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Wilkommen to my blog - my name is Karin Purshouse, and I'm a doctor in the UK. If you're looking for ramblings on life as a junior doctor, my attempts to dual-moonlight as a scientist and balancing all that madness with a life, you've come to the right place. I'm currently a doctor/research trainee in oncology after spending a year doing research in the USA. All original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Then Came The Morning (Said the Scientist)

A New Hampshire morning...
... celebrated with snow angels - surprisingly tricky in deep snow
I have always been a morning person.  I am one of those weirdos who basically never sets an alarm because, barring disasters, I will always wake up early.  Perhaps it's my body giving me a metaphor for life; that every day is new and something to look forward to, or that days should be enjoyed in their entirety.  (If only it were a metaphor for me being early, or at least on time.  Neither of which are my strong points).  Maybe that's why some of my favourite songs are about mornings - Early in the Morning (James Vincent McMorrow), Saturday Morning (The Eels), Dawn (from P+P - Jean-Yves Thibaudet) and of course, if you're ready with a bit of air guitar, Beautiful Day (U2).  Friends from teenage times will remember that throughout the Maroon 5 music phase that swept our high school years, Sunday Morning was my favourite song - OH I've just put it on; SO WONDERFUL!  I've started listening to an awesome Brooklyn-based country band called The Lone Bellow, from whose album I've borrowed the title of this blog post (which in fairness could be interpreted as sad - but somehow manages to be uplifting!).  Even my favourite composer, Max Bruch, has some wonderful Morgenlieder which soothe and uplift the heart.

Food of kings - simple, but effective.
I am trying to translate this approach to mornings to the laboratory - I started writing this blog post when some of my 'science' started going right, but then stopped because I didn't want to jinx it.  Much like using the 'q' word in hospital ('quiet'), saying 'lab stuff is working' is a sure-fire way to ensure the good times come to a swift end.  I was getting incredibly frustrated a few weeks ago, and frankly disheartened, by the fact that nothing was working.  This is the lot of the scientist, and you're probably bored, dear blog reader, of hearing me whine about it.  But Science is not so much a Science as an Art, and therefore the more you get stuck in, the more variables and variants there are, and the more creative you can be with it.  Perhaps that's why so many scientists are keen on art and music - we're really creative types, just with pipettes rather than paintbrushes.  I miss my paintbrushes though - they didn't make the temporary emigration cut :(!  Fortunately I have my violin here - but then I don't know what I'd do without her.

My research project here is to do with brain tumours - gliomas.  A hugely under researched area in comparison to cancers of the lung, breast and colon to name but a few, it attracts a disproportionately small amount of funding relative to the number of people who develop brain tumours.  I have cared for a number of patients with brain tumours - a horrible disease with limited and frankly vintage treatment options.  I am trying to develop a new brain tumour cell line by incorporating a well-known but poorly understood genetic mutation into brain cells.  The aim is to better understand the impact of the mutation, with the long term aim of developing new therapeutics.  Easy!

The biggest challenge with gene-based research like this is that we know so much and yet so little.  The human genome project was published in 2001, but we still don't really know what to do with this wealth of knowledge.  I'm currently trying to take advantage of DNA's natural ability to fix itself and the impact this has on the strength of the bonds between the two strands of DNA in this area to work out which of my cells has been clever enough to take up my mutation.  But this technology is extremely new - even the ability to sequence DNA in affordable fashion is pretty radical.

...and the flip side... but a justified statement.
Life is far too short to hold grudges, so as with most things, I am quick to forgive science its transgressions when it doesn't play the game - just an extra challenge to work around.  And it's fun working out why not when it's not.  And certainly makes traipsing to work in anything up to -18C with light, glittery snow falling even though it's March entirely worthwhile.  I attach some photos from a wee trip we made this weekend up to New Hampshire - good food, good friends, good hiking, good for the soul.  An excellent way to soothe any science or life stressors - which I still think I have been remarkably lucky with. Case in point: I discovered yesterday I will be homeless here in a couple of months - a problem that was solved within 12 hours thanks to generous offers of spare rooms.  See?  This is why overall I refuse to see people as anything other than wonderful and good.  

When I think back, many of my happiest and most significant memories are mornings.  Surely that's the true definition of a morning person?  But now I must insist.  Pick any of the above, crank it up to full volume, and if you're not either soothed or dancing around your room like an idiot you're doing it wrong.  Because no morning songs are ever sad, and I'm rooting for joy all round right now!

(And please could y'all not have any more major car crashes in my absence. Or minor ones for that matter.  Practically gave me a heart attack, and I'm not licensed to do anything about that over here).  

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