Leaves were being blown off the sycamores in Leith Community Croft this evening. The  drippy Autumnal vibe is tangible, daylength is shrinking at an alarming rate. For me this is the time of year signifying an educational sledgehammer to the brain. It also means the days feel knackeringly long – despite the aforementioned sunlight contraction.

Sounds so negative, doesn’t it? Actually I love it. This year I’m feeling more like myself than ever, especially after living through the piece of shit that was Honours year of my undergraduate in Biological Sciences. I graduated with 1st class Honours and then spent several months seeing a counsellor. I allowed myself time to stare at plant genitalia through a magnifying glass, to tend to a veg plot at my local community garden, and generally either nurture or kill wildflowers of various types. The crushing disappointment of getting turned down for multiple PhD programmes was further soothed in part by the offer of a funded place to study MSc Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. I left Heriot-Watt University with a good degree. In the past couple of weeks I also secured a job at the University of Edinburgh as a part-time research technician in a small group that investigates the evolution of sex chromosomes.

I made this image out of compost. For real.

This week I was inducted to the MSc and the job.

MSc Gastronomy is, basically, the study of food and drink in relation to humans. It covers the so-called hard and soft sciences, ranging from from soil science to food communications. My interest in doing this course stems from my previous experiences as a chef and (very) minor forager, a wildflower toucher, and biologist. I like talking about the interface of science, technology, and food. It is all very complex and the MSc will expose me to a lot of stuff I don’t know, which is a genuine privilege. Not to mention the different opinions of my peers. Already over a couple of pints I can see debate brewing and viewpoints being challenged. That is the autumnal educational sledgehammer in action.

The research tech job is looking very promising. I have been saying for a few years that the most important thing to me in work is a respectful environment and nice coworkers. The second thing would be spice, as in “of life.” I will drink if I’m bored. It is important to me to be challenged and to have more than one thing to do in my job description. Happily, the supervisors want me to get work done and also learn. They will train me themselves and on external programmes to learn new skills. The questions that the project is investigating are rather interesting, too. Overall the people are very nice (but not suspiciously so). I feel very lucky to not just have the job, but also to be with these humans in a professional capacity.

Leith sunsets.

The MSc induction days were completely draining. My coursemates may not realise but I’m rather an anxious fellow. The “get to know you” exercise we did must have knocked 5 years off my life expectancy. But they are a properly decent bunch. I’m very much looking forward to hearing more from them within the academic setting. The course content looks fantastic. We have a bunch of field trips to go on in addition to lectures, active learning, coursework, and guests. There is an “allotment” on campus that we are going to do some work with. Mondays boast a two hour lunch where we can feed one another and cry over essay structures and suchlike.

Earlier this year I found it intensely annoying to be told by friends and family that I must have been turned down for PhDs because it wasn’t right for me, that whatever I needed would get to me in time. It is a load of horseshit. But – I’m really happy to be doing this MSc after all, and just like with the job I feel lucky and privileged. The scope of the course and need for people with the awareness it will bring is highly necessary in modern life. So I look forward to learning and engaging with the course and my peers in full over the next year.

My opinions and personal shortcomings are not affiliated with or reflections of QMU or Uni of Edinburgh. Only the measurably positive outcomes during my education or job appraisals may be attributed to educational institutions.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Lynn Stacey says:

    I’m so glad the course and the job are looking so promising and you’re feeling positive about them. I know what you mean about the ‘getting to know you’ bit, I’m starting my course on Thursday and I’m anxious about it too – how should I reply to questions about how many children I’ve got, just say 3 or say 4 but one died. My eyes are filling with tears just thinking about it.

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