Back to routines

Hello everyone! First of all, hope you have enjoyed Christmas time and had the chance to rest for a while and recharge batteries for a tough month as January. There are plenty of things I’d like to tell you, since the end of the year is usually a very intense time: on one hand you try do as much lab work as possible before leaving for Christmas, on the other hand your calendar gets more and more busy as the plans for the holidays rise up.

As you may remember, my lab work so far has focused on amplifying DNA through isothermal techniques and synthesizing Gold Nanoparticles as transducer elements for a potential biosensor. I have to admit that, having a biotechnological background, I’m enjoying the chemical part of the work with the synthesis. Maybe some problems we were having regarding the specificity during the DNA amplification is the reason why I’m temporarily enjoying more the chemistry than the biology. But… there is still plenty of time for us to make things work as we want!

These first days of the new year I’m focusing on characterizing the catalytic properties of Gold Nanoparticles, it seems that these small particles can do everything. Not only they can oxidize a variety of substrates (such as TMB or ABTS) but they can also do it at rates sometimes higher than the biological enzymes themselves. This is something quite interesting for many applications in the biosensing field, since they enable a visual detection. However, the DNA detection must be absolutely specific to avoid any false positive, as it has been reminded in previous blogs.

As for the rest of the work, everything seems to be alright. I’m looking forward to gathering a few more results to present them in a conference! It’s always gratifying that your work is appreciated, a nice way to know that your work is something important for society.

Apart from work, by mid-December we enjoyed a Christmas dinner with most of the people working at the Institute for Global Food Security. It was nice to have some time to relax with our lab mates and it was even nicer to realize the day we had the dinner that everything was completely snowed (it snowed heavily during the night, so we were lucky with the weather). I must say that the fact of having live music at any bar is something that still impresses me and that I really enjoy.

After that and a last week of work, I came back to Spain for Christmas and as soon as I set foot in Barcelone I realized how much I was missing that weather (I guess now I got used to rainy days). I had some very nice days there in family, but also with some friends with who I spent New Year’s Eve in the Pyrenees. It was impressive to move from the extraordinarily sunny 21 °C we were enjoying in Zaragoza to the below zero temperatures and the handspan of snow that we found there (with only 150 km separating both places!). There, in Canfranc, I had the chance to visit again the Canfranc International Station, about 5 km away from the French border, it has been connecting both countries since 1928. Moreover, I enjoy the tradition of having 12 grapes to come in the new year, this time with loads of people in the main square in Canfranc. I will definitely keep doing it if next year I decide to stay in Belfast.

Canfranc International Station

Canfranc International Station

 

A few days later it was time to come back to Belfast, my current home during these 3 years the Project lasts. I must say that, even though I really enjoyed the holidays, I was missing Belfast (some people here thought I was mad, but this city has something). However, coming back was not as easy as it could have been. As me, it seems that most people thought it was a good idea to come back on Sunday, which ends up being hours of delay at the airport.

Finally I arrived first to Dublin and then to Belfast, so again back to the lab and back to work. It’s been a chaotic week, setting everything up after holidays, but now I have settled down again and everything seems to be running smoothly. I have decided to join some French courses offered at the University (it would be a pity to forget the little I knew) and I’m also considering joining a basketball team, if I can find the time to do so.

Hope you have enjoyed the blog and I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon! See you in my next blog 😉

Javier

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