In favor of distractions

by Cheyenne Tait – Finally I have returned to the NICE lab from the University of Notre Dame! This trip has been planned since I left in late 2015, as we were pretty confident that there were a few more follow-up experiments to do, involving electrophysiology and optical imaging and, of course, the Rhagoletis flies with their unique odor preference behaviors.

February is the same time I arrived in Bangalore in 2015. If you want the maximum cultural and climatic shock, February is the time to come from the northern USA to India, as there it is the middle of winter (snow, ice, and -20 C) and here it’s Bangalore (30 C and sunny). Of course, although the two places are so different, since I’ve been here before the change is nowhere near as extreme as the first time I came. For one, I’m not quite as terrified of the food (and how deceptively spicy it is).

But this post is instead dedicated to the difference in the immediate surroundings of my two labs. In particular, directly outside the NICE lab is a corridor with wide picture windows, showcasing the insect and bird life, as well as the spectacular sunsets and other weather events.

Onight_katydidn the one hand, I get very distracted from my work by what’s going on outside the windows of the hallway to the NICE lab, whether that’s pigeons strutting on the ledge, butterflies fluttering around the purple-flower-tree, or monsoon rains thundering down. On the other hand, sometimes you need the distraction. Sometimes when nothing’s working in the lab and it’s difficult to drag yourself in to try once again to get an electrophysiological contact on the fly antenna, it buoys your enthusiasm to see a wasp or a moth on the wall, fanning its own antennae. Or when it’s late at night and you’re waiting to do the final step to the immunohistochemistry protocol for another experiment that’s also not working and the building seems empty and creepy, seeing the bats or the owls swooping outside makes it that much less lonely.

window_mantisOf course, the bats themselves are also creepy when they decide to fly in an open window and over your head. And once or twice I’ve been badly frightened by pigeons crash landing against the window glass. I also got dive-bombed by the biggest praying mantis I’ve ever seen. Not unprovoked, however, because I was trying to take its picture with the flash on and it got very very upset with me.

But really, I’m all for short opportunities for distraction, short breaks from the daily grind. The windows offer a short escape from a long day of science. And there is the chance to connect with whatever’s going on outside.

Also, I get to take awesome pictures of all the insects that I find in the hallway. Last time I was here, there were quite a few. So here’s to the next 6 months of my stay at the NICE lab, here’s to science and distractions and insects!

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