Phoebe's PhD

A Day in the Life of a PhD Student

The SRI Annual Meeting 2017

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March began with the arrival of my very expensive but hopefully science-saving cDNA amplification kit that I needed in order to amplify my samples for the sequencing project. This was a kit recommended by Edinburgh Genomics as it uses a reliable reverse transcription enzyme that synthesises cDNA across a broad range of RNA input concentrations in an unbiased manner. And for this reason it was very expensive… and for this reason I was quite nervous about running the protocol!

However I just had to approach the task in a sensible and calm manner. I took a day to read and re-read the protocol and gather everything I would need, making sure I was completely ready and comfortable with the methods. I did a trial run with 5 samples so that I could familiarise myself with the protocol and iron out any tricky areas and then I ran the remaining 25 samples the following day. Because the quality of these samples was of utmost importance I had two work areas: a pre- and post-amplification area and these were cleaned thoroughly with 70% ethanol then RNase Zap and DNAOFF prior to starting. I had to make sure that nothing would ruin these as I only had one shot.

I guarantee you are feeling tense reading this but believe me when I say this was the most nervous I have ever been whilst carrying out an experiment and I don’t fancy doing it again! However all my care payed off as I managed to successfully amplify more than sufficient concentrations of cDNA with quality scores that exceeded the recommended value.

And with that the samples were finally ready to send to Edinburgh Genomics… It felt amazing to drop them off in the lab and now I all I have to do is wait for the results! VERY EXCITING!

After that I was lucky enough to take a trip out to Orlando, Florida where the Society for Reproductive Investigation’s 64th Annual Meeting was taking place. This was my first international conference and my first international flight and although I was really nervous I can say I thoroughly enjoyed both: the plane journey was made shorter by the fact that I could watch movies I had missed in the cinema including ‘Inferno’, ‘Jackie’, ‘The Arrival’ and ‘Dr Strange’ and that we were given free food and drinks throughout; and the conference was in a beautiful hotel and jammed full of interesting talks, fun social networking events and many many friendly and intelligent scientists!

I attended the meeting with my Supervisor Professor Philippa Saunders, Mentor Dr Doug Gibson and former PhD student and lab bestie Dr Bianca DeLeo and it was fab to have their support throughout. I gave a talk during the endometrial satellite session which was 25 minutes long and based on the work I have done to investigate pericyte dynamics during endometrial repair and remodelling. It was a nerve wracking experience but was very well received and I got a lot of questions from the audience which sparked later discussions throughout the rest of the conference. I got to know many important people and they were all offering advice, ideas and encouragement which has definitely boosted my confidence not only in my work but also in myself.

I also had a poster presentation and was lucky enough to have people to chat with during the entire hour and a half session, once again gathering some interesting ideas to move the work forward. All four days of the conference were highly enjoyable and it was a really valuable experience.

As a treat after all the hard work we spent an afternoon in Universal Studios ‘Islands of Adventure’ which comprises of rides and rollercoasters themed around favourite movies including Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, King Kong and Marvel superheros. We drank butterbeer and looked at the Hogwarts Castle, survived a Velociraptor attack, got absolutely soaked on a ‘Hilariously wet’ log flume ride, screamed our lungs out on the Hulk rollercaster and ended the day eating some delicious Mexican food. It was a really great end to the trip and the perfect way to let our hair down!

Other highlights included an absolutely delicious seafood meal with the group and friends, a day relaxing by the pool under gorgeous 26C sun and of course the obligatory sunburn courtesy of my pale and useless Scottish skin!!!

Now I am back in the country and have thrown myself back into the lab trying to find my feet for the next set of laboratory work and my PhD project, after first struggling with jetlag for 3 days (didn’t think it would happen to me but not as special as I thought haha). The conference has given me a chance to reflect on my progress to date and I am keen to get on with the next stage.

I hope you are all presenting your work to the scientific community, and if you aren’t I really encourage you to get it out there. You honestly will learn so much from other clever scientists!

Thanks for reading!

Until next time.

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