How to make the best out of quarantine

Today is the 13th day of quarantine here in Italy.

Now, also in the rest of Europe, USA and Canada schools and universities are closed (lectures continue online), lots of people are working from home and self-isolating from the rest of the population.

This is not a good time. It is difficult to everybody to have its own routine completely wiped out.

I just want to say that somehow we are fortunate.

We can stay in our homes, with hot water, electricity, heat, A/C and Internet. Internet allows us to stay in contact with the rest of the world, with our friends and family. It allows us to study and work from home.

It also provides us A LOT of resources. Museums and libraries are putting their collections online for free. It is a good time to finally visit that particular museum on the other side of the world.

1 – Library of Congress

Here you can search among 19,147 items. You can finally take the time to read books in Ancient Greek or Ancient Hebrew, you can study for your History exam by checking the interactive map of World War I, or you can enjoy your free time by reading Shakespeare.

Library of Congress

2 – National Gallery of Art

Do you Degas and his ballerinas? Good! Here you can have a look to his paintings and read everything you want to know about his art.

National Gallery of Art

3 – British Museum

Would you rather be in London right now? No problem, here you can visit the British Museum! Are you passionate about Napoleon? Good, let’s find out everything you can about the Rosetta stone.

The British Museum

4 – Louvre

What about Paris for a quick stop by the Louvre? Go and have a look to Leonardo’s masterpiece “Mona Lisa”.

Louvre

5 – Museo del Prado

Since we are in Europe, I think it is a good idea to visit Madrid and its Museo del Prado. Are you curious to know which paintings has been drawn between 1770 and 1780? Check their timeline!

Museo del Prado

6 – The State Hermitage Museum

It’s a good time of the year to visit San Petersburg and the amazing Hermitage. You can have an online tour of the Museum. I strongly suggest the Gold Room.

The State Hermitage Museum

7 – National Archeological Museum

Spring is a perfect moment to visit Athens. Since you are there, let’s find out all the superb Greek sculptures.

National Archeological Museum

8 – Gallerie degli Uffizi

It’s time to go back to Italy for the last two museums. Let’s go to Florence to admire Botticelli’s masterpiece.

Gallerie degli Uffizi

9 – Musei Vaticani

Last stop: Rome. Now it is a good moment to finally visit the Sistine Chapel by yourself. You will not be surrounded by people, but by art and beauty only.

Musei Vaticani

Enjoy art, culture, beauty.

Be kind.

Stay home and stay safe.

Women in STEM: Michelle

Michelle in the lab

Today I have the pleasure to publish my interview with Michelle, a biologist, an artist, a nutrition student and a cephalops’ fan.

Hi mypetcephalopod! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

Hi, I’m Michelle! I’m in my early 20s and in the second year of my MSc in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. I completed my BSc in Biology with a focus towards micro- and molecular biology, and Minor in Human Nutrition from the University of Waterloo in June 2018.  

When did you start your Instagram account? How did you get the idea?

I started my Instagram account right before I started my MSc (August 2018). I’m a very visual learner so throughout my BSc I was always drawing figures and little doodles to help me remember concepts. Back when Tumblr was huge, I made an account where I could post about new concepts that I learned each week – I regret not being very committed to it. But going into my MSc, I wanted to share all the facts that I found fun or interesting when I was studying in a visual way. I’m so lucky that I am able to combine my two passions: science and art. And that there are people out there that are willing to listen and see what I have to offer to the science communication community. Eventually my account has grown to showing others and documenting what I do in the lab and my day-to-day life as a MSc student. The Instagram community is so supportive and inclusive. 

Can you tell us something about how you balance work and private life? 

I’ve learned to recognize my limits and I strongly prioritize my mental and physical health. For example, I refuse to pull an all-nighter because I need a good night’s rest to function and think clearly. Or I make sure that I schedule at least 1-2 workouts a week along with making nutrient-dense food choices. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can almost treat my lab work as a 9-5 job and at the end of the day it’s ‘me time’. Self-care is really important. Do what you need to do to reset and feel refreshed for the next day.  

During your academic studies how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?

My BSc program in Biology was pretty evenly split 50/50 for male to females. In my current department in Nutritional Sciences, I would say that it’s 30/70 for male to females – so I’m lucky to be surrounded by some amazing female researchers. I’ve thought about why there are more females in the department, I suppose it has something to do with nutrition being a stereotypical women’s profession because it involves ‘food’. Ahaha, I’m really not sure.  

Have you ever felt harassed or being kept apart as a scholar because you are a woman?

Honestly, no. I’m from a pretty open-minded community so I never felt like becoming a scholar wasn’t an option.  

How did you became passionate about science? 

It’s hard to say. As a young child, my list of professions included teacher and veterinarian. Eventually looking at big animals as a vet become looking at tiny bacteria under the microscope as a microbiologist. I have a natural (albeit maybe annoying curiosity) for how things work or why things do the things they do – so I’m always asking questions. And that’s the beauty of science, there’s always another question you can ask. 

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

As mentioned in an earlier question, I am currently finishing up my MSc. My research focuses on the effects of flaxseed and it’s oil, lignan, and fiber components on the gut microbiome and surrounding tissue structures. On the side, I’m a Teaching Assistant for two different Introductory Nutrition courses. I like to balance my science career with my art so I manage my own Etsy shop where I sell stickers of my science artwork, I’m on the Editorial team of my department’s student-led magazine as well as the Mentorship Representative of our Student Association, and the Layout / Designer for the Health Science Inquiry.  

Thank you so much for your time. Lastly, can you give any advice to girls interested in STEM?

Do it. Take the time to learn what area of STEM that you enjoy the most and don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing it. It’s easy to get caught up with society’s expectations and someone else’s dream but at the end of the day you need to do it for yourself. 

Have a look to Michelle’s profiles:

Etsy : https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/MyPetCephalopod

Instagram : @mypetcephalopod 

Twitter : @MyPetCephalopod

My PhD journey

My setup when I started to write my PhD dissertation

My #100DaysOfDissertation start today.

So I decided to share my PhD journey and to tell you what I still have to do.

So, I started my PhD program in November 2016 in Italy. In Italy the program lasts three years (usually) and it can be founded (you earn about 15k euros/year) or unfounded (you earn 0 and you still have to pay university fees).

My case was the second one, that means that during my whole PhD I had a full time job (as science teacher in high school, then as chemistry lab technician and again as science teacher).

My university organized the three-year-Phd program similar to an undergraduate program. The idea is that to submit your thesis you have to obtain 180 ECTS + attend at least one international conference + submit at least one first author paper.

The ECTS are to be obtained by attending mandatory and optional courses, seminars, summer schools, national and international conferences and by doing research.

At the end of each year, PhD students have to write a report in which they summarize their activities and the results obtained in the lab. Moreover, they have to give a seminar to the PhD committee regarding their research.

The thesis should be a collection of the papers published, or submitted, or in preparation during the PhD.

Mine will be composed by and introduction, 4 to 6 chapters regarding my results and a final chapter with some general conclusions.

During my third year I became pregnant, so I took 5 months off and therefore, delayed my thesis submission by some months.

The next steps I still need to take are:

  • sending an official request to be admitted to the final exam (beginning of April);
  • give the third year seminar + write the third year report + submit the PhD thesis draft (beginning of June);
  • the draft will be evaluated by the PhD committee, which can suggest some changes (end of June);
  • submit the correct draft version of the PhD thesis (mid July);
  • the thesis will be peer-reviewed by two anonymous reviewers, who will suggest minor of major revisions (end of August);
  • in case of minor revisions, I have to resubmit the corrected and final version of the PhD thesis by mid October and defend it around the end of the year;
  • in case of major revisions I will have time till end of April 2021 and defend it around the summer.

Wish me luck and let me know in the comments if you have any questions regarding my PhD program, the thesis submission process or any other doubt you have in mind.

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