June 30, 2019

So the last time I posted, I was injured and unsure if I could race the Boston Marathon. Today, I ran the most I’ve run since that fateful long-run in the middle of March (10 miles! Whoop whoop! 10 VERY DIFFICULT miles with frequent stops, but HEY still happy!) So, on this momentous occasion, I’m finally posting about the Boston Marathon. I didn’t get the opportunity to race, but I did get to participate in the experience.

The experience:  Where to even BEGIN?! Maybe chronologically? Sure. I covered a lot of ground in three days. Below is a map of where I went, that I really need to make a better version of later.

So, would you hire me as a cartographer? Yes or Yes?

DAY 1: I flew in to Boston-Logan, and hopped aboard a shuttle to the T-station. This was my first time riding the infamous T, which is the rail system in the city of Boston that connects everything. I took Blue à Green, and picked up my Bib at the convention center(which in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have done…) Then I got back on Green tried to get as far NW as possible, because my Air B&B was in Watertown. I got off at Boston College and Uber-ed the rest of the way. The Air B&B was an “art-house” situated on the banks of the Charles River. The house was really cool and was appropriately named. It also had a very friendly Siberian Husky. If you’re wondering, yes, the dog was indeed a very good boy.

 DAY 2: I ran the next day along the river, and unfortunately it inflamed my Achilles a bit. It hurt but I popped some ibuprofen and pretended it was OK. I Took an Uber to Cambridge, because I wanted to explore. It was so classically North-east: People walking their Setters or Spaniels, Lacrosse practices, students walking around in corduroy pants, argyle socks peeking out from LL Bean loafers, etc… You get the idea. Oh, and these too:

Image result for wicked smaaht
It’s kinda cute, but STILL.

I left around 12 to go Brighton, where I was meeting my friend Ali for lunch. (Follow her @irunscience!!) I ended up having to walk a little over a mile to meet up with her, and my Achilles hurt on that walk, I have to admit. More ibuprofen! After lunch, I walked (another mile) back to the T, took Green à Blue à airport shuttle to go get my mom, who flew in at 3pm. Mom and I went to our hotel on Copley Place, which was right near the finish-line, to check in, then went to Little Italy in the North end for dinner at Antico Forno:

Mom outside of the restaurant

The Italian food was AMAZING! So delicious. At this point, I told her I was going to race still, but I think I knew the impossibility of it, considering I had two glasses of wine… I joke, but this was a really tough mind-set for me. When we got back to the hotel, I called Tim and told him I was unsure if I should race, but ultimately said I would get up and see how it went. I set my alarm for 6am.

DAY 3: Race day for many, but not for me. I got up to run one mile warm up to the shuttle towards Hopkintown, but never got on. After one measly mile (plus a day of walking around + ignoring pain for days + cold + stubbornness) I knew I wasn’t going to Hopkintown. I called Tim and told him I wasn’t going to race, then did a very stupid thing… I ran 5 more miles, even though it hurt. I can’t really explain why I thought this was a good idea. I think that I was so upset I wanted to at least run 6 of the 26.2 I was supposed to run that day. Whatever my reason, I was went from injured to SUPER INJURED later that day. We’re talking pain walking and going down stairs. Damnit. I was really upset. On top of the heartbreak of not being able to run my goal race, I now couldn’t even walk. I was in such a negative head space too. I kept thinking of all the winter runs: in the dark, through the Rochester snow storms, monotonous back-and-forth runs on the scant plowed roads. I was so mad because I put up with all of that for nothing. I toughed it out for nothing. (Important note: while I did “tough-it-out” I was not stretching, was not doing strength, and was letting a lot of important little things slip by the wayside. These are JUST as important as being tough as a runner! Stay heathy fellow runners, do the little stuff!)

Mom tried to console me, but it didn’t really work. So, I watched the race in the lobby, and I met a few other runners in there who also were sitting this year out due to injury. I felt less alone. I also realized that I was very young as a marathon runner, and was told my best years are about a decade off. I felt less hopeless. After about an hour, I transitioned to the sidelines to watch in-person. There, I saw some of the most inspiring feats of human endurance, determination, sportsmanship, and grace. From the elites, to the wheelchair division, to my friends and old teammates competing, I was inspired by all of it. In retrospect, I’m thrilled that I got to experience the Boston Marathon this way. This wasn’t the vantage point that I originally envisioned, but that was OK. Next time, however, I plan to be healthy, strong, and ready to RACE!!

My vantage point of the Boston Marathon

DAY 4: Mom and I had fun in Boston together and took a Duck Tour. It’s a tour led by a themed guide (a conDUCKtor). The tours go over the historical sights of Boston, and also plunge into the Charles River because they’re land-sea vehicles. NEAT! Check it out:

Ducks & ConDUCKtors®

Mom and me outside of the Duck

As I write this now, I am healed and back to running pain-free. The experience of recovery is a story in itself, and worth recording, so I’ll recount it in another post because TBH this is already pretty hefty. So, for anyone else who 1) is also struggling through an Achilles tendon injury or 2) Just curious about how I went from not being able to walk down stairs to training again, check it out. Spoiler: it involves a lot of Physical Therapy from Jillian who is a freaking MAGICIAN.

Myotendinous Junk-tion

Bad news, friends: I’m injured 😦

During long run last Sunday, I was experiencing SUPER tight calves and a bit of pain, but decided to run through it. And so I did, for 18 miles.

Big mistake. In hindsight, maybe stopping a few times to knead out a huge knot in my soleus was as a sign to stop the run. Maybe needing to hail an Uber rather than jog home from the trail that day was another sign.

I need to pay more attention to signs.

So, this week I have not run one step. I’ve scheduled a doctor’s appointment to image my tendon, and seen a PT, Jillian. As a marathon runner herself, Jillian totally gets it. She understands how freaking badly I just want to run.

Plus, she seems knowledgeable. Which is good, considering her profession. She assessed my tendon situation, deciphering the following clues like a regular Sherlock Holmes:

Clue #1: wear-marks on my shoes localized towards the soles & outside edge of my right foot. On the other hand (or should I say foot..?) Left marks spread evenly across the forefoot.

The scuffs on these are subtle because these shoes have about 200 miles on them, most of which was during the winter months of running on snow. Note the asymmetrical marks on the left and right foot:

Clue #2: dorsi-flexion of my right foot is 5 degrees less than my left.

Clue #3: While trying to maintain balance for a single right-leg squat, I shake and my foot rolls to balance on the outside.

Clue #4: I have very tight calves.

Conclusion: she thinks I under-pronate on one foot when I run. Also known as supination.

The way my foot strikes the ground repeatedly after hundreds of miles, takes a toll. It makes my inside leg muscles weak, and puts strain on my muscles and eventually my tendon over time. At the same time, having tight calves alone puts excess strain on my tendon.

She gave me a stretching regimen and suggested that we do a gait analysis on my next appointment on Monday; which will be my first run since last Sunday’s long run.

I’ve been committed to the stationary bike this whole week. It’s not as terrible as one would think. Since I’ve been watching PBS newshour while I pedal, I’m reminded that there are things in the world much worse than the stationary bike.

The bike is also pretty nice because I have free use of my hands! I can multitask. Specifically I can take REAL notes (well, digital notes, but these are better than mental notes in that I will actually remember them). I’ve been noting things to address and prep for my committee meeting.

If you’ve noticed the super cool countdown widget on this page, it is 5 days from now 🙃!

All but one member of committee has seen my seminar, and is familiar with my aims and project. Oh, coincidentally, that seminar was about the myotendinous junction. So HA. Life is weird.

The marathon is 15 days away. Let’s hope my efforts on the stationary bike pay off for both.

SOT 2019


This past week, toxicologists from around the world flocked to Baltimore, Maryland for the 58th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting. The flock included professionals in risk assessment, government, academia, and trainees like me. It was a great experience overall, but it left me EXHAUSTED by the end.

To give you an idea of how dang busy it was, I offer you all a recap of the week:


Jakob and I flew in a day early to help out with the Undergraduate Program as “Peer Mentors” on Sunday morning (7:30am!). We went out to dinner with friends at Maisey’s shortly after landing in Baltimore.


I woke up early to get some miles in before the undergraduate program. There, I met some very bright and impressive young students! They seemed to enjoy the program overall. However, I could see that shortening it could be a major improvement, as a few of them were falling asleep in their laps at the end. Later, I ran again to finish out the daily mileage, and rewarded myself for a busy morning/afternoon by getting dinner with Jakob, Tim, and Connor. After that, we all transitioned to student-post doc mixer, and finally hung out in our hotel.


Had an early wake-up call to get miles in before a busy poster-full day! In between, I attended some decent talks on the BBB. I have no pictures of the BBB, but here are are some friends and their A++ posters:

TUESDAY- Early day again to run the “past-president’s 5k.” It ended up being closer to a 6k due to some questionable course markers and a very confused lead biker. I raced with one of our Emeritus professors, Gunter who is 82! He’s one very impressive human! Also, I made a new runner-PhD friend from Michigan, we took on the speedy peeps in the front.

Tim was at the finish for me. ☺️ …because someone had to hold all the water bottles, bananas, and Kind Bars i scooped up at the end 💁🏻‍♀️

I ❤️ free stuff.

Here’s me in front of the Orioles stadium, where the race ended.

We went back to get dressed, and headed to the conference center for Jakob’s poster. He did great!

A candid Jakob teaches us about NRF2, muscle development, and methylmercury!

After Jakob’s poster, we went to lunch. Introduced Dr.olson and Sam to my Rochester friends. Dinner & A-PLUS margaritas at LaCalle after IVAM specialty section reception.

And finally the U of R reception. Open bar = OH NO or OH YES, depending on the picture of myself that I see after the fact. I started requesting “specialty mimosas” after two drinks. They didn’t have champagne, but Michelle (the bartender) and I made it work. I realized our alumni are SO FUN. I was left inspired and feeling proud of Rochester’s Toxicology program for fostering such intelligent, successful, and cool people.

WEDNESDAY- My poster in the AM, surprised by how many people came by!

ta da!💫

Visitors included my mentor at UB, Dr.Olson. He told me to call him Jim now, because I’m a colleague… which is SO STRANGE.

Me to myself: Maybe I’ll just avoid directly addressing him??🙃

Me back to myself: wtf no ur a grown woman getting her PhD. stfu and send Jim a follow up email!!

Here is me, Sam, and… Jim:

Lisa Prince also graced me with her presence! I presented my poster to her, took the following pic with her and Jakob, then scurried off to lunch to catch up.

Scooted around to other posters after. In the PM, we had the Neurotoxicology specialty section reception, dinner with friends at a chapel-esque Irish bar:

The Irish keep God and beer REAL close!

THURSDAY- homeward bound!!

So there you have it- a full week! Oh and let’s not forget my runs; which were by these picturesque scenes:

The sunrises make getting up v worth it.

Thanks for the memories, Baltimore!

Next year’s SOT is in Anaheim, CA! The best opportunity to visit Disneyland! And yeah, also for academic enrichment, obviously… yup.



“Productivity is very non-linear” : a mantra I try to remember when I feel like I’m not getting enough done.

Indeed, I often find myself doing a lot in bursts, punctuated by comparatively average productivity. These troughs of average-ness can make me feel unproductive and inadequate at times. From what I can tell, this is a common sentiment amongst grad students, runners, and others like me who identify with both categories.

I think both cases are the result of an Overton-Window effect, perpetuated and worsened by non-linear productivity. The productive times are so great, that they make the average ones pale in comparison. Average no longer seems good enough, now that you have knowledge that higher productivity is attainable. However, average is more manageable, long term.

It’s not a marathon, not a sprint!!

Knowing that I can be more productive and fit more into my day doesn’t mean I should. My dad always says,”you can’t fit ten pounds of s#!t in a nine pound bag!”

This is what happens when I try to do it anyways:

He’s right. The shift in the Window is right. And trying to do too much too quickly is frequently wrong.

Non-linear productivity isn’t inherently bad- it’s great sometimes! It’s just important to remember that it can inflate anxiety. Here are some things I’ve been doing recently to deal with this:

1) Go for a walk to refresh when I’ve been reading too long and/or feel spun.

2) When a productive day in lab just isn’t going to happen, take time to do things around the house.

3)… or just literally do NOTHING. That’s ok too. Sometimes. Meditation is gr8.

4) Call your mom.

5) Doodle

6) Write your goals down. If you can’t work towards them today, have them visible for tomorrow.


“Behind the Scenes”


My labmate, Jakob, and I are part of an NIH-funded professional development program at U of R, called URBEST (like many things in academia, it’s an acronym for something). The program provides trainees with a very diverse set of activities to build skills and enhance professionalism. Past examples include LinkedIn photo-ops, resume advice, art-therapy sessions, and today’s activity; enhancing social media presence.

Today, Creative Marketing Program Manager, Rebecca Crocker, shared her advice and expertise on building a positive social media presence. I went because 1) attendance earns you “points” that eventually help secure a URBEST-sponsored internship and 2) I wanted to learn if having a blog, like PhDistance, can help me professionally.

Basically, I learned that my blog can help me professionally! Woohoo! However, to see benefits, a blog, like all social media, requires a lot of work. CareerBuilder estimates that ~70% of employers from industry check social media of potential hires. Therefore, I think it’s worth the work. Essentially, the efforts go towards building a “personal brand.” I gathered that this just means I have to be myself; share my authentic thoughts and experiences via social media. As for how to do this, Rebecca shared some great tips, ten of which I’ll now extend to you:

  1. Readers spend their valuable time reading your content – make it worthwhile and equally valuable in return.
  2. Update LinkedIn every 2 months
  3. Print collateral consistently (e.g. business cards matching website theme)
  4. Black and white photos = wildly underrated
  5. Most people do headshots for profile pics, therefore go with a professional full body shot to stand out
  6. Blue is the safest color choice, associated with being dependable
  7. Helvetica is the best social media font
  8. has the best business cards
  9. 4-1-1 rule: you should retweet/share 4 posts from others for every 1 original post from you — after all, it is social media.

The 10th : People love “behind the scenes” content. (And now, ~300 words into this post, we will get into the main point!). People are inherently curious about the lives of others- perhaps a reason social media can be so addicting! I hoped to make my blog about the behind the scenes work towards my marathon training (55 days until Boston- OMG!!), as well as lab-life on the daily. However, much of my content has been about not running, not going to lab, and eating food with Tim…

I don’t think these posts have provided the promised content (tip #1!), and have yet to show enough “behind the scenes” of training in either the PhD or the Distance realm of my life. So, to make up for lost time, here are my favorite “behind the scenes” from lab:

Jakob finding a hairy-man sticker in his PB; me working and also struggling to leave work(below); Jakob and me at the fly bench; Matt Rand PI-ing/teaching fly genetics; a typical example of quirky fly names for genes, “hoi-palloi”; Tim biking to work

…And training:

My reaction when people tell me it’s too cold to run outside; my skin turning red because it’s too cold outside, and pictures of it being way too cold outside in Rochester.

Enjoy! 😊

P.s. If you’re currently a grad student at U of R, thinkingabout trying out URBEST, I recommend it! It’s free, fun, and run by Tracy Baaswho is awesome, and always sends two emails.



My friend, Jacquie, texted me this today:

Super awesome, right?!

So apparently, it was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science! Today is a day that we brilliant women can enthusiastically celebrate the successes of one another. Well, we can actually do that every day, but an international holiday is always welcome 😎. Additionally, today we can remember the struggles of our predecessors against workplace/academic sexism and unconscious bias. We can also realize how much work remains to be done.

This post is about this latter part: our current struggles, which include barriers in the way of true equality in academia. Such barriers include stigmas such as female cattiness. Ironically, women can perpetuate these barriers for themselves. One example occurred while I sought advice on potential members  for my thesis advisory committee.

Side note:” the committee” is a group of people who I will report to with progress towards my PhD. I will ultimately defend my thesis against them. I think of them as a hand-picked coaching staff who offer very specific and thorough training, then ultimately turn on me and become the absolute WORST/toughest competitors for a big race.

In this instance, I was counseled by a senior student to not choose two women for my 4-member committee because, “in general, women are more harsh towards other women.” She was expressing concern that I would fall victim to cattiness, which could make committee meetings difficult for me. Her words echoed, and thus perpetuate, the stigma that women make the lives of other women hard because they are catty. Such thinking is toxic because it holds women back from freely seeking advice from other women who could offer sage advice or turn out to be great mentors. The stigma of cattiness could also influence men to second-guess a potential female mentor or colleague. In either case,  by avoiding situations to receive advice of women, we may limit our growth in terms of networking and collaborative potential. By limiting our collaborative potential, we slow progress towards our goals.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you see this year’s EMBO Women in Science Award laureate, Sara Linse. Linse is admired by many for her work studying amyloid beta peptides in the development of  Alzheimer’s disease. As a recipient of the award, she is acknowledged as a  generous colleague and collaborator who enthusiastically and openly shares ideas, materials, and results. I think she exemplifies how a successful woman is revered, and remembered, for her science and her attitude.

Barriers to equality also emerge from excessive self-interest and competition. A little competition is healthy and necessary, I don’t deny that. (I write a blog that is essentially about similarities between racing  and pursuing a PhD for Pete’s sake!) However, when we begin to play-dirty,  when we rise up the ranks by stepping on others, we hurt all of our chances to reach our full potential because progress is slowed.

I appreciate the model that Sara Linse exemplifies – enthusiastic and open collaboration, sharing ideas, lending resources, and mentoring younger versions of ourselves. Adopting Linse’s model requires an attitude of positivity towards ourselves and others.

As a start, I’ve been working on being more positive with myself so that I am more confident in my own work and presence as a scientist.

My running contributes a hefty amount of positivity (good ole’ endorphins!). 🏃🏻‍♀️💫💕Directing that positivity towards confidence as a researcher has helped me do small things like asking more questions at seminars and talking more openly about my own research.  The confidence I feel has helped me shed previous fears that these exchanges would result in judgement. I’m learning that if I go into one of the aforementioned situations assuming a positive outcome, I usually get just that.

Similarly, if we view other  women, and men, in a more positive light, to always assume the best until proven wrong, we can build confidence that perpetuates positivity, and vice-versa. This seems pretty ideal to me!

Positivity>>> toxic stigmas

Here are some pictures of my support system: family, friends, mentors who have been positive influences over the years:

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to my friend, Katie Harvey for making the super cool graphic for my blog page! She’s going to art school, but wears a lot of hats besides an artist beret. She is also a runner, (running hat?), a lab tech ( safety goggles that no one wears??), bhangra dancer (tikka, according to a Google???). OH GOD Why did I keep going with this horrible hat metaphor? Anyhow, thanks Katie!☺️❤️

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