to you with that question…\”. Turns out you need to really shut that little door like your future as a mediocre magician depended on it. If you need me in the next few hours, I\’ll be in the garden diging a great big hole to bury my shame in…


Of course, not all of the struggle is that idiotic. What I am actually trying to do is design a small DNA sequence that binds to a specific region of the bear DNA and nothing else! That way, when I run a gel electrophoresis (a wobbly jelly that lets DNA strands travel across it and separates them according to size), I can detect bear presence because the strand of the specific size I designed found somewhere to bind and amplified. Makes sense? For all us new to this maze, I am preparing a post explaining it all in a way that is hopefully slightly more approachable than what I have been able to find out there and doesn\’t increasingly make you feel like a stupid little speck of dust as you battle you way down the lines of an incomprehensible science nerd-out. For now, just think of unique pieces of jigsaw puzzles that, if you have the right adjacent pieces, can fit perfectly into the picture, but if not, they as useful as a wind-up torch is to a penguin.

So I have been spending hours in the lab and still my method is not at a stage where I can confidently go frolic in the mountains, following bears. Damn, you science! Can\’t a woman get a consistent presence of bear DNA where there is supposed to be bear DNA and nothing-at-all-whatsoever on all the other samples? One needs to go frolic. The struggle is evident…
I mean, no one buys tickets to the show with a promo campaign like:
“Come and experience the fantastic Angeliki as she may or may not pull a bear out of a fly’s butt! Satisfaction not guaranteed – that shit ain’t easy! In the event of total failure of bear materialisation there will be no refunds, but we provide old, juicy tomatoes.”



I don’t sleep enough these days. Normal people get angry and irritated from lack of sleep. I get past the initial low-confidence, mini depression stage quite quickly, and then break into song, dance and some extra weird though processes. Yesterday I made up this really catchy tune – it went like this:
“Coffee, you need to save the daaaaaay
If you did that for meeeee, that would be okaaaaaay.”


Today I was in an especially bad mood as the tests didn\’t really work, once again. I haven\’t been this close to a verge of a meltdown since three years ago, when I completed a 3000-piece puzzle to find there was 1 piece missing. #FirstWorldProblems

I was so desperate, I got one of my supervisors to look through my data so far and see if there is anything he can think I could try before I have to scrap the whole thing and start fresh. Turns out I don\’t just occasionally feel stupid – I AM STUPID! I somehow missed an entire step of the process: diluting my primers (the \’puzzle pieces\’) to create what is called \’a working solution\’ (I know what it\’s called now – now that I know it exists…). So, all this time I have been baking fly cakes, using so much bakin powder, they raised and raised will I couldn\’t see the little chocolate chips in them. Wonderful. Just wonderful. Perhaps all my struggle is idiotic then! I feel particularly intelligent right now…


So, if anyone needs me in the next couple of months, me and my wounded ego will be hiding under the table with a set of crayons and little squeecky toys. And if shit-doctorship doesn\’t work our for me, I clearly have a bright future in the entertainment industry.

But let\’s get one thing straight: I am more than happy to feel super stupid today if that means I am closer to getting this right. So, new fly shit-cakes with adjusted dose of baking powder are in the oven as I am writing this. Cross your fingers for me!

What a morron…






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