28. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: PhD

I want to discuss personal happiness with your place in the world. A really great quote that impacted me years ago went something like, “You can either change your situation, or change your reaction.” I don’t remember who said the quote or even where I heard it, but it still rings so true. When you find yourself in an unpleasant situation, you have two options. (1) Change the situation so you are not in it anymore (2) Change your reaction to the situation you are in.

If your current dilemma is truly out of your control, you must choose the second option and then you can be happy with where you are at that point in time. The great part of this kind of life tip is that you are in control of your own happiness. You can defeat any unhappiness by twisting your state of mind, doing some mental push-ups, or whatever gets you to morph into your old happy self.

This technique (a meditation of sorts), although I fortunately do not need to use it often, has really made all the difference in some periods of my day when I feel completely despondent. I can’t help but dwell on my issue at hand, but after some time I need to move on. By changing my reaction or emotional response to a situation, I can choose to be happy again.

The unpleasantness of midterm season is here and I am going to try to apply my technique to studying for my exams.

Why is it that I enjoy knowing things, but I don’t enjoy learning them? I’m a person that likes to learn—I love science, I’m curious about things I observe, but why do I procrastinate in studying? Why does it take extra effort and a double shot of espresso to make me sit down at my desk and read powerpoints? Could I twist around my mentality in order to make studying fun?

A friend of mine once helped motivate me to study in a similar way. This is how he thought about the situation differently (i.e. changed his reaction): a textbook is the highest intellectual compilation of knowledge on a specific subject that exists. It only exists because of the millions of hours of research done by scientists before my time. The enormous workload and endless experiments conducted in the past to discover the intricacies of human physiology are all displayed in front of me in black and white text (and pictures)! All I have to do is read it. A scientist’s life’s work, for example, the elucidation of the structure of DNA, can be taught to me in a few minutes. Rosalind Franklin had to perform x-ray crystallography on DNA helices. All I have to do is read and learn.

I hope this more appreciative perspective will help keep me on task during the next two weeks. I will be doing many hours of studying between now and then, but it is nothing compared to the work done before me to make this information so easily accessible, interpretable, and applicable to human health.

Good luck studying to fellow OD2s!

04. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: PhD

I am excitedly looking onwards to my third year in optometry school in fall 2013. After my last BU lab rotation this summer, I will confirm my official lab assignment where I will pursue my PhD. Third year (OD3) at NECO is a much lighter load of credit hours compared to second year, which I am in now. Because of the increased amount of free time for OD3s, the OD/PhDs will get to work in their designated research labs at BU while also completing third year at NECO.

This is a great opportunity to get ahead on our laboratory research. The experimental approach and analysis of research is a critical thinking skill that students build over time and is not easily taught. The lab techniques on the other hand are probably something you’ve never done before and require great accuracy, care, and fine motor skills (usually). So after you read all the background knowledge on your research topic and have an intellectual understanding of what your experiments are trying to accomplish, you have to change gears and develop the skills and dexterity to actually carry out the experiments.

This is why starting our research ahead of time while still in OD3 at NECO will allow us to jump right into meaningful work at BU in Fall 2014. For example, if you are going to be fixing sections of tissue on slides and staining them to look for some molecule, you are going to need a lot of practice first. Especially if your specimens are expensive and/or difficult to accumulate, the research lab is definitely going to have you practice on some less meaningful samples first. This way you make your mistakes on practice samples, not compromising your future data.

So after completing OD3 and some lab work simultaneously, the OD/PhDs will start at Boston University the next fall to begin courses and lab work towards a PhD! I love science and learning the explanation of mechanisms, rather than just facts or statements. The explanation of why a certain sign is associated with a particular disease, for example, gives me a mental path to the “short cut” I was supposed to memorize. Rather than use a mnemonic device or just force the fact into my head through pure repetition, if I can explain it to myself and it makes sense, it feels a lot less like memorizing and more like an interesting story. I suspect BU courses and research articles are going to have many “stories” for me to understand, and once you understand something there’s no memorization necessary.

NECO is very supportive of the OD/PhDs and wants to help us stay sharp on our clinical skills while we are away at BU. We are going to have access to the pre-clinic lab spaces at NECO to practice all our clinical skills and then a proficiency skills test at the end of our PhD education to make sure we are well-practiced before we start clinical rotations. Clinical rotations are during OD4, which is completely a clinical experience at full-time status. We OD/PhDs will do our “OD4” after we are finished at BU.

My future delay in clinical rotations is a little bit of an annoyance, especially after starting to work in clinic and enjoy it so much, but it will all be well worth the extra time in the end. What an excellent opportunity–I had to go for it!