Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grant application from hell

Today is the deadline for my grant, or rather: the deadline is in less than seven hours. And I am freaking out!
The grant application is done, looking great and shiny as a pdf on my computer. It has been read by several people, who all had remarks and wise advice. So, why would I freak out you ask?

The Dutch funding agency asks for an acceptance form stating that the host institute accepts the candidate and the grant if the grant is awarded. So far so good you would say, but the form has been on a desk for a week and now needs to be run by several offices in one day. Extra complicating the story is that I am at GMT+1 time, the host institute is at EST time and the deadline is midnight GMT+1. So, it is now past four in the afternoon, people at NWO will probably leave around five, which leaves me only forty-five minutes to fix things here......

Extra complicated is the fact why it is taking so long at the other side of the pond. They need to check the terms and conditions on the grant. One problem there is the Dutch code on animal experiments. The Netherlands has some strict regulations, and the universities have agreed on a code to be open about animal research. Although the document does not have legal value like a law, research funded by NWO still has to adhere to it. And here begin the problems. It states all research should adhere to Dutch animal law. Of course the document was drafted in Dutch and the possibility of non-dutch research applying to the code was not incorporated in the code. So, in principle the strange situation could arise that by agreeing to adhere to the code, Dutch law should take effect when my research is concerned, also abroad. This then causes the Dutch law openbaarheid van bestuur (Openness of Governance) to be applicable to all experiments I do abroad. Something the University probably won't agree to.

I asked NWO, they didn't know directly so I had to email them. They will get back to me today with an answer. Then, hopefully, this answer is 'good enough' for the host institute and they sign the form and email it to me. Then I can send in the grant tonight. When they are not happy, then I have to get back to NWO, if they are still there to answer the phone of course.

That's why I'm freaking out.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

They're moving the finishing line!!!

Dear reader,

it's been a while (again) since I last posted here. I have been caught up in the whirlwind that is called "finishing your thesis". I hoped the storm would have died down a little bit, but if anything, the gale has been growing stronger.

Last week I finished the one manuscript that was supposedly between me and a thesis. Unfortunately, it turns out non-finished manuscript #2 also needs to become a finished manuscript. So, my assumption that I would go back to more normal, less frantic, working was false. At the moment I'm in full swing getting insane electrophysiology done. I'm talking 'whole cell in-vivo at 2mm depth with a perfusion electrode nearby' crazy electrophysiology. It's an unpublished thing we developed, so I can't be too specific. But, needless to say these experiments suck b*lls when you're in a hurry finishing things.

Then there's a lot of histology that needs to be done. Some simple recovery of patched neurons and testing a new antibody that we need for immuno-EM. I heard it's always wise to learn a new technique during the last weeks or months of your thesis work (not), so I'm going to do EM now as well (Jeeeej!!!!).

On the bright side, I have been looking for good estimations of the number or density of cells in the cerebellar cortex. After some cries for help and google scholar searched I have come to the conclusion that no-one ever put all things together. So, I compiled an estimate based on a collection of literature. It all seems to point (roughly) to the same estimation: (in cells per cubic millimeter mouse cerebellum)
Purkinje cells: 20,000
Granule cells: 2.63 million
Mol. Layer Intern: 100,000
Golgi cells: 4,500
I was quite surprised with the Golgi cells being so low. Still, they have an amazing axonal branching pattern, so they can provide a large number of granule cells with inhibition. Also, the high number of interneurons in the molecular layer surprised me. So, the ration MLI:PC seem to be 2:1, quite surprising....
Where did I get this knowledge you ask?

Lange (1974) Cell and Tissue Research 153:219-26
Woodruff-Pak (2006) Neuroscience 141:233-43
Dugue (2009) Neuron 61:126-39
Sturrock (1989) Journal fur Hirnforschung 30(4):499-503
Altman (1977) Exp Brain Res 29:265-74

ps. I still love science, don't be alarmed ;-)