Spot the non fruit/vegetable

29 09 2019

Behold — in our fridge at home — $1500’s worth of “MILLIPLEX Mouse High Sensitivity T Cell Magnetic Bead Panel” for assaying pro-inflammatory cytokines! Though annoying having to pick it up from Fedex in Cambridge (the dept’s main office closed on Friday, without warning [for a boondoggle], leaving the Fedex guy carrying my expensive, must-be-refrigerated parcel with nowhere to leave it), I spent the journey listening to stuff for my forthcoming citizenship test. And it’s hard to stay cross when the work Aileen and I have planned is so exciting: investigating whether standard cages for mice induce hyper-inflammation …


New theses in the Atrium!

16 09 2019

Congratulations to Sam, and also to Aimee who defended last week too (write-up still to come but teaching’s obliterating everything right now): the final theses of both of them are now online!

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The strangest place I’ve ever reworked a protocol

20 08 2019

Adding to my ‘unusual places’ theme, last week I found myself exchanging text after text about experimental design while perched on a 17th century windowsill surrounded by stuffed stags’ heads. The venue? The fabulously eccentric, run-down pile of Calke Abbey.


And the reason? Another mistake in the ‘judgment bias’ study, spotted in time but needing a swift, nimble solution that could accommodate A & A’s growing exhaustion, the extinction of some mice to the unreinforced ambiguous cue, and noisy renovations planned in the CAF on Monday (by which time this experiment had been supposed to be safely over).

We pulled it off, all will be well, and the experiment will be good  (if very unlikely to validate the task). But the surreal final twist was that the mouse retraining that had to happen on the noisy Monday was accompanied by the faint sound of drilling, which apparently sounded like crying. So, Augustina, Aileen and Sylvia  each thought one of the others was quietly weeping. Now that’s judgment bias! These women need a well-deserved rest, that’s for sure.

Postcard from Bergen

20 08 2019


From Michelle, at the end of the recent ISAE conference:

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She got to visit Howard Browman’s aquaculture research facility too. I so wish I could have made both, but I was saving my energy for a UK trip (and also for ISAE next year in … Bangalore!).

Below, Maria at her poster on mink thermoregulation, both Ms looking stunning at the banquet, and Bergen itself:



Extra blocking factor

9 08 2019

A miscommunication this week led to half our judgment bias mice getting trained on the wrong stimuli for 3 days (apparently they were visibly confused).


Luckily A & A caught it in time, and the mice have bounced back on track once re-exposed to their original training stimuli. But looking ahead to the stats, whether or not they were affected by this, um, screw up, definitely has to be added to the models now.


The cold tails and ears of little hot mice

3 08 2019

Continuing with the theme “messing about with FLIR”, summer student Sylvia is getting the knack of capturing our fast-moving mice with this slow-responding camera. We hope that this can ultimately become a way to assess acute sympathetic responses (and in a far less invasive way than using implants). But meanwhile, enjoy the cold tail tips and ear margins of these warm little mousies:

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Text of the week (don’t look at if eating)

3 08 2019

This was quite the text to wake up to, from potential new PhD student Prathipa:


Prathipa’s trying to assay corticosteroid metabolites in the faeces of group-housed monkeys at her local zoo. But how to tell one turd from the other? That is the question.

Answer: Feed individual monkeys treats dosed with colour-coded glitter (a clever trick taught me by past student Jessica)!