By Kelly


While most of you are enjoying your weekend, perhaps going for a long walk, catching up with friends or catching up with a good book, I am running around with my hands waving in the air like a windmill in a hurricane. Why the melodrama? On Monday the Australian Marine Science Association conference begins in Hobart, indeed I am giving a talk on Monday morning no less. And well, I’m not quite ready. I’ve been in Hobart for three weeks now and progress is a little slower than I had allowed time for. There is a time for patience and a time for panic and I think perhaps I should have panicked a little earlier this week…..not that that sort of behaviour is helpful or useful to anyone.

It was definitely a time for panic yesterday when I discovered that I got off  the bus without my laptop. Me distracted NO???? My laptop. The laptop I had been working on. The important data gets backed up in cyberspace, but the presentation and 1000 things that I had on  my desk top….on my laptop. But I should just like to say that Hobartians are wonderful people, especially those called Nick. I dashed into the local store, like said windmill, and the lovely man behind the counter, Nick, rang the bus company for me who promptly got the bus driver to stop to search the bus. No laptop. Back at the store the owner arrives, I can’t recall his name but it was probably Nick. He drives me back to the original bus stop to see if I had left it there. It was an optimisitc move considering at least 20 minutes had passed and it was a main road at peak hour, but he didn’t at all mind and was terribly sympathetic.

No laptop. So he drives me back to the store where lovely Nick looked as heartbroken as I was, and promptly gave me a discount on a bottle of wine so I could go home and drown my sorrows. I arrive home and whilst fumbling for my keys and talking to my husband who was organising me another laptop, my phone rings.

“Hello, you don’t know me but my name is Nick (I’m not joking it actually was) and I was walking along Sandy Bay Road this evening and you appear to have left your laptop at the bus stop. I’m sorry that I had to open it but I wanted to get your number”.

Yes that’s right I hadn’t even taken it on the bus! I’d left it on a bench, no shelter just a bench, on a main road, during peak hour. So I jumped in a cab, bottle in hand and exchanged a $30 bottle of Pinot for the Macbook Air that my supervisor gave me……

But back to the presentation that I now have in front of me, because I have my laptop. A girlfriend and I always used to joke that we would write a paper on what not to do. We would discuss all the silly nonsensical ideas and our reasoning behind them, and followup with failed experimentation so some poor sod wouldn’t make the same mistakes. When you read scientific literature it always sounds so straight forward, split up protein, add functional groups, run on mass spectrometer. OR what I would write is: have autosampler stop communicating with software, have compressed air to building turn off without warning, have sample injector stop picking up sample, have amino acids all bleed in to one big glob rather than nice resolvable peaks, have samples go off, have chemicals go off, lose laptop……. But I consider myself lucky because this has only gone on for two weeks.

Scientific research is not for the faint hearted let me tell you. Days, weeks and even months can go by without things working, or with instruments being inoperable, or you leave your laptop on a bench. I have a colleague that I work with in Melbourne who looks at carbon isotopes from individual amino acids. I think we use his “method 76” to run the samples. That means there were 75 attempts to get the method right, 75 attempts and almost two years of work. Now that is dedication for you! So I don’t mind at all that things haven’t been working quite as they should, as I know they will eventually. But I finally got the last of my data yesterday. Now I just need to make a presentation. Thanks to the Nicks, at least I have a laptop to do it on!