30 November 2009

Cliffs of Moher

So Mum arrived on Saturday night. Her suitcase was full of new clothes for me, it was like Christmas! And they are all very nice as well, sometimes she is not so good at choosing.

So yesterday we had to be up early and we did the Cliffs of Moher tour. Basically it is a tour of the next county downwards, it's called the Burren which means the rocky place.

It is all limestone, rocks everywhere. We stopped at a couple of castles, after the first one we stopped for a coffee break. Mum managed to find a cat, it wouldn't let her pat it though.

Then Ballyalban which is an old earthen fort, now called a fairy fort.

The next big stop was Polnabrone Dolmen, one of the better preserved megalithic tombs.

Then this was this ruined cathedral with big old celtic crosses.

And after that we stopped for lunch in a place called Doolin, and the food was really good. There was a wee souvenir shop but it was just a quick visit so we only looked.

Then finally the Cliffs of Moher, where we stopped for about an hour or so. They are very impressive. Except the driver kept telling us that a few weeks ago a woman was blown off the top. It was a warning, because she was up where she was not meant to be. It was so windy, but the day was clear which was good.

After seeing the cliffs we were cold so we went down to the souvenir shop and brought some stuff. Not much though. And Mum managed to break the bus door.

On the way back it was getting dark already and there were not many stops. We did stop a couple of times to see the coastline, it is a very rocky and harsh sort of landscape, not like anywhere else.

There is a place just near Fanore called leprechaun head, and it is called that because the shape of the cliff side looks like a face, but it was dark and late so we stayed in the bus, which meant I couldn't get a good photo of it. But I will have another chance I am sure.

The tour was quite good, would have been better if I wasn't so tired. The driver was a bit annoying though, and kept going on about the ladies, ladies this and ladies that. Still, he was really friendly, and we will do a tour of Connemara on Tuesday.

We were so tired by the end of it though. I took Mum by uni to see the barnacles and stuff. We went into town but after our huge pub lunch didn't much want dinner. So we went home and Mum complained the whole way about how far I live and how cold it was. And then we both went to bed real early cos we were so whacked. But before that I managed to put my hot chocolate in the microwave too long and it overflowed and went everywhere, and I had just cleaned the bloody thing!

Now looking at Mum's photos, half of them are upside-down! How she managed to take upside down photos I don't know.

28 November 2009

Big week ahead

Today I ran out of money. I have 1 euro and 70 cents left. My pay didn't come in, everybody else's did but it is not the end of the month for another couple of days so I will not worry about it yet. If it is still not in my bank account come Tuesday though then I guess something has gone wrong and I will have to get hold of the finance people.

So Mum arrives tonight. She should have been here ages ago actually, but they switched her flight because of the fog. You can't really see the fog in the photos so you will just have to trust me that it is really foggy. Yet when I arrived we flew through a terrible storm.

They switched her flight and she went to the West Ireland airport, and as far as I know she is now on a bus on her way here. But seeing as she is the expert at ambiguous text messages I can't be sure. I think maybe the bus will only go to the airport and then she will have to taxi from there. But you see, she keeps sending stuff that doesn't make sense, like just a half sentence you know. like 'airport closer' whereas she probably should have said 'the bus goes to the airport' and so I have to reply to ask what she means. So I finally replied that she should just tell me where and when she will arrive and stop wasting my money. Haven't heard since. And I was being dead serious and not grumpy because I have no money left, so I can't top up my phone, so if she got stuck somewhere and had already wasted all my credit with nonsense texts then I wouldn't be able to get hold of her. And sure she probably realises that but now she hasn't replied, which is just what she does cos she's a bit hopeless, but so not helpful. How hard is it to just say where you are and exactly what is happening every now and then?

Anyway it doesn't matter, not like we had plans. If it's not too late when she arrives we can go out and get something to eat, but if it's late that's okay. I got the apartment cleaned up because I live very messily really. And with Mum being late I had time to finish my book. It was really good. I found these two books at the op-shop you see (actually here it is called a charity shop) and they are written by Irish authors. Which makes sense, in NZ you get loads of kiwi authors so of course here there are loads of Irish authors. The first book was okay but the second book was really good. It's called Superchick, it's contemporary fiction, sort of like those chick novels all about some women, or several women, who've been dumped and have lots of funny things happen to them as they go about finding someone new. Except it's written by a guy, about guys, and is a bit of a piss take, and ends with a bit of joke instead of all your smoochy crap. Anyway, it was really good.

And now to bed because it is going to be a big week, going an a tour of the Cliffs of Moher tomorrow.

26 November 2009

I get to travel to lots of cool places

This week has been full of big plans. The week began with a lot of stress because the supervisor was on my case about all this stuff that she wants right now. Plus all the travel that is being planned has been very up in the air. And I have been steadily running out of money. And of course Mum is coming to visit this weekend so I have been trying to get everything tidy and sort out stuff for us to do.

So today is only Thursday but it feels like this week has been going on forever. Work has been sort of slow, but in a good way. Suddenly my supervisor has had a huge mood-swing and doesn't seem at all concerned anymore with having any results produced at all. Must have other things on her mind. But it's great for me. So the last couple of days have been spent with looking after barnacles, doing a lot of reading and research, doing a wee bit of practical work and quite a lot of goofing off I guess. But that's not the point. The point is that now I am definately going to Austria in January!

So first of all, it is Thursday today and Mum is coming on Saturday for 5 days. She will leave next Thursday. And then the Wednesday after that we are going to Belfast to go to this workshop being run by the organisation that is funding the other barnacle PhD who is working with me. So there is no presenting for either of us, it is more just that we are going along for the hell of it, and it will be a good experience and hopefully interesting. And they are putting us up in a fancy B&B and everything. Then about a week and a half after that it is practically Christmas time and I will be flying to Abu Dhabi to spend Christmas with Mum. And finally, I will return by the New Year, in time to pack up all my things and go to Austria! And even better, in Austria I don't have to pay for my accommodation, the grant pays for it! Lastly, it looks like there will be a further trip to Germany in February, and then possibly staying in Austria right through until April.

So things are all finally happening now and happening very quickly. Yet for once I don't have to do any organising, all the travel and accomodation and everything is being sorted by my supervisor and these big grants that she has. In Austria it will be freezing cold and snowy! It all sounds really good. I will miss my first Irish St Patricks day but there will be plenty of those still to come. Austria will probably be very hard work of course, I have to learn histology and all sorts of ultrastructure techniques in quite a short amount of time. But still looking forward to it.

And of course nothing further has really been planned yet but the trip to Germany to learn protein stuff will probably be next year too, so that the first year of the PhD will focus on training and then the rest of it will be working. So heaps of travel and exciting stuff should happen this next year.

Also in a couple of weeks yet another PhD student is joining our lab, which will make four of us. This new PhD is a more mature student, a physiologist, and he is from Malaysia. He is studying something to do with fish I think. And while we are away in Austria there will be an undergraduate student from France coming to do some work here, I am not sure why, but it is very helpful because he can look after the barnacles.

Now it is 5 o'clock and I am going to go home at a decent hour, I usually stay later but I have a lot of housework to do before Mum arrives, because I have been living like a slob. I have just had a delivery of algae so the barnacles will be happy for another week or two. I have had lots of deliveries the past few days because we have been ordering all sorts of supplies. They send the smallest of things with the most ridiculous amount of packaging, it's crazy. And it hasn't all arrived yet either. Hopefully it will arrive tomorrow, along with my long-awaited pay check. So I am going to go downstairs now and turn the recirculation tank back on so that the barnacles will have clean water and still be happy and active when I come in in the morning. It is dark already which makes it feel very late but really it is not.

24 November 2009

Darwin Day Today

So today is Darwin Day, and this evening the department is putting on a public lecture. One of the undergrads in my lab is a part of the zoology society and is in charge of getting the refreshments. So we got distracted discussing the snacks and I was telling everybody what sort of things we would provide for this type of thing in New Zealand. And it is the small difference that really get you. For instance - dip. The way we make dip with reduced cream and onion soup seems to be just a NZ thing. As far as I can tell you don't even get onion soup here. And then, there is cheerios. They don't have cheerios here. Nor those little savouries that are so yummy. Though even pies are not really such a big thing here so the savouries isn't really surprising. The onion soup was the, it's such a normal, essential sort of thing to have in the cupboard.

Also, did you know that lolly-cake is uniquely kiwi? I didn't. Everybody had no idea what I was talking about, and I couldn't even explain it very well because they don't get the right sort of lolly here. No fruit puffs or eskimoes or penguins. If I find anything like that I will have to make some lolly cake. But even finding the malt biscuits will be very difficult.

Anyway, I made some scones last night, because it so much easier to grab a scone in the morning than stopping and making a sandwich or something. And Mum always said to put a packet of onion soup in the mixture - but you don't get onion soup here! See, it is such a staple. Not that I have ever actually had it as soup but I use it for a lot of other things. Anyway I used oxtail soup and they turned out really nice, but still, not the same.

So I was looking online and there is a UK shop online that ships NZ food over. And some of the stuff on the website is what you would expect. But the rest of it is not even NZ stuff. Sure, they do pineapple lumps and whitakers chocolate. But what about other NZ stuff? Sure they sell marmite (which the rest of the world hates anyway), and they sell edmund's custard powder, maybe the NZ stuff is better, but they don't sell the baking powder, and the baking powder here is made with different ingredients so it would be far more useful if they sold that. They have some biscuits but no Sultana Pasties (which are also unique to NZ), no Squiggles, no Mint Slice. And they call themselves a New Zealand shop?!

Not that it matters, as if I would go to all that trouble. I will just get used to what is here instead. Galway is full of places to eat. The range of shops is a bit odd, but there are a lot of really nice clothing stores and a lot of places to eat. They seem to be big on their bakeries and all the pastries and cakes and tarts look so delicious.

Anyway I should really probably be working. There is a strike on today so everything is really empty and quiet, it makes me feel like slacking off. But as students we are meant to be working, or at least my supervisor wants me to be working, and I feel behind already. She doesn't just want things now but even better, yesterday or the day before, it should all be answered already! I mean, come on, we have a whole four years, there is no need to be so antsy about it all.

22 November 2009

Went to the Beach today

So first I would like to say that the amount of rain in Ireland is just insane. This last week has been so bad that there is flooding, and some of the PhD's have been unable to get to uni because the roads are flooded. People have been evacuated and some places don't have drinking water. Of course you don't really notice it that much but today I did see fields that for the time being are lakes.

Anyway I went to the beach today. The plan was to collect barnacles. One of the undergrads in the lab reckons that they're common as, that you see them washed up all the time when you are out surfing. Now he does seem the type to exaggerate so I wasn't really expecting too much, I just wanted to go to the beach. And it was so windy and rainy, before long I was completely soaked through, right to the skin, my jeans were so heavy that they kept slipping down. But still it was interesting. What the photographs don't show is how the wind was so strong that it was nearly blowing me over, and driving the rain like needles right into my face and in my ears, all so I could take photos for you.

This beach is in County Clare which is the one below Galway County, and it is called Fanore. There are rocks everywhere, big flat step-like rocks. Some of it looks like a New Zealand beach, the sand is the same sort of colour as at Oreti beach and there are sand dunes and of course the sky is grey and the sea looks cold. Clare is also a place with big old stone tombs and things but I havn't seen any of that yet. But there was a castle and I took a photo, seeing as I have not seen castles before. It was not really a very impressive castle.

There were no barnacles washed up but I wasn't really expecting much. It is very tiring getting so cold and wet, I had to have such a long shower to defrost. And then I had to go out in the cold again because I had no milk! Plus my jacket isn't quite that waterproof. If there is to be any more sampling I am going to have to get gumboots and waterproof gear. Though they call gumboots wellies here so I have to be careful what I say or people don't know what you are talking about.

Also I had somebody tell me that I have a lovely accent. Who would have thought!? I was told that most people dislike the New Zealand accent.

And as well as going to the beach for the first time today I also tried mushy peas. they are an English/Irish thing. I thought maybe they were just peas mashed up. They don't taste like just peas though, they are a special type or something, called marrowfat peas. Or maybe it is something to do with the way they were cooked? Anyway they were really yummy.

20 November 2009

Titles are hard to think of when you do the same thing every week

So this week has been sort of busy. Now that I am beginnning to really understand my project there seems to be more and more relevant literature to read. Next week will be my first attempt at embedding and sectioning a barnacle sample, perhaps by the end of the week I will have some interesting pictures to show. Also we are hoping to do some electrophoresis. The barnacles that are supposed to producing cement for us to collect have been resuspended, this time using superglue and polystyrene. But now that they are finally sticking up out of the water like we wanted they don't seem to be producing cement. Which is so not good.

Also, in trying to clear out the old cement I must have pulled out more than I meant to. Suddenly large amounts of liquid began to appear from the base of the peduncle. We thought we finally had liquid cement, we were so excited, and there was so much of it. But there was too much, and not long after that the barnacle died. So a bit less excitement then, because it is probably just body fluid. They don't have blood you see, just clear stuff called hemolymph. And then it happened again yesterday with another barnacle (this one lived) and again today. So at least we know that we can get body fluid easily enough. Which will still be interesting to look at, but is not quite a step in the right direction. And why are we suddenly getting body fluid? Perhaps they don't like being kept out of the water? But other researchers have said that it is important to keep them dry to get liquid cement. So we will just have to wait and see, hopefully they won't all die. Of course, if they do we have loads more. Although the mass of barnacles does look sort of smaller. Maybe it is just my imagination?

Still, if it was so easy to do it wouldn't be the focus of two whole PhDs. So next week will also be spent in trying to get more cement being produced. And we also have to try to dissolve the cement so we can do electrophoresis, which other people have done but is really not easy. I mean, that is the point of all this really, that this cement is so strong that you can dissolve it. But in order to study it so that we can maybe make it ourselves we first have to be able to dissolve it so we can look at the individual proteins.

Also there is this thing called intellectual property. It means that what you discover belongs to you, and you can patent your discoveries and call yourself an inventor, even though you didn't invent these genes and proteins, you just discovered them. But in order for nobody else to steal your intellectual property before you can publish it and take the credit, you have to keep your results secret. So perhaps I shouldn't tell anybody about my work and perhaps I shouldn't show the pictures of our findings? But wouldn't it be exciting to have a patent? Hopefully our lab will be able to get one.

And in about three weeks I will be going to my first workshop. It is for the Beaufort Biodiscovery Programme, which is the grant that is funding the other PhD. Mine is funded by Science Foundation Ireland or something like that. It will be in Queens in Belfast, which is Northern Island. So that is part of the UK, although it won't seem like it really is still the same country. Hopefully it will be interesting. Don't have to present or anything like that, it is really to soon. There are no results yet. Maybe a poster but nothing to put on a poster yet either, except background stuff.

So this week there has been some talk of the trip to Vienna, Austria. I can't wait. There is a workshop in January for histology, and another in March for ultrastructure. The big problem is finding somebody to look after the barnacles for that time. But we will see, I have some ideas about it. There may be a student coming who can do it for a project, but we can't rely on that, we need a back-up plan. I hope that the Austria thing can be the whole three month, January through March, because only one session for Austria is in the plan and the budget, so I would prefer that it is as long as possible. My supervisor doesn't want to lose her students for so long though. She just want results right now, basically the moment she thinks of something she would like to see it done and successful. Crazy.

Of course if I am going to spend the first couple of months of next year in Austria I think I should perhaps not bother looking for accomodation for semester two. I mean, I don't have much stuff yet, whatever I don't take with me I can pack up real tidy and store with someone, or maybe even in my office. But it is so much easier to just not worry about it and look forward to going to Vienna, it sounds so good. It will be cold though, and maybe snowy.

And for christmas I am probably going to Abu Dhabi. It will be hot there, yay. It will be winter of course but far warmer than here. And next week Mum is actually coming to stay, she has a holiday and brought the ticket on a whim just a couple of days ago. And yet it was cheaper than what my christmas one will be. I guess travel just costs more so close to christmas. So we will do the touristy stuff, I haven't done much of it yet because I have been sort of broke. And then I will go to Abu Dhabi for christmas and just try to enjoy the heat. I will probably take work with me, but it will still seem like a holiday to get away from this cold and rain.

It looks like my next few weeks will be really busy. In fact I am just always really busy. I mean, there is only about a month until Christmas and in that time Mum is coming here, I am going there, there is the big workshop conference thing in Queens, a small PhD workshop at uni (that will probably not be that interesting) and a couple of Christmas parties and of course work to be done and results to be produced - for the workshop and also because my supervisor is working on a book chapter which is due in December. And then right after christmas it is January, which might mean going to Austria. So soon! How exciting.

Also, today it hasn't rained yet. Also amazing. Considering that it has been so bad that all the roads outside the city are flooded.

10 November 2009

Here is my week:

So Tuesday was clear and sunny - Yay. And I wondered if perhaps people had been exaggerating the weather.But they reassure me that no, such nice weather is rare. And then yesterday was clear and frosty, so I was thinking this is more like it, far closer to what I am used to . It might be cold but at least there was sunshine. It was fine and not raining all day. And then just when it is time to pack up and go home, leave the warmth of the lab, it is suddenly raining. And it's never just raining but it's dark too, it begins to get dark by 4 in the afternoon. So it's lucky that I found an umbrella the other day.

I did make the most of the fine weather on Tuesday though, by going to the immigration office and getting all that stuff sorted. First of all, despite their general helpfulness and efficiency the directions that the International Affaris Office give you are bad. But I found it. And once I had found the place I had to wait for at least an hour. And after all that waiting my own registration only took about 10 minutes! It was nice and easy, but it cost 150 euro :( And not only that but I have to pay that again every year that I spend here! That sucks.

The last couple of days at work I have been focussing on two things (while not really getting either of them done). First I am fixing some samples so that next week I can section them and look at them under the microscope. And I am trying to get fresh cement out of some of my barnacles. And if I can't manage that my supervisor at least wants me to take lcose up photos of the fresh cement so that we can say look, here it is, we have made progress even though we haven't got any of it it out yet. And I guess I am not too busy at the moment, which is lucky, because yesterday morning we had a mishap with our barnacle tank - it overflowed and flooded the lab. So I spend two hours cleaning up. And you would thinkt that a Marine Science institute, which obviously deals with a lot of water, would have decent mops wouldn't you?

Here are some of the photos that I have taken in the last couple of days. They show the base of the stalk of one of the barnacles, and the first picture is after I have scraped all the cement away. You can see that there are still bits of white cement stuck to his cuticle. The second picture is the next day, and he has already produced some new cement. It is all white and soft but if you gave him something to stick to it would harden and get all yellow. The first thing I am going to do with this is take some of the fresh white glue and chuck it straight into the -80 freezer, in the hopes that freezing it really cold really fast will stop it from polymerising (that is getting hard and cement-like).

09 November 2009

Stupid Rain

The weather I think is making up for not raining at all yesterday. It is so wet, I don't think it has rained so much since I have arrived, it is ridiculous!

It is lucky I found an umbrella over the weekend. You see a lot of them lying around, I guess they break easily so people just dump them and go get a new one. Luckily I managed to find one that works just fine. But I am still wet - my jeans are wet, my shoes are wet, and it is not just wet but cold as well, so that my fingers are having trouble typing.

Soon I am going to go home and you know, I am going to get out of these wet clothes and into my pyjamas, take a blanket and sit in front of the tele with soup and not do anything else all night. Stupid weather. I don't even want to think about what it will be like when it is actually winter.

07 November 2009

Blue Sky!

It was sunny today! I woke up and there were no clouds for the first time since I have arrived. Clouds did show up later on, but it didn't rain at all today!

This week was very busy with work. Not much was actually done, it was one of those weeks where you are overwhelmed with planning to do things but you never quite get there. Hopefully this next week though will produce some sort of results.

On top of work, this week I also joined a couple of societies, had my birthday and managed to get lost. Which isn't so bad, I have now been here two weeks and only gotten lost once. And it wasn't really my fault, the streets here just don't go where you expect them to go, they are all twisty. Not to mention that some dick drove through a puddle and splashed me. Despite getting lost I am finding my way around just fine. It is almost always raining, but luckily today I found an umbrella. Somebody must have put it down and forgotten to pick it up. There are a lot of rainbows at least. And I just finished a good book, it was called The Unicorn Road by Martin Davies.

I quite like the city centre here in Galway. It is small and winding, the shops are small and close together, and it just seems so lively and interesting. There seems to be a large proportion of boutique fashion shops (it will be very hard not to go spending all my money when I begin to make some) and a lot of places to eat. I have found only one fabric shop, but at least there are plenty of book stores. The city centre is full of paving stone roads and old stone buildings and walls. There is a wall called the Spanish arch, but it really is not as impressive as it sounds.

I have now been on one trip outside of Galway. It does look so different here to New Zealand. The trees are different, their woods are very different to our forests, what they call lakes I would not have called a lake, they are just not that big. And the same goes for the mountain, plus the mountains do not have snow or trees on them, instead they are covered in bog. There is a lot of bog-land here. There was no time to stop and take photos unfortunately but next time I will make sure to.

Now I am not complaining here, simply observing. And I observe that the food here is more expensive and the junk food just isn't as good. There is not as much chocolate, nowhere near the variety of cadbury's that there is in NZ. Sure there are a couple of different types of bar but that doesn't beat our many different flavours in nice big blocks. Also it doesn't taste the same, but that is okay. It is not as creamy as NZ cadbury's but there are other brands here that are really good if that is what you are looking for. But the selection of ice-cream is appalling! Where are the big 2 litre tubs and all the different flavours? Perhaps I am looking in the wrong supermarkets? I will keep searching. But it seems that here if you want interesting flavours you either have to be content with small (less than a litre) tubs that are too expensive or ice-creams in a cone. And there are not as many biscuits here either, although at least you get tim-tams still. But no squiggles, no mallowpuffs, no thins. Not even really anything like that. Why do they not eat biscuits here like we do in NZ?

PhD in a Nutshell

It is raining again. Or should I say it is still raining? I doesn't really seem to stop. Even when the sky is bright and there a patches of blue, it is still raining. And you can look out the window, like right now, and not actually see any rain, but then you notice all the drops in the puddles and you realise that the rain is just hiding. And right now it is raining really hard. How is a person supposed to go out and do anything when it just won't stop raining?

Well anyway I thought it was high time for an explanation of what my PhD is all about.

First, the title (for now):
"Characterisation of bioadhesive cement in Lepas anatifera"

So Lepas is a pedunculate barnacle, which means it is a stalk barnacle or goose barnacle as they are sometimes called. They are far more interesting to look at than your average acorn barnacle, the type that stick on rocks at the beach. These ones can be found attached to boats, buoys, driftwood, basically anything floating in the water. The ones that I am keeping in the lab were found washed up on the beach, attached to a gin bottle. Also, in case you didn't know, barnacles are not actually some sort of shellfish, like a mussel or an oyster. They are crustaceans, more like lobsters and crabs.
You might ask why I am keeping barnacles in the lab? The first reason, and the first part of my thesis, is that nobody has really studied these animals before so side-projects (mostly done by the undergrads) can involve looking at their behaviour and figuring out the best way to culture them, meaning to keep them alive and if possible breeding in the lab.

And we want them to breed first of all so that we can characterise their lifecycle and compare it to that of other barnacles and crustaceans. And secondly we want the barnacle larvae (nauplii) to survive up to the last stage, the cyprid, where they begin to attache themselves to stuff, so that we can compare the larval cement to the adult cement.

So to keep the barnacles alive we have first to keep cultures of algae alive, which we keep in our lab. They add a bit of colour. Then we feed the algae to the artemia, which are sea-monkeys, or brine shrimp. We keep them downstairs, they don't look so pretty. And finally we feed the artemia to the barnacles. And we do this twice a day.

So to get on to the rest of my PhD project, which is looking at the cement. This in itself is split into two parts:

First we have to do histology and microscopy to find out where the cement glands actually are inside of the animal, and where the tubes are that take the cement to the base of the stalk. We need to know this first so that we have a better general understanding of the whole animal, and secondly so that we can try to get the cement out. You see, once it is secreted out it hardens and so far has proved impossible to dissolve. Which is why it is so interesting. So we would like to be able to get the cement out before it is even secreted and maybe that way we can keep it in liquid form (which we need to do so that we can analyse its proteins). And to do that we need to know where the cement glands are. And also to learn these histology and microscope techniques I get to go to Vienna, in Austria.

At the moment we are also experimenting with collecting the cement as it is secreted, and hoping that if we can do that and put it straight in the -80 freezer it will stay as it is long enough to send it to the protein people in Germany. So that is why we have barnacles suspended in the oh-so-scientific apparatus that you see here, involving a bucket, a ruler, and sponge. The sponge is padding so that the string doesn't cut into the barnacle's stalk. And so far it has not quite worked, but that is the task for this week.

So the second part of looking at the cement of the barnacle is actually looking at the cement, once we have finally managed to get some out of the barnacle. And this part of the project will involve going to Bremen in Germany to learn protein analysis. Once we have the cement we want to find out what it is made of, what different proteins are involved and how they are arranged together. You see the overall idea behind all this work is that if we can understand this adhesion mechanism we might be able to use it, to synthesise our own and use it as a surgical or dental adhesive.

And so you see despite working on tiny little barnacles this work has the potential to be very important, which is how my supervisor managed to get two very big, prestigous grants to work on it, which is how I managed to get this studentship. And it is brand new research too, there are some people in Japan looking at acorn barnacles but we are the only people looking at stalked barncales. So if it all works out, myself, my supervisor and the other PhDs working on this will be able to publish lots of big articles and be the experts in the field. And that is the essence of my PhD.