City Sippin’

I love coffee. I require coffee in order to function properly.  I like to drink it black, a good dark roast is appreciated, and I do not like when I am charged an arm and a leg for this very simple beverage. Also it has come to my attention that the Starbucks in the Convention Centre has the world’s longest, slowest line (and frankly their coffee is not the tastiest). So in the interest of taking some of the pressure off of this Starbucks location, I have taken it upon myself as a coffee enthusiast to list and rate all of the coffee I have sipped while in New Orleans. If you disagree with my assessment of any listed coffee establishments, please comment below and we can hash it out.

  1. CC’s Coffee House, 901 Convention Centre Blvd. (3.5/5) So their coffee is fine. Thats really all I have to say about that. It is run of the mill. The taste reminds me of coffee you would find in a meeting room– you are so excited that it is there and that someone made coffee, but it is probably Folger’s, so not really a taste sensation. But nevertheless, CC’s gets a pretty good mark from me because their staff is extremely friendly and chatty!! Bonus points for hiring kind people. Also, CC’s has a real high convenience factor, being that it is right across the street from the conference centre.
  2. Pulp and Grind, 644 Camp St. (4/5) This place is a hipster paradise. Everyone inside of this coffee shop looks like they just finished up a morning collection from their herb garden, and they are on route to work at an art gallery. The staff is very friendly, and the coffee is very tasty. I also had some of their fancy cold pressed juice, which was equal parts colourful and delicious. The beet/apple/carrot/lemon juice combo I had was a welcome shock to the system after almost a week of eating gumbo and oysters and fried everything. The one draw back to this place is that it is pricey, and the line here grew quickly as I sat and drank my coffee and fancy juice.
  3. Revelator Coffee Company, 637 Tchoupitoulas St. (3/5) Here I got a normal brewed coffee- dark roast. It was 3 dollars. If a cup of regular black coffee is going to cost me 3 dollars, it should have magical healing properties. Its only been a couple days since I had this cup of joe, so I can’t say for sure yet whether this coffee is or isn’t magical, but for now I will venture to say the Revelator coffee was overpriced. The vibes inside this establishment were similarly hip to the Pulp and Grind, but was not as warm, so negative points for that as well.
  4. Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 610 Carondelet St. (4/5) I would give this place full marks, if not for the fact that it is kind of a hike to get to. The coffee here was very smooth, not too acidic, and smelled absolutely delightful! Apparently this place is actually one of several locations, and this chain actually started in the Pacific Northwest. I would never have known, because when I went in I was greeted by the staff with the warmth I associate with southern hospitality. Also, I tried the strawberry kombucha at Stumptown and I was a huge fan. For those of you who don’t know, kombucha is a type of fermented tea that is naturally carbonated and often sweetened for flavour. The first time I had kombucha, I thought it tasted like a dirty sock dipped in vinegar, but this stuff really grows on you. If you are looking to try some kombucha (there is some sketchy science that suggests potential health benefits), definitely try it at Stumptown.
  5. PJ’s Coffee, 1420 Annunciation St. (3.5/5) This place seems to be a New Orlean’s favourite, based on the fact that there are tons of locations all around the city. I would equate this place to its Canadian counterpart, Tim Hortons. We Canadians do not go to Timmie’s under any illusion that it is good coffee– we go because it is cheap, fast, and it makes us feel like we are sticking it to the man (I’m looking at you, Starbucks). So go on and have your PJ’s coffee in the name of supporting a local establishment, but you have been warned that this coffee did not make my heart sing.
  6. Bittersweet Confection’s, 725 Magazine St. (4.5/5) This place is my favourite, by far. The coffee was really delicious, and the vibes inside this establishment were fantastic. I sat in this shop for a bit to do some work, and as I drank my coffee, several “regulars” came in and the staff knew them by name and coffee order. Also, this place gets 1 million bonus marks for having so many delicious treats! It is a chocoholic’s dream land. I had a chocolate croissant because I went in the morning and could not quite stomach a cupcake at that hour, but all of their sweets looked incredible. This place also sells a cake that is apparently part of a New Orlean’s Mardi Gras tradition, called a King Cake. The cake just looks like a big circular brioche with colourful sparkly icing spread over top, which to me sounds not very nice, but I can’t say for sure because I did not taste it. Nonetheless, I would highly recommend anyone who is still in town to go check out this lovely shop.

Anyway, that concludes my coffee review. Now I will leave you to think on this, while I go find myself a little afternoon cup of java.


Ellen Avery


Failing to prepare…

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

Ok so that sounds frightening, but in my opinion, Ben was on the right track with that one. Even if things don’t always go as planned, having a plan in place keeps me grounded and motivated. I am a big believer in planning ahead– one of many reasons why me and Ben Franklin are very alike and if he was alive right now I am confident we would be great friends.

This morning I had the pleasure of attending the Career Center Workshop on selling yourself to the life sciences industry. When I read the title of this session I was not a fan of the idea of “selling” myself, but in the interest of getting some career advice, I elected to attend. I am so glad I did!! This session was run by Joe Tringali (who totally rules by the way) and was an hour full of helpful tips and tricks. Joe’s prepared material for this session was fantastic, and he also did a great job of engaging attendees of the session and making sure everyone’s questions were addressed. So without further ado, here are my take-away points from this Workshop!

  1. Know the difference between a resume and a CV— and when using each of these is appropriate!!  Joe emphasized that CV’s are best when talking to scientists, but for a lot of large companies, HR reps will be reviewing applications so a resume may be a better choice. Also, resumes should be concise and should very obviously highlight which techniques and skills you possess, plainly identifying what qualifies you for the position you’ve applied for.
  2. Target your message! Do not be ambiguous when it comes to your cover letter. Employers should not look at your application and think that you are tossing in a resume with their company just for the heck of it. Indicate that you have done your homework and are interested in the position for X reasons, you love the city of Y, and you have Z qualifications, therefore are a great fit.
  3. Reach out using non-traditional methods if the traditional job search is not going well. If you’ve applied to 100 jobs via Indeed and Monster, and no one is answering you, try a different strategy!! If you can identify someone within the company you are interested in using LinkedIn, and you know you are qualified to join their group, try sending out them a short email with your CV/Resume attached, and asking if they may be able to circulate it for you. Worst case scenario, you are back where you started (jobless with no prospects). Best case scenario, maybe they have an opening! Or if they don’t, maybe they know of an opening you would be a good fit for! Bottom line is that networking is important, and dropping someone a line is rarely a bad idea so long as you are being respectful and not creepy…. Emphasis on the not creepy part.
  4. Make sure you and your references are on the same page. Okay so this was something I did not know going in– Joe says that checking references for industry jobs is generally kind of an afterthought. But nevertheless, it is important that anyone you have listed as a reference is actually going to talk you up. If you have a boss/PI that doesn’t want you to leave the company/lab, it’s still okay to use them as a reference, but make sure the interviewer knows the situation. Your best bet is to list references you know will say you are totally fabulous. It is important to prepare them for incoming calls, so they don’t say “ah yes Sally has always wanted to live in Tokyo” when the interviewer is calling about a job you’ve applied for in Boise, Idaho.
  5. Don’t talk about money right off the bat. Joe says that employees will be payed an appropriate, fair wage based on their qualifications, the wages of their colleagues, the cost of living in the city they’ll be in, and whether they look like Angelina Jolie. I made that last one up- he did not say you need to look like Angie, but the rest of that is true. So don’t stress about the dollar bills! It will more than likely put employers off if you start trying to push them into giving you loads of money before you’ve even finished the interview process.

Thank you to Joe Tringali for the great workshop this morning, much appreciated!! Also Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you blog readers!! I’ve got my ion you ❤


Ellen Avery

Sunday Funday: Electrophysiology Edition

Let me first say—to whoever is controlling the temperature in the convention centre: I am freezing my buns off, could you please turn down the air conditioning? Trust me, I am Canadian so I am pretty familiar with the cold—and the convention centre felt borderline Arctic yesterday.


Now—on to the important stuff!


Yesterday was the first full day of first time ever at the Biophysics Annual Meeting. What an exciting day! I was pleasantly surprised with the diverse range of platform talks and posters, and how many of them fit in so well with my own interests (primarily in cardiac ion channels). There was no shortage of things to see and do—but I will highlight for you my favourite platform session of the day, entitled, “Cardiac, Smooth, and Skeletal Muscle Electrophysiology”.


This session started out with Christian Rickert running us through the mathematical model he created to quantify action potentials in sinoatrial node myocytes. This was the first talk up to the platform, and in my opinion it really stood out as one of the best from this session. Not only was his research interesting and innovative, but it was also evident during the question period that he was confident in his model and had spent considerable time to polish this work prior to bringing it to the BPS stage. I am not a computational wiz kid by any means, but Rickert’s talk was uniquely exceptional because it was accessible and informative for attendees from a variety of research backgrounds.


Another highlight from this session was Guiling Zhao’s talk on dynamic blood flow control in the heart. She started by citing previous studies that have shown blood flow and oxygen consumption are exquisitely matched in the heart. She argued that the tight control of this relationship might in part be related to the contribution of electrical activity via K+ -induced membrane hyperpolarization in the vasculature. Zhao’s results from her work in cultured human microvascular endothelial cells from the heart indicated that an increase in extracellular K+ causes membrane hyperpolarization. Her talk provided new and interesting insight into the potential contribution of endothelial cell hyperpolarization to activity-dependent blood flow control. This talk also stimulated some very fruitful discussion amongst the speaker and audience members! During this session there were unfortunately many technological glitches, and discussion of Zhao’s data got us through several potentially awkward silences.


The platform session on Cardiac, Smooth, and Skeletal Muscle Electrophysiology was a wonderful way to start out my first day at the BPS annual meeting. Although the more I think back on these talks, I have loads of questions I wish I‘d asked! If any other attendees of this session are roaming around today, please come up and chat. We can talk about this session, about your research, or about my favourite coffee shops in New Orleans (I have been here for one full day and I already have a sizable list). As of right now, I am off to the new member welcome coffee in the Rivergate room. Thank you to the BPS for enabling my coffee addiction.



Ellen Avery