Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cambridge Medicine Interview: Round 2.

So what have I been up to?

Egg Benedict at Tom's Kitchen
Sloane Square 

Yes, I've been slightly drowned by work after a weekend of fun-fun-fun and no-work-at-all! in London but I'm not slacking a single bit on writing.

Remember I wrote an article on Cambridge Medicine Interview before? Recently, I wrote another article on Cambridge Medicine Interview for an organization called Malaysian Medics International (UK). You can head over and read it. Share it with any friends you think would appreciate it. And also, thank you my dear friends who volunteered yourselves for the interview. :)

Besides, I will (possibly) be facing my second med school interview soon! When I first got in, I thought this is it, I am done with the scary med school admission interview but when I arrived here, they told me, no, you will have to go through another round of application to get into Cambridge's Clinical School because we only have space for half of number of medical students in your year. 

Wth? Another round of cambridge interview?! I have only realised this very recently when I talked to my friends from Imperial and UCL. This only happens in Oxbridge. (They say, do your research before you go for any university. I obviously didn't take that advice very seriously.) All other London medical schools students don't have to go through this! No wonder our intra-species competition was so intense so the past 2 years because it all depends on your merits/results to stay. :/ 

And now everyone's scrambling to fill in their forms and preparing for the interview...*sigh*
Urm interviews, no please, please don't give me nightmares, again. KEEP CALM THIRD YEARS!

If any seniors who have been through it are kind enough to save us from this misery, could you please message me or comment below? We shall be eternally grateful for your contribution. Thank you. :) 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Affogato + Baileys


(Italian, "drowned")

an Italian dessert of vanilla ice cream over which espressohas been poured <The can be sipped slowly or eaten with a spoon and is a great way to enjoy dessert, coffee, and an after-dinner drink all in one. — Philip Johnson, Bistro, 2004> 
Taken from Merriam webster dictionary 
Another early day for me! There's something wrong with my bacteria in the lab, they seem to go really crazy for the past week and my supervisor is not around. So while waiting for the troubleshooting culture to grow overnight, I came home emo-ly early and made this super delicious tea time snack: Affogato with Baileys.
Prep time: 5 mins.

1. Illy Medium Roast Coffee capsule
2. One teaspoon of baileys
3.  As much Häagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream as you like. (Oh so creamy!)

1. Just put everything into a cup and watch the ice cream melts. 
2. Optional: A few cheesesticks with poppyseed completely notched up this teatime. 
You can add something nuts/crunchy stuffs into the ice cream too. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A spark in the lab

It was not even that late. The sun sets much earlier than usual because it was mid-November. Everyone scurried home way earlier than before to avoid the rain forecasted to start in a few hours time. But she couldn't go home because she needs to finish this procedure to get these batch of cells into the PCR machine so they can run overnight. He, obviously couldn't as well as he was seen busy pipetting solutions for the a few hours now. Who knows why he couldn't wait until tomorrow, everyone is so busy these days, it's hard to constantly keep track of what other's live is about. 

In the midst of the test tubes and the neon-coloured solutions, their eyes met. They were allocated seats on opposite sides of a bench but nothing this strong has stirred in their hearts before. Well, at least not in hers. But there is something about this moment...her breath paused and she could hear her own heart beating hard against her chest wall. His eyes, oh, his eyes were so beautifully created. It's as if he could stare straight into her soul, looking in her now stirring, no, melting heart. The blue flame from the Bunsen burner was the only witness to this magical moment.

To be continued...

Ok, how's my fiction writing skills? Can be the next best-selling author or not?

Hahaha....Let me entertain myself for a while because I was feeling a bit frustrated in the lab lately. I have been repeating the same procedure for 4 times, and without my supervisor around, it was pretty daunting to do everything on my own. But I did it! After consulting other senior researchers around, I finally managed to troubleshoot all the problems and got the right gene fragments for the plasmids (a.k.a. ring of genes that isn't part to your own genome).

Then the spark happened...

To transform the bacteria (transformation: bacteria are able to take up genes from surrounding and adopt it as their own), I have to use electric pulses to make these electrocompetent little things to take up the plasmids. I was so happy when the plasmids are assembled and I can't wait to put them into the E.coli. So after mixing the plasmid and the bacteria together, I put them into the pulsing chamber and pressed 'PULSE'. After a few seconds


I was utterly shocked. What just happened? My supervisor who just got back this morning was laughing at the side,
'Finally you've seen a spark in the lab!'
'WHAT JUST HAPPENED? Are they dead?'
'Yea, probably fried. You'll have to assemble new plasmids.'
He said while still chuckling. Not funny, not funny at all.

Ah, the beauty of science in reality! Experiments in school, college and the past 2 years in uni have just been too nicely choreographed to be fool-proof. Being in this research project really allowed me to have a real taste of science experiments. It's not a walk in the garden anymore, rather, problems always appear and even when you follow the procedure to the microlitres, things still won't be guaranteed to turn out the way you wanted it to be. One of my supervisors said even the machine operated PCR (Google: polymerase chain reaction) is a dark art.

On a brighter note, I can almost see the end of my project and it's week 6!
The sunset of Michaelmas Week 5 in Cambridge 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Good DoSes

DoS [do-os, noun]
1. Director of studies. 

DoSed [do-os-ed, verb]
1. You have a good DoS, this is just a lovely chat to recall on what went wrong. 
2. You have an evil Dos. You're screwed, mate. Brace yourself. 

Because of the huge number of medics per year my college has, we have a different DoS each year. (DoS [Cambridge term]: Director of Studies) DoS is basically the person who takes care of all your studies related matters and that includes arranging supervisions. If you did something horribly wrong, you get DoSed and face whatever consequence that he judges appropriate to make sure the Same thing doesn't happen gain. I've very fortunately not done anything deserve to be DoSed and sincerely do not wish that day to come...

I am currently in my third year so that means I am currently under my third DoS. It is extremely important to be in good terms with your DoS, or else you are just so screwed for your life  will have a hard time when asking for advices in your studies and getting references for applications, even though we only meet them less than 10 times a year.

I must say I have been blessed with 3 very different but all equally great DoSes for my entire time here. They are all big shots in their fields yet they take time to care for us, little peasants, bottom-of-the-food-chain down here. My first DoS was pretty strict and pushed us really hard. There was once I was late for 5 minutes for his supervision and he pretty much reprimanded me for 5 full minutes before starting the supervision. But when I look back, I couldn't be more grateful for him. It was my first year, I wouldn't know how much you need to work to achieve great heights and unleash your true potential if it weren't for his encouragement, motivation and strict schedules throughout that year. It was the year I worked the hardest, but it was the year which I experienced my steepest learning curve in my entire life so far. 

My second DoS was really lovely elderly man who was retired. He stayed in Malaysia for 7 years before, been to my humble hometown so when I first arrived in Cambridge, I felt so welcomed by him and his wife. We are in the same church too. :) He wasn't as hardcore, but he was strict as well. But he understands us, medics, second years, and he's always there for us, standing on our side, protecting us. I felt so encouraged after each DoS meeting during my second year so even though it was suppose to be the most nightmare-inducing year in a medic's life, I did not had it too badly. I believe he helped, A LOT.

I have not met him since third year started until today, I met him in the church. He was so excited to see me then he literally, held me by my shoulder, shaked me then hugged me and exclaimed "HAVEN'T SEEN YOU FOR SO LONG!!!!" 
I was melted by his cuteness. Couldn't have been more blessed and lucky to have someone like him around. :') 

I am currently under my third DoS, who is equally lovely and encouraging too (must say good words, I don't want to have a bad year) hahaha..No,but really, he's really nice. He even offered a chance for us to experience being interviewed in from of a proper film set, by a proper program which I took on just to have fun 2 weeks ago. 

I know many people who don't like their DoS, and sometimes, there are just unfortunate circumstances and misunderstandings standing between the students and their DoSes. But if possible (and esp to freshers), treat your DoSes nicely, you have nothing to lose. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Should I blog?

This question has been haunting me since medical school started. Erm duh? what are you doing now? Yes I know, but I have been extra cautious because I am studying to become a medical doctor. By exposing myself out here, I am afraid that one day, my patient will look up my blog and I will look unprofessional, besides simply not having enough time to blog regularly. It's not that I do crazy stuffs.... oh wait I did do a crazy social experiment on people... but most of the time I am blogging about stuffs that normal people do. I am less worried about confidentiality tho, because I don't talk about my work or other people's issues unless it's life threatening and only by talking about it, I can save the person's life. But of course, this will never be the suitable medium to talk about people's life threatening issues.

However, I don't think patients would appreciate that perspective very much. With the rise of 'expert patients' always looking for information online and do a full background stalking check of their doctor, just imagine this scenario that will happen in 5 years time, 

"Doc, so you like eggs for breakfast eh? I thought you said that's high cholesterol and you advised me against having it every day?"
"erm...that was ages ago. I #eatclean now."

Protecting our public image is something my friends and I are thinking about very seriously now. We are sharing so many things on our social media account nowadays without second thoughts. Sometimes, these things might appear funny at that moment but few years down the road, the very same thing that you thought was harmless or even good, could very possibly haunt you with completely unexpected repercussions, especially when you are applying for jobs.

The thing is, I actually love blogging very much. It's not just about writing a journal or a diary, it's also sharing interesting things with people who actually care or... have unfortunately fell into this hole serendipitously found this space where a silly girl talks about the most unimportant things in the world. I have been blogging since I was 14. Yes, 14. I have another blog which recorded my life before university started in a very funny and entertaining manner. By that I mean, my English and the silly things a female adolescent who lives in a rural city did. Through my blog and Nuffnang, I have managed to meet up several big shots bloggers of those days and had fun with them. I love following blogs too, I still do now. From KennySia, to Xiaxue, to Kimberlycun and my latest craze, Vivy Yusof and Nuffnang's founder - TimothyTiah. Whenever they update, I just get the boost of dopamine shooting in my reward circuitry. 

It is a space which exposes a glimpse your private life to the public. I know, it may seem like we enjoy voyeurism perhaps we do  but we actually just love sharing our thoughts with the people who hopefully are like-minded, and resonate in return.  
Follow my instagram on @the_whitecoat for daily updates 
I know this can be done via so many other channels now; instagram, facebook, twitter etc. I am doing it too, it's's not enough. There isn't enough space and flexibility for you to simply rant express your thoughts, for you to narrate your life properly. And perhaps I am just that old fashioned, I just found the passion and love in writing freely here. 

What should I do? 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Giving an 'introduction'

How would you like to be introduced? Funny, witty, smart, composed, reserved?
Or do you like to introduce yourself because no one else could do you the justice? 

Since university started, I have been meeting new people almost every day. Ok, maybe not that many, but at least 1 per week except during exam term when everyone disappears in this city of nerds intense people. The most common form of introduction in this university is, "Hi, my name is _____. I am a (your year) from (college), doing (course)." 

So, having done this no less than 45678745 times, I am obviously very sick and bored with this kind of introduction, whether when I am being introduced to another person by a mutual friend, or when I had to introduce myself. I mean, ok, it makes sense, it packs the most vital information people need to know about you in 2 sentence, but it's sooooooo common and similar, at the end of a series of introductions (especially when in a group) I can't even remember anything anymore. Not that I am not paying attention or I am not interested in you, I really am interested! But human memory isn't like a computer, dude! Memory works best by association of a new piece of information with our experience or  something outstanding/witty/funny. With that dead boring, fill-in-the-form-style introduction, there's simply nothing unique that I could associate it. (unless you have something physically or behaviourly distinct that I could observe in a few seconds) 

I decided to try something new in the art of creating first impression

During the latest CUMaS freshers squash, I decided to go:
"Hi, I'm Christine. I'm a first year, Biological natural scientist, from Caius." Then tried to look a bit nervous (which I thought should portray first-year's awkwardness quite well.) 
"But why haven't I seen you at the freshers camp?"
"Oh I got the offer very late so I missed the camp."
Of course the freshers believed me, no doubt, with the help of by my fellow third year wingmen. :P They don't have a reason to not believe me. 
So after we finished out 10 minutes chit-chat and the awkward silence starts to sink in before people start moving away to another group of people to talk to, 
"Actually...I'm a third year."
"All were true but I am not exactly a bio natsci, I'm a medic, who's on her third year, but is doing a bionatsci course. All else are true."
Not a very good first impression when trying to instill sense of trust and reliability a senior should have, but heck, when they know me they will know how am I really like, so that shouldn't be a big deal. :P (and now they will remember me forever for being 'the senior who cheated me during the freshers squash')

But my point is - the freshers' response when I told them the fake introduction and the true introduction were so different. When I told them immediately I am a third year, they were much more reserved in their answers.  They were more passive and I had to ask formal/boring questions like 'so how are you finding the first few lectures?' and they gave me a omg-so-generic answers. Then the awkwardness sinks in, then we move away and never talk to each other again. 
Ok probably not that bad. 
BUT the response was immensely different when I told them I am their fellow first year. Yes, the personality of the freshers I decided to prank on may be different but the responses I got when I told them I am a first year are generally much more...genuine. They would give some generic answers, but they also complained, they teased for a bit. And it's just generally warmer, and we instantly connect. There is an expected sense of empathy. How nice would it be if we could all just put down our guards for a bit when meeting people? 
(and my dear freshers, please forgive this dino for pulling this social experiment/prank on you poor innocent souls on the first moments we meet. Don't worry, I won't do it again. Do ask for help whenever you need anything... :) ) 

Then there's another instance I introduced this junior to another friend from third year. 
"Hey, meet  XXX. She is XXX2's sister." I said.
"HEY don't introduce me like that! I am me...."
You won't believe how scared and shocked I was. Oh dear she's gonna hate me forever now, this stupid senior. She was so quiet, so gentle before and I really didn't expect that to come after that introduction which I thought was perfectly fine. I thought it was the easiest way to relate and link 2 people. The sisters shared the same background, so telling my friend about this mutual point should be a good launching pad to help them strike up a conversation. Turns out, it's not always the case. 

Perhaps I should put in more thoughts when introducing someone. I get annoyed and obviously not very impressed too when people introduced me wrongly. ('Hey, meet Christin----a.' -_-"" )

Your introduction is your first impression, the first moment with this new person, who could possible unveil a completely different phase of your life. One wrong step and that's probably the end of the story. (Unless you are obliged to meet each other every day.)
How would you like to be introduced? How do you usually introduce a person to another friend?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Start of third year!

homemade cappucino to start off the day! I am a third year. 

Remember when I first started this blog I haven't even got a clue how Cambridge is like? I haven't even been in the UK before at that stage! And look at me now...all full of wisdom, of a third year. (better than a first year :P)  Time really flies. Looking back, I couldn't be grateful enough for the family and friends that have supported me through. Those that are far away offered their ears (and their videocall), sacrificed their sleep just to listen to my rants; and my fellow cantabs here have been nothing short of amazing in supporting each other in any possible way. *melts* 

I used to hate this place very much. And my level of hatred towards this place usually escalates to the peak during Easter, when the Tripos/finals are super near. I think I will be used to the exam stress this year. Oh wait, no. I will still scream, rant, cry and act out all kinds of drama, but a note to self, that too, shall pass. 

Anyway, while everyone is still happily soaking in their last day of break before the term starts tomorrow and the freshers, happily being lost and confused all the time at Sidney Street, I...being a Pathology NatSci this year, have already started working in the lab since yesterday. 2 holi-days short. 

(Yes, medics in Cambridge get a break from being a hectic, mad medic in the third year, by doing some other courses of our liking. pheww... and I heard we are paying NatSci's tuition fee which is wayyy cheaper than medics' one this year.) 

It is not a bad thing I guess. I am currently working in Dr Ajioka's lab with 2 phd students. I met one of them yesterday, and we went full force immediately, literally. Because there wasn't a desk space for me in the lab yet so 2 of us had to move drawers and machines around to clear a corner for me. What a warming-up!

And guess what I'm working on this year? Exploding bacteria. Yes, we are trying to explode bacteria as uniformly and optimally as possible.  Why on earth would anyone want to do that? I thought so too initially. 

 Displaying photo.JPG
But it isn't as easy as exploding bacteria! My project aims to mutate the viruses which infect bacteria = bacteriophage, so they can infect the bacteria and incorporate their genes into the bacteria to make the bacteria burst more synchronously. No, I won't make a virus that causes a catastrophe as in The Dawn of the Planet of the Ape. It's a virus that infects bacteria, not.human.plants.animals. 

There are many applications to this idea if I manage to come up with a very simple, elegant method within these 2 terms. But the bigger implication is, we can then use the same method to increase the yield of any protein/product we desire from bacteria and to enable one species of bacteria to produce proteins which can only be produced by another species. This includes antibiotics, rare proteins etc. So yea, that's my academic part of the year, aside from the usual but MUCH LESS lectures and supervisions for the year. *twirls* 

As for the ECA part, I am embarking on a fresh, new, daunting journey with a new organization - Malaysian Medics International. I guess it is daunting for everyone on the committee but very very exciting at the same time. I am suppose to work on the finance and sponsorship *with zero experience*. Grabbed this opportunity because it is a chance to learn new things apart from the human body. We are preparing a series of very new, exciting and most importantly, USEFUL events for this whole year and the next summer, so if you are a Malaysian Medic studying in any university in the world, do like our page on facebook - Malaysian Medics International UK for updates. :) 

Ok, time to head to the lab to burst more bacteria!