Friday, November 24, 2006

Ask what the bugs can do for you

No, this is not my paper that I just blogged about in an earlier post!! ;)

In a recent paper (Oct 20, 2006) in the journal Science, scientists have reported the use of a parasite-specific machinery in to correct certain deficiencies in human cells, which can be then used to tackle critical genetic disorders in humans.

This is cool for several reasons: taking lessons from a simple, one-celled parasite to apply and solve complex genetic disorders in humans is cool in itself. What made me more happy is that the paper is from a group of scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Calcutta, India. One of the few (AFAIK, one of the first this year) all-indian authored papers from an Indian lab in the very prestigious journal Science. (Atleast in the field of molecular biology/diseases).

More on this here.

P.S. The deep thinker from ipanema is away on vacation and hopes everyone is having a nice holiday if they are having one. ;)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


As in Male Chauvinist Pig. How common is that acronym? Often times, when I use it, (and, er, I use it rather often ;) ) I have people asking me what it means. If a guy doesn't know the meaning of M.C.P, is that a good sign or a bad sign? Or neither?


Friday, November 17, 2006


:))) Remember this??

So more than a month after we submitted, the reviews came back. While some very legitimate points were raised, some of the issues were so idiosyncratic. But the boss said I couldn't write that in my rebuttal, so I'm saying it here instead. ;) In my rebuttal, I conceded to some of the reviewers' points, re-clarified some of my points, and vehemently stood by some of my points with more data and references to boost them. Had to do some more weeks of analyses to convert what was a reasonable assumption (which reviewer #2 wouldn't buy) into a table and a statement with data to back it. All this had to be juggled with my own globe-trotting boss and an elusive collaborator on sabbatical. Not fun at all. At some points, I began to not care if this paper ever saw the light of the day. It had just been dragging for too long.

Anyways, I finally sent the revised version off, with a statement "thanking the reviewers for their comments which greatly improved the quality of the manuscript" - and I must admit, the few idiosyncracies aside, they did. The journal's online system kept showing my manuscript's status as "with reviewers" for over a month...and I was getting tired of checking. Finally today, the good news " Dear TGFI, we are delighted to accept your manuscript for publication" sitting, in my junk mail folder! Hah! I am SO happy. Wrote to my boss and she promptly announced a lab-lunch to celebrate her first student's first first-author paper. :-)

Happy times are here again. Drinks for all on the house, there's also some OJ and Horlicks for the underage. And thank-you all for the patient ear to my record-breaking rant.

YayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY. Graduation seems that much more attainable now, and I can't wait for the proofs to see my name in print. :-)

Can't wait for one of my only two friends here to get back into town so that I can go out and render myself incapable of driving. ;)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The voices

Another semi-productive day in the lab- I decided to close shop and go home early. I walked to the bus-stop, lost in thought. I need some sleep, I thought, I am going insane. Waiting for the bus in the cold was torture. Just as I got on the bus, the voices began. I tried to shut them out, but they wouldn't stop. They gradually got louder, more annoying. Even worse, for most I couldn't understand what they were trying to tell me. But they wouldn't go away. It's like they were yelling at me from all around. I tried to sift through the all that gibberish and could only make out a "fir se jaana" and a "hum ko" and a "shaana, shaana". Oh gawd! I thought. I wanted to stand up and scream "SHUT UP" but of course, I couldn't do that on the bus with so many people on it. I tried to close my eyes and drift off into sleep, so I could avoid the voices, but I couldn't sleep. They kept if they were angry with me, as if they wanted to chide me for something. I don't know! But I couldn't stand them any more! I got off at my stop, and started walking briskly, as if that would make the voices go away. Of course, there was no running away from them. They followed me home, and as I stood at my doorstep, fumbling for my keys in my pocket, they got even louder momentarily. I rushed into my apartment and shut the door, and instantly, peace was restored. I reminded myself why I hate taking the 5:30 bus home, known as the "Chinese Express" for a reason.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


My medico friend told me about "third-year-itis"- a disease all third-year med students contract- when they start imagining that they're afflicted with every possible disease in the book..:)..I think I have the grad-school equivalent: sixth-year-itis. And it's quite different actually. The symptoms include feeling totally bored and demotivated by one's own work. Consequently, productivity dips to an all-time low, and all previous tricks learnt over the past five years of pulling oneself out of the slump don't work. The patient drags her feet at work, taking 3 hours to do what usually takes an hour. Getaways, distractions, scaring herself by suddenly yelling when she wasn't expecting it don't help. :-) The symptoms are exacerbated when expected results are not obtained, and all plans, back-ups, and their back-ups are falling flat on their face; either because the experiments don't work or because the results are the exact opposite of what one expected. A year ago, the same student would have taken these as a challenge and fought back to nail the blasted experiments; make them work and show them who's the boss. But a patient of sixth-year-itis is unable to mount such a defense. Instead, she resorts to wallowing in self-despair and boredom. Compounding environmental factors include mind-numbing distractions that the patient has newly discovered and takes safe recluse in; to avoid tackling the real issues. The patient seems to have resigned to her fate; the all-too-real fears of soon-to-run-out-funding and the more important need to get out of this 6 year-deep ditch are not perceived as threats strong enough to shake the patient out of her inertia. If left untreated for too long, the patient descends into a permanent state of inactivity and non-productivity. One fine day, it's her turn to present at lab-meeting and she finds she has no data worth showing. If this shake is not enough to jolt her back to reality, the patient runs the risk of relapsing into 6th-year-itis, and progressing into 7th-year-itis. That is a condition almost untreatable, and the patient should be made aware of that.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Since an update is long overdue here, and I have no time for a deep, thought-provoking post like I'm well known for, ;) I will steal shamelessly and put my list of minor and major irritants as detailed by QSG here.

1) "Low talkers" : The ones that make you say "AAAAA? AAAAA?" after every sentence they utter. Yeah, after a while I get tired of all the polite "pardon?" "come again?" "sorry?" and "saythatagain" so "AAAAA???" it is. So irritating!

2) "Sentence completers". People who complete what you're saying. Bleddy #$Ss. I know you have a voice. Save it, this is MY line.

3) Inconsiderate people: like using up the last of supplies and not replacing. I HATE such people with a passion. And I run after them and nail them down and beat them up if I ever catch them in the act.

4) People that play devil's advocate for every effing issue or rant you bring up. They have serious issues.

5) People who start talking loudly all of a sudden, clearly to impress others in a public place like a restaurant. Dude, most efficient ways of asphyxiating mice is not the best dinner table conversation, tone it down a notch.

6) Nosy bastards. Need I say more?

7) That overdose of modesty. Self-deprecating humour can be funny, but insisting that you are a "small, inconsequential player" when you are well aware otherwise is plain annoying and patronising.

8) People who can't answer a simple question with a simple answer. EVER.

9) Yeah, the superficial compliment-dolers. Cannot stand.

10) Bad breath. Imagine when you're on a bus full of people with this problem and they insist on talking over your face to each other. I'm permanently scarred.

11) Pakaus

12) Gossip mongers. I cannot stand them.

13) People that try to refute everything you say, and behave as if they know more than you, when they have not added anything important to the conversation. Dude, were you even listening?

14) Self-involved pricks.

15) Gels that crack

Ahhhhahahaha this feels so good! :-)))

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hard answers

I made that call I had been postponing for too long.
It was as bad as I feared it would be
But it's done now and I have one "mystery" less to ponder about.

There was this experiment that I had been skirting for long
Because I really needed wanted positive results from it.
I did it finally, and the results are negative.
It's painful. But the data speaks.
I can only listen carefully and conclude appropriately.

Yes, these are never easy.
But now that they're done and out of the way, I can move on and think about what next.

Right now, I cannot help be amazed at the parallels my life is drawing, both inside and outside lab.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"You've changed"

No, no, this is not a repost. Really.

Aside: Some days ago I was going through my own archives on my blog. (Heights of nikamma-giri). I discovered an inherent pattern to the posts- a few WTFs, a few whiny homesick posts, a few ridiculous happenings, and a few rants- repeat, replay. Reoccuring in a sequential manner, like re-runs. Got me wondering- is that all there is to my life? My life summed up in 40-odd posts? ::Shudder:: :-)

So today I was the one telling myself "you've changed". Some changes have crept in, slowly, before I could catch them, and they became me. Some changes were deliberate steps I took- and now I'm not sure I want them anymore. Some changes were forced- thanks to circumstance, growing up, or well..change in the weather, even. And some changes were just plain inevitable, they had to happen.

The sum of all these changes is not a picture I like completely. I don't like that I've become a rather impatient person, with no tolerance for other peoples' quirks, even if a bit unreasonable. These are people that matter, and I should be able to take them for what they are. I don't like that I've become a little selfish over time; putting myself first. I have always gone out of my way to help, or even please others, and now, I do less of it, more of what pleases me. I am not sure about the huge indifference that has become a part of me - it's very useful at times, but still surprises me. I guess a lot of this can be chalked up to growing up, or growing old, even. But I wonder if that's an easy shield to hide behind, to not want to face or do anything about these changes, because explaining them is so much more convenient?

There are several changes I am happy about too, so I guess it balances out somewhere.