Academia, Career, Economics, Faith, Neurological Disorders, Pain, Problems to Solve, Spinal Cord Injury, Uncategorized, Writing

Grant Amazing

I  did! I posted again!

Okay, it’s been a long time since my last post. While I feel bad about not keeping up with the blog, at the same time, I have a good reason. I’ve been deep in the bowels of grant-writing.

Science, despite all it’s glorious discoveries and wonders, fails without cold-hard cash driving it forward. In our day and age, money motivates discovery. Almost all our breakthroughs in science have some kind of sponsored backing.

Sad, but true. But then, many of us who are in the field of academic science research are driven by more than simply the need for knowledge fulfillment. Personally, I believe I belong in research (for now). And I love to teach…. which in my position provides me with that opportunity.

Regarding Money

With my desire to propel my projects forward, I’ve stopped nearly all distractions from my ability to devote time and energy to getting a grant. As some of my friends know, I’ve made this a top priority. I firmly believe that the work I’m doing in the lab will have some future benefit as well provide an exciting perspective on the issues of Spinal Cord Injury and Pain. 

A metaphorical image….

So I give myself a pat on the shoulder, because just a day ago I got a phone call from the funding agency that my grant application has been award full-funding for the next two-years.

I’m a young investigator, and this is my first grant funded as the principle investigator. In the course of an academic career, this is a THE milestone toward something “bigger” or at the very least more independent. For a little bit of time, and to a point, I will have my own little research space to study something on my own. This is nice, scary, and exciting all at the same time.

As I move forward, as the quiet margins open up again, I will try my best to continue my ruminations. Writing continues to be a great outlet… no matter the topic.

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Existence, Faith, Philosophy, Thinking, Writing

Imagine Imperfection

In a perfect world, super heroes would be useless. As I drove home the other night, that was what I was thinking. I know I’m getting a bit deeper and blunt(er) than I had anticipated for this blog, but hey, why not? Monday blues I ‘pose.

Truly, why do we create fake characters like Superman or Ironman? What is it with these fictional characters that will never exist in real life. And if you believe that these people in comic books and movies can or will exist someday in our universe then you have more faith than I do.

Crazy is another matter.

Anyway, I digress. This is my simple ramble about how we “waste” our time dreaming and pondering how great or inspirational it would be to either meet some of these fake heroes, or be them in some form or another.

I’m sure there are exceptional people who don’t get any thrill from these stories of characters with supernatural powers. But, deep down I think there is a collective and universal hope that somewhere there is something bigger, if this is the correct word, that can really change our perception of our current existence.

A collective hope for bigger.

I’m not sure we could reach this height without our imagination

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Career, Faith, Missions, Neurological Disorders, Philosophy, Spinal Cord Injury, Thinking, Time, Wisdom, Writing

Mission for a Cure


A small step….

I’m pleasantly surprised how this week has gone. Upon reflection, I’ve made tangible progress.

I’m always surprised by how the small steps when added together make this bigger goal come true. Every project I work on has been a huge undertaking.

I’m slowly working out a process on how to effectively manage these projects. It goes against my nature to slow down and take things one step at a time. But, this is how it should be done, I think.

Like a painter working on a masterpiece. It starts with a single brush stroke, followed by another, and on.

The mission to the Moon began as small rocket launches. The first orbit around the Earth was a step toward reaching the Moon.

Developing a drug for curing spinal cord injury would ultimately arrive the same way. A small step here. A small test there. Perhaps this preclinical study in an rat will provide the foundation for a successful treatment.

My projects, I suppose, are the brush strokes, the first launches into the stratosphere.

I reach for the Moon, but keep my eye on the prize which is Today.

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Academia, Existence, Faith, Grants, Neurological Disorders, Philosophy, Politics, Problems to Solve, Storm, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Ambition

It’s a hard job, being a scientist. This is not a complaint, but a mere observation in the spirit of scientific fashion. It is hard.

I’ve been in different jobs. At this moment, from this vantage point, the biggest difference I see between working in a lab in academia versus the world of commercial business is the competition, the struggle.

In commercial business, the main impetus appears strongest from the outside. Your boss, your client, your project demand your very best. And if you satisfy your boss, your client, and do a good job on your project, then you will most likely do well in your job.

On the other hand, in academic scholarship, the main impetus appears from within. While there are certain external forces that vie for your utmost effort and attention, it is within you that the most demanding pressure manifests.

In this world, there are no deadlines to meet, no benchmarks or milestones except the ones you make for yourself. Hence, if you do not self-motivate yourself, you could float around in the nether until you’re either fired or find yourself in a dead end, low-paying position (relative to your peers 10 years your junior) with no way out because you’re too old.

Now ambition says that relaxing and enjoying your life is a waste of time. Well, I suppose a glimpse into this world of academic science would help people understand how things are done in the scientific world.

There is that internal drive that must be tempered. That internal beast that says you must produce otherwise you’re a failure. I’m sure everyone who has wanted to do well in their career has at one point experienced this monster. I battle this thing so that I can get good sleep at night, enjoy time with my loved ones, and do what I like as a human being.

There is nothing worse than a worker with no soul.

© All rights reserved by Childish Dream

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Compassion, Existence, Faith, Philosophy, Prose, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

A Reflected Creator

Another day in the life of a neuroscientist. I’m sick with a cold. A viral infection that’s on extended vacation inside my body. How often do we get an illness and not realize that these battles within us are life-or-death.

Life for us, death for the pathogen.

This physical realm we live in is full of dangers and mortal threats. Our resilience as flesh and blood is only our ability to cope with these threats. The cells in our bodies regenerate. The immune system adapts to new invaders.

It’s war.

Then, there’s the psychological warfare with have within ourselves (ugh). This unrestrained need to survive and build ourselves up with emotional walls of stone and mortar. We are rocks unto ourselves with the single goal of making sure we aren’t ground into sand.

If all this strife is true, constant and never-ending, then kindly wake me up because this world sucks in reality.

No wonder I dream. No surprise I love stories and movies and all manner of created fictions. These fantastic tales and higher purposes we look up to are amazing and required for us to feel safe and secure.

As I am hungry, I search for food. If I am thirsty, I find drink. If I am sad, I find a friend. All physical realities that can be reached.

But what if the object I’m searching for is a fiction, an imagined thing? Am I in a fruitless search?

I suppose the only way I could find it, is to create my heart’s content. I’ll sculpt it out of clay. I’ll paint it with wonderful colors; azure, crimson, and sunshine yellows. Flesh tones and brown inks. I’ll make it beautiful and love it because I made it to fill up my longing for the simple desire to create.

My heart and mind is that of a creator. Ironically, this gives me joy.

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Academia, Compassion, Existence, Faith, Missions, Pain, Philosophy, Thinking, Time

Please, don’t jump

Life is hard: this understatement comes to my mind whenever I hear news from a friend about a tragedy in an individual’s life. There are some situations in which there appears no escape, like being trapped on the roof of a burning building. I guess you could jump off the side and end it quickly.

What would I do in an impossible situation?

I hear of a friend who has lost her job, she’s 58, single and has to stay home to care for her sick mother (who has dementia). She’s depressed and lonely, as many of us would be in such a situation.

I also learn of a colleague who has a broken family because of a husband’s mental disorder, and she is trying to keep it together. She doesn’t have control over the situation and can only grasp what she can, her kids and finances (maybe not the finances so much anymore).

So much, craziness in this life. I wish I could wave a wand and say it would all be better if they would “wait a bit longer”, but that isn’t a genuine answer. The truth is, I don’t know if a person’s situation gets better in this life. Suffering is the norm, not the exception for people.

I listen to them, more than speak, because it’s the best I can do. In general, I know my mouth can’t speak too much lest I give them something they can’t handle right away.

And that is the Truth. It comes back to the burning building. You’re trapped on the roof, the smoke is rising, darkness filling up all around. I would say, if I could, that the escape route is up.

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Existence, Faith, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

One of Many

Immortality. I’ve been watching some documentaries, or kind of listening to them while doing some mundane work, and the idea that humans could potentially live forever, biologically, is so fascinating.

If our bodies are machines, then the parts that comprise our bodies should be replaceable or repairable. Perhaps one day there will be a replacement for a broken spinal cord or a dysfunctional vital organ, like a bad liver or lung. I think this is definitely possible.

Let’s play a thought experiment:

Take all the parts of a human being, lay them out on the floor (a clean one at that!), and then by some incredible procedure put them together in the right place, just as we would with do-it-yourself furniture. We make a human body from its individual parts. Let’s say this is possible.

Now, at least for me, there is the problem.

I cannot envision the “spark” that would trigger the body to awake and live. In the story Frankenstein, the creature awoke from lightning, but seriously, what would this particular life force start? In the brain? Well, really the brain is more than just a single part; which of the brain parts would you start first? The breathing or the heart?

I think the spark, or part of the ‘awake’ issue, comes back to the magical things that happen during development in the mother’s womb. There’s a developmental process here, or a slow incubation, like fermented alcohol in the making of a fine wine that needs to happen for a biological organism as complicated as ours to become alive in every sense of the word “alive”.

I suppose I’m thinking back to the origins of human existence, my existence, in biological speak. I’m a vehicle that carries me, which is…. the soul?

I’m a machine, but I am more because I write. Through words on a piece of paper, I can speak to the future people who have yet to be born. Moreover, I can listen to the thoughts of the dead by reading their words.

Machines cannot put meanings in symbols, words, and record them in a way that conveys personalities and characteristics. Some may argue this; that this is yet to come in the future for machine artificial intelligence.

But, there’s a deeper sense that we are special creatures.

Anyway, I’m just thinking on this peaceful Friday afternoon. And I think that this post would end nicely with a dead guy speaking:

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” ~C.S. Lewis

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