2023 | A year in review
Personal Life

2023 | A year in review

Dec 31, 2023   |    2885


Dear 2023


Now would be a good time to reflect on you and connect the dots looking backward. On your first day, I was in Cambridge visiting a dear friend. I had a wonderful walk in the beautiful Jesus Green Lido with a warm sun smiling on my face. I have to say, that morning did show the day (and the year). 


Upon returning home, I dived into an abyss of research work as I was trying to submit my PhD paper. Following an initial presubmission inquiry to Nature, the editor showed some interest in our story. So, next two months, I worked day and night, weekend and weekdays, trying to make our paper better. Finally, on 09 March 23, we made our submission to Nature only to be rejected by them 2 weeks later. That was a big blow indeed! We then moved to Nature Communications and they gladly sent the paper for peer-review in April.


By this time, I have run out of my DPhil funding. So, I needed to finish soon. I took a 4 day break and visited Cornwall on the South Coast of England. Returning from there, I kept my head down and wrote my entire thesis in just under one month. While my supervisor was reviewing it, I took another short break and visited the beautiful west African nation, Seychelles. The two weeks I had spent there helped me gain back a lot of energy. The Beau Vallon beach in Mahe Island has to be the best beach I have ever visited in my life. Seychelles also has a few hiking trail. So, I tied up my hiking shoes and climbed up the Copolia trail on 17 May 2023. When I got down from the hike, I received an email from Nature Communications saying we would have to do a major revision of our paper! Sigh!


The major revision would take about 4 months of additional laboratory work that involves intensive experiment. Thankfully, an US collaborator saved the day and helped us greatly with this experiment. While they performed the new experiment, I managed to submit my thesis on 17 June 2023. Meanwhile, I found a job in a summer school and managed to keep myself financially afloat during the year. 


From July, once again I dived into the lab and got lost in my microscope room. It took an additional 140 hours of microscopy to address all the reviewers comments. By this time, it was October and I had to defend my DPhil in front of two very curious examiners. I still remember that day. I was working on the paper just the night before the viva and also the day after. The DPhil defence did not feel like an important milestone because of the hectic schedule of the paper. 


In mid October, we re-submitted the paper with all the reviewers’ comments addressed. The editor got back to us by mid November saying they would accept our paper if we can address few more “editorial request’s. So, once again, I started working on the final submission of the paper and finished my bit on 2 am, 28 November. Next morning, I jumped into an Air India flight to new Delhi.


December was the best month of this year. I wandered around the streets of Jame Masjid area in Delhi and devoured all sorts of street food. One day, I would jump into a train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and, the next day, I was in Jaipur! Then, one night in Jaipur became my nightmare. Among all these street food tasting, I got infected by some horrible bacteria and developed severe diarrhoea. Thankfully, a doctor friend of mine prescribed some antibiotics which put me into deep sleep. Next morning, on 01 December, I woke up dehydrated and tired only to find an email from Nature Communications saying “Your paper has been accepted.” I was feeling so light-headed that I replied to the editorial email saying “Congratulations”. Life was good again!


On 03 December, I flew to Udaipur where my friend and long-term housemate, Abhishek, would get married to his high school sweet heart. It was like a fairy-tale Indian Wedding. The whole Oxford gang (including me) prepared a short dance performance on the Sangeet to surprise Abhishek. Next morning, at mid day, we attended the Sikh Wedding according to the ritual of the Bride’s side. The same evening would see the Hindu Wedding hosted by the groom’s side. The whole festivities ended at about 4 am on that day and I again jumped back to Delhi.


I have to say, I loved Delhi. So, I felt a bit low when I was flying back to the UK with a luggage full of Haldiram’s snacks and a stomach full of E.coli. Upon home coming, I took it slow. I decided to write a new book on Longevity and Stem Cell for the upcoming book fair in Feb 2024. I slowly put on my writer’s hat and bleed through my keyboard. Finally, on the evening on 20 December, my paper was staring back at me on Nature Communications’ website. It was out in the world! 5 years of blood, sweat, and tear summarised in 7 figures. I was shaking and I was on seventh cloud.


To celebrate properly, I cooked a beef roasting joint on Christmas and hosted a feast for my friends. On this last day of the year, I have this sense of fulfilment that is hard to explain. Since I was a young kid, I wanted to be in a place like this. And, finally, I am here! That silly old boy from Khilgaon, Dhaka is managing to pursue science in Oxford. I have nothing to complain about this life (apart from the British weather). Thank you, 2023! You have been kind to me!


Please tell 2024 that I would counting down its arrival with a belly full of Bangla-Chinese (a weird fusion food).


Best wishes

Shamir




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