Journeys of an Experimental Philosopher
I love medicinal plants and chemistry. And I love learning new things. And I love using my knowledge in practice. My newly founded business – Herbae Thylacini – allows me to take the advantage of all of my passions. It is a unique project connecting my life-long interests in pharmacy, medicinal plants and research & education. Herbae Thylacini is based on Bruny Island, a small island of Tasmania (a slightly bigger island of Australia). Here, in the natural wonder of Bruny Island, I hand-craft herbal products for skin and dental care made from natural ingredients and featuring Australian medicinal plants. I research the local flora and I educate broad public about medicinal plants, focusing on those native to Australia.
I can’t believe six months have passed since my PhD defence! Life has been pretty busy since then, despite my brave plans of taking long holidays. During the last half a year I managed to move over to the other side of the planet into a semi-self-sustainable house on an island (Bruny Island) of an island (Tasmania) of an island (Australia), which was on itself quite a big task. I also ventured off to Auckland, New Zealand, took part in a plant identification course, submitted a research proposal and learned heaps about native Tasmanian flora. And perhaps most importantly, I managed to submit a major visa application. Before starting to reflect on what it feels like living in the bush and commuting to the nearest (40km) town by a ferry, on the practicalities of bringing dreams to reality and connecting my passions, I must have one last look back to the PhD land: To the day of my defence.
By the end of May, my weekly e-mail feed on ecology and land conservation brought an exciting invitation: a course on Advanced Plant Identification Skills. The course held at the University of New South Wales in Sydney promised to teach how to use floral keys along with intensive practical sessions in plant identification. It focused on the flora of Sydney region including native Australian as well as introduced species. Since I am currently spending some time in Australia and have a great interest in local flora - so different from what I know from home - I became extremely keen on participation. The only thing that put me off was the price which was, for a fresh non-student, pretty high.
After the "Thesis Content Treaty", which came into force by the beginning of November, I felt relieved yet ever more determined to finish up the writing and get my PhD. My partner was leaving Europe to return to Australia by the end of February and I wanted to make sure I am finished with my PhD by then. Since I was the first of Ron’s PhD students to graduate from Maastricht University, I had to make special efforts to tick all the bureaucratic boxes. Given my situation, I could not allow for any delays and every step taken had to work out on the first attempt. That of course made things pretty stressful.
The last post about my PhD journey was a report on the move of my research group from Amsterdam to Maastricht. Despite the blog going silent for quite a while, my PhD journey was ongoing and I actually managed to finish my doctorate between the last one and the current blog post. As you can imagine, the Move I was writing about changed quite a few things: some for better, some for worse. Had I not stopped blogging, the latter category could have been perhaps emptier. Lately I have made a big move again. Before writing about my current Journey, however, I would like to take a look back and reflect on the crazy times of the last steps on my PhD Odyssey.
Some things in life do not require precise planning. Some things click naturally without any obvious efforts. Last couple of years have found me on a roller coaster called PhD research while thinking about my life-long passion: the medicinal plants. I was wondering why the Universe guided me to and on the journey of brain imaging (Which totally got me in the meantime, by the way.) Where is the link to the plants and healing, I was thinking every so often. Until a few months ago when I theoretically stepped into an exciting field: plant neurobiology! Click!
One dark wintery afternoon my office mate announced me she would be moving to Delft. And that she would be doing so for her supervisor decided to relocate the whole research from Amsterdam to the university in Delft. "That sucks!" was the first that came to my mind and found its way out on my lips, too. I would not want to move to another city for a reason like that during my PhD… CUT.
Fat dominates my life at the moment! No, I am not getting obese and my cholesterol level is pretty alright! But lipids (that is fat, basically) are the molecules I am currently researching. Fat is also heavily discussed within my tri-athletic circle. And not that we are trumping each other in the consumption of skinny lattes and low-fat cheese…
The more you know the less you think you know. If you have a feeling you must have read this here already, you are quite right. I don’t wanna repeat myself but this is something that hits you badly at the ASMS. This annual huge mass spectrometry feast took place in Baltimore between 15th and 19th June this year and I had the opportunity to check on it with several colleagues from AMOLF.
I remember the day as if it was yesterday. The Day when I decided to become a triathlete. It was an early November Friday noon and I was on a soon-to-become regular training with Janine in a swimming pool in Amsterdam Oost. Finishing the session being full of endorphins I made a sudden decision: Let’s tri-race! (Actually the decision sounded more like Let’s complete a HalfIronMan in 2014! which turned up to be a rather brave decision.)