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.

Existence, Humor, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Prose, Thinking, Writing

Is this burn out?

I awoke to the hollow clang of an empty gas tank.

Too much. Can’t focus. 

This feeling of just-let-me-sleep-more always catches me off guard. I don’t expect it when it hits me. I suppose it’s nice that I can write it down here. Not a complaint, but a mere exhalation of life onto a page.

I like how I can find metaphors from everything around me to describe my experiences. I’m climbing a hill, or crawling through a dark underground hole–and you know what I’m talking about. I’m burned-out and slogging along through the mud trying to finish the simple daily tasks beset in front of me, that only yesterday seemed trivial.

Funny thing is, I know tomorrow or even 5 minutes from now, I’ll have the fire again. I don’t know where it comes from: inspiration. An intake of air that propels you forward through the day, the minutes and seconds of experience.

So I patiently wait for it, inspiring oxygen (the non-metaphorical kind), and doing what needs to be done through habit. The emotion and drive behind it, a simple twitch of muscle.

I’m an academic….maybe it’s mental fatigue. If I dig through my ear canals, I may find soot and ash. I drove this car fast and hard. Time to park this vehicle I drive in my head on a parking lot in a fancy exotic place. My bed sounds nice.

But really, I suppose it’s not burn-out. I’m stable on solid ground. I just want to do something different. So many of the same tasks ahead of me. Done that, been there. Tedium. I’ve lost the thrill.

Yet, I know, I’ve heard some wisdom on this:

“Let the thrill go — let it die away — go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow — and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.” C.S. Lewis wrote.


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.

Coffee, Diet, Existence, Food, Pipe smoking, Vegan

Oops, I’m a Vegan!?

It’s been 13 days at being a vegan and I’m pleased to report that I’ve not had a single nibble of any animal flesh in this time. Though I admit I’ve been tempted on many an occasion by the sight and smell of juicy, sizzling bacon, and the odd-ball chocolate mousse cake. I had the gusto to turn them all away.

It was kind of amazing actually how easy it was to stay faithful to this diet. I used to be the person who made fun of people on these strict dietary regimes. I’m now eating my words as I do feel “better”. I’m lighter on my feet if that makes sense, probably because I’ve got less processing in my gut. Maybe other chemical things are going on that I don’t know about or understand.

(I did lose 6 pounds since I started)

Another weird and unexpected effect is that I don’t crave the meats or cheeses as much as I did before. It’s totally weird because I love that stuff! I still do; I’m sure I’d enjoy the taste of a pizza or a ribeye steak that I’ve slapped on my grill.

Oh my poor grill…. What am I going to do in the Summer? Grilled veggies?! Mushrooms? The abominable veggie burger?

For another 2 weeks I’ll stick with this vegan thing. I’ll get a blood test from the doctor and see if a month of no meats or diary products actually does anything significant for me. I did have somewhat of a high cholesterol issue.

But, thinking about all this goodness in my healthful choices, I did make some boo-boo(s).

1. I put sugar in my coffee.

2. I had a puff out of my tobacco pipe.

But, “I didn’t inhale…”.

Coffee, Diet, Food, Humor, Vegan

Bright, Sunny, Egg-less

I’m a whole-foods vegan. Temporarily. Just going to try this for 28 days with my wife and see how it goes. Well, only for 3 days now and I’ve got to say that I’m feeling the internal difference. I’m on the verge of my seat whenever my colleagues at work bring in their bacon cheese burgers for lunch (with french fries). There was an ache in my chest the other day; took me a moment to realize it was the pain of not having any ketchup in my diet. Ugh, I love ketchup.

Then, I found myself day dreaming while at my computer doing some work that I was walking to the hospital cafeteria. Row upon row of sloppy joes, taco Tuesday specials, and cold-cut submarines served by gentle elderly servers flashed before me. And I got these sudden headaches; I just wanted to lie down.

Are these symptoms of withdrawal?

This, I could learn to enjoy!

As part of this diet, we are choosing to avoid foods that came from anything that could have moved in its past life. I tried to make the argument that eggs shouldn’t be a part of the diet (it doesn’t move), but then I realized my empirical way of making-sense doesn’t always work against my wife. She’s a smart lady. Eggs, she says, are moving because they are inside the body of an animal that moves, hence, the eggs move by default.

A losing battle, for sure. Well, on the bright sunny egg-less side, we have been having….what shall we say? Healthy movements more than twice a day.

Oh, and I can still drink coffee, so all is good!

Academia, Career, Missions, Problems to Solve, Spinal Cord Injury, Time

A Neuro Nightlife: Slice and Dice

Alone in the lab on a Friday night, again. Why, oh why am I the nearly last to leave? Some might say I’m a total loser (some melodrama for kick). Others may congratulate me on my hard working ethic, my unreserved drive to produce results. (Actually, most of my friends would agree with the former).

As for why I’m in the lab alone on an evening when most of my peers are either with their families, out partying, or going out to a fancy dinner to celebrate the end of the work week; I am on the cryostat cutting spinal cord tissues into micron-thick (very small) slices.

My friend, Leica

The machine I’m using, and have temporarily taken a break to write this blog post, is basically a freezer that contains a deli-slicing machine. Instead of cold-cutting ham, I’m cold-cutting spinal cord.

The slices are melted onto glass microscope slides where, at a later date, I’ll perform a procedure that will allow me to visualize the microscopic structure of neurons. It’s similar to developing a photograph in the dark room…. but a bit more involved.

According to my calculations, I’ll be done, um, oh who cares! I’m rocking the iTunes on a Friday night, slicing and dicing. All is good.

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Academia, Missions, Neurological Disorders, Pain, Problems to Solve, Spinal Cord Injury

Digging for treasure

I suppose it’s time to write something about my day. Just a quick note, a slice  of my 24 hours.

I’m now in the laboratory, sitting at my desk, thinking that I need to do more research. After my talk yesterday, I received a few questions and critiques regarding my next steps for my project.

The run down: I’ve built a firm foundation that I can rest my thoughts upon. The foundation are a series of papers I published that demonstrate a structural substrate, or medium, for the abnormal sensory sensations processed by the nervous system after injury (or disease).

Now that I’ve built this ‘floor’, I’ve been encouraged to explore targets that could test that foundation. Find the cracks, as it were. In order for me to do that, I have to go back to the drawing board; find out where there is a gap in my knowledge in my conceptual model.

To do this, I need to read. I need to read the plethora of literature regarding the possible mechanisms, or machinery, that may control what is happening inside the injured spinal nervous system. There is so much.

In the past, I’ve been able to focus my quest by the simple method of asking simple questions. So, now I will pose one as I dig into the netherworld of the internet databases, where decades of published work may reveal something useful for me.

I’m on a scavenger hunt, but I don’t know what I’m looking for. Not yet, anyway. How exciting….