Hello, I'm back.
I really shouldn't write long blog posts. For me I tend to put too many details in them, resulting in posts that never get finished, and thus, never get published. So this time, I'm gonna keep it short.
My last entry was about PhD interviews in Zurich. I passed the interview, and got a job offer. The lab of my employer is located in Basel, Switzerland. I started the PhD on July 1st this year. 5 months later, I'm leaving the group and have to find a new place. Lots of things happened in between. To keep my promise of keeping the text relatively short, I'll have to skip them for now. Basically, things didn't work out between me and my professor, that's why I'm leaving. In my life so far I have made a few good decisions, and some of them were based on walking away from things that didn't work. One example is the Math Olympics in high school. Despite the efforts I put in after more than 2 years of competing in mathematics on a national level, I knew I couldn't make it to the national team and be happy at the same time. Math competitions brought me nothing but misery. So I decided to go for Biology Olympics during the last year of high school, by then I had less than one year to prepare. With renewed effort driven by the genuine interest in this new-found direction, my result was ranked the highest among all Scandinavian countries in the International Biology Olympics that year. I also earned a silver medal. From then I learned that walking away could be equally important as seizing opportunities. Sometimes you really need to stand and fight, just like other times when you really need to run. Walking away is not a defeat, it's a tactical retreat that lets you fight another day. In fact, if you never walked away from what you dislike, you will not have the space and availability to discover true happiness and success. Leaving this lab, I think, will turn out to be one of those "walk away" victories. I have started applying to other labs already. Furthermore, in October I officially became a 2nd author of an article in SCIENCE. With this in my hand, there is nothing I fear. The story about how I managed to put my name in this prestigious journal of scientific community, will also be told another time. Not today.
I once got curious as to how difficult it would be to manufacture your own antibiotics, I mean home-made antibiotics. The things I read on the internet showed me how difficult it is. You need to have sterile equipment, sterile water, media and sterile air for ventilation. Besides, the handling procedure required makes it almost impossible to try at home. While penicillin cannot be made easily, other options of antimicrobial treatment were readily available. Silver for example, kills almost any known microorganism. I recalled stories from childhood, of how ancient people found treatment for diseases by drinking water from silver containers. Aloe vera on the other hand, is a true natural replacement for many antibiotics.
It's hard to remember when I first saw people using it. My grandma (mother's mother) seemed to have used the plant her whole life. She used to put leaves or branches of Aloe vera into hot water, making it an easy tea. Whenever kids like me hurt ourselves, she would come around to pick a leaf, tear it open, and apply the juicy interior of the thick, succulent branch on our wounds. She knew all the tricks long before Aloe vera made commercial successes, sold in supermarkets as gels, creams or drinkable juices. In places where state-of-art medicine is scarce, Aloe vera can make up for the lack of technical advancement. Since Aloe vera is essentially a desert plant (originating from northern Africa), it's very easy to grow it at home. My mom got some branches of the plant from her mother. They grew so fast in flower pots so she had to constantly buy new and bigger pots to split the plants and let them expand. I think next time I go home I will pick up some branches from my mother and try to grow them at my home in Switzerland.
And finally, a funny picture. If you don't understand Chinese, the captions say (from left to right, up and down): before becoming a grad student; dreaming of life as a grad student; in grad school; looks like this everyday; supervisor comes to check; being asked of recent work progress; thinking back to bachelor graduation; imagining life after grad school.
It's not that I see the life of PhD as something horrible. Although there is no doubt that every PhD student must have recognized themselves in these pictures at some point of their time.