A Day in the Life of a Postdoc: Anna

Today, 13th August, is Ada Lovelace Day, which celebrates the achievements of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Ada Lovelace was one of the first women admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society and is regarded by many to have been the first computer programmer. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d take a look at our own “typical” experiences as women in STEM, through a series of three “day in the life” posts. I’m first up, posts from Emily and Stephanie will follow over the next few days (edited 16/10/2015: you can now read Emily’s post here and Stephanie’s post here).

One of the reasons I love my work as a scientist is because there is no such thing as a typical day. I might find myself working in the Trace DNA or Wildlife Genetics laboratories, doing data analysis, meeting with colleagues and students, attending seminars, having email or phone discussions with collaborators, writing reports or papers, reading papers, planning for new projects and dealing with administrative tasks. Occasionally I even get to do some fieldwork. Some days I spend most of the time at my desk, other days I never even see my desk.

As it happens, Tuesday 6th October 2015 has been mostly a computer day, which doesn’t make for riveting photo opportunities.

Some mornings I cycle to work, but today I got a lift from my partner. He dropped me off at the other end of the campus, so I enjoyed a short walk through the gum trees, listening to the cockatoos, magpies, currawongs, fairy wrens and assorted other birds. I stopped en route at my favourite cafe to buy a chai to fortify me for a morning of dealing with emails.
Some mornings I cycle to work, but today I got a lift from my partner. He dropped me off at the other end of the campus, so I enjoyed a short walk through the gum trees, listening to the cockatoos, magpies, currawongs, fairy wrens and assorted other birds. I stopped en route at my favourite cafe to buy a chai to fortify me for a morning of dealing with emails.
Today is my first day back at work after a couple of weeks leave, so I've got a bit of catching up to do - my email inbox is in desperate need of attention! I spent at least two hours just reading emails: deleting, filing and responding as appropriate.
Today is my first day back at work after a couple of weeks leave, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do – my email inbox is in desperate need of attention! I spent at least two hours just reading emails: deleting, filing and responding as appropriate.
A colleague from another institution is visiting us for a few weeks, to learn some genetics laboratory skills. She arrived in Canberra this morning, so we had a quick meeting to plan her first few days. This week she will be working with one of our PhD students, to learn how to extract DNA from wildlife tissue samples.
A colleague from another institution is visiting us for a few weeks, to learn some genetics laboratory skills. She arrived in Canberra this morning, so we had a quick meeting to plan her first few days. This week she will be working with one of our PhD students, to learn how to extract DNA from wildlife tissue samples.
One of the projects I am currently working on, with colleagues from museums and government agencies, is a phylogenetic study of the southern brown bandicoot, which is widespread across southern Australia with five described subspecies. I've been asked to send my colleagues a map to show the distribution of the samples I have contributed. So I spent about an hour collating the lat/long information for my samples, reminding myself how to use ArcMap software and preparing maps like this one, which shows collection locations for some of the Tasmanian samples we've used.
One of the projects I am currently working on, with colleagues from museums and government agencies, is a phylogenetic study of the southern brown bandicoot, which is widespread across southern Australia with five described subspecies. I’ve been asked to send my colleagues a map to show the distribution of the samples I have contributed. So I spent about an hour collating the lat/long information for my samples, reminding myself how to use ArcMap software and preparing maps like this one, which shows collection locations for some of the Tasmanian samples we’ve used.
We've still got quite a bit of data analysis to do for the bandicoot project, but we do have some interesting preliminary results that identify bandicoot subspecies and populations that are genetically distinct from one another. Some of these subspecies are currently listed as endangered or vulnerable under Australian State or Federal legislation, and some of these listings are about to be reviewed. This means that all available evidence will be used to decide whether these populations should still be classed as endangered. The research paper we are writing won't be published in time to contribute, so we've decided to submit a report to the relevant government agencies, to outline our key results. I've just read through the first draft of the report, which was written by one of my colleagues...
We’ve still got quite a bit of data analysis to do for the bandicoot project, but we do have some interesting preliminary results that identify bandicoot subspecies and populations that are genetically distinct from one another. Some of these subspecies are currently listed as endangered or vulnerable under Australian State or Federal legislation, and some of these listings are about to be reviewed. This means that all available evidence will be used to decide whether these populations should still be classed as endangered. The research paper we are writing won’t be published in time to contribute, so we’ve decided to submit a report to the relevant government agencies, to outline our key results. I’ve just read through the first draft of the report, which was written by one of my colleagues…
...and here you can see I've made quite a few comments and suggestions. When you've put a lot of hard work into a project, it's nice when you finally get to see the results summarized, and even better when the work can directly contribute to conservation policy.
…and here you can see I’ve made quite a few comments and suggestions. When you’ve put a lot of hard work into a project, it’s nice when you finally get to see the results summarized, and even better when the work can directly contribute to conservation policy.
Another task on my list is to prepare for a phone meeting of the Genetics Society of AustralAsia committee. I'm the committee's representative for the Australian Capital Territory. The meeting is scheduled for later this week, but I need to read through the minutes of the previous meeting and refresh my memory of some items for discussion.
Another task on my list is to prepare for a phone meeting of the Genetics Society of AustralAsia committee. I’m the committee’s representative for the Australian Capital Territory. The meeting is scheduled for later this week, but I need to read through the minutes of the previous meeting and refresh my memory of some items for discussion.
This afternoon I dropped into the lab to check on our visitor. I found her working with my PhD student, setting up DNA extractions from possum and glider tissue samples. One of the things I love about the Wildlife Genetics lab is the view from the windows: there are lots of wildlife watching opportunities with so many native trees and bushes planted around the building.
This afternoon I dropped into the lab to check on our visitor. I found her working with my PhD student, setting up DNA extractions from possum and glider tissue samples. One of the things I love about the Wildlife Genetics lab is the view from the windows: there are lots of wildlife watching opportunities with so many native trees and bushes planted around the building.
And now for something completely different... one of our favourite local restaurants is hosting a special wine-tasting dinner tonight. The timing is close enough for it to count as my other half's birthday dinner, so we're treating ourselves. Delicious food, delicious wine and a 15 minute walk home afterwards, perfect!
And now for something completely different… one of our favourite local restaurants is hosting a special wine-tasting dinner tonight. The timing is close enough for it to count as my other half’s birthday dinner, so we’re treating ourselves. Delicious food, delicious wine and a 15 minute walk home afterwards, perfect!
Advertisements

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s