April 14, 2017


Filed under: "Me" updates,Grad school,Research — sanguinemare @ 1:16 am
Tags: , , , ,

Ok, a very unprofessional title, and about 10 days or so late (now that it’s officially the 14th, at least here), but just wanted to post a quick update that… after staying up until 4am a couple nights re-creating the figures from scratch because for some reason they were apparently not in good enough resolution the first time and the (semi-)quick fix didn’t work… MY FIRST, FIRST-AUTHOR PAPER GOT ACCEPTED (for publication)!!! WHOO HOO, PRAISE THE LORD!  That means I’m all set for non-thesis related graduation requirements!

Oh how easy it is to bring a grad student joy, haha.

Now all I have to do is… revise paper 2, do all the assays and writing for paper 3, and write an introduction and conclusion… all within a little less than a month now, plus a committee meeting in the middle of that.  Whew.  I’ve actually been pulling 13-14 hour days in the lab every day from last Tuesday until Sunday (minus Wednesday for weather concerns), and then averaging around 9 hours every day since. Apparently this is pretty typical during the end-stage – I ran into a fellow MSTP a year below me in the elevator the other day and after relaying my current schedule, and he was like “what are you doing, trying to graduate?” I blinked a couple times at the irony, then replied with a “why yes, actually!” with a bit of a cheeky grin, and he nodded understandingly, saying “ah, the extremely productive final year huh?”  On a bit of reflection, I suppose that is actually sort of true.  Everyone always talked about the last year being the most productive in terms of both experimental data gathering, and paper-writing, and I suppose technically that has somewhat been the case for me as well.  So there you go – “n of 1” as they say, haha!

Just finished organizing all the miscellaneous parts/templates for my thesis tonight.  It’s starting to feel a lot more real now.  Yikes.

Wish me luck!

April 7, 2014

Life/MSTP journey update

Hellloooooo!  I am alive!

So sorry it’s been so long since I last posted… a lot has been going on this year, so it has been difficult to find time to actually sit down and write something cohesive/coherent.

Part of the reason it’s taken a while is because I started up a blog for our MSTP earlier this year, as an additional part of our Communications Committee (which previously only consisted of making a bi-annual newsletter).  As you can imagine, that took a decent amount of time getting off the ground and trying to find people to write for it, and/or writing for it myself, which made me less inclined to write here, due to brain fatigue and the desire not to duplicate posts.  I have recently passed on the responsibilities of the blog to another member of my team though, so I am finally able to take some time and come back here to post.  Yay!

So since I’m on the topic, I’ve done a decent amount as the head of the Communications Committee this year – put together 2 newsletters so far, which I decided to have come out in time for the first applicant interview day, and another one for 2nd look day which was early last month.  Our next one will come out in time for our summer retreat.  By the way, newsletters take a surprisingly long time to put together… or at least ours does, which may be more a reflection about how our “newsletter” is more like a “newspaper” in glossy pages and in color, at this point.  I’ve realized why it’s important to set a word limit now – trying to put together a newsletter when some stories run 3-4 pages and others run 3/4 of a page is rather difficult.  Plus, I had to completely revamp the newsletter the first go around, since my team was unanimous in saying the layout, design, fonts, and everything pretty much were pretty displeasing to the eye at the time.  So I took about 2 full weeks’ worth of time learning how to use InDesign (and really also how to use a Mac… ugh, I hate Macs).  There was a lot of time spent fighting both the machine and program… many many hours.  And a couple of my team also tried tackling one page for at least 5-8 hours each, and also barely got anywhere.  Frustration abounded, but we eventually got something decent-looking, I thought.   I thought it would go easier the next time, but this was where I ran into the page limit problem, and had layout issues, so it again took at least 15-20 hours to put together. *Sigh*.  Here’s to hoping the next one will go smoother.  I’m definitely thinking about stepping down from that next year, as I’ll presumably have more research going on than I did this year.

So now research/grad school.  Both have been rather trying, in different ways.  Hm. Looking through my blog, it looks like I started an update draft back in October (10/8/13 says the date on WordPress) before my last post on conferences but didn’t end up getting time to write anything.  So!  To recap the whole school year then – last semester was ridiculous, school-wise.  Due to obligations in both my PhD program and the MSTP, I ended up with 16 units (normal load is 9-10 units), so it was effectively almost a double load, and unsurprisingly, not a lot of research got done that semester, though I did do enough to write an abstract over winter break for the American Diabetes Association (ADA), which got accepted as a “guided audio tour” poster (which I gather is better than a poster, but less than an oral presentation).  Whoo.  Also, I am going to insert what I wrote back in October here – since I wrote it at some point, might as well not let that go to waste right?

I finally picked a lab!!!  

This is probably the biggest hurdle that I had to get over this summer, and a pretty decent source of chronic, underlying stress because picking a lab is one of the bigger decisions I think we as MSTP’s have to make (prior to residency decisions), since that’s where we’re basically going to be living for the next 4 years or so.  Given that I had chosen a field that is not normally part of the MSTP-affiliated PhD programs here, and rather late at that, I had not had any rotations with professors in the program yet, so had to cram 2 6-week rotations in this summer.   One was a pathology lab, and my project focused on inflammatory markers and monocyte rolling, while the 2nd was an obesity/diabetes lab where I worked on glucose transport in cells.   In total, over the last 3 summers starting the summer before med school, I had rotated in 4 labs: a LC-MS lab that was more chemistry-based, a stem cell lab, and these last two.  Ultimately, I decided to make this last lab rotation my thesis lab for a few reasons: the funding is relatively stable (or so I think/hope), the projects were decently interesting, the PI knows a lot and is willing to introduce me to a lot of people involved in the field (actually I was lucky enough that all 4 PI’s seemed like they would be great mentors), and there is potential to do translational research – that is, some bench-work, but also some clinical work.  The last reason was probably one of the more important deciding factors for me, and it seemed like that was something the PI really wanted to push for in my training with him.”

Well, looks like I was rather excited at the beginning of the school year in relation to lab, which subsequently has waned some due to the complications listed above and below.  This semester, I had somewhat of a lighter load, but still above the normal (13 units), which has been fine for the most part… although I recently had a review paper that I literally spent the entire spring break working on, as well as pulling my first all-nighter ever for school, working straight from 9am the previous morning until 5pm on the due date… which eventually came out with a poor grade last week, and I now have to re-write it.  That was quite a bit of a disappointment, as I’ve never spent so much time on something for school before.  Plus, due to some miscommunication, the professor who graded it (who happens also to be the director of the program) now probably thinks I’m one of the worst students ever… blah.  I really hope that doesn’t prejudice them against MSTP’s because I am not reflective of the typical MSTP, and also I think there was just bad miscommunication. :\  Research was also basically stalled for 3 months, due to my mentor not being that available and thus me not being able to do much since no one else in the lab is doing anything related to my project.  At least now I have a direction and can actually start gathering data again this month, whoo hoo!

Anyway, with all that going on, as well as helping out with being an SP (standardized patient) and various other things, I think I may have over-stressed myself because I have been having strange joint pains for the last 3 weeks or so, and a couple days ago, after being outside for a few hours, I noticed I had redness on my face and in patches around my legs.  Given the distribution of the rash, the arthralgias (joint pains), photo-sensitivity, and various other problems I’ve had in the past, I’m fairly certain I have either exacerbated or just triggered a systemic autoimmune disease, which is rather unfortunate.  (I’m sure if you look up those symptoms, you’ll be able to figure out what it is).  So that has been something that’s been weighing on my mind a bit the last couple of days.  I am hopeful this won’t impact me too much, but I think it’s also a sign that I need to stop piling up so much on my plate and to start taking better care of my health.  I just sent an e-mail last night to the people in charge of SP’s to let them know I might need to quit, especially if I can’t become a trainer anytime soon (which is the whole reason I became one in the first place, since it was a prerequisite to the position).  I may slowly need to start phasing other things out of my life as well.

In other news, I have also become much more involved in the church that  I decided to officially join/become a member of here.  I see that in October I was probably going to write a decent amount about it because I started out with “This is generally not something I would normally share on here, but I feel it has been such a significant part of my life in the past couple of months especially that I felt I should”… and it ends there.  Not going to go into too much detail right now as this is already getting long, but becoming involved in the church (which I’d been attending fairly regularly for a year prior) this summer and subsequently has played a huge role in helping me get over a depressive spell over the summer due to a bad break-up situation, as well as helping me feel a lot more grounded here.  I feel like I actually have community and friends now.  Not to mention being able to play violin on worship team has been a HUGE blessing… I knew I missed it, but did not quite realize how much until I was able to play again.  It helps center me a lot, and is good for stress relief sometimes, or just as an expression of joy.

Along that route, I have also started teaching violin this semester – one student has now been with me for 2 months and has made pretty good progress (to even my surprise haha, since it’s my first time teaching violin really).  I may also be getting a second student soon, which I am pretty excited about.

Ok! I think that about sums up things going on in my life right now.  I had a bunch of links I was going to put at the end here, but as this is so long, I think I’m going to save it for the next post.  Stay tuned!

May 6, 2013

Studying for Step 1

Getting into the full swing of studying – I’m at T-3 weeks + 1 day right now, and need to really ramp up the studying.  I think after today, I’m going to try to update daily with a brief entry on what I’ve done every day so there will be a record somewhere in case anyone wants to know the step-by-step process of studying for this humongo test that basically determines your medical career (or what you can apply for with reasonable hopes of matching into at any rate haha).  Before I start my records, here are the things I have bought/otherwise acquired for Step 1 for your reference:


Pathoma (book and lectures), USMLEWorld Q-bank,  South Biochem, Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, BRS Physiology (5th edition, Linda Costanzo), Robbins and Cotran Review of Pathology, First Aid 2013, Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy, Kaplan’s Q-bank, Goljan audio, NBME exams, Kaplan Q-book.

I first bought Pathoma during the school year since we got a good deal on it as students.  Same with a USMLEWorld Q-bank that I didn’t touch until last week.

In April, I bought: Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, BRS Phys and studied from those, borrowing a Kaplan Q-book and Robbins and Cotran Review of Pathology from a friend to do micro questions.  Was thinking about buying Lange/other pharmacology flashcards, but decided not to after reading reviews.
Later, I of course bought First Aid 2013 (new and improved from the 2012 version and much less errata), and also Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy (for reference) and my own copy of Robbin’s Path (see above).  I also bought Kaplan’s Q-bank last-minute last week just in case, but I’m not sure whether I’ll have time to do it yet.

Other resources include: Goljan audio (a classmate at school also downloaded short-audio versions, which is great to put on an mp3-player/ipod), South Biochem (audio and handouts) and NBME practice exams.  Hopefully no one sues me for putting this up or takes away resources because of this post T__T.


So here’s what the rough timeline of what I’ve done so far (with first a word on how studying was with grad school on top of it…so skip the first long paragraph if you don’t want to read about that):

Medical school ended around March 22, which was about 9 weeks ago or so.  Most of my MD classmates start clinical clerkships this week, so they all had to finish before May 2.  However, us MSTP’s have an extra month because we still had grad school throughout April.  From what I’ve heard from upperclassmen/current MSTP classmates is that people in the grad school “themes” all finished 2 weeks ago, and that they either have tests or had a presentation or two on journal articles related to their classes.  Each class is also usually only about a month long.  I, on the other hand, actually had it pretty tough this time since I’ve decided to do a Nutritional Science PhD, which is off the beaten track, so I have to pioneer the way so to speak.  I only had 2 classes this semester, but both were whole-semester long classes that only ended last week, with writing assignments every week (this is all on top of taking all the regular med school classes mind you), and one of them was a grant writing class that also had a couple quizzes and required a grant proposal written throughout.  The final grant proposal was due last Monday, which was the same day my final review paper was due for my other class (along with other projects)  Basically, April for me was spent working on grad school – Class 1: writing/editing the grant proposal and peer-reviewing other people’s grant proposals for hours, and preparing a powerpoint scientific presentation on a paper (which takes hours for me, even for a 15 minute presentation), then Class 2: Researching/preparing for a mock, taped interview session (on acupuncture), researching and presenting another powerpoint scientific review on green tea, then preparing for a consumer presentation on the topic with a handout that also took hours T__T, and finally, writing a review paper (on different studies!) on green tea.  I should say that the grant proposal was on the Paleo diet.  So no overlap between classes unfortunately, which many of the other students were lucky enough to be able to do.  (My topic for the Paleo diet was already chosen by someone else so I was told to choose something else for the other class).  I think the mindset of studying for tests and med school is drastically different than the mindset of a writer/presenter.  I never really realized that so clearly even in undergrad with my double major in the humanities and the sciences.  But here, while trying to flip the way I organize my thoughts so much in such a short space of time, I have recognized that they really are like two sides of the brain.  Needless to say, studying was very difficult in that context.

So, not much studying was done during April, and I am currently left with basically the same amount of time as a regular med student (or maybe less since I didn’t study for Step 1 at all during med school except for chapters 4-5 of Pathoma during Heme-onc, which I re-did anyway for Step 1).  There are two major things that I did accomplish in April though, and that is to go through all of South’s biochem review (audio along with the handouts) and read through all of Clinical Micro MRS (minus the last 2 chapters on antibiotics in the future and a recap of diseases for bioterrorism, both of which I just skimmed), and did a few micro questions in the Kaplan Q-book and Robbins Path.  I may have also gotten in a few chapters of Pathoma and BRS phys in.  Hah, so I did do a little more than I thought, phew.

Since last week, which was my first week of full day studying (which I was not nearly as productive at as I should have been…), I did Pathoma, BRS Phys, and First Aid (FA) for pulmonary and 1 question block on UWorld for it.   Man, going through answers for the test block took literally 4 hours, I kid you not (and I thought my friend who just took it was exaggerating when she said that… she was spot on.)  I also did manage to go through the same 3 resources for GI and finish a question block, but that was all for the week (including yesterday).  I suppose I did lose a couple days because of clinical orientation on Thursday and I flew home Saturday (listening to Goljan and annotating FA on the way as best as I could with a passenger that kept trying to talk to me on the 4-hr leg of the flight >.<), but still, it’s been hard to focus.

So yes, need to really ramp it up.  Did Renal on Pathoma yesterday, and a question block for hepatobiliary on UWorld that I am currently going through right now before I decided to type this up hehe.  I am way behind my schedule (I thought I’d be done w/ MSK and onto neuro by now HAH as if) so my goal today is just to catch up as fast as I can – hopefully after going over questions, I can finish Renal on FA and BRS phys and do a question block… won’t be too expectant that I can do much more than that.

Oh a comment on studying schedule – I’ve only been doing like <8 hrs previously, but starting yesterday I’m doing around at least 10 hrs, waking up at ~6:30am (thank goodness for jet lag in my favor here) and working until 10pm, with breaks for meals.  I have heard that an avg of 12-14 hrs a day is normal at this point (and really should have been true starting at least 4 weeks out from the test).

Ok, I think I’ve spent enough time here… I hope it was somewhat helpful on understanding the life of a med student while studying for boards and what the timeline should be like for your own studying if you decide to go to med school.  I would eventually like to also post some of the crazy/weird mnemonics/ways of remembers stuff I’ve come up with on a separate post to keep track of all of them, but we’ll see if I have time haha.


Create a free website or blog at