Saturday 13 April 2019

Lighter by 3g and €150

Let nobody tell you that sad-sack Bob has no social life. I was up in Dublin for two days this week meeting people and doing the Orthodontic (it takes two to) Tango.

The main social event celebrated the elevation to Full Professor of one of the short handful of graduate students whom I've helped over the line to get a PhD. It's good to mark these transitions: getting there is what motivates a lot of scientists. External validation with a bigger office, more money, better students will keep you trundling along the tracks when you have an attack of impostor syndrome. If you don't have an occasional attack of impostor syndrome you are probably, like Byron, mad, bad and dangerous to know; prone to bullying, plagiarising your post-doc's data and nicking milk from the communal fridge. [aside check out Colm Tóibin's MBD2K book]. As we were wetting the [40 y.o] baby's head with a bottle of Moët, the two established Full Profs confessed to impostor syndrome: so they are probably okay to invite to dinner and trust with the mental health, happiness and career progression of a succession of young scientists. And so many of those youngsters are brilliant: motivated, dexterous, creative, crap-detectors. What few of them realise at the time is that their PhD is not about the results, or even the papers, it is about polishing your capacity to critically evaluate data: you own and other people's

I reflected on how content was I to be winding up my [Chairless] lifetime in science working in The Institute. Because my ambition genes were shot off in the war, and because there is effectively no path for progression in the InstTech sector; I can concentrate on the welfare and education of the students rather than having to boast my corner at faculty meetings. The following day, I was in the office of another flying genius, sorting out a possible research project for one of my students. This young chap had sent me an unsolicited e-mail asking if it was possible to do a final year research project on epilepsy. I've just taken delivery of a very nice project showing that the collective gut microbiome has the enzymes to make neurotransmitters. Now bacteria are bears of very little brain and are presumably using NTs for a weirdly unknown purpose of their own, but if these small molecules are taken up by the intestinal epithelium and into the circulatory system, then maybe that's the mechanism by which out gut flora influences our happiness and mental health [as well as out line-manager, that is]. I googled "epilepsy microbiome" and up popped an exact contemporary of the previous night's head-wetter. On Friday afternoon we had a really productive discussion and have roughed out a Heads of Agreement that will see my student getting Tenure at Harvard in about 15 years time.

In between those events I was back in the dentist's chair of the wholly competent surgical orthodontist who removed three of my impacted wisdom teeth in August 2017. Me and Bill the Dentist (he of the peach coloured dental chair) agreed that, for my upper left premolar, it was time to die. The labial face of this hard-working servant had failed and been replaced; the lingual face had collapsed afterwards; the remains had been cleared off and 2 titanium steel pins inserted in the stump as scaffolding for a crown of white plastic. That shaky edifice had bitten the dust over Christmas. Around about 1350hrs Friday, after 2 paracetamols and a local lidocaine, the orthodontist put her knee on my chest, one hand on my forehead and wrastled the stump of my P2 out of my head. It cost €220, of which €70 [removal of dental root] could be offset against my health insurance, hence my laconic txt to the family Lighter by 3g and €150.

Dau.II the Quant wasn't having any of that. What do you mean 3g as the weight of a tooth root? A cc of water is 1g, that tooth is surely less volume than 1cc. Does a tooth float? No? but it is not 3x denser than water, is it? errr quite so, that young woman doesn't need to go to graduate school to hone her crap-detector.

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