Blog Archive

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Did I Just Make Life? Following in Frankenstein's Footsteps

I don't mean travelling to the Arctic circle in search of revenge, (although lets not rule that out just yet) but rather building something living out of parts I dug up at midnight in a graveyard bought off Amazon. I am of course talking about building a computer, something I've never done before! I spent yesterday evening scratching my head at poorly translated instructions and peering intently at tiny wires. But that's not the point; the point is that in doing so I could relate a lot of what goes on in a computer to what goes on in a living cell, so thought I could shamelessly steal that as an analogy for this blog.

Spoilers; the answer to 'Did I just make life?' is definitely 'no'. But that's ok, because the journey is more important than the final answer sometimes!

Monday, 10 October 2016

World Mental Health Day; My Mental Health Tips

Today (the tenth of October) is World Mental Health day! Mental Health is a really important issue for me personally, but also for everyone; while nobody really talks about it 9not nearly enough, at least) it impacts on a huge percentage of the population, and is the biggest cause of death in my age group in the UK. It is likely to affect you, or someone you know, either right now or in the future, so I thought today I'd share some of my tips for lookjing after your mental health. I found these out the hard way so hopefully sharing them will stop somebody else having to!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Working Things Through; Imposter Syndrome and Fear of Messing Up

I am not confident in myself. Not just when I speak to people, or do anything traditionally nerve-wracking, but in everything I do, and everything I am; or at least, that I'm pretending to be. It feels like the classic 'imposter syndrome' deal, but it is seeping through my whole life. A lot of the time I feel like I just go through the motions, or that I am permanently 'faking it till I make it', even when I'm just being me.

There's this Gareth lurking in my head who is really happy with who I am. I get excited at the prospect of being 'me', of doing things I do like going into the lab, writing out a blog post, doing all the fun little sciencey hobby stuff I've started doing now with all the Instagram and videos and blog things. Being a proper scientist like I've always wanted, with things like talking at conferences, doing the public engagement bits, my Friendly Bacteria internet things...

Is that the real me though? Because if you take the whole me, the Garethome if you will, that's not how it pans out. That stuff really scares me. Like, to the point where I freeze up entirely. Even really easy, small stuff like checking on how my bacteria are growing in the lab. My office is almost opposite the lab, I could be up from my desk, suited up with lab coat and gloves and spraying things down with ethanol within sixty seconds. And yet whole days have gone by where I've had things I can be doing in the lab but I can't bring myself to even leave my chair. Not because I don't know what I'm doing, or anything like that, but that I'm so afraid trying to become this version of myself that I do actually want to become that even the first small steps are really overwhelming. I have officey things to do while I'm there anyway, but quick trips to the lab are delayed minutes, hours, sometimes even a whole day.

With this Friendly Bacteria stuff, too, I hit the same wall. Every time I pipe up on Twitter as being willing to chat with people or interact or do whatever, I almost immediately completely lock up, unable to respond to whoever it may be when they reply to my comments/tweets/emails. When I do, it's typically been non-committal, avoiding actually signing up to do anything concrete... I do want to, but I'm scared that I can't, or that I'll mess it up. Bringing it back round to the imposter syndrome; I'm scared that I'm not a person who actually can do these things, and that putting myself in the position to do them will just reveal to myself and everyone else that that's the case... and knowing what imposter syndrome, and all that stuff means and is, doesn't help much when you're in that situation.

That's the deal, that's where I am right now. But, writing this down has helped sort things out. I've said a few times how I do actually want to be doing what I do, from my PhD to the scicomm-y Friendly Bacteria stuff. I do know what it's like for my head to not quite agree with itself, too, for various reasons that aren't for today, and I know how I can diminish it to manageable levels, even unnoticeable levels. Friendly Bacteria has been irregular lately, which is making it harder to keep up with; that's something I can easily change, and that will help things. And I need to remember, or remind myself when I need to, that the lab is my happy place. I put on my lab coat, and I change. It's like a mask, or an acting part, but I'm acting like myself. Like the me that gets excited rather than hiding away. Like the me that I want to be.

And wherever I am, I need to remember that that lab, that feeling, is just across the corridor.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

She Sells Bacterial Cells on the Sea Shore; Marine Microbiology

Bacteria are everywhere! On Earth, at least. That includes land, air, and in the sea too! All seven of them. With animals, the ones living in the sea are pretty different to the ones on land; there aren't many tentacled land animals, for example! Most land animals wouldn't be too happy if you dropped them in the middle of the atlantic, and nearly all the fish would be similarly unhappy if you put them in the middle of a car park. Is it the same with bacteria? How have marine microbes evolved to survive and thrive in the deep?

This is the sea, in case you weren't sure! Taken from outside my house last week.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Birthday Weekend in Pictures!

Last weekend was my birthday weekend! I'm now on lap 24 around the sun. I've not had time to settle back into normal life just yet, not helped by some mystery illness, but here's a quick post all about the awesome weekend I had! Complete with pictures!

It was a pretty perfect weekend, which is unusual for me as I'm not normally a big birthday person! Thank you, Ciara :) And my family too! And all my friends, especially the Nerds!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Fantastic Bacteria and Where to Find Them!

There are awesome animals in the world. There’s the big famous ones like elephants and eagles, and there’s the really weird ones nobody really hears about like the Mexican Mole Lizard or the Emerald Cockroach Wasp (and if you don’t know about them, look them up, they’re awesome!). But they are pretty hard to find; not just being elusive in their habitats, but in having limited habitats. Even animals like kangaroos that are quite prolific in their own habitat only cover a small percentage of the planet! There are loads of them, and they’re big enough to spot from a distance, but I won’t be seeing any in the wild unless I take a long journey. Bacteria, on the other hand, are everywhere! And you get some really awesome ones of them too, especially ones nobody ever hears about. They aren’t as big as kangaroos [citation needed] but if you know how to find them you can see some fantastic ones!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016


I’m apparently not satisfied with having a Blog, Twitter and YouTube, so got Instagram too, after this twitter conversation:

I was just throwing the idea of 1 minute videos out there, not even knowing that 1 minute is the Instagram video length limit, but it’s actually been really fun doing them! I’ve done a few so far (I’ll embed them at the bottom of this in case you have like four minutes to spare) and I’m having fun with it. It’s a big challenge, and I think once I run out of all the short basic things to cover it’ll get even harder (as things normally take days, not minutes!) but I love a challenge, and this one is pretty fun! And hopefully worthwhile if it gets more people thinking about microbiology stuff.
So far I haven’t really settled on a specific style, or level at which I’m pitching things, but I’m hoping to make it accessible to everyone no matter their background. Microbiology affects everyone, so everyone should know about it! It’s also really interesting and exciting but isn’t really thought of like that.

Also of course there’s my long-term selfish goal of gaining confidence by doing these videos and things. I’m already feeling some benefits but I’ve got a hugely long way to go!

Anyway, here are the videos I've made so far (with bonus new one I made today!):

And the new one...

I hope you like it! Subscribe to the YouTube for more, or follow my Instagram.