You may have noticed that I recently posted my first entry in a looong time.
Believe it or not, I've actually been writing quite a bit in the past year and a half (even if you don't count lab reports and graduate school personal statements). I've journaled for about a hundred pages in just the past few months, picked up creative writing in earnest for the first time since middle or high school, and—most relevant to my readers here—sat on about a half a dozen blog drafts for the past year. I even wrote an official blog post for Octant!1
Yet, I've found it hard posting here for a number of reasons, including a lot of exciting life events. August 2021 - December 2021 were truly crazy months for me, leading the most ambitious academic project I've ever worked on, applying for fellowships, applying to graduate school, and so on. January 2022 - September 2022 were only slightly less hectic, as they saw me interview at four graduate schools, fly to and from said grad schools, take a train across the pacific coast, drive from California to Florida, get COVID, backpack for two weeks, fly to Europe for two weeks, and drive from Florida to Massachusetts.
With all of that going on, even when I did write blog posts, the drafts just came out too close to the work I was doing at Octant. Octant has a remarkably transparent culture and my managers supported (and encouraged) me doing things like the my "Day in the Life of a Synthetic Biology Apprentice" video. Yet, at any company, there's a lot of oversight that goes into clearing things for release, especially in drug-discovery. (One axis label or whiteboard could reveal a lead drug candidate that took years to develop.) I didn't want to make a habit of asking my managers to review my content every week or run the risk of representing the company in anything but the best way.
Of course, things have changed now! I'm pumped to be starting at MIT Biology. Correction: I have started at MIT Biology. I'm typing this in my dorm room right now, orientation was yesterday, and classes are starting next week—an admittedly nerve-wracking prospect.
Among other things, this means I'll (hopefully) have more leeway in what I can publish. I also suspect that my interests we'll broaden in my time here, and I'll be able to opine on more subjects than just bioinformatics and synthetic biology for small molecule drug discovery. I don't know what to expect from this "academic freedom" I've heard so much about, but I think I'm really going to enjoy being neck-deep in biology again.
The biggest obstacle to this blog, however, wasn't work or anything like that. In truth, I never really was sure what kind of an audience I wanted to cultivate for this blog. Really, who is going to be interested in bioinformatics, synthetic biology, gushy poetry about my girlfriend, self-reflection, and middling oddball short stories? (Well, besides me.)
Fortunately, through serendipitously picking up journaling, I've realized that I don't have to dump all of my writing in one place. So moving forward, I'm dividing things up like so:
- Journal - self-reflection, day-to-day recaps, rants, raves, and other ruminations. Personal stuff that's boring to literally anyone but me.
- Creative Writing Blog - short stories, poems, and experimental fictional2
- Et cetera, this blog - technical blog posts, tutorials, musings of a biology graduate student, and other interesting science / biotech adjacent content.
So yeah, I can't promise that there won't be some boring personal stuff on this blog, but nothing like poems about my girlfriend. My imagined audience is other undergrads, graduate students, or just anyone interested in biology, bioinformatics, and biotechnology. Of course, anyone is welcome to read on.
Finally, I think I need to lower my expectations for each individual blog post. Not to choose quality over quality, but more formal posts with figures, tables, and code like my previous one take a tremendous amount of time. Going forward, I'm going to try to focus on on week-to-week things that I stumble upon or want to share. I'll still try to do larger formal posts once every few months, and hopefully these will get easier to do as I blog more frequently.
If you've been reading up until this point, thanks for sticking with me. If you're reading this in the future, with any luck I'll live up to the new scheme I outlined here. Either way, thanks for reading!
- Archive.org link for posterity. ↩
- It's no accident that I haven't linked to this.
I have zero confidence in my creative writing ability at the moment, plus I don't want my professional connections to see me writing horror stories about sentient potatoes and something.
In case you're a historian from 10,000 years in the future, here's a SHA-256 hash for you to play with:
(Hint: there's no newline at the end.) ↩