Musings Of A Cyclist

Since coming to Oxford in April 2019, I have relied on my trusty bicycle to get me anywhere and everywhere. This in turn has led to a few observations on what it’s like being a cyclist:

  1. Cycling is very therapeutic, especially when passing through relatively peaceful areas like the Marston Cyclepath or Jack Straw’s Lane here in Oxford.
  2. People are far more considerate towards cyclists here in the UK. Cycling is possibly a suicidal activity back in Malaysia given how ‘courteous’ our drivers are.
  3. Cycling in windy conditions should be its own form of cardio.
  4. After a while you become quite good at spotting tiny pieces of glass on the road. Unfortunately, there is often quite a lot of broken glass on the road especially after the weekend.
  5. A bit of maintenance goes a long way towards making your ride a smooth one. Don’t be a fool like me and neglect to pump air into the tyres for months!

I’m often guilty of forgetting how luxurious it is to own a car. But after many journeys on the bicycle in freezing rain, I hope my future self will be more thankful for whatever blessing, no matter how big or small, I have in life inshaAllah.

Learning How To Program

Here’s what it’s like to go from being a clinician to being a scientist.

You take what you know about your topic. Let’s call that Level 6 knowledge (on a scale of 0 to 10). You think to yourself, “That ain’t bad!”, after all you are a specialist in your chosen field. Medical students think you’ve memorized the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. House Officers tremble at the thought of being quizzed by you during ward rounds, and Medical Officers bow down to your expertise.

Pretty soon after the start of your PhD, you’ll realize that what you thought of as Level 6 is actually Level 1 or 2 knowledge in the grand scheme of things. After all, you may know a little bit here and there about a variety of topics, but for your PhD you’ll need to ramp up the level of expertise. You need to push the dial to Level 11 if possible. If Level 10 is the limit of what the world knows about something, then your job is to take it up a notch and discover something new.

So yeah, in summary, it ain’t easy doing a PhD (yay it rhymes!).

Now the good news is that you don’t have to do it overnight. You have time, but seriously, there’s a LOT to learn!

One new thing I’m learning at the moment is programming. Full disclosure: I am a noob at this, so take whatever I say here with a pinch of salt. From what I can see, a lot of neuroscience research is done with MATLAB, R, and Python. Without any context available, I’d probably say that you should try to learn Python first. But the reality is you will probably end up having to learn all of them simultaneously.

MATLAB

I’ve heard that the best way to learn a programming language is by using it to solve a problem you’re having. My problem right now is that I need to analyze the data on working memory I’ve collected thus far and turn it into a presentation for my group’s lab meeting. Should be fun, right? What could possibly go wrong…