Moving in Montreal

   Moving, I find, is generally not a very pleasant experience. Although I am sure that some people enjoy it (I have yet to meet them), I am personally not a fan of packing up my stuff and relocating all over again. I find that moving in Montreal is less evident than in other places say, for instance, in Sherbrooke. When I was looking for an apartment in Sherbrooke I basically went there one day, looked at a couple of apartments and found the perfect one in a matter of hours. I stayed there 2 years but would have gladly stayed for more if I had been staying in the city. Moving in the lively city of Montreal, however, is a different story altogether. For me at least. (more…)

Staying healthy!

   Different people have different lifestyles. It is a fact so evident that we sometimes don’t fully comprehend what that entails. I am more specifically referring to the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle comprised of a proper diet and regular exercise. I don’t know if it is because I wasn’t really one to work out intensively before and thus simply did not see it around me, but when I was living in Sherbrooke I did not notice  a considerable amount of people, that exercised regularly (out in the open at least). However, now that I am  a grad student in Montreal and that I do work out and exercise regularly, I am noticing a high number of people doing the same. Every day as I am walking to work or back home, I remark numerous people running outside in the beautiful weather. Even sub-zero temperatures or pouring rain does not stop determined individuals from going outside and getting some exercise. It even seems that the people who exercise regularly and eat healthy are part of a community of individuals who are determined to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Almost like a clique of  health-conscious individuals. Some wish to be fit and toned, others want to develop muscles while some simply want to be in shape. All of these are great reasons to exercise often. I personally belong to the latter category. My main goal is to be in shape and healthy, for my own good. I always feel physically and mentally better after I exercise.

   Unfortunately, let’s face it: exercising is far from being fun and exciting for everyone at any given time. Personally, I find that what helps me continue my workout regimen is to do activities that I enjoy. It seems obvious, but it wasn’t always so for me. For instance, instead of doing seemingly unpleasant workouts, I run outside in the morning while I can gather my thoughts in the silent and chilly morning air. I have also recently taken up squash. I initially had my doubts about this sport, but I gave it a try and I now thoroughly enjoy it. Instead of being a boring activity that I must do to get some exercise, it is a fun activity that I do with friends. Fortunately, at the same time it is a very good sport to play. It involves a lot of cardio, develops thigh and bicep muscles and ameliorates hand-eye coordination. I highly suggest that you give it, or any other sport for that matter, a try! My tip is thus the following: do something that you enjoy, with friends if possible! It will improve the experience and the workout will seem much shorter in duration. Plus, it is always more enjoyably and more motivating to exercise with someone else. Another personal example is that this week, for the first time, I started running with someone else. My best friend and I motivated ourselves to go running in the evening after work. It was very interesting to run with someone else, firstly because it was nice to have someone to talk to and mostly because we challenged each other to run faster and longer. So grab a friend, go outside, do some exercise and have some fun! Your body and mind will thank me (and you) later.

– It does not matter how slow you are going, so long as you do not stop. – Confucius

Spring: nothing like the first time

 The beginning of March often coincides with the coming of spring. Spring: that wonderful season of calm and awakening, music and art, life and beauty. I love the commencement of any season because I enjoy observing the various changes that occur during the transition from one season to another. I consider this past weekend and more particularly Saturday March 9th, to be one such day of transition. Sure, there may be snow once more next week, in two weeks or even in a month, but this weekend feels like the beginning of spring. Saturday morning was quite warm outside: a welcomed 5°C! With the beginning of this transition period came the subtle and less subtle changes of winter to spring, beginning with the switch from a winter coat to a lighter spring/fall jacket. The birds are chirping, squirrels are chasing after each other up and down trees in a more carefree manner, the sun is shinning, the air smells fresh and people seem to be in a happier mood. The snow is melting and slowly disappearing along with winter. Even going to work this past weekend did not phase me! The blissful events accompanying spring are enough to make me giddy for at least a couple of days. (more…)

Grad school: all work and no play?

Grad school is unlike any other job. Half school, half work, it is a concept that evades many. I don’t know about you, but for me it is a subject that comes up at every family reunion or at gatherings with non-grad-student friends. A combination of questions are often asked, with my responses usually unsuccessful in providing comprehension to my friends and family. Is it school? Is it work? When will you be done “school” ? Are you paid? Why are you doing it? How? These questions are undoubtedly all valid interrogations, but they are sometimes hard to answer and explain, on my part at least. (more…)

Scientific research: one for all and all for one

Science is a wonderful thing. Research is its means. Through our day-to-day research in our respective labs, we – graduate students, research assistants, associates and technicians, undergraduate students and even PIs – conduct research in order to understand the mechanisms underlying life, diseases, and things seen and unseen. From the study of submicroscopic matter that is physics to the study of celestial objects more than 109 times the diameter of the earth that represents astronomy to everything in between, science is everywhere around us. Anything we see, with an aided eye or not, is subject to one of the many sciences that encompasses our world. (more…)

The thief of time

    My favorite time of the year, the holidays, have come to a close. The holiday period for me symbolizes spending time with family and friends, cooking and eating together, laughing and creating memories. It is a time that I cherish and look forward to. Just prior to the holiday break, however, I realized that to this list of fun activities I had no choice but to add work-related tasks such as reading articles, continue the writing of a manuscript, design experiments, analyze data, further establish the specifics of my research project(s) and keep up with my writing for this blog. I thus left the lab the last day with a sentiment of happiness in view of the upcoming holiday “break”, but it was slightly encumbered by the long list of tasks I armed myself with. As any grad student most likely did at one point or another, I came to ask myself whether the holiday break represents a break from work, or a break from the lab to do more work (e.g. reviewing the literature).  (more…)

50 ways to say goodbye…

    I truly believe that one of the hardest things in life is saying goodbye. Perhaps it is because I am someone that gets attached to family and good friends or because I do not take people for granted, but I have always found it hard to say goodbye. Whether it is classmates, colleagues, family or, most difficult of all, friends, it is never easy. Depending on the relationship and the level of attachment of each party, such a departure can be very overwhelming and even at times unimaginable. (more…)

Winter is around the corner in Montreal!

Being someone that has an optimistic view on life, I am able to appreciate all seasons of the year. Each has specific qualities that make me fall in love with that particular season. The warm air of spring, the terraces and fun times that summer brings along and the beautiful colors of the trees in autumn are just a couple of examples. Although winter is not my favorite season (that would be fall!), it too consists of elements that make it a very enjoyable season for me. The long winter coats, comfy winter boots and cute hat and mittens necessary to survive a winter in Quebec, as well as drinking a mug of hot chocolate at home wrapped in PJs and a blanket while reading a good book are some of my favorite things that accompany winter. (more…)

Lab Life: adapting to the Ph.D. experience

As a new graduate student, I never expected to encounter such difficult times when starting out my Ph.D. Sure, I knew that there would be an “adaption period” at the beginning where work would be slower; a period necessary to learn where everything in the lab is, know how people function and, most importantly, be aware of the specifics of my research project. However, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, even a month had passed and I was still not working as I feel I should be after my first month as a Ph.D. student. My main problem was that I did not yet have a definite research project. My supervisor was very busy at all times and it was quite difficult to get a hold of him to talk about and establish my project. I had a general idea of what I would be working on, but no details or specifics. This lack of information about my own project was my primary limitation in working in the lab. There was not much I could do for the first month except read articles and get familiar with the lab. I could not help but feel inadequate and at times almost incompetent due to my apparent lack of what we call bench work. Being used to working hard and not counting my hours during my master’s degree, this came as a blow. The most difficult moments during that first month for me were when someone would ask me what I was working on and what my project is and I did not know how to answer. At this point, I was starting to wonder whether I had made the right decision in moving back to Montreal from Sherbrooke to pursue my doctoral degree (considering how much I missed Montreal and McGill while I was gone, this was some serious questioning on my part!). (more…)

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