Ars magna…

A mixed morning. Am trying to write a review, which I’d really like to get off my desk. Am enjoying the opportunity to read around the literature, revisiting old papers, discovering new ones, and thinking deep thoughts about the entire structure of stereo vision. Am coming up with all sorts of experiments which “wouldn’t take long to do” and “could be interesting”. But this is not helping me write the review, and I’m busy all afternoon! Argh!


Had most of the lab round to our house last night, except for poor old Paul and Parto who have been smitten by a classic start-of-academic-year lurgy (hope you are both feeling better). It was a nice opportunity to get to know the new lab members better, and bid farewell to Fredrik and Iwo. I was a very lazy host, doing a Tesco online shop for stacks of pizza rather than creating something amazing in the kitchen :-). Definitely have to do that again soon.

A trip to Leeds

The rest of the week will be very different. Yesterday, Parto and I and one of her other supervisors, Andrew Trevelyan, travelled down to her funder, Epilepsy Action. We had an interesting morning undergoing epilepsy awareness training, and then met various staff members and learnt more about the work of Epilepsy Action. It was an interesting and informative day, and I hope Parto’s project will prove successful and help make a difference to people with the condition.

The trip also had the beneficial side-effect of demonstrating to Parto the fallibility of at least one of her supervisors, as I confidently bustled her on to completely the wrong train at Newcastle. Fortunately it was going south, so we just had to hop off at Durham ten minutes down the line and onto our train when it came past shortly thereafter. I did notice that Parto was checking every train & platform for herself after that — a very wise move!

Productive meetings

Had a good day yesterday, just the sort of day I like. Had very productive meetings with my collaborator Claire, PhD student Paul and research assistant James. And in between, I even managed to do some more on my paper.

With Claire, we did some maths to figure out how Claire wants luminance to vary in her stimuli, and then managed to get that happening on her CRS Visage system. It’s the first time I’ve played with a CRS system, and it took me out of my Psychophysics Toolbox comfort zone, but it was very satisfying that we managed to get it doing what we wanted, and just in time for lunch at that.

Later on, Paul and I sat down and started sketching out some experiments which might be good for his MRes project. I’ve always really liked Vishwanath, Girshick & Banks (2005) “Why pictures look right when viewed from the wrong place.” Nat Neurosci 8(10): 1401-1410, and was lucky enough to get Marty up here a couple of years ago giving a seminar on it and other work. So I suggested to Paul last week that we might start kicking some ideas around in that general area. It’s always fun to start sketching out a new set of experiments – the bright shiny optimistic time before the inevitable disillusionment sets in after you’ve been working on them for months and just encountering one difficulty after another!

Finally, James showed me his latest work on his 3D smartphone app. It’s looking really good and it seems that we may be able to get around the need to figure out how to do anti-aliasing on an Android phone, which would be handy.

It’s great to have such stimulating people to work with.

Week three and still very new!

‘Straight into the deep end’ is how I think I’ll remember my first few weeks at postgrad level! Lots of new things to learn and research quickly, none of the namby-pamby spoonfeeding you got at undergrad here! Spent last week learning about the olfactory and gustation systems in Sensory systems, very interesting. I also read up on some journal articles regarding 3D and I’m pleased to report I’ve started to ‘get’ it a lot easier! I’m beginning to ask questions myself, which in the long run is what all the research stuff is about isn’t it? So very good. In neurological disorders we continued a detailed lecture and talk on the structure of neurons and how synapses can be passed chemically or electrically. Similar to A level biology but a bit more now, which is good! Finally in animal behaviour I constructed a model for the singing time of a generic species of bird, based on very basic assumptions, and then used a bit of differentiation to find the optimal singing time. Other than that (!) it’s been a steady week. Lots of writing up and individual reading, which was unheard of for me at undergrad level. On a personal footnote I had a busy week! Went to see Taken 2 at the cinemas (would certainly recommend) and played 3 games of 5-a-side (2 wins one defeat) and we lost yet another rugby game, due to people not turning up on the day, bit of a bummer, and somebody decided to stamp on my face (I had a small stud shaped bruise on my forehead all day Sunday and Monday!) but a good weekend nonetheless. Next week I am going to continue with my lectures (Stroke in neurological disorders, more modelling in behaviour and another double sensory systems lecture) and I am going to start thinking more seriously about my research question.

Welcome to the world of post grad :)

My first few weeks of my MRes have been fantastic! I’m enjoying all of my modules so far and they all stand out for different reasons. The Animal behaviour module involves a lot of interactive learning, discussions and debates which keeps the brain ticking through the lectures. My sensory systems (possibly my favourite so far) is looking at physiological mechanisms which I love! I can’t get enough of learning how proteins/receptors interact with ligands etc setting up biological systems, it’s amazing! Bioinformatics is proving a bit challenging at the moment. It is very interesting and I can’t wait to get to the part where we are analysing data, however the theory is requiring a little more background reading than the other modules. As for Statistics I agree with Paul, at the moment it is very basic. I’m hoping it will step up a gear soon and solve all of my statistical problems I have experienced in undergrad. Anyway I must get on with my first assignment for Bioinformatics, wish me luck 🙂


A productive start to the week

A nice window in the diary with nothing else on, so I’ve been able to spend Monday and Tuesday just… working! I’ve been cracking on with one of the many papers on my “need to write up” list, and have also had a welcome chance to sit down with Parto and talk psychometric functions, staircases and so on as we figure out a sensible data analysis. Right now I have Turisas turned up high on Spotify, Matlab windows all over one monitor and Word showing the paper in 2-page view all over the other — gonna be a productive day :-).

First week (1-7/10/12)

It was my first week as an MRes student last week. Quite a wakeup call! I’m used to very complex maths, that basically needs solving for homework but no reading up on! Culture shock having to actually do some out of lecture research. My modules have been Sensory systems, which touched on the brain and its areas and associated ‘tasks’. and the neurons themselves, with myelinated sheaths. Most of this was hard A-level Biology material that I just about remember (My mathsy brain seems to like memorising things) from four years ago. I also started my neurological disorder work, which was a lot more complex. I’m not sure whether it was maybe just the start but I spent a lot of time re-reading, rewriting and researching the words. Found out a lot about Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s however (Alzheimer’s seems particularly interesting, with amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles affecting the brain. However it looks (from the research I read up on) that the fibres are in fact a response for pressure from elsewhere. The other module is the biological study of behaviour. Evolution of animals, with Lisa was very interesting and a small class so more of a discussion! The statistics module started, and not to blow my own trumpet but it was just a tad below the standard I’m used to! I’m going to stick at it because it IS a compulsory module. Just means it’s (touch wood!) marks in the bag! I also attended a few PDP sessions about research ethics, managing your e-portfolio and public speaking, the last of which was more of a two hour drama workshop, very fun! On the friday morning I dissected a brain (well looked at a pre-dissected brain) which was both satisfying gut-churning and very interesting! On a personal note I played rugby on the saturday (first team!) but we got beat 🙁 and I went to see Nickelback, who were beyond awesome! Looking forward to next week!

A blogging lab?

My new PhD student Paul mentioned that he’s been doing a blog about his MRes on his eportfolio site. I think this is a great idea, and he’s got me thinking. Suppose we all blogged to keep track of progress in the lab? Let’s give it a try…