Saturday, 30 April 2011

Research in first year: A lesson I still remember to this day

You know how people tell that when you do things of personal interest, that you are more likely to succeed? Well, then by that logic, the less interesting something is to you, the worse you'll do at it. This was true for me in my first year.  I basically thought that research meant being able to cure cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and all other illnesses out there and winning the Nobel prize. In preparation for doing my volunteer work, I read three of my professor's scientific journal articles just so I would be ready in case he asked me anything related to his research. I was determined to be one of the upcoming stars in his laboratory. Now, with that in mind, imagine my shock when I ended up cleaning glass panels and test tubes instead of doing experiments.

Although my time doing research for this professor was brief, I was a lab member and was lucky to be invited to lab meetings and lunches. During one of our lab meetings, I was introduced to someone who most certainly has no recollection of me. He is one of Canada's most prominent oncologists and was the former supervisor of the professor I was doing research for. This man was kind, but most importantly, straightforward, something that I believe a lot of first year students are not exposed to. Present at the lab meeting were undergraduate research assistants (like me), undergraduate research investigators, and graduate and PhD students. All of us were students of biochemistry.

I remember the oncologist looking at all of us students and asking us the question, "How many of you want to be successful in research?" and just about every one of us put our hands up. The oncologist then asked us, "Now, why do you think you will become successful at what you are doing?"

One of the students answered, "Because I like to do research."

The oncologist then said, "That does not mean you will be good at it."

Everyone was a little bit shocked at what he had said. I think that most people want to believe that if you put in enough hard work, that you will be able to rise to the challenge and become great at it. We are taught from a very young age by teachers and mentors around us that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. This was the first time that I had someone tell me the opposite. He proceeded to tell us that being interested in a topic does not hurt, but it is not everything. There must be some talent. If you are not talented at something, then how can you be good at it?

Does an art student want the world to their see drawings? I think a lot of the time, yes, there is hope for this. What if he or she becomes an artist, and realizes that they are not good at it? Should they quit because they were unsuccessful? Or should they continue because that is what they love to do? If we can evaluate why we are doing what we are doing, and what our purpose is in the midst of things, maybe our expectations won't be so skewed. Maybe we will be more content with what we pick instead of becoming bitter that the path we have chosen is not living up to our expectations.

For me, my future rests in medicine. Some say medicine is an art. I believe this to be true. For those who have landed here and are premeds, there is a chance that we could all become ineffective doctors because we lack the talent. Knowing that, what makes becoming a doctor worth it? Personally, I have chosen to acquire as much experience as I could volunteering in hospitals and doing clinical research. I like people, and I like helping them. I know that there is a chance I could enter medicine and realize I have a lack of talent... but until then, I think I'll take my chances. If there is a possibility that I can help others, and as cheesy as it sounds, make a difference in their lives, then the gamble is all worth it. But even though I say this now, I wonder what my perceptions will be like in the future and hope I'll still have the same feelings of optimism as I currently possess.

Jasmine, her surgery

Hi everyone.

Just wanted to note that my cat Jasmine is going to have dental surgery on May 2nd. Please wish her luck. She is going to be having a major tooth extraction to remove her canine teeth. For those that did not know this, she has also been recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and has had a rough couple of weeks. However, she is responding very well to her tapazole treatment! Her coat has become a lot healthier and she is running around like normal. Hopefully, you have read the comics I have made about Jasmine and have gotten to know her through my artwork. She's a very special cat, and I can't wait to write an update telling everyone how well she is recovering from the surgery.

Thanks again,

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

By the Sea

Oh how fun it would be,
Just to live by the sea,
And to watch the time sail by.

When us three are together,
We'll fight come whatever,
Demons come our way.

Come let's get us a boat,
Let us sail, let us float,
Let us voyage to the sky.

And when we get there,
We'll never leave,
We will watch the time fly by.

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Tale of the Unorthodox Genie (Part I)

One summer, Lynn decided to walk down a path by herself, without Drew. She tried her best to be prepared for the trip. Luckily, she was able to find her hiking attire in a treasure case that was easily accessible to her on the trail. At the end of the trail stood a genie. A very, very different genie. He was drinking something that seemed to make him laugh quite loud, he was not wearing a robe (he was wearing a tennis outfit instead), and was talking to himself about tennis, and why he couldn't wait to stop guarding the stupid gate.

Lynn thought the genie was marvellous. He was so different from all of the other ones. He looks like a lady's man. She thought to herself. I better be careful. She put her hair into a ponytail, put her shoulders back, and walked up to him with her head held high. He didn't seem to notice her. She was short, after all.

"Excuse me?" she said aloud. The genie stood unaffected (this doesn't surprise me, Lynn has a horribly soft mouse voice).

She tried again, a bit louder. "Hello?"

She stomped her feet.
 "Hey, you with the racket brain! I'm down here!"

The genie's smile disappeared. He tilted his head downward, unimpressed at the creature that stood beneath him.
"What are you?"

She was shocked. Hadn't he seen a girl before? "I'm a Homo sapiens!"

"Homo what?"

"Homo sapiens! The latin meaning means "wise man" or "knowing man." See that animal over there?"
She gestured towards an orangutan reading a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy. "That's an ape. We're related."

He started to laugh out loud. "You mean, you're related to that thing that likes to throw it's dung around?"

"Yes!" she exclaimed. Wait, what?

The genie was smiling mischeviously.
"I know what you are. And I know why you're here. You want me to open the gate for you."

The girl was relieved. He was just playing a joke on her. What a silly genie.
"Yes! Thank you."

He didn't budge. His grin got even bigger, and more like a Cheshire cat. Was he having fun messing with her head?
"I know what you are, and I know how much fun humans are."

Lynn started to become puzzled. She had never met a genie like this before. Most genies didn't want to talk to her. They would take her to another world right away and begin the testing. Why was this genie so different?

"How about this? I'll take you to the testing location since you are so stubborn about passing the gate. But there is one condition."

"What's that?"

"You see, I've been very bored here all day long, and I'm not getting any handsomer. I'm a big tennis fan."

She looked at his polo shirt, tennis shorts, and racket.
"Really? I hadn't noticed."

The genie's eyes light up, "Federer is my idol. I hope gets the grand slam this year. How about we play a match. If you lose, the gate stays closed and you can never try again. And if you win, as long as I don't change my mind, I'll take you to the testing location. Either way, the chances of you winning against me are nearly impossible. You've never even played before, have you?"

Lynn looked around helplessly.
The genie's smile was extraordinarily large.
"So, it's a deal then?"

The girl was confused, "Deal? What deal? What are you talking abouuuuuuuuuuuuuuu- !!!!!!"

And with that, he lifted her up from the ground by her ankles and flew off to a place she had ventured before.

Friday, 22 April 2011


Many well meaning people will tell you that a genie is a mythical being with magical powers that only exist to make your dreams come true. That, just like in the movie, Aladdin, once you find a magical lamp all you need to do is rub the lamp and you will be granted not one, not two, but three wishes. Whatever your heart's desire. After your wish has been granted, your fate is determined by your wish. However, if a mistake has been made and you have made a poor decision, you must live (or die) through the consequences. There is no return.

In the dream world, our three protagonists Lynn, Drew, and Jasmine the kit-kat had forgotten what a genie was (though, it is hard to tell what Jasmine used to think of genies). As such, they did not realize the dangers that lay behind approaching a genie without caution. They were like two kids with the dream world at their disposal. Any harm that came to them could be easily warded off with a sword, a bow an arrow, a swipe to the nose by Jasmine! Nothing could stand in their way. Or so they thought.

In this world, genies were quite easy to identify. They wore long, elegant robes and curly toed shoes. They could be found atop aluminium gates that were three times as tall as Lynn, 3.5 times as tall as Drew, and the equivalent of six Jasmines. However, it was nearly impossible from first glance to know if you were standing in front of a good genie or a bad genie. They all seemed to have the same sort of omniscient demeanour.

Here, genies were gatekeepers that only granted one wish - the opening of the gates. Some genies controlled more than one gate (those type were rare). Others would be secretive and not tell you of the misfortunes that the path behind the gate would lead you to. Before granting a wish every genie required that you pay him a fee. Soon after payment, the genie would lift you up into the air from your ankles and take you to a world that looked like something out of a Dali gallery. There you would have to complete a series of tasks, and therein lies the true nature of the genie. Friendly genies held your hand. They would show you how to perform the tasks, ward you away from hidden traps. They seemed to truly want you to do well. Nasty genies would do the opposite. For them, your failure seemed like pure joy. You needed to have superpowers to pass through these difficult genies - something Drew seemed to do with ease, but poor Lynn struggled to access her powers.

It's quite apparent that you needed to chose well meaning genies to make passing through gates manageable, but sadly this was not always the case for dear Lynn, Drew, and Jasmine. Sometimes, they would pass with no trouble at all! Sometimes, Lynn would fall behind and Drew needed to save her from destruction. And at others, they both needed to help each other. But somehow, they seemed to manage. Day in, day out. After all, they had to. There was no going back.

Dare to dream

Once upon a time there was a girl who had a dream. In that dream, there were friendly creatures. One was a very kind and pretty creature who liked to teach. Another was a smart and talented creature who wanted to be a writer. And another, yet, who was interested in speech science, or something of the like?! There was one very silly creature who loved to do a crazy thing called the moonwalk! And another that called herself a gangster? Whatever that means...

After much laughter and fun, she had to leave that world of friendly creatures and enter a far, far scarier one full of booby traps and hidden paths. Luckily, she was able to make a friend along the way who was just as scared as her! But, when monsters crept around the corner, he protected her! One time, he even fought several evil monsters to the death while she trembled behind a bush with her trusty kit-kat. Oh, it was an epic battle to say the least, but he was there to help her to the end.

One day, while walking by herself, the girl discovered a brand new path full of mystery. This path was a road never travelled before. Not by her, nor by any other creatures she knew! She took a glance at this path. It looked far too long. But from where she was standing, she could just feel how well it suited her. It looked beautiful, smelled like honey and mint (which she loved) and even showed a glimpse of herself at the end of the path. The girl that was waiting for her at the end of the long road, to her astonishment, looked identical to her but a bit older, a bit wiser, and just a tad happier than her. She rushed to tell her friend of the strange sight. Holding hands, they made a promise to each other. "I'll be beside you the whole way," they said. "What if we get tired? What if we got lost," the girl asked, feeling like a coward. "What if I can't go back, and get trapped? There might be monsters here, just like before". Her friend looked at her and showed her his trusty bow and arrow. Without a word, she knew it was going to be okay. With a bag of rice to start a trail so they wouldn't lose their way, she took her first step forward and didn't look back.