Panama, a mystical and beautiful country. Acres of jungle slope over hills swallowing up roads and houses. The only possible termination of the vast and expansive milluex of flora and fauna is the ocean or the canal.  My hostel was a 3 story red house nestled to the side of a main road and as I slept, ate, worked and waked I could hear the incessant chatter of the jungle. Birds flying and calling, fruits dropping, leaves rustling and movements of whatever mysteries therein lay. The weather was insufferably hot. The air thick, as most air with 80% humidity often is. It was heaven and it was hell. I have never been so close to the equator, and I can certainly tell you my pale skin is not adapted for it.


The Life of a Grad Student: Part 1 of ∞

If I am to be brutally honest, which I think I am encouraged, I have not done a very good job of telling you what my graduate experience has been like thus far. Possible reasons include:

  1. Most of the time I cannot differentiate my many emotions, certainly not enough to attribute one particular feeling with school.
  2. PhD Comics does an excellent job of telling like it is, rendering what I say useless and redundant.
Nonetheless, I am committed to you, the McGill student body (and prospective students), to share this awkward and stressful time in my life. Today’s topic will be self-esteem, and to illustrate my point (pun intended) I have made a ‘self-esteem’ vs. ‘time’ graph. See Figure 1.
Figure 1.
*The dotted red line indicates level of self-esteem needed to be a respectable functioning human being.
This graph was inspired by a friend who was helping me understand that, like life, grad school has a lot of ups and downs. Don’t be surprised if you finish graduate school a little uncertain, a little unsure, a little broke.  I think we all feel or have felt that way sometime during this long academic road and the important thing to remember is to keep your chin up. And if you really can’t keep your chin up, just think about how lucky we all are to go to such a great school, or just school in general.
No matter what happens with our degrees we are still enormously privileged. Although, that clearly has not prevented me from making fun of myself… OK enough with the rhetoric already. Get out there and crunch some numbers!
Until next time, fellow Gradunauts.
P.s. Please excuse the use of both “self-esteem” and the unhyphenated version “self esteem”, I am both hungry and indecisive.

Tweet Your Thesis


Twitter Bird by Twitter

Go on, I dare you. Let’s see how good you can be at explaining the subject you eat, sleep and breathe in only 124 characters (including #tweetyourthesis).

Mine will be:

An inflammatory immune response can result from nutrient deficiencies (vit A and D) causing growth stunting in children #tweetyourthesis

If you can’t do it in less than 124 characters you take your project too seriously, or lack skills necessary for brevity.

Now that you have been sufficiently challenged (and maybe offended)… see you on the Twitterverse.


Two Fears and One Stone

I own a humongous instrument. It is so big it needs 3 people to move it. It is so beautiful that it demands the attention of whoever is in the room. It resonates like only acoustic stringed instruments can. It is foreign like the language from which it comes from, and is heavier than the burden of which I felt when I never played it.

Guess what it is yet?


Sir William C. Macdonald and The Good Seeds

Sir William Christopher Macdonald (Source: Wikipedia)

February 9th, was Founder’s Day at the MacDonald Campus. Crowds of students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered in the festively decorated gymnasium to celebrate the founder of the MacDonald campus, and major benefactor of McGill University, Sir. William C. Macdonald.

I have been a student at MacDonald Collage since 2005, when I started as an undergraduate in nutritional biochemistry. In all the years I have been at this school I have never gone to a Founder’s Day celebration. Classes are cancelled for this affair, and as an undergraduate I took every opportunity possible to not trek out to this campus, literally located on the furthest point away from Montreal as possible. I realized however, that this year I would have to attend as it would be my final opportunity to do so. By next year I will have graduated (fingers crossed).

The theme this year was ‘seeds of change’ and MacDonald campus “invited three dynamic and thought-provoking speakers to plant some seeds of their own.” I will briefly talk about some of these speakers, students Christian Elliott and Alex Pritz.

But first, I want to tell you what I learned about Sir William C. Macdonald.


The Baby and The Fat Belt


I just lost my entire post. What kind of website doesn’t automatically save drafts?! WordPress, you are on thin ice.

I am forced to paraphrase what I had written before about being a TA and wrestling students if they challenged my authority- but I suppose I’ve lost the zeal to do so and will talk of other matters.

I also made fun of how cluttered my lab was.



Hello compatriots!

I am in New York City for the holidays and it is the BEST.

So far I have walked a lot, eaten gluten free doughnuts and pizza, gone to the Turkish bath, sang karaoke, watched MacGyver, hit on a guy with a girlfriend, had a job offer and been asked out by a criminal justice lawyer on the subway.

I still got a week to go, wish my luck.



ZZ’s Haphazard Pro Tips on Winter

A window!

Winter, a topic that requires no preamble.

Nonetheless I will state the obvious: Winter in Montreal is cold, dark, salty and grey.  It is full of small rocks that get in your boots and your bed. However, winter can also be beautiful, magical, spirited, romantic and quiet. Regardless of what it may or may not be, it is here now. So I have prepared a haphazard list of Pro Tips on winter survival (I am the pro):

1) Turn the heat on, and increase the household tog.

Putting plastic on the windows saves a tremendous amount of energy, and thus money. I have spent several winters Scrooging out and refusing to turn the heat on. Guess what happened? I was miserable, and never wanted to get out of bed. Having the luxury to exist in your home not wrapped in a blanket  is worth paying for. (more…)

Actually Congress, a tomato is a fruit.


On Thursday, November 17th 2011, Congress voted that Pizza be classified as a vegetable because of the tomato paste it contains.

Maybe instead of studying Nutritional Science I should have gone and become a politician.



What do you think? Is this a good thing that will help promote healthy eating, or is it a misdirected political decision?






The Lab

Don’t get me wrong, I like working in the lab- but there is something horrifying about feeling stuck in a project when the only thing you can do to finish it are tedious, repetitive tasks that require your utmost attention. You simply have to take your time, no short cuts. To add another layer of stress, there is a limited quantity of blood. Most of the blood samples have been used for other assays (I don’t even want to consider the effect the multiple freeze/thaw cycles has had on the stability of what I am looking for. OH MY GOD). Having limited blood is tricky because if I do make a mistake, which I have done, I severely run the risk of decreasing my sample size.
N= 0.
Thesis = fail. 

Lisa Starr

But as Lisa so wisely says, to comfort me whenever I make an error ‘It’s amazing that more things don’t go wrong because of all the opportunity there is to make mistakes.’
She’s the best. You should really meet her.

Capsicum Burn and The Structured Procrastinator

I have a midterm tomorrow in one of my worst subjects, statistics. I would rather get guilt ridden text messages from my ex-boyfriends everyday than write this exam. I even shed tears last Monday when I got a lowly 63% on an assignment. In all fairness, I did mess it up big time (I blame the cat-death thing as a distracter). Anyways, I have been having fits of anxiety and discouragement, followed by complete ignorance of the exam.

On the positive side, I have noticed that I am busying myself with other productive tasks. Ahem, right now I am writing this instead of going over the assignments. I have been able to get work done, but I have also enjoyed the sweet fruits of procrastination. What is more, this phenomenon I am experiencing has a name, is a thing, and is a winner of another thing.


Breaking Ice

Let this post be our icebreaker. After this we can get down to buisness about my life in graduate school, or something like that.

OK. Let’s play “Would you rather…”

Would you rather wake up stranded on an a deserted island with Mel Gibson, or be followed around by a goat for the rest of your life?
Wait! Before you answer you need to ask me questions, for not every situation is as it seems…

For example:
YOU: “Can we get off the Island?”

ME: “Yes, but Mel Gibson can control time and space, so you wake up the next day back on the island with him.”

YOU: “Is the goat cute?”

ME: “Yes, but it can talk – and is actually a teenage girl trapped in the body of a goat.  She constantly bothers you with talk of boys, shopping, and her inability to send text messages.”

Alright, so that is how we play “Would you rather….” (stolen from Comedy Bang Bang hosted by Scott Aukerman) so feel free to leave your questions in the comments section.

Eventually you can make a decision, and if you are correct I will send you a prize in the form of an E-greeting. Personalized!

How is that for an ice breaker?



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