Thursday, April 2, 2009

total geek

Twelve thousand dollars of uber nerd equipment arrived for the new lab today. I am in science mother geek heaven.

Now for the big whoppa (big file server) and we'll be sorted for gear.
Another new staff member started today so the team is also shaping up.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Food glorious food...

So, us working mothers like a challenge and as if running around madly at work all day, chasing pick ups/child care etc wasn't enough. It seems we are also insistent upon fine dining for our little ones.

I have a total hang up about my kids eating vegetables. I admit it, I am a freak. I will actively avoid putting a full serve of starch (eg rice) and protein (eg sausage) on my three year old's plate. Mean? Maybe. Sensible? Ohhhhhhh yeah. So her eating pattern is thus:
Hmmmm, yummy food SM. I will now proceed to eat every single grain of rice, each piece of meat and then gulp down loads of water. I will now tell my mother that "I had nuff". (meanwhile, big brother sucks down anything on his plate, as long as he can have more....).

So, my culinary delights these days tend to incorporate "secret ways to include vegies".

Here are SM's suggestions for getting vegies into a reluctant toddler's diet.
1) Pure evil. Don't let them leave before they eat those three tiny little broccoli trees. Of course any sensible woman know (and we are, after all, sensisble scientific types) this is crazy and will likely set up some nasty conditioned response that the child will bear for the rest of its life.

2) SM's fried rice. Quantities are disarmingly inaccurate, now that I think about it. I never use recipes for night time meals.
1 - 2 cups of long-grain rice
corn kernels
sliced mushroom
finely chopped broccoli heads
diced capsicum
thinly sliced carrot
shallot or brown onion, very super duper finely sliced. You could even mash it in a food processor if your kids are picky
two to three heads of garlic
Amazing stir fry sauce (sometimes I use a combo of soy, fish sauce, corn flour, water, chinese rice wine or vinegar, lime juice)
herbs (coriander, mint, basil, depending on what's not dead in the garden)
Peanut or canola oil (olive is better but the burn temp is much lower than these others so it doesn't really suit stir fry

Two helpers with plastic knives to chop mushrooms - mushrooms are easy to chop and we kind of don't care what shape they are because they always reduce down in size. Giving this task to the kids leaves me to furiously chop the hard core veg.
Wok stirrer

Cook rice in two times as much boiling water, until tender. Drain and leave it hanging out.
Heat wok
Add oil
Add onion, stir for about 30 seconds
Add hard veg (carrot, broccoli etc). Fling around for 1 minute
Add softer veg. Fling 45 seconds
Add minced garlic (yes, towards the end - it doesn't get burnt this way)
When veg is looking OK, add rice and mix really well. I like the rice to get a bit crispy so I do this for a while (it also cooks off the veg nicely)
Add a bit of sauce to taste. The idea is not to make this sloppy but to have a consistency that heaps nicely on a small spoon.
Add herbs (and maybe even bean shoots) at the end.

Serve up.

What about the protein you ask? Well, I would normally throw in left over meat or tofu. If I'm really uninspired I incorporate one egg at the end of cooking to bind it together. You can also cook two eggs in a thin omlette first, slice them up into long strips and then add to the rice at the end.

YUMMO, and what a vehicle for vegies.

3) SM's chicken and sweet corn soup
This one was a winner with the kids down the road. Their mother looked very nervous when I served it up but was impressed when they gulped it down and asked for more. I swear there were no addictive substances added. There are traditional recipes from the Chinese for this but again I just make it up.

Stuff you need
Chicken - breast is best (sorry, I couldn't resist) but thigh is cheaper and merely makes the end result a tad coarser. Aim for one piece per hungry tummy.
Tinned sweet corn (or you could food process fresh or frozen corn kernels if you really had all the time in the world, which you don't, which is why you're reading this in the first place). This also gets called creamed corn
Stock - I either use my own chicken stock from past roasts or store-bought vegetable stock. The amount depends on the consistency of the soup. I like kind of gluggy.
corn flour (about two tablespoons mixed with cold water, depending on how think you'd like your soup).
Little pasta pieces (either purpose made or broken up spare bits of spagetti or other)

How to proceed
Fling all but the corn flour mixture, sweet corn and pasta into a large pot. Simmer very gently until the chicken is cooked through.
Use a Bamix or similar to souperise your soup (ie mush it 'til it is smooth, not too lumpy).
Add pasta and cook on low heat until it is al dente.
Add sweet corn and stir
Add corn flour and seasoning (pepper and maybe salt, but I try not to) to taste


Now, you might ask how I get the vegies in?
The bastardised version of that soup has loads of two or three reasonably insipid vegies (carrot, onion, zucchini) flung in at the time of the chicken. They then get pulverised once the chicken is cooked. I don't use celery or other strong flavours as this overpowers the nice contrast between the corn and the chicken/stock.

My kids love this, particularly if I lash out and go for alphabet or number pasta. A rare treat but I suppose you could argue that it makes the dish nutritious and educational????!

Happy eating all you amazing science women.

Next food carival could be 'fancy dishes for when you've just won that grant and had a high-impact paper publisjed'. I know, some of you will argue that you'd go out for dinner and whilst that is true I quite enjoy an excuse to cook adult oriented food.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Where did I go? I am back

Oops. I kinda got sucked up my own rear end there for a while.

The paper rejection thing always knocks me for six but it's not like I didn't bounce back. On the contrary, it's been really busy.

First the important stuff. In the order of life-changing events
My son lost two teeth (on purpose, well you know cos kids are meant to lose teeth).
This changes my life because my baby is growing up. He can chew again now, although a third tooth is loosening.
My daughter was possessed by teenage vampires
I'm not sure what happened to the little toddler but all of a sudden my three year old has become vicious and super gentle all at once. It's almost as though she's so passionate in her love for us that she gets aggressive.
My best friend has left her husband and taken her young child with her
This is significant for so many reasons, but cyberspace is about the only place I can semi-safely vent. She did this in the week that our grants were due. Of all the weeks to leave your husband and justifiably want to spend some time chatting to your oldest friend, GRANT WEEK AIN'T IT! But you know, perspective in life is always a good thing and after my initial self-indulgent whinge I kept in pretty constant contact with her day and night, along with the 20 or so investigators on the six grants I was working on.
Naturally the net effect of this was my usual psychosomatic upper respiratory infection, which I get every year at the major grant submission time. Being run down whilst trying to be scientifically creative is a challenge. But grants went in and the antibiotics are now working a few weeks later.
My lab is half set up
We're waiting on our big ticket items - the equipment that we really need to get the science gunning along. We have such a small amount of space and there have been budget blow-outs, but it will be cool when I get the geek tools going.
New staff have arrived
The research group numbers around 12 or 13 now. The number of projects we've been invited to contribute to fills two enormous whiteboards. So it's exciting.
The paper tally still stinks
I said I would keep track. Since last writing I think two are now in press. I have nine in submission and there are 8 or so in draft format. Not enough of them are first author and that's what I need to concentrate on.
There are already personality problems threatening the team's work
It doesn't matter where in the world you go to work, there's always someone who makes life difficult. Or a situation. I have this already, which is a significant drain on my already stretched time resource. Not to mention that I don't appreciate getting caught up with other people's problems just because I'm the newbie on campus and they think I'm a sitting duck. Oh no... I saw the mischief coming. And I thought I was just there to do science.

Well, dull ranting this certainly is but I'm exhausted and probably dementing at a way too young age. So forgive me and I look forward to catching up on what all the other hard working women scientists out there have been up to.


Oh, and I want a puppy for my birthday.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Super Size that rejection

So in a follow up to Friday's email that gave advance warning of imminent rejection, I got the offical letter today. Not only was I reject but they went to some length to indicate how badly my application was rated. WTF?????????????????????????

I think it's just papers, but maybe it's the project I submitted. It's difficult to know, since there's no feedback provided at all. doh!

So I think I'm gonna keep a tally here.
Today's stat is:

2008 - 6 papers published or in press
Nine papers under review
Six papers getting the finishing touches prior to submission
First author papers I need to work on. HEAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! can't bear to count those. ugh.

If I could get up to ten published or in press by February next year then I'd be pretty chuffed. How could they resist me?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When bugging your senior colleague is futile

Papers are a significant issue for me right now. Kids got in the way of steady output. That and writing 55 grants in four years, being the 'go-to' girl for all problems in my previous lab. The glue.

WHOOPS! No track record. UNfundable.

So, I've been proactive and tried to implement a plan for publications with my old mentor. He agreed to a paper per week until they're all out (there's 15!) but of course in the first week renegs.

What to do, what to do?

Now that I'm a big girl running my own lab I guess the idea is not to perpetuate this style of 'leadership'. So I'm now kind of (but not really I suppose) in conflict. It would be easy to say "well, I didn't get an easy run so you lot can stand by while I control your futures". The better approach is avoid repeating the errors of others. Indeed, when old mentor suggested that I'd be OK at my new institution because he'd taught me all he know it was very easy to wholeheartedly agree...