My run today…


It didn’t happen, which happens! I’ve been running 5 days/week; high volume days with lots of recovery, including today. I like this schedule.

It was a normal day at work, nothing too stressful. I analyzed results, wrote, and started working on a presentation for next Wednesday’s Gene-Environment Interactions (GxE) class. It’ll be about how a particular element of our genetic makeup influences brain development to cause autism. The “environment-interaction” part will come from how this is influenced by air pollution.

I’m pretty into it so far. There’s a good amount of novelty because I don’t study any of those three things-autism, RNA biology, and air pollution-on a daily basis. Tbh, air pollution is terrifying. In short, It’s bad for our lungs, hearts and brains. While it doesn’t seem to discriminate between young and old, the age ranges are affected in different ways. :/ I implore you to check it out at the WHO website:

Anyway, it should be a good conversation. Grad school is great sometimes because a “presentation” can really just be a conversation. This is especially true because my 7-person class is made up of my friends, and a talkative PI.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”

-Charles M Schulz

As promised, Vegan beet burgers!


Yesterday’s run was 8.5 miles around the city. I tried to get a high-ish mileage day outside in before the ~*PoLaR vORtEx*~ came , which consequently made today’s run around nothing- because it was on the TREADMILL. UGH.

The former run was great, but made for a longer day in lab. Luckily, I had Tuesday-dinner with Tim to look forward to at the end of the day.

Last night, we experimented with a recipe for some vegan-friendly patties. The recipe hails from America’s Test Kitchen, which Tim bought a trial subscription for. Neither of us are vegan, but like the idea of it. I like the creativity that goes into replicating certain tastes- like burger meat!

Nevertheless, we were curious, and feeling adventurous.





They resembled ground-turkey patties. And, surprisingly, they didn’t taste like beet at all! LMK if you want the recipe. It’s a lot of fun, and worth a go!💫

Weekend rewind


Coming off the weekend, I feel pretty relaxed and ready to start the week ahead, which is probably because I barely did work! This post is going to be about these fun non-lab things I did 💁🏻‍♀️ :


Trying to stay true to my last post, I left lab at 5pm so that I could run get to Game-Of-Thrones-Night (GOT) ON TIME! GOT night is hosted at my friend, Ashley’s, where we’ve been sequentially going through the series as a prelude to the new season premier. It starts at 7pm, but because I’m the WORST, I usually arrive fashionably late.” LOL ok it’s actually more like apologetically, but with wine. Without the usual sheepish Malbec-hand-off to Ashley, I shared more time with everyone, which was just really nice.


Tim and I spent the morning scrap-booking, and then kept going into the afternoon a bit.

I left around 1:30, intending to run, quickly finish an RNA extraction in lab, and do some reading. BUT I actually just binge-watched more GOT. Whoops. I can’t say, “this was a poor decision in retrospect,” because I knew exactly what I was doing. I watched two episodes from 2pm-4pm, knowing full well that my parents were to arrive at 5:30pm, and I still had to run.

Luckily, they’re like me, and late often. I was able to get a quick 4 miles in, shower, and let Tim into my house before they even got off the 390. Phwew.

The visit was to check out my new house, because I just moved. After they felt assured that I was safe, and didn’t live near hooligans, we moved on to dinner. We had a reservation at Ox and Stone, where we shared good conversation and some super yummy latin-american food.

When my parents left, I felt the real repercussions of my GOT-addiction. I still had to go extract RNA, which really sucked. As much as I love my fruit-flies, I was not very happy to see them at 10pm on a Saturday night.


The run is done! Wheee!

As always, my Sunday Long-run gave me the big reset I really needed. After 18 miles, my body is tired, but my mind is relieved, recovered, and ready for the week ahead. Stay tuned for a vegan beet-burger recipe Tim and I are experimenting with on Tuesday…

The work-run-life balance.


The last few days have been BUSY. I’ve been constantly zipping around lab running what feels like a decathlon of experiments. With such a heavy load during the day, I crave an actual run as my reprieve.

On Tuesdays, I actually have two ways to de-stress: running, and dinner with my boyfriend, Tim. Each Tuesday, Tim and I make a meal together. Sometimes, we do grilled-cheese using FaNcY cheese from the Wegman’s “cheese cave.” Bougie.Gruyere grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup

However, yesterday, I didn’t have time to run and prep dinner, so I had to choose. I picked dinner, and was initially pretty disappointed with myself for that decision. I could have gotten up earlier. I could have taken my lunch break to run. I could have run twice, but shorter to make the most of free time during the day. Why couldn’t I manage my time better? Was I not taking running seriously??

Yeah, I could have done any of those. But I didn’t. And, I realize that’s not necessarily bad. I manage my time just fine, and I take running as seriously as needed at this point in my life.

Reflecting on it, I realize I need not be disappointed, and I shouldn’t feel such intense pressure to accomplish everything on my to-do list. It’s important to enjoy the time spent with people I love, in this case, Tim. It really does no good to consider the other things I could have done with that time, because this just robs me of my happiness. We cook together because it makes us happy, and it seems silly to compromise this.

I’m writing this post is because I saw a common thread between my work-life balance and my run-life balance: the balance is off! I stress out a lot if I miss a run or something gets delayed in lab. But, I don’t stress as much if I am late to hangout with people I care about. I think I need to reset my balance. As great as running and racing is, it’s a lot less fun to cross the finish line, and have no one there, rooting for you. Similarly, lab would be less fun with no one to joke around with or take coffee breaks with.

So, I’m glad I made the most of that time and made the delicious meal below. It helped me consider how I balance parts of my life, and what makes me happiest at the end of the day. At the end of yesterday, it was this:

Mini-portabella mushrooms stuffed with spinach risotto.

“Good thing i didn’t accomplish all my goals yet because then what would I do tomorrow?” ~ Alexi Pappas, distance runner

PhDistance | WELCOME

Hi! My name is Ash, and I’m a PhD candidate in Toxicology and a marathon runner. I also love to write, and recently discovered that there’s a solid market for science writers with a PhD! I now regularly daydream of being a science journalist that covers Toxicology and Environmental Issues.

But that’s the future. Here is the past:

I was a distance running athlete in college for SUNY Geneseo, a small liberal arts college in Upstate New York. My favorite races were the 3k and 5k- I never attempted a 10k. I made a big leap to try my first half-marathon after graduating from college. I loved it, and found myself considering a marathon a few days later.

At that time, I was also considering laboratories to rotate in and housing options near the University of Rochester, where I would begin my PhD in toxicology.

Toxicology is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates concepts from biochemistry, environmental science, and psychology. I get to throw in developmental biology and entomology too because of my thesis work: I use a fruit fly model to learn about methylmercury toxicity during muscle development.

When I’m not in lab, I’m literally running around Rochester. The weather can be pretty wild here, given the city’s proximity to the Great Lakes, but it’s usually fun to be out there!

…and other times, it’s not:

If it looks like I’m crying, it’s because I am.

Since coming to Rochester, I have run 4 marathons, and 3 half marathons (see the Races tab).  There have been injuries, personal records, highs and lows along the way, and I’m grateful for it all.

Running keeps me sane, provides a “reset” when I feel spun from work, and has led to wonderful friendships. It also gives me those infamous post-run endorphin spikes.

There are plenty of adventures as I navigate the streets and trails of Rochester, as well as academia. This blog is a space to record my adventures as I chase after my athletic and academic goals.

 Subscribe (email) and follow this blog to keep up as I run towards my goals and away from my problems!