Faces of CBMR: Danial Ahwazi

Danial joined CBMR in January 2017 as a Master student before spending almost two years as a Research Assistant in the Barrès Group. He now works as Staff Scientist in the Sakamoto Group where he is designing new molecular tools to assess non-insulin dependent glucose uptake in vitro and in vivo. Danial has also helped Professor Kei Sakamoto to set up his laboratory following his arrival last year and he aspires to start a PhD with Kei by the start of next year.

In this Faces of CBMR post, Danial shares how he spends his time outside of science and how it helps him maintain his mental health during the lockdown period.

So, what do you get up to when you’re not working on science?

Working from home because of COVID-19 has presented some major challenges to my work-life balance. I must admit that my initial response was to shift into a higher working gear. But I quickly found out that this was not a sustainable track to continue on. So I came up with ways to do the things I enjoy,and bring them into my 60m2 apartment (now home office) that I share with my girlfriend and four cats.

A photo of Danial with his cats
Angelica, Alexis, Albert, Mama cat – Alva, and a very happy Danial

Wait … how many cats!?

When the lockdown was announced we decided to contact the local cat shelter. The shelters are short on staff, which puts a burden on the organization and sometimes that means that their cats end up isolated in small rooms without much human contact. So we quickly agreed to open our homes to three four-week-old kittens and their mom.

I must admit, having kittens takes some adjustments. But I quickly started to experience what can only be described as paternal (purrternal?) instincts. Having something to take care of has brought a sense of routine into my daily life, and ‘playtime’ helps me to remove my mind from work and the pandemic. I also get to practice my newfound talent of amateur cat photography – I mean, the world can never have too many cat photos!

If you were wondering when I start my day, then don’t worry. Our circadian rhythm from before the lockdown period has been preserved as our beloved mama cat starts her morning calls between 7:30 and 8:30, so there is no other choice but to get up and start the day.

Photos taken on a running trip in the Vallø forest.
Photos taken on a running trip in the Vallø forest.

What do you do for yourself?

Besides the obvious workout I get from squatting down several times a day to wipe poop off surfaces, I also try to put in some form of daily exercise.

Just like many of my colleagues, I care a lot about my work and I try to make some progress every day. But this can be mentally fatiguing, so I run, bike or do strength exercises every day to blow off some steam and to clear my mind. Personally, I enjoy investing some time to get away out of my immediate environment. Instead of the usual round-the-block run, a trip to the forest or near a historical site is not only stimulating for the senses but really helps to ease the mind. It might also be a relief for my partner (and cats) to have me away for a while.

Image showing how Danial socialises with his colleagues online.
Left is my eBeers home setup, and on the right, top and bottom, are screenshots taken from eBeers socials with colleagues from CBMR.

How do you stay social in this antisocial time?

Before the lockdown, our lab’s standard protocol was to get together for beers at least once a week. I truly enjoy all of my colleagues as they all have unique backgrounds and contribute to the great diversity at the CBMR. Naturally, we still wanted to keep in touch during the lockdown and one of the solutions has been “eBeers”. Skype, Zoom or Houseparty has given us the opportunity to see each other at least once a week for beers and games. Much like in the real world, we use these get togethers to touch base and to discuss the current world situation, or more important matters like what are good shows to watch on Netflix, and whether Carole Baskin really did kill feed her husband to her tigers.

Planning social activates, even if it is happening through a computer screen, has been giving me something to look forward to after long stretches of work.

Any final thoughts or advice for others in this period?

Try to find ways to introduce the things that make you happy into your new reality and remember to keep an open dialogue with work on how you prefer to progress. This worked for me and I hope it can inspire you! I can’t wait to see you all on the other side.

Find out more about the Sakamoto Group on the CBMR website , or follow the Sakamoto lab on Twitter – @LabSakamoto

Published by

CBMR Communications

Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR)

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