Now is the autumn of my ennui

A colleague of mine pointed out recently that my blog was sparse across 2015, as she enjoyed reading my posts and hoped I would write more, and I felt that I should apologise, which I understand to be a cardinal sin in blog writing. In honesty, I had wanted to write and pour my heart out onto anonymous pages about my experiences this year across the emptiness of the internet, but I felt that I couldn’t, for professionalism’s sake. Maybe I will one day be able to express in sincere words the helplessness, pain and fear that I experienced this year, and how punctate events left me feeling lost, empty and alone. (And how one day,¬† I will stop using descriptors in threes).

This is all I can say at the moment. When it rains in Sydney, it pours. The rain drenches you to your bones within seconds, and the sky is peppered with arcs of lightning striking indiscriminately, accompanied with rolling growls of hungry thunder. The concrete streets transform to rivers and the city vista becomes obscured by clouds. It is disorienting and visceral. Creatures cower under shelter waiting for the atmospheric tantrum to subside. The storms are acute and severe, yet transient, as the dark clouds unfurl to reveal piercingly blue skies, and the sun’s warmth dries up the murky puddles in the way a mother lovingly blots away streaks of tears from their distressed child’s face.

This is the only way I can describe the last 11 months. Weather metaphors. I am so British.

I have experienced emotions in contexts I could never imagine. I have felt distress to the point where I could not comprehend there was anything past the clouds that obscured my view. I made irrational escape plans. However, I found that throughout these storms I could be my own rock, albeit weather beaten, chilled and frayed. I found a radiance that was inside me that I thought had been drained from me, tapped away and consumed forever. I found a group of people with whom I could exchange and reciprocate this warmth and I stopped feeling that I needed to suit up in armor and battle my way through the storms. So concludes 2015.

While living in the UK, I always felt that the finale of the year was a somber affair. The nights close in, and a seeping darkness consumed my waking hours. Christmas festivities felt like a lackluster but desperate attempt to gaudily veil the lethargic disappointment that the conclusion of the year could muster. A population preoccupied with consumerism to conceal the fundamental emptiness of existence with items of ephemeral desire. (I accept no responsibility for my post-teenage weltschmerz.) However, here in upside-down land, the epilogue to the year is one of brightness and awareness as the new year unfurls, dawn breaking as opposed to nightfall and I feel like I am waking from an unsettling dream. Yes, the Christmas consumerism seems crass and out of place (like a dog walking on its hind legs), but with a self-aware lewdness that I can only describe in the conscious violation of my northern hemispheric winter idealisms.

I promise in 2016 I will write more, not just my academic papers, I will write about the events that shape my life, my adventures that I am so fortunate to experience.


All in the mind

Another update, you’d think I should be doing some research or something.
I was interviewed for All in the Mind on ABC RN a few weeks back, and the program has just gone to air. If you’d like to listen in to my dulcet English accent the link is here:

Diet on the brain


I’m a Tall Poppy!

I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Young Tall Poppy from the Australian Institute of Science and Policy on Wednesday evening. Very exciting and honoured to have received this recognition for my research!



Congratulations are due to my two students Alanna and Vimi, who handed in their theses today! #ProudMama

Alanna Wong – Sucrose consumption during adolescence and adulthood – Impact on impulsive choices and motivation (2015)

Vimi Dogra – Impact of Sucrose Consumption on Social Behaviour in Adolescent and Adult Rats (2015)

alanna and vimi

I hugged some rats… running a fun discrimination task using the new Bussey-Saksida touchscreens! Hopefully we will get some interesting data!


Just say no

Today marks the end of what I have been fondly referring to as “hell week” at work, and although it has been tough, it’s now over. Hell week arose by my own fault of saying “yes” to too many things, and then realising that there was no way I could do these things in combination at the same time. This included – giving two talks on work I have never presented before, helping out with a conference, undergraduate lecturing, two undergraduate neuroscience practicals, running 6 hours of behavioural training per day with new rats and finishing up two manuscript drafts.

So, somewhat sadly I realised that something had to give, and it was either my sanity or some of the tasks I’d managed to agree myself into. Rat training got delegated to sullen looking students, talks got written, lectures were given, volunteering with the conference was sternly rescinded and those manuscripts can wait til next week. It is really hard to say no to stuff but I realised that I need to put things into perspective about what really I am capable of doing, and also not letting myself get into this mess again. I will be calling upon my spirit animal, Grumpy Cat, more often from now on.

grumpy cat

ISN / ANS / APSN Conference 2015 – Cairns

Just back from a week in Cairns for International Society for Neurochemistry 2015. Sometimes all that slaving away in the lab has it’s perks.

Cairns looks like this:


Admired the weird wildlife – mouseratkangaroo


This little guy came for some pats and food pellets!


We wore some hats


Hugged a koala


And did some sciencing… (I’m so pale!!)

image4 image7

Reichelt lab does some work

Day to day goings on in the world of Reichelt lab…

Alanna conditioning the rats, me playing with carcinogens



Making brains look pretty with immuno, Kirsten cell counting immuno


Presenting new data at Frontiers in Neurodevelopment symposium, Sydney, August…


What would I do if I wasn’t a scientist…

One of my students asked me the other day what I’d do if I wasn’t a scientist. It firstly put me into some sort of existential crisis as I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and genuinely had no idea what having a “normal” job would be like. I definitely have issues with working under a manager, I like working for myself, or at least having my own project that I’m pursuing. I certainly dislike micro-managers. I think I have quite a good business mind though, so I’d do well being self employed. In the end I think that I’d realise my dream of owning a really awesome small bar. It combines the elements of enjoying alcohol, being able to listen to music that I like, making cocktails and socialising. In fact when I was a student I managed a bar on campus and I’m pretty sure that qualifies me to own a bar.
So that’s my “if science doesn’t work out for me” plan.

Today has been a good day

I feel like I reflect on bad stuff too much, and I don’t say anything about the good stuff enough.
Today has been a good day!
My student Alanna, who has tirelessly run some epic behavioural experiments, got a significant group effect! So that is a good thing! I am so happy for her as she’s worked so hard. I’m also happy because it means we can publish some of her data too…
Not only is my immuno working (as my antibodies have lives of their own)… but we got significant effects that correspond to behavioural effects.
When things are working I am happy.


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