All the unhappy moments, late at night, caught only in the fridge light

So, I know you’re on tenterhooks about the Early Career forum, and how I got on.
Well hard luck, I’m going to talk about obesity.
As part of the forum, they held a Twitter chat things. Using #ecfobesity we were invited to join in with a couple of presentations about research into obesity. Drs Gina Leinninger, Dan Bessesen and Anastasia Amaro presented work on recent “Advances in Obesity Research”.
Now Twitter is perfect for awkward folks like myself, as we don’t need to physically ask questions, and you’ll never hear the contempt in my voice when I ask annoyingly specific questions. I definitely recommend having a quick look through the tweets and having a read of the replies from The Endocrine Society, and other bigwigs.
There’s even a question about my buddy Mark.
Ok, that maybe too much of an inside joke. Read my post about Dr Giles Yeo and his work and you’ll understand.
And if you do give that a go, then obviously you’ll want to read about a bunch of new leptin stuff. Dr Leinninger’s talk was about her research into leptin.
She made a mouse with a GFP-tagged leptin receptor, and saw that a lot of the receptor was located in what I will incorrectly call “the pleasure centre” of the brain. So does leptin cause pleasure?
Simple put yes, yes it does.
The leptin receptors are linked to dopamine signalling. You know that sweet, sweet dopamine? Well very specific leptin receptors can give you that same great feeling when you’re full.
Furthermore, if you knock out those very specific receptors you make mice which basically become big, fat slobs. Just like when I was coming towards the end of my PhD, the animals give up on exercise and just eat terrible food. Add in self harm and an irrational hatred of western blots and it’d be identical!
If you stimulate those super special receptors you can pull the animals out of their funk, and start treating themselves better, running around their cage and, I don’t know, eating kale. (Normally I’d worry about not putting a reference after my kale joke, but as I’m writing this on my kindle, it’s a right pain to reference so I’m living the dream and writing nonsense. It’s just like what of them anti-vaccine websites.)
Interestingly, Dr Leinninger came out and stated that she “loves hormones”, which makes me laugh as last night someone asked me what my favourite hormone was.
Insulin, obviously.

Today’s quote is from Caitlin Moran


For Boston, for Boston

We arrived in Boston last night, after drinking the plane dry of Sam Adams.
Well kind of, they ran out so me and Sandy are fairly certain we took care of that.
We took the free shuttle bus from the airport, and ended up in South Station. Where we promptly bought week passes for $19. $19! For a week! On buses and trains! Well done Boston. I know there’s a shuttle bus between my hotel and ENDO but that’s awesome.
And we can definitely vouch for it, as going out for drinks in South End last night was really easy. Even though we had a bit of a walk, 2 trolleys (shuttles? trams? I don’t know what Boston calls them) and a bus.

So I’m up early for Early Career forum today. I need to register and get all my things sorted. So hopefully that’ll go smoothly, and after my forum today I’ll basically be set for a career in science! Especially after the nightmare of the Fellowship workshop I attended last week…

Oh and we saw the Netherlands’ men’s football team in Amsterdam airport. Memphis Delay walked alongside the rest of the team on the escalator, so I don’t think you can call him lazy anymore.

Today’s quote is by Dropkick Murphy’s because of course it is

Talk Less, Smile More

I went to a workshop titled “Shut Up and Write!”, in an attempt to write my paper/make some figures/proofread my mates thesis. When I arrived they introduced us to the Pomodoro technique.

Yep, that means tomato.

The two hour session was split into four 25 minutes sections, with 5 minute breaks in between. We were asked to write down some achievable goals, turn off our phones, and disconnect from the internet. We then spent 25 minutes writing in silence, before a silent 5 minute break. Another 25 minutes, and a 10 minute break where we  could  talk amongst ourselves, have a walk and get a cup of tea. A third 25 minute writing session, then a 5 minute break where we talked about our progress and how our goals were going. Before a final 25 minutes writing.

We were encouraged to write down any distractions we had, and then continue writing.

Write down distractions? Don’t get carried away, and focus on scribbling your real work. That rings a bell… If you didn’t click that, it was a link to my thesis-writing blog. I accidentally stumbled onto a version of the Pomodoro technique whilst I was writing my thesis. I would try and write as much as I could, but whenever I felt distracted I would update my blog with whatever gibberish I could  think of.

As well as updating my tea count obviously.

So with that in mind, I decided to blog about my experience at the workshop, old school style. Enjoy!

As I’ve never been here before, I have literally no idea as to my goals. I’ve settled for;

  1. Finish my papers
  2. Proofread Sophie’s first chapter

That’s doable in like 2 hours yeah?

Anywho Quadrupède is on, my phone is off, and Lappy Jr is disconnected from the internet. Work time!

Time for my first five minute break. This is going pretty well. Obviously I’m only been doing 25 minutes, but still I think its going well. I didn’t even really want to stop for the five minute break.

Do you have any idea how long five minutes is when you have to sit there in silence doing nothing?!

Writing time.

Unfortunately the Quadrupède album isn’t actually that long, so I’ve had to change up my music. I guess I could try writing without it, but I’m not experimenting too much now. I’m already pretty sure it’ll turn out listening to music improves writing. I’ll just have to wait for the evidence and see what model gets created in the future. I mean I’m already pretty good at almost stumbling upon tried and tested techniques.

I thought there would be tea available, and am as disappointed as you can expect as Englishman to be without tea. If (when, let’s be realistic) I do this at home, I’ll definitely have a proper tea break.

We’re allowed to talk in this break, but as no-one knows anyone we’re all very awkward and most folks are mumbling. Anyway, time to stretch my legs, it’s not good for your cardiovascular system to sit for an hour anyway.

And my pedometer app is moaning at me.

I’ve ended up listening to my Happy Songs playlist on Spotify, which basically got me through my thesis.

Totally forgot how much I like that one Kidstreet song.

This is going really quickly. And it seems to be working. I’ve managed to get my paper finished, and now I’m reading Sophie’s thesis. I’m not entirely sure I’ll get this chapter done, but I’ll try my damndest.

Time for the final session.

Sophie is much better at writing than I am.


So, it works! I am definitely a fan of Shut Up and Write! At the organisers have asked if anyone would be willing to host their own workshop. I totally am, although it may well be in my man cave. There’s a very real chance I’ll use it as an excuse to book a room, and hide away for a couple of hours. I never really  get chance to write at work, as I feel obliged to spend my time in the lab. So locking myself away in a room for a designated time is probably a good idea.


Today’s quote is from Lin-Manuel Miranda, as I am totally obsessed with Hamilton at the moment.



Sometimes you can do things for others that you can’t do for yourself.

A bit of a strange one today.

I received an email just before instructing me that my subscription to a complimentary service has expired. Apparently I had received a two week free trial to DiabetesPro; a free service to health professionals who “need to keep current with what’s happening”. Needless to say I’d never heard of it.

So I trawled back through my emails and it turns out the American Diabetes Association have developed a mobile app to keep you up to date with the latest going on in Diabetes. I assume it’s for medics, but I signed up regardless. Why wouldn’t I?..

“So, you cares?” I hear you asking.

I don’t know, why did you follow the link here in the first place. Don’t hold accountable for your actions!

Oh, wait, I guess I should as I invited you. The point of this was to write about how often I actually use these services. So as well as DiabetesPro, I get updates from the Endocrine, Biochemical and Physiological Societies, PracticeUpdate, Diabetes UK and for some reason the latest in Stem Cell Research and Immunology from Bio-Techne.

I am also on the mailing list for the Lipids MAPS conference, so I receive updates about their conferences, and Keystone Symposia.

A quick look through my Twitter tells me that I follow over 20 accounts dedicated to updating me (and others I assume…) about the latest developments in various topics. That doesn’t even include journals that I follow, or scientists that I know constantly post their latest papers.

A post from Nature summarised some data about whether or not Twitter buzz leads to more citations, and it doesn’t! Interestingly sharing on Mendeley is apparently closer, and as you know, I love me some Mendeley. Apparently, it’s because sharing and analysing things amongst scientists is better than letting the general public have a go at it. Which makes sense really, considering how little some chumps know.

Somewhat crazily in 2012, 20% of biomedical articles were tweeted at least once, and that’s going up, so I assume by the time I get my babies out, I’ll be falling behind if I don’t post it. Who am I kidding, I’ll be posting my Ryan et als like they’re going out of fashion!

Which they might well possibly be considering no-one cares about phosphatidylinositol (4,5)-bisphosphate.

Which brings me onto my next thing. I get updated from Google Scholar every time one of my papers get cited. Unfortunately, as I’ve recently changed my research area (for the second time) I don’t have much to do with the inositol lipids anymore, I tend not to even read those papers. Rude I know.

Similarly, Researchgate lets me know when my papers have been cited, but more importantly it lets me know when people I follow publish more papers. This is useful as I follow my collaborators, competitors and friends a distant third.

I guess there’s also LinkedIn. Look how well I kept a straight face. Get over yourself LinkedIn, you’re dumb.

So, do I use any of these? The Endocrine Society’s “Daily Briefing” is great. The biggest benefit is that it often links to a simply written article. If you want to read the actual papers it clearly supplies references, but other than that a few paragraphs summing up the study is ideal.

Similarly, PracticeUpdate sums up a lot of studies. You know those people who constantly have multiple tabs open on multiple web browsers? Yeah that’s me. And it’s almost definitely PracticeUpdate’s fault. I open at least a tab a day, aiming to read them later, but I rarely get it done.

I have never cited a paper I’ve found on Twitter. I think it’s because when I’m trying to write a paper I don’t generally check Twitter. (I’m a Facebook nerd, not just a better person than you.) I also tend to read papers I find interesting, and not necessarily for their science. Show me a paper about a bunch of nonsense and I’ll probably read that and share it. Even if my friend shares one of their papers I don’t think I’ve ever shared it.

“Why wouldn’t you help your friends?” you scream, somewhat obtusely. Firstly, I’ve just told you it doesn’t help, but I will from now on though! Especially on Mendeley.


Today’s quote is from A.M. Homes.