3 countries, 3 trips

Hi all!

Again I get the chance to chat with you and keep you updated in how this PhD trip is going. While I was rescuing some photos I wanted to include in this post, I have realised what some of you were pointing out about the weather. Especially now that the daylight ends before the working day. As Klaudia said, a good incentive to focus on the lab work. Anyway, the last time I wrote this blog I was on my way home for the summer holidays, so I wanted to share some pics with you. I spent most of my holidays traveling from one place to another, as I wanted to make the most of them. But I have to say that our trip to Roda de Isábena, in the very north of Spain, a few km away from the French border, was what I enjoyed most. It is a very small village, in the middle of nowhere, lost in the Pyrenees and with a population under 100 people. However I highly recommend it if you are nature-lovers. Moreover, the place is full of historical details, with a cathedral from the XI century. It really is the place to go to disconnect from work and from the world in general. Plus, there’s a very nice lake not too far from there, called “Embalse de Barasona” that perfectly mimics a beach in the Pyrenees, in which we enjoyed kayaking all along.

 

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After the holidays it was time to come back to Belfast and start thinking again about the biosensor I’m working in. In the last couple of months I’ve been combining the DNA-based detection methods with other biorecognition elements such as peptide binders and antibodies, to explore different possibilities. The incorporation of a few new members to our lab group has been very important in this matter, as we’ve been able to combine our expertise in different fields to push each other’s research forward. Thus, I have been (and still I am) working with gold nanostars conjugation to detect the target bacteria through that complex and use their optical properties to generate a colorimetric/spectroscopic signal. At this point, both research lines that I was working in get combined with the same goal: develop a biosensor. Now it’s time to give a little push to the lab work in this almost two months that we have left before Christmas. The last step to get a full story to get published.

Despite the high load of work in the lab, there’s always some time for some weekend trips. Especially if you live in an island with so many things to discover. That’s why I decided to go to Derry, northwest in Northern Ireland, located a short distance from the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It was a single day trip, but it was worth to drive there, even if that meant driving on the left side of the road for the first time. I have to confess that it I was a bit confused (especially for the first 10 minutes) but then you get used to it, being the most incidental the many times I hit the door to my right trying to change gear. Once there, we had the chance to experience the remaining of The Troubles at first hand. Plus we were invited to watch live a hurling match that was being played. A combination of hockey, football and rugby, which might seem a bit weird if one’s not familiar with it, but that has been played for over 4000 years according to some sources. It’s a very popular sport in Ireland, so of course it was something I had in my things-to-do list. Unfortunately we couldn’t go any further across the border as the insurance we had rented with the car wouldn’t allow us to do that and we had to head back to Belfast.

 

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Republican area in Derry

 

Apart from Derry I also enjoyed one weekend in Dublin, where I had been before but where there’s always something new to do. This time I went because of a Spanish band concert (La raíz) that was playing there. I also enjoyed some time in the city and discovered the Phoenix Park, an incredible natural space inside Dublin full of deer. Even if we knew they were used to humans, it was impressive when they came closer to us, we even had to step back and give some space to one deer that was looking at us in a challenging way! At least I took a nice pic of him…

 

 

Other than that, I have spent most of the last two months in Belfast, where we had the privilege to have the Cirque du Soleil for a few days (it’s a pity you weren’t here Jordi, you would have loved it!). I had never seen a whole session, just a few tricks in Zaragoza when they came for the Expo 2008. I was really amazed by the sort of things they were doing, I would need a lifetime of practice and still would never manage to do that! Unfortunately it was banned to take pics or make videos, as I assume getting flashed by hundreds of people would not be the best for an acrobat that’s jumping and being thrown in the air.

Now it’s time to get back to work, with the novelty that we’re going to move to a different building quite soon. The movement is expected to happen quite soon (hopefully between December and February, although it is hard to predict). It’s going to be a massive operation to move whole labs from one building to another, especially being so many of us. In the best case scenario it will be done during Christmas break so there won’t be much delay to come back to work  😉

See you all in a few months!! Un abrazo!

Javier

 

 

 

 

 

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