Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Uh oh, yet another U-turn!!

So, yesterday I had a final interview for a position that can best be classified as Pathology Informatics which for me is essentially biomarker evaluation via histology, informatics to evaluate the information gleaned from the cancers of patients seen in the clinic, and even a little work in the clinic drawing blood from cancer patients. And as my regular readers might expect, this combo means that I'm happier than a Turkey "pardoned" the week of Thanksgiving!! :)

Ever go some place and KNOW within the core of your very being that you're in the right place, at the right time, surrounded by people who will see you become what you've ALWAYS wanted to be? I thought that to myself as I was being interviewed by the MD/PhD I'm destined to be working with, that he's not only going to see me excell in this posiiton, he's going to see me become an MD too!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Terrific Tuesdays!!

Actually, Tuesday is my very LEAST favourite day of the week, not really the beginning, middle, or end. Hmph!

So I've decided to try my best to lighten this day up for myself (and others) by posting funny science or medicine oriented images I find on the net.

And in celebration of my LOVE for cats and the fact that I'll be tutoring an Orgo I student over the next 5 days, I thought I'd kick off this Tuesday's series with the image on this post!


And special shout out to all my fellow Chemists! :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Watch out below!!!!

*Image from goodle images


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that feels much better....................................................NOT!!!!

This is just where I am right now and how I'm feeling about my Bioinformatics course too!! Double URGH!!!!!

So here's the problem, after TWO WEEKS of trouble shooting, I FINALLY got a program given in class to work. Why did it take ME so long? They use the Mac operating system (OS), and I use Ubuntu. Why do I use Ubuntu when almost NONE of the folks at school doing this type of work use it? Because in the "real world" of Bioinformatics, most folks program in Linux which is what Ubuntu based on. And in a field like computer science, a LOT of what you learn in school is not only obsolete by the time you finish your program, you can be pretty sure that in the "real world", no one or few people are using what you learned in school.

That said, many people in Bioinformatics use the Mac OS (like the NIH), it's just that since most Bioinformatics departments are made of Computer Scientists (who have honestly mucked it up IMHO), you have to learn to use the OS they frequently use. And this creates a situation where from an employment point of view, they'll always be needed since it's just too much trouble for the average Medical/Life Scientists (MLS) to be trained to do this stuff. Along those same lines, it's also the reason I sense a tiny bit of resentment from a couple of the computer scientists (CS) folks I work with. But I digress, the point I'm making is that taking the leap from Medical/Life Science to essentially computer science is the MOST challenging thing I've EVER done. But personality wise, I'm so well suited for it because: 1) I'm as tenacious as they come and 2) I enjoy challenge of leaning something new. And like it or not, a LOT of medical science and research is going to involve a significant amount of computer generated data (human genome, anyone?) in the future. So yeah, my code may not be as "pretty" as that from a CS person, but it's functional. More than that, other people like me can understand it because I write it in a way for folks like me to understand.

Here's an example of the disparate way of thinking between CS and MLS folks. CS person says their doing sequencing of a portion of Chromosome #24? MLS says that there is no chromosome #24, there are 22 pairs of chromosomes and a pair of sex chromosomes, unless you're talking about a person with Downs Syndrome or Klinefelter's Syndrome. So if CS sends you a file referencing chromosome #25 to MS, the MS has a few questions to ask. You see CS folks are typically VERY bright, but they don't have the type of training folks in the clinical and life sciences have. And that's the HUGE gap in why EHRs don't work that well, but that's a conversation for another day.

The fact that I spend as much time looking at the results of my programs as I do troubleshooting it, is just the way it is for a newbie like me. And what I hope to do as I'm developing skills in this area, is to create resources that will not only be of use to me, but to others who think like me too.

Now I must get back to doing sequence alignments for a portion of the human chromosome Y, NOT chromosome #25 and NOT a male with Klinefelter's Syndrome either.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Getting down to the nitty gritty!

So this week my department is having their first journal club meeting and I'm beyond excited !! And not just because we're going to get free food, LOL!!! It will be first time this semester I'll get to meet all or most of the students in my department and the faculty as well.

I also volunteered to lead one of the seminars so I'll be busy looking for something really cool and interesting to discuss. Of course, it will either involve breast or prostate cancer and the bioformatics tools used to study these diseases. This will also be my opportunity to impress a few adcoms since a few of them are in my department (And I did the research to find that out ;))

And that brings me to a topic of critical importance to supernontrads (over 40 premeds) like me. What are you actively doing to get yourself admitted to med school? Are you kicking back expecting a med school acceptance to magically drop at your feet or are you working to the MAX, whatever you have to work with? At that's the key, work to the MAX whatever YOU have to work with. For example, so what if there are no "good" schools for you to complete your preqs, what does that have to do with the fact that you need to make an "A" in your classes no matter where you take them? So what if you're the oldest in the class, do you act old? Do you blame mediocre grades on getting old? STOP making excuses for mediocrity and get with the "success" program!!!

PS- Please allow me to clear up the misconception that I've got everything under control in this premed process, because NOTHING could be further from the truth. I simply thrive in chaos to a certain extent which is why I rarely get up in arms about all the things I balance in my life including PhD classes, raising a teenager, running a business, studying for the MCAT, and an internship in Bioinformatics. In fact, most days when I look at my tasks surrounding school/my gig, I feel like I have to climb Mount Everest up hill BOTH ways, ROTFL!! But the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of the day more than makes what I'm dealing with worth it!

In other words, if you're not enjoying this process at least some of the time, then you may need to rethink your motivation for doing it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I've got your back!

Well this is not exactly what my advisor said, but that was the general gist of what he meant when I told him that I wanted to attend med school after I finish the program. And I can't describe how good it feels to be supported in what you want to do, however outlandish it is for people in my age range. Turns out there are a few of us in my program heading to med school so the next thing I need to do is get to know my classmates better, attend seminars in my department, ect so I can get my "face" out there.

However he also suggested I consider the MS program because I could very easily get it paid for. And I wasn't really prepared to tell him that what I really wanted to do was the MD/PhD program concentrating in Biomedical Informatics. At least not yet, but I am going to look into it since the program would be free.

And all this brings up an important point for nontrads especially SUPER nontrads, GO WHERE YOU ARE OR WILL BE WELCOMED!! I say to hell with trying to be the first at a certain school like you, go some place where people like YOU are welcomed! Now for the supernontrad (over 40), this may be more difficult in that you'll likey be 10 years older than the person whos age is nearest to yours, but you get my drift. Avoiding places that will easily put you down for being a super nontrad (Hopkins, anyone?), is the absolute smartest thing you can do to keep your spirits up and your dreams alive!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fork in the proverbial road

So it's time for me to pick my class for next semester but I have a decision to make first. Do I want to focus more on the "health" side of biomedical informatics or the "research" side of biomedical informatics? And after interning for the past several months focusing primarily on the research side of things, I've decided that the "health" side is where I want to focus my efforts, moving forward. And I'm sure that comes as quite a surprise to anyone that reads my blog regularly.

So why the change? I finally realized that focusing on the "research" side of bioinformatics is going to pretty much mean becoming a computer programmer, and I'm simply NOT interested in doing that. NOT. AT. ALL. The biggest issue however is that many of the opportunities in the field require a PhD, so it doesn't "feel" like a good holding spot for me until I start med school if I'm going to be limited. However, the most important reason is that I'm interested in clinical uses of the data I manipulate, NOT the code used to do the analysis. And if I'm really being real, I miss being around "people, people".

All of these deep thoughts I've had since my last post, come about due in no small part to being around Clinicians at school and quite frankly, needing to be prepared to meet with my academic advisor tomorrow. And I think I have my "story" down pat about the whys and what's next for my career in the next 1.5 years as I complete my certificate in Biomedical Informatics. At the end of the day though, I know these types of inner conversations are important if for no other reason than to stay focused and on course with what my ultimate goal is, to attend medical school in the near future.