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Lots of new toys and another word on the title

8 October 2014
Today, for the first time since starting in my new position, I have done something which actually feels a little bit like science. Not really an experiment, that would be far too much, but I have made a few solutions that will help me with future experiments. I you so want, I made the lab equivalent of chicken stock – something that is necessary for further recipes, incredible helpful for a lot of them, somewhat tedious and boring to do, but once done will last you for a while.
Without going into too many and too boring details, I did have the opportunity to spend some time creating sterile solutions and aliquoting them (that is, portioning them in batches that are just the right size for a single use and then freezing them for later retrieval). And it felt really good to do some hands-on work, after three months of exclusive grant-writing (which is important enough, but three months of it are bound to make you feel like your head wants to explode; and grant writing, by the way, is the necessary evil all scientists have to subjugate to, namely the process of explaining your ideas for research so other people (funding bodies) can understand them and decide whether or not to give you money to pursue these lofty goals (and to follow this footnote up with another footnote: we actually have a word for being good at this: grantsmanship)).
But to get back on track, this little burst of benchwork had to be preceded by a flurry of mail orders for new tools and toys, consumables and chemicals, petri dishes and pipettes (because no one realises how much stuff you need to run a lab until you have to fill an empty workspace with the necessary equipment to actually do work there – as a PhD student or postdoc, the equipment is already there and reagents for day-to-day business just keep appearing in most labs (thanks to some little elves called technicians and lab managers without whom we’d be totally lost and useless). And of course when setting up your lab for the first time, you end up ordering only half of all the things you need, then realise all the things you forgot and order again, to realise a second time you only ordered half of what you need and so on, thus asymptotically approaching the status of a functional lab. But now that I have the basic chicken stocks, I can and will hopefully get started very soon.
I promised another word on the title. In a fairly trivial sense, reduction of tumour size is a goal for brain cancer therapy as well. And if that would work for all types of cancer, everything would be so much easier. Unfortunately, tumour reduction is a bit tricky for the most malignant types of brain cancers (and some others, too), as these have a tendency of out-smarting our therapeutic efforts and to then grow back. This re-growth is called recurrence (a topic for another day), and understanding how this happens is what I am trying to do in a nutshell. So, the science of reduction really is what keeps me busy during the days and sometimes awake at night.