This is who you're reading about

My photo
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.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

An American Dissertation

Oh Canada. Weirdly familiar.  The power of
the Commonwealth! Can I move here?
I alluded to the general madness of my current life in my last blog post.  As it turns out, I don't think I've ever enjoyed such a potentially insane period of time.  Heaven knows I should be good at managing stressful life junctures by now, so here's my recipe for dissertation writing, KRP style.

Trius Winery.
1) Obviously start early and keep it social.  I knew some of my results would come perilously close to my submission date, so enjoyed many a coffee shop-based writing session (this is also where it comes in handy having friends who do humanities/arts subjects and are thus tres skilled at sitting and writing) to get everything else a little more ready.

2) Write a blog.  I had never considered that writing this blog might aid and ease my academic writing until a friend pointed this out to me, but it is true that flinging down those all-important (and usually painfully impossible) first words down has not been so bad.  Perhaps my ramblings here, there and wherever are facilitating my development more than I knew!
I can't really think of the words because none are sufficient.
Niagara Falls as seen from the Canadian side. 

3) Move house.  Multiple times.  With lovely friends.  It's going to end up being four times in two weeks, and to my utter surprise, it's been an absolute blast getting to move from one bunch of friends to the next.

B-B-Buffalo - the most instant 'love'
I've had for any city in the US. 
4) Take a trip.  A bunch of us took ourselves off for the long Memorial weekend to the wilds of Upstate New York with a brief meander across to Canada to visit a reasonably famous waterfall.  Time with the clean woodland air, friends, friends' friends, friends' families...  Goofing around and chilling out in equal measure (although this bunch of twenty-and thirty-something year olds successfully shook a Buffalo tail feather until dawn - showing the kids how it's done) has been an excellent way to clear the cobwebs.  I write this on my friends' cabin deck with the rustling of the trees and undefinable smell of the forest around me; if that doesn't get the dissertation juices flowing, I'm not sure what will.  Further confirmation that I am a country bumpkin at heart; maybe when I grow up I'll build my own cabin in the woods.

5) Yummy food (made somewhat more challenging by 3) but not impossible).  And I tried my first s'more!
Two words: Blueberry Wheat.

Cabin in the Woods!
6) Keep sadness at bay!  I'm in the midst of saying goodbye to some absolutely legendary friends - fortunately one of whom is moving to the end of a rather infamous British bus route, and others I hope to catch up with before I leave these shores or back in Europe.  But I am embracing these as 'auf wiedersehen' moments rather than 'goodbyes'.

I could always do with making my life a little quieter, but that's hard to do, especially when I only have 6 weeks or so of this little life I've made here left.  Of course I am anticipating a few late nights with my laptop this week, but as Papa P (and Great Caesar too, as it turns out) would say, 'This too shall pass'.  Life is being all too good to me at the moment :) - particularly if Charlotte and Gary (my cell clones) have survived the weekend and the final dissertation push comes off without additional dramas.

Plus I successfully drove a tractor for the first time!  Ticking things off the American bucket list all over the place.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

This is NOT panicking

It's approaching a time, dear blog reader, where I could totally start panicking about the insanity of my current existence:
.... times a zillion. 
  • One dissertation due in three weeks. Yikes. 
  • A lot of experiments (like, a LOT.  Single cell cloning is enough to drive anyone crazy, let alone several thousand of them)
  • Moving house THRICE within a fortnight, kicking off next week. Many thanks again to those who have offered sofas and spare rooms...
  • One trip north of the border with friends amongst all of that lot, plus a continuation of various lovely visitors!
  • Plotting what to do with myself State-side during the first two weeks in July (that's a First World Problems type concern though).  As long as it involves fresh air, the sea and the odd mountain, I'm happy.  
  • Lots of lovely Open Access-y stuff - which in fairness is mostly a lot of writing (which is like a fun detour from dissertation writing for me!), but most excitingly Fulbright are exploring open access things, which has got me hopping with happiness, and makes all the additional work very worthwhile.
  • Planning my move back to the UK
    • plotting social adventures before work swallows me up again - which is just LOVELY. Music, camping and sea-venturing are all on the schedule and I can't wait.  
    • actually having to restart work and life - including finding somewhere to live, remembering how to be a doctor (in the context of obviously still having no rota, or, indeed, clue as to which hospital or what specialty I'll be starting on), acquiring a mode of transport, acquiring friends and a life...! Basically starting again, again. Eep. 
    • and finally, a significant amount of anxiety about going back more generally, and whatever ghosts I have to contend with on my return to the tiny island. Double eep.
-...with all of the above made a little more interesting by the fact that I'm in the middle of a six-month long pay drought.  The next time I'll get paid is the end of August.  Plonk a few tuition fees and a remigration into the equation - fun times.  Fortunately I'm a frugal little so-and-so and if I was bothered about money I certainly wouldn't have gone into research.  Just kind of hilarious as all my stuff is starting to fall apart/doesn't fit and I have precisely no time and limited funds to replace them!  Just as well that I have those German efficiency genes :)
Still going strong!

But EXCELLENT things to be thankful for amidst that utter chaos:
  • Music is free and lots of it has been happening of late as a post-lab calming measure.  Recent highlight - Gliere, a composer I've just been introduced to (interestingly also of German/Polish ancestry).  A neat but wonderful little double-stopping challenge = the 3rd (Andante) of his 12 violin duets!
  • Apparently food can also be free - or perhaps I just look haggard and emaciated (which could be true given I've lost nearly a stone in weight somehow in the last three months - the only person surely to achieve this from moving TO America) - over four days last week I was gifted the following as freebies: a muffin, a cookie, two sandwiches, kettle chips and coffee - all in normal coffee shops!  If I work out my secret I'll let you know (although in one case it was due to being served by the loveliest Geordie lady.  In New Haven, Connecticut, USA.  I nearly dropped my purse in shock when I heard her accent!).  
  • Despite the fact my knee is well and truly buggered atm (self-diagnosing tells me it's ilio-tib band syndrome - I'm doing that annoying thing that doctors do of trying some self-designed physio til I'm back with the lovely NHS to do it properly) it is just wonderfully warm here, so although running is out for now :(, the walk to work is an absolute delight.  And the knee thing gives me a reason to start swimming again, and for some reason I can still play squash, so really it's happy days.
  • If you've survived a New England winter, the colours of Spring/Summer are just mind-blowing.  It's more like Fall in reverse than true Spring, but the explosion of colours feels just that - an explosion.
  • I am SO PROUD of what various friends have been doing the last few weeks.  Some are professional achievements, the vast majority are personal battles and triumphs - never the sort of thing to 'hit the headlines', and yet I always find them the most inspiring. 
But frankly when you're up to your ears in work I think it's sometimes important just to be thankful for the simple things.  Lab-wise, it's the beautiful red-glowing astrocytes that you have been cooking for three months finally coming to fruition.  Life-wise, it's enjoying a glass of wine with friends, embracing having your British accent heckled for only a short time longer, exploring life's quirks in any number of coffee house gardens, sunny work-day lunchtimes and finding quieter moments with a book or a sketchpad.  Life is so FULL (but I'm looking forward to a few more of the quieter moments when some of the Panic List is done!)!

With the humidity rising here, my long blonde locks are embracing hair-dryer freedom (it was too cold during the winter to go outside with wet hair, as my hair would literally snap off) and responding with characteristic crazy waves - I'm looking more like the crazy scientist every day.  In contrast, I recently realised in a moment of insomnia that I miss the sound of rain when going to sleep. It's strange what you miss about home!