As you may well know if you are a follower of this blog or have been connected to it for the past months, this is the last year of my PhD. Am I sad? Not at all. Life is about moving on and learning until the day you learn that you are no longer solid matter and your ashes are sunbathing under the hot sun of the Baia do Sancho Beach in Brazil (Fernando de Noronha). At least I like to think that way, it gets me going!
But there's a thesis to be written and a lot of important grey matter material to be spat into the soul of the hard drive of my old university-leased laptop.
My life as a researcher has been pretty much about untangling the complicated knots of biomolecular networks. Endocrine ones for my BSc Hons in Biotechnology where I case-studied a Cushing's syndrome patient, the stress-response network in C. elegans for my MRes in Toxicology and now the quorum sensing network of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. I am about seeing the Matrix, I swear to you without any false modesty, I am incredibly good in looking into a complicated array of systems and just dismantling the whole net of interrelationships to the basic direct permute of responses. People have different brains and they function in different manners. Mine, really digs complicated evil systems to be made into juvenile simplistic maps of correlations. I am extremely good at it because I LOVE IT.
But to accomplish success in every single task I have programmed for the day I need to be reminded of the thousand things I have to do. Pyocyanin extractions, AHLs quantifications, Biosensor luminescence readings, Running gels, Plating bugs, Digesting plasmids, Cytotoxic assays and the long array of general tasks one has to perform in a Microbiology lab. I couldn't do it without a free tool I found on the web - Desktop Reminder 2 (a freeware task planner for Windows).
I am pretty sure there are a million programs just like the one I use, with a million options that I would never care to use just because time, in my life as a final year PhD student, a husband and a father of the most precious child in the world, and having a go at my start-up, is not easy at all. In that sense I go for simple and accurate. Desktop reminder 2 is just that (but it can be more if you wish so). I just plan my tasks ahead, set up a reminder, an early alarm and the actual hour the task is to be performed, modify it whenever and however I wish, adapting it to the reality of a dynamic life, and that is it. After a shout and a popping of a small screen I am always aware of the million things to be done, never forgetting a thing. Just check these two images of the screens I use the most in this software.
Try it because I am pretty sure you are going to love it's simplicity and fulfillness.
Another thing is to understand the incredible dynamic interactions a biomolecular system is made of. We are talking about a large number of different elements combined to drive you crazy at the end of the day. How can you simplify the laws of the universe into a comprehensible image? Stop calling Brian Fox, he is overwhelmed as it is with his 20-odd TV shows. Just draw a bloody diagram, simples! I love diagrams. I am the God of Diagrams in the sense that I honestly believe everything in this existence can be made simple just by using a diagram. If you do not believe it just give it a try by testing yet another free tool I found online, draw.io! Because I would never be able to explain it better than the Google guys that created it, and I don't really have the time, just check this video for a good tutorial on draw.io. I think it is so simple you don't have to, but who knows?
Helpful tips? Nice! Share yours with us, maybe you are using online tools that can make a difference in a hectic life of a PhD student. Just bear in mind it has got to be learned fast and have a simple option.