PhD Diaries: Graduate Life Revisited

During pandemic, I have changed my attitude towards PhD to the life long learning and exploration (finally, a real one!).

I tell myself that my life has officially started after 26. I mean first 15 years was childhood and purely driven by our families. Second 10 year was basically being an ignorant and dumb in big part of the life or ourselves, so full of trials and errors and also misunderstandings. Then, it comes with self-realization and independence (still in progress). Yeah, it all starts after 25–26, which I believe. This is the year I started PhD.

We spent a lot time with ourselves in a room during pandemic. After a while I have felt depressed and looked for any social events happening etc. I did not want to sit down whole day when they allowed us to return the lab in half day and so on. It was unhealthy.

I had always wanted to learn martial arts when I was in a middle school. Unfortunately, any request for extracurricular activity (in school or outside of the school) had usually not permitted by my parents (with few exceptions).

Then, I joined a martial arts club by a friend’s recommendation (who later quit PhD and returned to home) to try something never heard back in Turkey, here: Silat.

It is a southeastern based, (later I realized that mostly practiced by Muslims in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia), not only defense but active fighting required martial arts. There were two styles that we could choose in the student group: Pencak (fighting) or Seni (the art of it) trainings. As I wanted to sweat, I chose the fighting (plus I am terrible at artistic sport events and choreographing. I even became a Pesilat (the people who practices the basic seni ceremony in full) which I doubt how much I deserved. The undergrads, seniors, teaching us were amazingly supportive. I would appreciate their support a lot. However, my energy was not enough to practice the sport as they are. Therefore, after one year of trial, I quit.

Nevertheless, this trial helped me to gain a momentum. I have started running and joining every running event happening in NUS, literally. I could not stop (run, Forest, run!). This year I have added a new hobby on top of it: archery. There were two categories: Compound or Recursive here. However, it is an expensive sport to gain more experience despite the material provided in the school. I need to continue with wooden bow. Once again, students clubs are still the best to learn a hobby from scratch for a free or a very reasonable price (which I attended 25SGD costing 4weeks Beginner’s Course). The senior students are amazing about teaching you a new hobby. I assume it is a tradition in NUS, which I love it.

Besides of student clubs, there are events organized under sub-categories, as interest groups, in NUS Graduate Student Society as well. I had a chance to join one of the art events of it (unfortunately, only one, ’cause it is the most popular interest group), and it was a lot fun (find me, I am in this pic, hint: blue).

I also did hiking almost every hiking place in Singapore during pandemic.

There are bikes available all around the country for 1SGD per two hours, which worth to try. I tried and enjoyed a lot.

Bought a new Arduino kit to learn basic electronics (in practical) and completed few projects for fun.

I even tried to join several design competitions happening here, which is brave since I am neither very talented nor any idea about design tools :P

Learnt indoor rock climbing and tried climbing several times.

This Saturday, I learnt Chinese Chess (Xiangqi). Still a novice though.

On the other hand, I joined a SciComm workshop at NUS last year, went one step forward (actually might be two) for resolving the reproducibility challenge in science and joined to be a reviewer for STAR Protocols (and first official reviewer experience has started) in late 2021. Later I joined eLife ambassador program to discuss and bring some ideas to the table to contribute better science practices together with fellow friends across the world in 2022.

Despite little progress in my projects compared the effort I put on the experiments (usually 8–10hrs long), I tried to keep continue and put my best effort to solve problems I have faced.

Hoping last year of my PhD to treat me well, good progress in the projects and finalizing my decisions/thoughts on after-PhD.

The truth is I had a lot time to think in last two years of isolation due to pandemic. I realized that I don't want to be regretful about -probably- the best years of my life that I only focused on lab. I want to explore new hobbies and new opportunities. If life gives me grapefruit, I prefer peeling the thin inner skin of the grapefruit and have fun while sharing, my friends!

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Ortaya Karışık (Fatma Betul Dincaslan)

FeBe/ Molecular Biologist and Geneticist / Kinda Bioinformatician/ Newbie of Single Cell Assay Development / PhD student in reality /Socially developed geek