Techno in the lab

Anyone who has any sort of experience with the necessity to focus for long periods of time knows just how important ear candy can be for productivity. Some people enjoy a big fat dish of silence, others can’t get enough of the latest and greatest book on tape, while many, many of us prefer one flavor or another of beautifully (or not so beautifully) constructed tunage. Ear candy has gotten many of us through lots of moments in our lives, and it certainly is getting me through the next phase of mine: lab work.

ea9b46c4-1bfa-4bb4-907d-4412ad22241c

the face of an exhausted undergrad hiding in a library cage (yes, a literal cage)

I’ve graduated from my undergraduate years of hiding away in the library blasting movie soundtracks from Finding Nemo to the glorious wizarding world of Harry Potter so that I could, for lack of better words, get shit done. And while I’m still not ready to let go of those tunes just yet (graduate school does require times of epic concentration comparable to cramming the information from a semester of 5 classes into your brain in the two days you have to prepare for finals), lab work requires the kind of ear candy that brings a little more excitement to my day.

If you’ve never done tedious microscope work or really any kind of tedious lab work, well, it’s a hard thing for me to describe. Not only do you need to brace your eyeballs or pipetting fingers for some serious exhaustion, but you also need to prepare a delicious plate of gourmet ear candy (so that you don’t go insane scanning little box by little box for the teeny tiny little object you’re interested in counting/finding/collecting… or pipetting acids into other acids holding the samples you’ve already dissolved in acid).

brain-training-1Which finally brings me to my title: Techno in the lab. It all started in undergrad, where a graduate student working in the same lab as me would pump some fantastic club music from the makeshift lab speakers. At first it was weird; I had always worked out to that kind of music (trust me, nothing gets me through a horrible run better than some seizure inducing beats), so I always felt like I was about to break out in a serious sweat. But lately, it’s really been growing on me. Being in the lab is like a workout for the brain; seriously, it takes some serious brain power to not drop something you shouldn’t (like HF, don’t drop HF) or to transfer one tiny little foram from a giant vial of forams to a slide of a smaller amount of forams. You have to pump yourself up for an extended period of time of doing shit, and for me, I’ve found that techno and other super-upbeat music (like some crazy wonderful Miike Snow) are fantastic for that. focus Focus FOCUS!!!

I know, I know. Techno is not for everyone (especially my mother… HI MOM!), but I think we all have that one brand of ear candy that can get us excited for a day in the lab, or for all you regular people, a day in the cube farm. We all have to find ways to focus (because we all need to get shit done), and ear candy is a damn good way to do it.

And you should consider yourself lucky if you catch me in that lab dancing from fume hood to fume hood. #earcandy (???)

 

Ice is slippery: We all fall down

I fall down a lot. This week, it was a epic fall-flat-on-my-face in front of lots of people after taking my chances on some exquisitely slippery ice. Last month, it was a trip induced tumble while crossing a teeny tiny little wood bridge near the end of a run. I’ve slipped down stairs in Nepal; I’ve made it through an entire Tough Mudder (literally the entire race) before falling face first in the mud two feet from the finish line; I’ve even forgot to clip out of my road bike and fallen over in the middle of a very busy intersection (bikers, you understand). But probably my most epic fall ever was not being accepted to graduate school the first time I applied.

fallonice-738120

What I looked like falling on ice this week (people saw)

Receiving those graduate school rejection letters was hard. I had done everything I was supposed to: took extra classes, completed two research projects, worked in multiple labs, tutored other undergrads, but all of that experience (for reasons still a little unclear) wasn’t enough to get me where I wanted to be. Nothing was as embarassing as missing out on a dream I’d been working so hard for, especially a dream I was convinced I’d have no problem achieving. But still I fell.

If cliche quotes have taught me anything, it’s that getting up after a fall is everything. But even when it feels like the whole world just watched you smack your face into the cold, icy ground, it’s much easier to get back up after a physical fall than one that’s happened in your head. My own personal Inside Out mind characters probably looked a lot like the image below (Sadness obviously started touching things) when I got that last rejection letter. But up I had to go, and up I went (all the way, in fact, to a higher than mile high mountain town with one hell of a research university).

insideout556500e6a2be0-2040-0

Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear from Inside Out.

We all fall down. Some of us (hi mom), are masters of the hiking/running/oh-just-walking fall and we’re scary good at shaking those physical falls off. But all of us (don’t deny it), have fallen reaching for something great: a job, a dream, a home, even a championship game. The metaphorical ice is slippery, but up we must go.