Hello everybody reading this! My name is Alex Gorey and I am a first year PhD student in Dr Susan Cox’s lab at King’s College. I am currently looking at how variations in the topography of the extracellular matrix affects cell cytoskeleton dynamics. If you didn’t get it, that’s fine, neither do I, just enjoy a casual day with me at King’s 😉
By Alex Gorey
A playlist to accompany the read!
Alarm. (Good morning by Max Frost)
6:30 and Max Frost is blasting in my ear. Rolling out of bed and feeling the events of the weekend sharply in my muscles and brain I shuffle over to the Nespresso machine for my first coffee of the day. It’s a sunny morning but I can feel the cold of the first week of autumn in the air. Knowing I’m going to have to pack away the last couple pieces of summer clothing I’ve left in my closet in the hopes of a warm and sunny September I eat breakfast and pack my things for the gym and work.
Gym. (Schoolin’ Life by Beyonce)
Arriving at King’s fitness gym in London Bridge after a 5 min bike ride from home, it’s 7:00 and there are a couple other people around for an early morning workout. Today I decide to have a long stretch, small warm up on the rowing machine and work on my chest. After a rusty start the music takes over and my body kicks in. Feeling good and with some old school Beyoncé for motivation I finish my workout, post a shirtless selfie on Instagram (because did it really happen if you didn’t post it on social media) and shower.
Coffee. (Tie me Down (with Elley Duhe) by Gryffin)
Walking from the gym I get my second coffee of the day at the Union coffee shop on Guys campus. Its 9am and the University students still haven’t started class so there is no line and the sun’s starting to warm the air. Holding my coffee, I head to the office where Liisa and Gin are already working. Grabbing my protocols, I head to TC to prepare my experiment. It’s about to be a long 2 hours.
TC. Delirious (feat Tara McDonald) by David Guetta
Today I am running an experiment where I take fluorescent cells and seed them into a 3-Dimensional Collagen environment to see how they react to different levels of stiffness. This will allow me to see by imaging over time how live cells move and adapt to its surrounding environment in 3D. But to do this right I have to be very precise and concentrated or the day is pointless (which has happened more than once). Having my head screwed on the right way today my first impression is that the experiment is looking good. Haha!
Procrastination. (Rise by Jonas Blue)
Before heading to the Microscope, I have a short half hour for the 3D gels to solidify properly so I head over to the Parsons lab across the hall where they are always happy to spend time procrastinating and chatting about previous failures, possible failures and literally anything that will avoid them having to do some work. Maybe there are some snacks or donuts that someone’s brought in today or they are up for a trip for another Ice-Coffee and brownie on campus.
Microscope. (Rollin (feat Beacky G) by Austin Mahone)
Grabbing my sample, I head over to the Hodgkin’s Building where the Nikon Microscopy Center is based. Turning on all the lasers and bits and bobs for the microscope I load my sample and have a quick prayer that the experiment has worked no matter how atheist I am. Today is a lucky day as the cells look healthy and the gel is nicely labelled across all stiffnesses. Previous experience however has taught me this means very little. With this type of experiment many different things can go wrong and, more often than not they do. This is just the law when it comes to PhDs doing experiments. It can’t be avoided.
Lunch (These Boots are Made for Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra)
Knowing I have a good 45 min before I have to be back to check on my experiment I head out for lunch. Being at London Bridge I am spoiled for choice with Borough Market and tons of great restaurants and food around. So naturally I head to Tesco for a good 3 pound meal deal because I am still a student who is living in London and will always priorities money for drinks rather than a proper meal. Following lunch there is a few minutes for a quick YouTube and Instagram catch up before heading back to the microscope.
It’s all gone wrong (Across the room (feat Leon Bridges) by ODESZA)
Upon getting back to the microscope things start to go wrong. As the hours go by I can see that all the cells are starting to blebb and die. This seems to be a rule of science. As soon as something in your experiment has gone well more often than not the other thing will not. Looking around for other possible cells that might have survived it becomes obvious not today, it was not their day. So, I throw out my sample and head back to the lab.
Computer problems (Punga by Klingande)
I decide to stay clear of anything living for the rest of the day as my bad juju could carry on from my previous experiment and decide to work on my computer coding. It’s long and can be boring and often doesn’t work. Today seems to be one of those days. I sit for hours looking up and modifying my code to the point where I don’t even remember what I was trying to do in the first place. Walking past me, my boss literally glances at my code and corrects two spelling mistakes turns my two-page code into a 3-line code that works faster and better. Ugh!!!
Finally, the end of the f***ing day! (Goodbye (feat Nicki Minaj & willy William) by Jason Derulo.
Deciding to call it a day I run from the lab and head to Soho for a drink, or several, because that is the only way to end a day like this one. The rest of this night is no longer relevant to a day in the life of a PhD student.