Back into the fray!

Hey everyone! I’m back from Germany! It was super fun! First of all, Heidelberg is an adorable town nestled in some mountains in Germany. You should be able to see that from that top picture here. The conference I went to was at EMBL which is a giant laboratory tucked into the forest above Heidelberg. I hung out with my friends as soon as I landed in Heidelberg (adventures will soon be posted) and then spent the next few days being bussed back and forth between the town and the lab for the conference. The conference was awesome. All of the talks were full of innovation and cool science (pretty sure that excitement was the only thing that kept me awake in the face of the death jetlag) and I made a lot of fun international friends! After the conference, I spent one day frolicking in Heidelberg and the surrounding areas with some of the cool people I met at the conference (again with the adventures being posted soon!).

Some more pictures:

Another favorite German word of mine is schloss or castle. I visited the castle with my friends the first day I was there and it was stunning. I learned so much European history… Look forward to a post on the schloss definitely. :)
My last day there, my new found friend T and I went for an epic hike (involving us getting lost a lot) in the mountain next to Heidelberg. The trees were so interesting!

Anyway, now I am back in Colorado. I’m super jetlagged still but life is insane in lab. I have to prepare (read: do multiple experiments) to give a presentation in a few weeks and if I really want to graduate at some point, I have to come up with what will ultimately be the “story” for my thesis. There’s actually a lot to talk about regarding my feelings about graduate school right now so I think maybe that will be in its own post soon.

Random questions below:
How are you guys? Is there anything specific you want me to definitely mention in my Germany (or Boston or San Antonio) posts? Do you want to know my favorite German word (it’s tchüss! – it means bye!)? I’m super frustrated with science/lab right now. Does anyone have any advice for relaxing/getting through hard work times? In other news, I am super excited that Allegiant finally came out today (where was it on my 10 hr flight back from Germany last week?!). Is anyone else a fan of the Divergent trilogy?

In other news, my blog is 3 years old today!!!! How did this happen?!

The eye of the storm

Success! The cannolis, pizelles, and other Italian desserts made it safely back from Boston (despite getting teased by TSA about the fact that there is more than 3 oz of cream in the cannolis… :/). Yummmmmmmmm…

Hey all! I’m back from the first two of my three conferences, enjoying this little break before I head out to Heidelberg, Germany tomorrow for the third conference! Epic…

How have you guys been? I am all right, despite having a pretty major breakdown about science/life/careers/etc right before I left for the first conference (more on that when I get back from Germany). Both conferences turned out to be really fun.

First I was in San Antonio for SACNAS where I was one of three graduate students from the University of Colorado recruiting future grad students and students for our summer research program (SMART). SACNAS is awesome because it’s both a science conference (with talks and poster presentations etc) but also a huge celebration of all of the cultures that make up this country. It is just such a fun and supportive place to be (just what I needed after feeling so down the day before)! Plus I had a great time bonding with my fellow graduate students. They helped me finish the poster I presented in Boston (and will present in Heidelberg). It turned out really nicely so I am super grateful for their help!

This was from the Pow wow at SACNAS. So many beautiful outfits and dances. We got to dance too and it was awesome!
We got serenaded by a mariachi band while out at dinner in San Antonio!

After recruiting at SACNAS, I took off for Boston for the Salmonella conference! I ended up flying with a bunch of retired Texans who were heading to the east coast to watch the leaves turn. We bonded right away in line for the airplane and it made for a pretty funny experience. Upon arriving in Boston, I met up with my lab mate Titanium and my boss and we headed to the conference together. The conference was kind of intense… who knew there could be 5 days worth of talks (and posters) about Salmonella?! For the most part it was very interesting and exciting to learn about all the different ways people can go about studying such a vicious pathogen. I now feel inspired to build my own super team of scientists from all scientific backgrounds to try to answer some really hard question (let me know if you want to join… I’m going to make us matching T-shirts!). It was also fun because 1) there were people from all over the world attending the conference (new friends!!!!) and 2) Boston turned out to be a really fun city to explore! I can’t wait to share some of my adventures with you but for now I will leave you with these pictures.

My favorite of the random pianos around Boston. I played Heart and Soul on it. :)
Titanium with two of our new friends the last day in Boston! :)

And now I am off to Heidelberg for my final conference. I have been learning some German words/phrases (turns out German is a SUPER fun language to learn) while traveling to my other two conferences. How exciting! Also, I just got an e-mail from some friends over there who are going to pick me up as soon as I get to my hotel and take me exploring! I feel so lucky and excited for this opportunity but also nervous about traveling so far away (even though I just went to Paris) and terrified that I am going to get sick… Maybe I should go buy some Emergen-C….

Now it’s your turn: tell me anything! If you are unsure where to start, you can tell me about a time where you did a lot of traveling in your life. How did you keep from getting sick? How did you go about exploring where ever you were (eating at various restaurants, going on tours, walking around, etc)? What is your favorite activity to keep from getting bored on the airplane? :)

Next step: traveling!

A picture I took as we left France…

So… in addition to all the other craziness going on in my life right now, I am gearing up to go to not one, not two, but THREE consecutive conferences next week. First step is SACNAS, a conference for minority STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students that is near and dear to my heart. I went last year to recruit people for CU and I guess I did such a good job that they asked me to go back this again year! Yay! I am super excited about that! Also SACNAS is in San Antonio, TX this year and I have never been there… oooo new place! Then directly after that, I fly to Boston to attend a conference about Salmonella (for those of you that don’t know, that is what I am studying for my research project) with my friend Titanium and my boss. I have never attended a conference with my boss before so that should be fun. Also, a lot of big name Salmonella people should be there so it will be awesome to meet them and hopefully they can help me with the still mysterious parts of my project. After all of that, I fly back to Colorado for ~ 48 hours before taking off to go to Heidelberg, Germany (!!!!) for a conference about new techniques in microbiology. It is going to be awesome because there will be scientists from all over the world attending this conference! I feel very lucky/excited that I get to go to Europe twice in one year but I am also super nervous because I know absolutely NO German. At least in France, I could read signs and talk to people in my sub par/super slow/sometimes Spanish French. So that will be interesting…. Seeing how I got slightly culture shocked upon landing in France, I’ve bookended my trip to Germany with people that I know in the hopes that that should ease the transition to visiting another new country.

Now it’s your turn! Have you been to/lived in San Antonio, Boston, or Heidelberg? What should I definitely check out/eat/do there? Any travel tips for traveling with a poster roll as my second carryon (thrilling…)?

In other news, what have you guys been reading lately? I just finished Patrick Ness’ newest young adult book More Than This and I am still reeling from the crazy ending! Whoa!

PS – Patrick Ness is one of my favorite authors if you’re looking for a new set of books to read…

You are delaying the passage of this train!

So last week before I found out about my grant, I wrote a huge post about some things that have been on my mind since we returned from France. It was epically long so I chopped it down into smaller tidbits. Today’s post is about the Paris metro system!

It’s no secret that public transportation in the US is not amazing. Sure, big cities seem to have their act together but as a whole, it’s really hard to get around most places without a car. I know because I went through college, my year in NM, and my first year of grad school before I finally got a car… Anyway, the metro system in Paris is excellent and really easy to use. One metro pass will put you on any of the metro lines throughout the city (transfers included) or on a bus or on a tram (kind of like an above ground subway). Depending on the kind of ticket you bought, the ticket could also put you on one of the express trains that go just outside Paris to the airport, Versailles, etc. Inside each metro station, the lines that stop there are diagrammed according to direction and the stops. For example, let’s pretend you wanted to take the Chicken line west across the US. You would follow the signs for Chicken San Francisco (because that’s where the Chicken line ends up) and then right at the entrance for the Chicken San Francisco Line would be a diagram of all the stops between your current station and San Francisco. That way, if you weren’t sure if you wanted Chicken San Francisco or Chicken New York City, you could look at the stops and determine if you were going in the right direction. So easy!

I actually found riding the metro a lot of fun (I think I am weird…). I loved sitting in the car jamming to Rodrigo y Gabriela on my iPhone and watching the passengers get on and get off (and sometimes risk getting squished in the doors right as they were closing). It was fun with Cobalt too – I planned all the metro trips for everywhere we wanted to go and it worked out really nicely most of the time. Also, I also loved the variety of passes available for the metro. You could buy just one ticket, a pack of ten, or one of the fancier passes. Shown here is a picture of the two passes Cobalt and I had. He got the Paris Visite pass, which is slightly expensive but worth it if you’re going to only be in Paris for 5 days or less and if you’re going to be doing a lot of traveling on the metro (you can choose 3 or 5 days). I got the Navigo Découverte pass, which is good for 7 days and is slightly more of a pain to get (I had to speak French to the guy in the information booth to ask for my pass, I had to get my picture taken for it, and I had to pay for the smart card, which you just wave over the sensor). However, it turns out to be slightly cheaper than the Visite pass and (best part) it’s rechargable. So when I go back, I can just recharge my pass and voila! Metro time! :D Both passes are modifiable (for example, do you want to just ride the metro in Paris or do you want to also be able to go outside of Paris without buying another ticket?) and really easy to use. Once I got my Navigo Découverte pass and could stop using tickets, I was totally hooked. Seriously, I didn’t have to stress out about running out of tickets and I got to hear the machines ding brightly upon sensing my smart card sensor in my pass which never failed to make me smile. I was sad to put the pass away when we got back to the US… It’s true that, as a student at CU, I actually have a smart card bus pass for getting around Boulder and Denver too but for some reason it’s just not the same… (I should note though that the title of my post comes from the airport train here in Denver, not in Paris).

What are you guys up to right now? Anything you want me to talk about? Honestly, I have so much I could say but I am at a loss as to where to start…

We’re back!!!!

Potassium and Cobalt visiting the palace of Versailles! (Travelers note: we went on a Wednesday and it was not crowded at all but I’ve heard the weekends are horrible…)

We are back from our trip to Paris! Yay regular posts again! But wow… where do I even begin? The trip was amazing and life changing! I met a bunch of wonderful scientists during the work part of my trip. We drank a lot of espresso together; explored Paris together; and talked about life, America vs. other countries, food, science, data analysis, etc. Being able to meet so many scientists from all of the world was definitely a great experience for me and my career and it gave me even more possible options for what to do with this PhD of mine whenever I finish. Also, the class I took about a new data analysis program seems promising too. I sat down with one of the developers after the class and we went through various examples of all the data I have to analyze and worked out some plans of attack. That was a really incredible experience for me because I have never had that opportunity before. Usually it’s just me staring at my computer getting frustrated because I don’t know how to make it do what I want it to do. I am actually excited to analyze some of my data now, which is a very rare feeling for me.

A week into my stay in Paris, Cobalt arrived and we frolicked all over the place. Our feet hurt so badly at the end of every day because of how much walking and exploring we did. Sometimes we loved Paris (it’s a very neat city bustling with life. We loved the random musicians who would jump onto the metro at some random stop, play music a for a few stops, and then get off. Can you imagine playing a song flawlessly while you’re being jostled around a moving subway car that is starting, stopping, turning, etc?) and sometimes we hated Paris (it rained… a lot. Also, The Louvre… don’t go… unless you go at some weird time when no one else is there). However, by the end of the trip, Cobalt and I were feeling very sad that it was over because there’s so much we didn’t get to see/do. I think we’re going to be figuring out how to get back to Paris (and probably more of France/Europe) soon!

So my question for you guys (and this is important because it kind of determines the fate of my blog for the next few weeks so please answer!) is what do you want to hear about? I can post about travel advice (where we stayed, how we paid for stuff, what we did about our cell phones, what we saw, dealing with jetlag, eating at restaurants and speaking French, etc) or I can just do general posts about every day/experiences. Let me know if there’s something specific you want to hear about too!

We’re super excited because

We’re going to France!! In less than a month! Crazy how everything comes together at the last minute sometimes…

So how did this happen? Well my boss is in France on sabbatical and pretty much as soon as she got there, she sent me an email saying we should figure out how to get me out there for a bit because she really wants me to interact with the huge bacteria community (my project involves bacteria) at the institute where she works. Then it turned out that they have this computer program that is designed to help with analysis of microscopy images. If any of you have heard me talk about my project, you will know that the biggest issue with my whole project is that I don’t know how to analyze my data… at all (What does it meaaaaaaan?!?!?!?). Every month, there is a class that teaches people how to use the program so my boss and I are both signed up to take the class next month… together… in PARIS. Yay! Exciting! It’s been kind of a whirlwind of an experience for me because we had to figure out how to fund my trip because funding has been a bit awkward here and because I still don’t know if I got that giant grant I applied for last July… Ugh…

Anyway, so the first few days of my 12 day stay will be spent learning that computer program and interacting with the other scientists there and then Cobalt is going to fly out so that we can explore Paris together! How awesome is that?! I call this mini honeymoon part 2. These past few weeks have been spent in a whirlwind getting Cobalt a passport and figuring out the necessary supplies for our trip… how exciting!!! Looks like my French for travelers class and my obsession with listening to French rap music at work will pay off after all! :):) I have to admit though that I am kind of nervous too. I’ve been to Canada before and allllll over the US but I’ve never been anywhere else. Crazy nerves and excitement simultaneously!

I think Finn wants to go to France with us…

Now it’s your turn. Have you been to Paris? What is something that Cobalt and I have to check out? Have you traveled abroad? Any words of wisdom for two people who have never left this continent? And finally, tell me something you are SUPER excited about right now. :)

It’s crazy out there!

My apologies for not posting more recently. I’ve been ridiculously busy both with work (exciting things happening, though not on the graduation front sadly – turns out that science is hard ;) – but I might have some exciting trips later this year!) and with life. Cobalt and I have a new years resolution called “Operation Go For It!” which has definitely taken some planning to put into effect (and we’re still not done yet) but it’s going to be epic. A hint – I just signed up for a French class through a community continuing education program here in Boulder… I am excited. My French is ridiculously rusty (and it’s more like ‘Franish’ because I can’t say a sentence in Spanish or French without putting a word from the other language in there… actually some people might say that my English is like that too, littered with random French and Spanish words… I’m weird). Maybe I will write a full post about Operation Go For It later. Unfortunately, this is just a post to tell you that I’m not dead and now I have to get back to work… :p

Picture: This picture is from my first year of grad school. On a randomly warm day in the middle of a pretty cold winter, my friend P and I went to the park near my apartment to try to fly a kite. I brought my camera because I was documenting everything then (more so than now… I know… it’s hard to believe) and somehow the settings got messed up for this picture P took of me and the kite. I actually like it this way… it totally sums up how I’m feeling right now (excited but also so busy that I am all blurry).

What are you up to? Any crazy schemes for new years resolutions? How are those going by the way? Did you make some earlier this month and stick to them or are they already falling apart? It’s hard