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Almond Shortbread Cookies from House to Haus

I’ve spent the better part of the past month reading at my lab desk.  Experiments have come to a screeching halt as the lab prepares to move to the new neuroscience building.  And so I have seen countless hours tick by as I sift through pages of research, trying to find inspiration to write a research proposal for my upcoming pre-qualification exam.  Unfortunately, the only insight that I’ve gleaned from these reading marathons is: 1) the brain is complex and 2) my ideas are stupid and/or already done by someone else.  Oh the wonderful world of research.

It doesn’t help that my running routine has also been temporarily halted due to a strained tendon.  Thus, I cannot even look to exercise to relieve the insanity…and restless muscles.  All this sitting around has made me painfully aware of my incredibly awful posture.  My favorite position to assume, it seems, is to have my feet propped onto a slightly open drawer to the side of my desk, while I sit with my waist twisted to face the front.  And since all my work is tied to my laptop, I have to crouch my back with my neck locked forward.  This can’t be good.  One day, I fear, I will find that my body is perpetually stuck in this position.  In any case, this increased inactivity certainly spells doom in the future.

On another note, if you’re looking for a fun book to read, I found Jonathan Tropper’s This is where I leave you perfect for that purpose.  Comical, well-written, and light but not superficial.  It’s nice to find a book that can actually make you laugh out loud.  At least, for me, it’s a nice respite from all the science jargon that I have to deal with every day.

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These make great bite-sized snacks to bring to a party.  I used almond extract instead of ground almonds.  And slightly less butter to make the dough a little stiffer so that the piped stars would hold their shape; which, however, makes it much harder to pipe out of a bag and very hard on your wrist.

Brombeerbusserl from Delicious Days

You know that feeling of clarity, the one that comes with knowing exactly what you want to do and where you want to be?  It was what I felt when, marveling at the simple and eccentric behavior of a fish, I realized that I could spend my life studying the brain.  It was the excitement when, touring the UCSF campus, I saw clearly how naturally I could fit in.  It’s the restlessness I feel, now that I know what lab I want to join for the next six years.

I haven’t finished my last rotation yet, but I have a good feeling that I will be choosing my second lab.  It’s not what I imagined I would do–not what I had planned at all.  I came to UCSF thinking that I would use molecular tools to dissect the behavior in fruit flies.  On a whim, because I needed to find a third lab to fulfill my requirements, I picked one that studies songbirds so I could at least say that I tried something out of my field.  I’m really glad I did, because it turns out that I love my “get in, get out quick” rotation.

I don’t know how to describe what jumping fields from molecular to systems is like.  It involves learning a completely different set of tools.  No more genetics and molecular biology, all the things that I had been trained on.  Instead of asking questions at the intracellular level, I will be stepping back to study how activity is coordinated and processed through circuits to generate behavior.  I will be diving head first into electrophysiology, so that I can understand how information is passed along ensembles of neurons.

Isn’t it funny how doing something out of your comfort zone helps you understand yourself better?  But it’s not that I am doing a complete 180.  I am just rediscovering what I really want to do and why I decided to pursue neuroscience in the first place: to understand the underpinnings of behavior.  Behavior, it’s what floors me every time.  Sure, I could study signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms that could affect behavior somewhere far down the line, but to know the functional interactions between neurons will require that I reach beyond what I am familiar with.  And I am so excited to start.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am a peanut butter fan, love the creamy stuff.  I finish a jar every 1.5 weeks.  For these, I used Trader Joe’s PB with Sea Salt, and I cannot stop thinking about popping the next cookie into my mouth.

 

You know, I wouldn’t be a Christian either if I hadn’t let myself take a chance.  It’s just interesting to think about, isn’t it?