Saturday, July 12, 2014

Graduations, Birthdays, et al.

It's amazing how fast time goes for me lately.. I checked my last post (when I thought with conviction that I would adhere to regular updates) and noticed that it was in April! Sooo I guess I will just have to accept that the updates will be less regular than I intend. You have to get over it too, okay? And you have to accept that I'm just going to give you updates in pictures.

So let's get to the business! At the end of April/early May I went back to Michigan for a couple days to see Sarah graduate from the Wayne State University School of Social Work. 
 Sarah was in the very last row... of the last school to be called to walk.. -_-
 But we forgave her and went out to celebrate in true Conlon fashion
 Congratulations, Sarah - I'm so proud of you!

To decide (or remember more likely) what things to put in a blog post, I go back through the pictures on my computer so sometimes it is a bit random or un-themed.. but if you really want to know about my adventures, we have to talk about cooking. Because fresh spinach pasta.
 With garlicy, red peppery, cherry tomato reduction...
 A good candidate for tonight's dinner... Mmm

In May some of the ADVANCE fellows got together for some pizza and drinks which was really nice

In other news.. I have only lived here almost a year and finally made it out to see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a super beautiful day, ripe for a good sunburn (which I got)

We had a great time..and now I have my bridge pictures okay? So stop asking for them!

In late May I came home one day to a rather unkempt looking package outside my door.. the type of packaging that could only come from one man.... My dad. And look at the amazinggggg picture that was inside!

 It's the stop that secured the MSU victory in the Rose Bowl - perhaps it's not increasing my friend base at Stanford, but it's pretty awesome swag. Thanks Dad :)

The next incredible thing that happened - in June my Leene came to visit me! It was a short and sweet visit, but it was so refreshing to catch up with my best friend

I'm sad I don't have more pictures from when she was here.. but rest assured, we had ourselves a good time <3

The pictures show me that the next big event was my birthdayyyy... I'm seriously an old granny now haha. But my friends sure know how to make an old lady feel special. They organized a surprise dinner full of friends, cake, and a beautiful Le Petit Prince silk scarf. I also received surprise flowers in lab from Joe, and surprise flowers & chocolate covered strawberries at home from mom.. I felt very loved!

I'm sure you may have heard some buzz about this world cup thing? Well I do enjoys me a good soccer game.. I may have even snuck out of lab a few times to watch some of the games ;) Of course I'm sad that the US is out, but we had a pretty good run and I am seriously enjoying all the Tim Howard jokes that have come out of it (i.e. Department of Defense). I will be watching the final tomorrow though I don't have any real investment in the teams. I was hoping for Netherlands in the final... but even those hopes were dashed!

Did I mention I'm the new social chair of the Stanford Bioscience Student Association (SBSA)? Well, I am... and I had my first event in June. I think it was a pretty successful happy hour.. but then who complains about free drinks and snacks? I'm organizing a BBQ for next Friday and I'm more nervous about that for sure.. it should be pretty fun though.

I also co-run the Biology Grad Student seminar.. we've had some great speakers. Jae did an awesome job in June!

On Tuesday Miriam took the shortest-trip-ever to California for work, and luckily I was able to see her in the ~19 hours she was in the state! We had dinner at this nice little bar in Berkeley. The food was seriously delicious.

We were right across the street from UC Berkeley's campus so we took a little tour after dinner

Berkeley is an interesting city.. between people collecting leaves (no I don't mean with a rake) and bongo players stretching, I was very entertained

So that's the whirlwind tour of the last couple months. Between lab and my other commitments, I am sooo busy it really makes the time fly. But it's nice to feel like I am accomplishing things!

The last note I have to make is .. Seamus is driving out here (as I write) to work as a certified flight instructor in Atwater, California. I'm so excited to have my bro so close, and so proud of him for getting the job and making such awesome progress in his life. Slowly we will get all the Conlon clan... :) To celebrate, here are a couple of pictures of me and my Seam!

The man does not forget his sunscreen at the beach

He looks pretty good in cardinal, no?

It seems fitting to post the picture of the last sibs gathering when we all still lived in Michigan - right before I started my drive to Cali - almost exactly 1 year ago!

Cheers to you, Seamy ol' boy. California will be so much better with you here <3

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lab Decision, Goggles Optional, Genotyping, and Miriam!

Hellooo again from beautiful sunny Stanford! I am so pleased to announce that after very careful consideration, a lot of conversations with various lab members, friends, faculty, and three coin flips I have decided to join Scott Dixon's lab! I am sooo happy to be done deciding, and extremely enthusiastic about moving forward with my thesis research in the lab. My information isn't on the lab website yet, but if you want to check out the research, the link is below:

Whew.. it is going to be such a great weekend now that I have finished with that! And honestly it is a huge relief to just have decided finally. The first day of the rest of my life, and so on ;)

Okay enough business, let's talk about some fun. So firstly I have had the unique opportunity to join the writing team for a science podcast run by Stanford scientists, called Goggles Optional. The podcast intends to talk about new discoveries in the world of science, in a way that everyone (especially non-scientists) can enjoy. I think it's great because science outreach is extremely important, and having the public involved in what's going on is a critical way to increase awareness which can influence policy, legislature, etc. The link below is from this week's episode which I helped write! You should check it out, and stay tuned as every week there is a new episode!

This week's episode focuses on some papers that just came out about new brain maps that have been developed! We also cover a new advance in neuromuscular therapy that combines optigenetics with stem cell engraftment to induce muscle function and is super rad.

Another cool thing I wanted to tell you about is this class I am taking on personalized genomics. For it, we genotype ourselves using a company called 23andme which is open to everyone. The system works by analyzing >500,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) which can give you information about different genetic traits. It's a really interesting thing to do, because you can get important genetic info about likelihood for different diseases, and also get information about your ancestry and history. Personalized genomics is a huge topic in medicine now, as it has the potential to make therapies really directed to the individual, as well as allow you to take your health into your own hands. Unfortunately the FDA has stopped allowing 23andme to release the actual genetic probabilities of different diseases as they feel that people won't know how to respond appropriately to the information. The nice thing is that in the class we learn how to analyze the raw data ourselves so we can get the health information. I prefer to have all the information about myself I can so that I can feel confident about my personal health, but it's important to note that getting this kind of information can be stressful (i.e. finding out you have a critical mutation that increases your risk for breast cancer to 85%).. and once you know, you can't un-know the information. That being said, if you're interested in doing 23andme and want to talk to me about it, I would be happy to go through some info with you! Anyway the class is really cool and covering a topic that I don't know a lot about.

The last great update I wanted to give is visiting with Miriam the last week. She has been in California a lot recently for work, which is pretty tiring for her, but great for me because I get to see her pretty often! Last weekend we went on a hike to Mount Diablo State Park. It was really beautiful and fun, though a touch on the warm side haha. 

 The hike started out well. We saw this cool tree that Miriam said reminded her of the elephant graveyard in the Lion King
 Shortly after we ran into disaster when Miriam tried to cross a muddy path and.. sank.. my own personal tragedy is that I was laughing until my ribs hurt
 We soon realized that we were hiking up a mountain and that it was 80 degrees.. but the views were so amazing

In a lot of places we found these rocks sticking out, like they just tore through the fabric of the earth. It was really cool and seemed very medieval or mystical

 Miriam is highly rebellious and decided to traverse the tall grasses and numerous pricklers for a better view off the trail
 Unfortunately it didn't turn out to be that great, so we ran back down the hill
 It had the weirdest feeling of being in LOTR or something.. so windy and hilly
 And many little beauties on the way

 I love these orange flowers! They're so bright and beautiful.. and seem so resilient to grow in such harsh conditions

 I love seeing trees so singly on the hills (I see it a lot in Cali.. it's so different from either forested/not).. and with the shadows the view was really amazing
 We even interacted with some wildlife.. see if you can find the lizard!
 His camouflage is super effective.
 After this picture he ran away because he was just gettin' reeeal tired of my shit
 More single trees on hill action
 Really beautiful burnt orange flower.. actually looked like it had a sunburn haha
 Strange brush that contained a ton of birds talking to eachother
 I should look up what kind of bird this is.. it was cool when he did this call you could see the red part of its wings (I'm going to hazard a guess at Red-Winged Black Bird or something). He also made a crazy sound when I was taking a bunch of pictures of him.. and when I heard birds calling back in other directions I thought maybe they had us surrounded and would be moving in for the attack!
 Lil trail of ants
 Another beautiful tree, and even more beautiful shadow.
 Really strange and pretty little forest we were walking through.. and immensely happy for the shade

Natural steps in the hill.. I wonder how that occurs?!
 Near the end of the hike we were pretty thirsty and sweaty haha
But after we got back to Walnut Creek we had a couple margaritas and some sushi and that just cheered us right up! Mmm cucumber gin gimlet.. caterpillar roll... :D

Okay well that sums up this week pretty well. Should be a pretty fun weekend ahead including a wine tasting event in SF on Sunday afternoon. I can't wait to just enjoy the beautiful weather and relax before starting in lab officially on Monday!