Monday, 19 September 2011

I will not make a sex related pun, I will not make a sex related pun, I will not make a sex related pun.

A lingering fog of self-inflicted tiredness (decided to watch a film into the early hours of the morn), coupled with the lethargy following an excessively unhealthy takeaway (when I say unhealthy, there are North Sea rig disasters that spewed less oil than some of that dubious meat), means I am not currently on top form. Then again, most of my posts as of late seem to be accompanied by excuses as imaginative as the average reality TV show executive, so I doubt it’ll bother you too much. The reason I’ve decided to undertake the mammoth task of regaling you with the tale of my recent endeavours as opposed to leaving them for a day unencumbered by maladies, is that I am in one of those rare procrastination fuelled moods that spurs me to disregard a week’s worth of missed work and instead, spout more inane bullshit on this sorry excuse for a blog.

To cut an excessively long story to a length that might almost be manageable, I shall abstain from filling you in on every goings on and shall focus on the points of importance. In other words, my abysmal memory prevents me from telling you the whole story. To think that me, Mr. Amazing Memory of all people, could forget the majority of the goings on of a week. My incompetence never ceases to amaze.

After a surprisingly uneventful journey, that is, one of the few in which I didn’t get hopelessly lost along the way, I arrived in the sleepy country town of Foxton, just outside of Cambridge. Wandering about the platform, I quickly found another guy who looked about as hopelessly lacking in bearings as I. We made our introductions and proceeded to follow, in a rather stalkerish fashion now that I think about it, a group of girls who looked to have some sort of heading. They eventually lead us close enough to the place, Villiers Park, that a quick phone call had us unpacked and ready to make awkward small talk in no time.

I must say, for a bunch of people looking to do a week’s course on cell biology and genetics, they weren’t half as bad as I thought they’d be. Admittedly, they could all be secret nerds such as me but it certainly didn’t come through in the following week’s worth of conversation. I don’t think you could ask for a more funny, balanced and jovial group. It’s just a shame that this fact did not make itself apparent until the final few days. Then again, I suppose with that curse upon us all that is Facebook; I’ll still be receiving their general inanities and indirect messages when my hair is grey and my face has all the smoothness of a deflated balloon.

The course content itself was top notch, albeit quite tiring. Early starts and late finishes with a lot to keep you busy in the precious few hours you did have to yourself meant that you barely had enough time to think about relaxing, let alone doing any.  The information that was dispensed to us was amazing; I’ve learnt more about the genetics and epigenetics of cancer and various other diseases, inherited and otherwise, than I could have ever hoped for. There were also a few outings which included a trip to the Sanger Institute, where they decode gene sequences , they also decoded 1/3 of the human genome, working in tandem with various other labs to complete the whole task which took a total of 13 years to complete. Amazing place filled with great minds. A similar thing could be said of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, which we visited a few days later. There I was privileged to undertake experiments in the full garb, look at Bacteriophages (bacteria infecting viruses) down an electron microscope and model proteins on a PC in 3D.

All in all it was a very valuable trip, one that reconfirmed my wish to pursue a career in science. One speaker at the Sanger Institute who is attempting to compile a database of proteins and their families spoke about how when he figures out things about a protein, such as their structure, he is the only man alive, ever, to know that information. I want that someday too. I am now resolute in my decision to make a career of science even with my mediocre aptitude for it, rather than to fritter my life away in any other number of, most likely more suited, ways. What’s life without a little challenge, eh?

A biology joke that is bad enough to enter my personal repertoire to go with the mood,

Q: What is the fastest way to determine the sex of a chromosome?
A: Pull down its genes.

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