Archive for October, 2009

Charity Week 2009 – Day 1

// October 22nd, 2009 // 3 Comments » // Photos, Video

This year, Charity Week will run from the 19th to the 25th October, inshā’Allāh. Here's a wee video I made for my ISoc, to mark Day 1:

Please donate online NOW, writing “IMPERIAL COLLEGE” in the comments section of the donation form (we're in competition with the other participating universities). All money goes to Islamic Relief's orphan fund. So be generous! :)

Please also leave a comment below (anonymously if you wish) to let me know how much you donated, so I have an idea of the impact of the video, and also, to encourage others to follow suit, inshā’Allāh.

Update – Photos from the Henna Stall we ran today (Day 4):

Henna Me, Baby Hand 2 (My Hand!) Hand 1 Concentration I wish I could do that!

And She Gets Back Up

// October 7th, 2009 // 5 Comments » // Blog

Oh, happy day! Alhamdulillah, today rocked. The lecture itself wasn't exactly super-stimulating; it was just a basic introduction to the various programming languages that we'll be trained in over the next three months: Perl, Python and… erm, Java, I think. It's what happened afterwards that made me grin ear-to-ear!

I asked the lecturer what his background was, expecting him to say Computer Science. But he's actually a Biologist-turned-Comp nerd, like I wanna be! I confessed to him that I had trouble with yesterday's lecture, which contained a lot of Maths; whereupon he confessed to me that his Maths is quite bad, too. And then, he said that the Bioinformatics service centre where he works, (i.e., the folks who help all the scientists on campus with their research projects), actually has a shortage of people with a good understanding of Biology, and skills in computing.

Yey! I may actually have a job at the end of this, inshā’Allāh. I am so sucking up to this guy; he might be my future boss! ;)

Seriously, I feel sooo much better today. I understood 99% of what he spoke about. In fact, only one slide didn't make sense, and it turns out there was a typo: so I wasn't going crazy, after all.

Day 3 of my course, we haven't actually touched a computer yet, and I pretty much already know what kind of Bioinformatician I want to be: the kind who doesn't have to deal with Maths! :))

She Stumbles

// October 6th, 2009 // 1 Comment » // Blog

Day 2 did not go as smoothly as Day 1. Maybe I should have brought my MacBook in with me? Though I doubt it would have done much to help, other than give me access to Twitter, so I could complain in 'real time'.

Basically, we had our first proper Bioinformatics lecture today. It started off well, as the Apple-loving professor covered the basics of genetics, evolution (wahey…) and population biology; the kind of thing one learns in first year BSc Biology.

But then, for the next 80 minutes… Slide after slide of algebra, quadratic equations, and crazy graphs. Ah! I had no idea what he was talking about! Suddenly familiar concepts were converted into single letters, and jumbled up with random symbols. What did he dooo?!

I looked at the person next to me: she sits silently, staring intensely at the screen. Was she really getting all this? Seriously? Where did I leave my brain today?

Then about half way through, the prof says: “Oh, btw, we don't expect you learn all of these equations. You won't be examined on this. If you don't know this Maths, don't waste your time with it”.

Eh?!! But… Why?!?! Gah!

I guess I was relieved, but still… Why did he spend 90% of the lecture on these crazy mathematical models? I think there should have been more explanation of their practical application to research, rather than confusing dumb people like me with endless equations. Sniffle.

Anyway, exams or no, I still feel compelled to open up my A-level Maths notes (yes, they're buried somewhere in the loft), and try to relearn some of the basics. Just because I won't be examined on it, doesn't mean it won't come up in project work, or even later on in my career. And how bad will it be then, when I'm truly old and stuck in my ways!

I think that's part of the mature student experience: you understand that there is life after exams, and you need to learn how to become a well-rounded, capable indiviudual who can function in a challenging work environment, inshā’Allāh; not just someone who crams to get good grades, but is generally clueless.

I am praying that my first computer lab tomorrow will go much better. Āmīn! That's the main reason I took this course, so I really can't afford to be confused, like I was today… Subhanallah!

First Steps

// October 5th, 2009 // 4 Comments » // Blog

Today was Day 1 of my shiny, new Masters course, marking my first step towards a career shift into Bioinformatics, inshā’Allāh. For those currently scratching their heads in confusion: read my earlier confession.

I want to be all clever, and write some amazing account of the myriad of emotions that I've experienced over the past two months, culminating in the pinnacle of nerves that was my afternoon commute into the familiar territory of what was once my undergraduate campus. But frankly, I cannae be bothered. I can barely put a sentence together right now; I don't think mornings agree with me. Most of my day was quite “meh”, tbh. I only had two lectures, one of which was a safety induction. Yawnsville!

There are about 20 of us, maybe less, on the course. 1:1 ratio of guys to gals, with the majority of gals being bionerds, and a smattering of various other disciplines amongst the guys. One of the women was actually more research experienced than me. Not only did she have a PhD in Endocrinology (she worked on growth hormone, whereas I worked on progesterone signalling), she also spent a year as a postdoc afterwards. Isn't that a poke in the eye for the people hating on me for taking this course? Okay, maybe not 'hating'… I've just heard a lot of “Haven't you studied enough, Mehzabeen, har har”. Yeah, hilarious. Hrm…

Though, the absolute highlight of my day was when I asked the computing lecturer if having a Mac would be problematic for the programming aspect of the course. I have spent the last fortnight worrying that I'd have to buy a regular laptop, or figure out how to install Windows/ Linux on my MacBook. The head professor – the one I refer to as the 'bad cop', from my initial interview – gives me a half smile and says: “You have great taste!”. Then a few moments later, speaking over the computing guy, “We all use Macs in the lab”. And then, the cherry on the double chocolate sundae: “You know what? You've already passed!“.

Talk about making an amazing first (or more accurately, second) impression! Alhamdulillah – thank you God! Much happiness. And thanks to Apple too! Let's pray that it only gets better from here on in, inshā’Allāh. :)

Choc Chip N’ Walnut Cookies

// October 2nd, 2009 // 4 Comments » // Blog

I know you might be getting bored of these cookie posts, but this recipe turned out quite nice, māshā’Allāh, so I thought I'd share (it has nothing to do with scoring extra 'rishta' points, by proving that I am not allergic to the kitchen. No, no, no… ahem).

Sorry about the dodgy photo. My camera doesn't do very well in low light conditions, and I detest using the flash! Anyhoo, recipe and instructions below.

  • 125g butter, unsalted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla, alcohol-free
  • 100g granulated white sugar
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 60g walnuts, chopped
  • 120g Cadbury's Large Buttons, chopped (this is the chocolate that we already had in the house, hehe – use whatever brand you wish)

Beat the butter, vanilla, and sugars together with an electric whisk until smooth, before mixing in the egg (both white + yolk). Add sifted flour, and remaining ingredients. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure to leave enough space between the lumps, as they do spread out. Bake at 200oC for around 13-15 minutes, or until sufficiently browned.

Results: I ended up with 24 medium-sized cookies, māshā’Allāh. My dad liked them, which I take to be a sign of a successful baking session, alhamdulillah – trust me, he's a harsh critic, and doesn't have a sweet tooth like me and mum – so I'm satisfied. :)