Monday, October 21, 2013



I thought for most of yesterday, what I might write in a first blog post and I wondered if I should write something entertaining or informative.  But then I realised that my best written work has always been impromptu, without script, as are the best presentations I've heard in science.


My new friend, Mr. S, that I made at university recently gave me advice on that matter just a few days ago.  I recall conveying to him my anxiousness regarding scientific presentation and how I'd worry and always over-prepare with a script that I have to follow word for word.  He told me that scripts were a bad idea, especially if you aren't going to remember all of it.  It usually ends up in awkward pauses, as you wait for a cue that never comes and may even result in embarrassments such as searching through your prepared papers frantically for the words that left your mind.  Now, having a presentation this Friday for my current laboratory friends, I plan to make a visually appealing presentation and then explain to them my research, as I know it.  Mr. S's best advice from that day was that you had to "know your stuff" and truly for a personal blog of my own misadventures, if I didn't "know my stuff" I would be worried.

On that note I suppose introductions are in order.  My name is Konny and I am currently a third year undergrad at Waikato University, though that will be only for the next two weeks - until I finish my final exam on the 1st of November.  I am writing this blog in order to achieve a couple of goals.

  1. To record my efforts and attempts both for the amusement of myself and others
  2. To provide informative commentary regarding the paths ahead of a science grad student - both with my own adventures and those of my comrades
  3. To provide an area to showcase my research projects for the interest of those in the scientific community
  4. And to provide an outlet for my emotions regarding all of the above topics

Materials and Methods

My current situation is probably one I can be proud of getting to.  I have a decent academic transcript behind me, despite some awkwardness in the transferal from Auckland to Waikato University and I am going to be starting a summer research scholarship in the Thermophile Research Unit on campus working on a project called "Ice and Dirt: The Microbial Ecology of Antarctic Terrestrial Habitats".  As of now, I am unsure of what the project will exactly involve other than that it will hopefully increase my experience regarding molecular techniques involved in this topic and that I will be doing a literature review on a potential masters thesis topic for the year after next.

The Thermophile Research Unit (TRU) is one of the most prolific research centres in the university, and from what I know has a great deal of collaborators and funding.  To say that this fact didn't influence my decision would only be partially true - as I have come to learn, science is a lot about grasping opportunities to get ahead - however, for me, it is much more about the type of research they do.  In the TRU, they deal with extreme environment microbes, combining two of my favourite topics I have learnt so far in science.  My paper choices probably reflect this, with Advanced Zoology - extreme environment animals and how they adapt and Microbial Physiology and Ecology, a course that I thoroughly enjoyed.  What interests me is both why and how they can exist in such habitats and what they can tell us about the history of earth.

In fact, the main kind of research that I seem to be heading towards is a rather important component of this sort of topic.  Investigating antarctic microbiology from the past should be able to tell us exactly what we are heading towards in a time like this where global warming is turning the earth into a super greenhouse world.  That is the goal of the RICE project (Roosevelt Island Climate Evolution) and that is the research I hope to be working towards.

Recently I attended my partner's graduation and the guest speaker there,  Lora Vaioleti, a University of Waikato fullbright scholar who started in physiology, told a story about climate change, uprooting of pacific islanders and how something as insignificant to us as immigration laws could change the lives of a great many people including ourselves.  But she also told a story about change, the change that graduates could bring to the world in influencing the next generation.  Subsequently, Mr.S told me a similar story, that the next generation was where we should be teaching about climate change and about the ways in which we can sustain human society in a changing environment.  Another friend, Miss. H told me in a rather private conversation recently that though she did not dare hope that her research would change the world for the better, we both agreed that if we could gain at least enough influence to change the world, it would be worth it.

Results and Discussion

I guess I can only hope that through science, I might be able to make such a change as well.  And in thinking that, working in the TRU with RICE would be a step towards a better dream.  What Lora, Mr.S and Miss. H said makes a lot of sense, as graduates I suppose we really are supposed to be making our own paths towards a better world.  However in the meantime, though the bigger picture should always be there, as I've been told many times - you cannot research what you don't find interesting as there is no curiosity to find the answer.  And I think, to know what I can about Antarctica is something of great interest to me.

And so, I understand perfectly well why Miss. B, a very good friend of mine, is leaving for Australia.  She plans to follow what she finds of interest - in this case Bioinformatics - and is doing as much as she can to get into the place which will most benefit her path towards researching this topic.  But then of course, being a grad isn't all about research so I can also understand Miss H and other friends, applying for jobs in science companies, trying to find a place where they can make use of their degree and make money - a commodity that students lack in oh so much.


So for now, I hope to find research I enjoy and to take any opportunity there is available to make myself into the person I envision myself being in 10 or so years - a person with the power to change the world but also a person with the experience and know-how to influence the next generation of scientists.  And it's good to know I am not alone in my struggle to reach a place in the world for myself.