Personal experiment



Nobody likes change. Humans are also not built for change. Humans are built for habit and routine. Humans don’t like change because it comes with uncertainty, stress and the chance of failure. The things we, as humans, like to avoid.


Personally, I am so much in dislike of uncertainty that I won’t participate in lotteries. I prefer to be certain that I don’t win anything, then that I might have the chance of winning. – I might be an exceptional case in this one…


The bad thing is that change is often unavoidable. So, here is a way to handle change:

TryTheSunnySide proudly presents to you the ‘personal experiment’!


Personal experiment?


Yes – and I did not invent it.


The idea

How to define a personal experiment? First let’s dig into an experiment on itself. Wikipedia tells us:

“An experiment is a procedure carried out to support, refute, or validate a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated.”


In normal words: an experiment is to prove or dismiss a thought, an experience or something you observed, summarised as ‘phenomenon’.


In a personal experiment you are the subject of research and in that way, it is a way of self-science.

I like this concept of personal experiment a lot. An experiment is mostly done by researchers, and since I’m doing a PhD, this does match in a way. 😉

It is an excuse to try something new, it is a way of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. 🙂

Just do it

I like personal experiments, because it allows me to make mistakes, dislike something or to be a novice. I tried many different sports, like rowing, kickboxing and yoga, and also sports I thought I did not like, like running and cycle racing.


When I went to Canada for my internship, I entered a completely new world. I did use English for my studies, but that’s not the same as being among natives. I had never been away from my home country for so long. I just did it and I learned a lot. For example: my English improved tremendously and I also discovered that being close to my family is important to me.


Setting up an experiment

So, change comes with uncertainty, entering the unknown, stress and also curiosity. The personal experiment is a way to handle with these things.

The personal experiment can be used:

  • To test if something is possible,
  • To test if you like something,
  • To test if it is suitable for you,
  • And also if you are just bored and would like to have some alternation.


Currently I am involved in several personal experiments, and that is exactly why I am sharing this post, so I can refer to this one, when I’m writing about my personal experiments and their outcome.

Some personal experiment I’m involved in right now:

  • Take 10,000 steps a day in S(t)eptember – curiosity, is it possible and if so, is it hard to do?
  • Living in Cambridge, UK – is it hard, how will my social life look like, how do I keep up with friends and family in NL?
  • Doing a PhD! – too many questions to answer here…!


There are many references online on how to conduct an experiment, here is how according to WikiHow.

WikiHow is quite elaborate, so here is a small summary. The idea is simple: you observe your current situation – also called ‘control’ situation. You change one thing for a while. Afterwards you compare the new situation to the control situation.


Example – No sugars anymore

Here is a small example about eating healthier. A way to do that is to not eat food with sugars anymore. I had often cravings and I heard that not eating sugars would help this. So I tried it for a week. Then I compared my new situation with my control situation. I must say; it did work! The downside was that I needed to say ‘no’ to all the nice treats during coffee breaks. So, I decided to eat less sugar, but not cut it completely. A woman needs her chocolate! 😉


Some tips  🙂

And here are some tips from an experienced personal experimenter (me):

  • Have a clear goal in mind
    • It all starts with defining the problem or change you want to go through.
  • Focus on the experiment, not the outcome.
    • The outcome can be a failure, but the experiment can be a success. Just like: the surgery was a success but the patient died.
  • You don’t have to succeed at your first try.
    • You can always try again!
  • Start with a pilot
    • Especially bigger experiments have more chance of not succeeding, so start small.
  • Always try
    • Because there is nothing you cannot try. 🌞



In the future you can expect some blogs about my personal experiments and their outcome. I will also report if I kept the change or got back to my ‘control’ situation, or somewhere in between…






7 things that make the UK different from the rest of Europe

I am a Dutchy in the UK. We have a lot in common; the rainy weather and complaining about it, and being a coast country gives a shared type of history of sea trading. So before I moved here I did not think the Dutch and the British are soooo different; in the end there is only a sea dividing us!

Read about my experiences…!


#1 – They drive on the left side of the road

As you might know the right side is the right side, so the left side must be the wrong side. As all of mainland Europe drives on the right side of the road – with thanks to Napoleon, – the British (still) drive on the left side of the road. And all cars are also mirrored with a drivers’ seat on the right side.

It is not impossible to change to drive on the right side; the Swedish did this on H-day. They changed in one night from left- to right sided traffic, however this took 4 years of preparation and education. Even though it is not impossible, I think it is highly improbable to happen in the UK.


#2 – They call themselves UK and everybody else Europe

Somehow it is not strange that the UK voted to leave during the referendum. In day to day language use they will never call themselves a European country. I am from The Netherlands, which is one of the closest countries to the UK, but still I am (not always) considered being from Europe, overseas or mainland. Talking about holiday plans: ‘We’re going to Europe’. Way of working: ‘In Europe they are doing it in X way’. Once I heard a British guy saying: ‘You Europeans and your coffee!’.


#3 – Queuing is the backbone of British society

Number 3 is quoted from the tv series ‘Very British Problems’, which is a must see for all Dutchies (and other foreigners) in the UK. The British like their personal space and queuing is one of the means to achieve that. Queuing for the check out, bus or ticket machine was never so organised and peaceful. When I started studying Greek language and culture, there was a separate paragraph about personal space and I quote from page 15.

“When you are in Greece, you will notice that you have very little personal space: queues at concert halls, bus stops or banks are not particularly orderly. To understand Greek queuing habits you have to experience them!”

Even though this is about Greek culture, the fact that they have to explain this to the British reader says enough!


#4 – They say ‘sorry’ all the time

Yes, the British apologize a lot. ‘Sorry’ for passing the same door at the same time, ‘sorry’ for bumping into you, ‘sorry’ for disturbing you, ‘sorry’ for me bumping into them!

Replying with ‘apologies accepted’ is not a joke that is understood – I tried it several times, until my boyfriend told me to stop it.

(Note from boyfriend: It is not funny if they don’t get the joke…)

When I’m back in The Netherlands I always have to adjust; I don’t have to say I’m sorry all the time anymore.


#5 – They have a great pub life

British food is well-known for its quality – it’s rubbish (they say). Sometimes, yes, it is rubbish. Who thinks of deep frying a slice of bread for breakfast? I thought the Dutch were the nation deep frying everything!?

I wouldn’t eat pub food every day, because it is often salty and fatty. Like the breakfast, the fish and chips and the pies. Luckily there are many more dishes on the menu nowadays!

In an English pub the atmosphere is great, it is like going back 50 years, the food is good and the prices are not painful.

And then of course the other national dish of the UK: curry! ‘Thank you, Indian immigrants for bringing this to the other side of the world!’


#6 – They protect their nature and their past

When walking around Cambridge it is like walking in a museum. College buildings are at least 100 years old and otherwise they are ‘new’. The colleges are not the only thing that is preserved. There is an enormous organisation taking care of nature and old buildings; National Trust. It’s really great for day trips and outings! We’re members and it is always a pleasure to visit a venue taken care of by the National Trust. Question remains; if you take care of you past so much, when do you have time to enter the future?


#7 – They speak one language only

If you go to any other country most people speak – at least – two languages, especially the higher educated people. Combinations you could find for example: Dutch and English, German and English, Italian and English, Danish and English, Chinese and English. Quickly you understand why the British are not so motivated learning another language, everyone speaks theirs! More or less. So, British people only need to speak one language.

In the same way that I cannot imagine expressing myself in only one language, many British I meet cannot imagine expressing themselves in more than one language. It’s an interesting thought; when you learn another language you don’t only learn the new words, grammar and sentences, you also learn the concept of a different language and the idea of a different culture behind the other language.



When you’re abroad it is always fun to mock the local people about their strange habits and culture. If you want to mock the Dutch; find here the complete list of stuff Dutch people like.  Bicycles everywhere, directness, candy that is really black and salty (licorice) and the three kisses we give when we meet and say goodbye. 

Please share your experiences with cultural differences below! I’m very curious. 🌞


  • All pictures from google-pictures

Sunny fieldwork

Science is about discovering all kinds of cool new stuff! Or science is boring and for geeks! That’s what people think and both are true.

I think it’s a mixture. Sometimes it’s ‘yippy!’ and sometimes it’s ‘blèh’. However, I have never heard a scientist say ‘Eureka!’, we keep this for Archimedes. 😉


My work is 99.9% of the time behind the computer, so I was glad that my colleague asked me to help her out in the field. I took proper shoes and my rain gear, because I’m still in the UK and ‘you never know’. It was windy, but sunny 🌞.


We had to measure the stem height of my colleague’s wheat in her disease trial. She is doing research on Fusarium, a fungus that causes a disease in wheat, but this time it was about the height of the wheat.

In the picture: A wheat ear with a orange/pink spot of Fusarium. My colleague told me that it’s not recommended to eat it, but you have to eat kilograms of it to become ill. So, no worries! 🙂

Practically it was like this: my colleague measured the stem height of the wheat and told me the height and I wrote it down. She has an enormous field trial; in 2,5 days we recorded 4500 measurements.

Why would we do this?

In the name of science of course! …and to find more genes for plant height. I’ll try and explain. How we look like (P) and how plants look like, is a combination of our genes (G) and our environment (E). Let’s talk about hair colour first. Imagine being born with brown hair, this is because of our genetics. – We are born with it!

But if you go to the hairdresser and dye your brown hair blond, this is because of your environment.

Now about body height; this is partly because of the genes (G) you got from your parents. If they are tall, most likely you will get tall. And partly how well you are fed and how healthy you are – the environment (E).

Now about plant height; this is partly because of the genes and partly because of the environment. Like how fertile the soil is and how nice the weather is 🌞.


P = G + E

How we look like is genetics + environment. As scientists we want to know more about the effect of the genes (G) on how the plants look like; how tall they are (P).

Genes are in our cells, in our DNA and take care of what happens in your body. It also makes you blond or gives you brown eyes…

Genes are a bit of a secret, which makes them exciting. We cannot see them and still they are so important in how they shape our life!

For the height of wheat we already know two genes that have a big effect on it, but we also know that these two are not the only ones and these measurements are the start of the quest in finding the other genes involved in wheat height!


Height in wheat

The height of wheat is important for farmers. Short wheat is sturdier and is more resilient against wind than tall wheat. Also short wheat often yields more grain to make more bread and cookies… Yummy!

But we are not there yet… The field work not only resulted in a lot of measurements, but also in the sore back of my colleague – that bending is killing – and we invented some new numbers; ‘seventy-wait…’ and ‘ninety-something’. 😉


  • Pictures by me.

Sunday in Cambridge

Since a couple of weeks I am, or I should say “we”,  are living in the UK.

We moved just after the Brexit referendum, a topic that is main subject of conversation and endless source of jokes…


We are living in the idyllic city of Cambridge and are lucky to have space to host guests. My boyfriend and I love to show people around and organise trips, often we call ourselves B&B guided tours. Last week we had our Chinese friend visiting from the Netherlands.


Fun fact #1:

Cambridge is very popular with Chinese students; it is the second nationality at the university. About 1,100 students enrolled are Chinese. The highest nationality is of course students from the UK.


Our Chinese friend already had a Schengen visa, but UK is not part of Schengen, so he had to apply for a UK visa. It resulted in that he paid more money for his visa than his ticket!


After some delay he finally arrived on Saturday night and we decided to explore Cambridge on Sunday. It was a very sunny Sunday!



The map is not so informative… but I’ll explain!


We started our tour by parking our bikes opposite of St. Johns College (1511), which is one of the biggest – and richest – colleges in Cambridge. Using your bike in and around Cambridge is a must – it’s a different blog topic!


Fun fact #2:

Cambridge University consists of 31 colleges. They are all independent and have their own procedures for accepting students. All colleges have their own scarf colour.


Then we walked down St. Johns Street and Trinity Street towards Great St. Mary’s Church — a lot of saints around here..! We climbed the tower and we had some awesome views! And of course I had to share all my built up knowledge with our visiting victim. 😉


Fun fact #3:

All undergraduate students of the Cambridge University should live within 5km of the Great St. Mary’s Church.


We decided then to have a stroll over the market, it is a daily market and you can buy here food, accessories, craftwork, coffee and nice souvenirs. Next to the market is the guildhall with its tourist information center. We continued because I wanted to show St. Bene’t’s Church and The Eagle.


St. Bene’t’s Church is the oldest church in Cambridge, most likely built between 1000 and 1050. The level of this church is lower than the street and this reflects the level of the old city.


Across of St. Bene’t’s Church is The Eagle. This is a very famous pub! Story goes that it is the pub where Watson and Crick came up with the idea of the shape of DNA. For sure, these guys were visiting this pub sometimes, but we can’t know for sure if they really had their idea here. And then there is the discussion if they really discovered the structure or if they were fast enough stealing it…

Another interesting feature of this pub is the ceiling of the bar in the back. In the second world war RAF pilots used to wait here before going on a mission, when they would leave they would write something on the ceiling with candles, lighters or lipstick – how did they get that?

Still it is a nice pub, with a small garden as well.

These pictures I have from google-pictures.

We walked further and got hungry. We went to Fitzbillies for a cake! Nomnom. What better than to have this in a park. So we went to Coe Fen and sat down to eat it.  On the map you can see a little detour on the south side.


After that we walked back and went behind the colleges. It is where you have a great view on the back side of King’s College. King’s College is not the richest or has the most students, but I think it’s the most famous one!


It is so well-known for its location and its chapel. It is as big as a cathedral, but it’s still a chapel.


Fun fact #4:

Because this church building was for personal use, it is called a chapel. Would it have been for communal purposes, you would call it a cathedral or church.


After this long walk we were tired! And we decided to do like the locals: We went to Sainsbury’s supermarket and bought pizza and Pimm’s and lied down in Parker’s Piece.

After we were rested we cycled via the River Cam to Milton and back. It was a very sunny and lovely day! 🌞



* Pictures courtesy of I Baltzakis and H. Zhang, or else stated below the picture.