Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Cherry Sun. She is a second-year Ph.D. student based in Auckland, New Zealand. She’s studying a stem cell population from the human placenta and its potential role in babies that are born dangerously small ([[Fetal Growth Restriction]]).

As someone who is doing multiple experiments at the same time, Cherry has been finding ways to capture thoughts, record measurements, and results, and to collect all of them in one graph and database for her to make all the connections and Roam fits the bill.

Check out the full shownotes here

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Norman Chella: [00:00:00] RoamFM.

Cherry Sun: [00:00:02] Like a lot of the stuff that we think about overlaps and our readings would overlap and experimental ideas and contributions would probably also, at least we would have shared inputs, right. So I think that would be quite an exciting thing that would happen in the future.

Norman Chella: [00:00:16] Hello there. Welcome to RoamFM. Here we dive into the minds workflows and machinations of the #roamcult, the believers of Roam Research. My name is Norman Chella, and I am on a mission to deconstruct wisdom from all walks of life so we can understand each other better.

In this episode we’ll be  talking with Cherry Sun, who is a second year PhD student based in Auckland, New Zealand.

She studies STEM cell population in the human placenta and its potential role in babies that are born dangerously small and the term for that is the [[Fetal Growth Restriction]]. As someone who is doing multiple experiments at the same time, Cherry has been finding ways to capture thoughts, record measurements, and results, and to collect all of them in one graph and database for her to make all the connections and Roam fits the bill.

We talked about her origin story, how she went from pen and paper to Notion to Roam. Then we talked about her using Roam as a lab book, how she uses the tool during experiments and recording information to ensure that everything is on track and predictions and using Roam for collaborative research, especially in her field and in academia in general.

We went through quite a number of topics here from recording specific notes with intent to her usage of journaling and what goes in Roam and what doesn’t. So if you are ready, let’s dive into my chat with Cherry Sun.

Ms. Cherry Sun. Welcome to RoamFM, how are you doing?

Cherry Sun: [00:01:48] Good. Good. I’m really excited to talk to you today. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now because, um, I feel like Roam’s totally taken over my life at this point.

Norman Chella: [00:01:59] I like how we haven’t even started the conversation properly and you’re already sharing just how much of an impact Roam has on what you’re doing. And what you’re doing is super interesting to me because it’s a specific field of research that you’re using to, uh, especially for your PhD. I would love to take a deep dive into that, but before we start, I do want to ask, Cherry, about the before times, before you have found Roam, what is your origin story and how did you stumble into this tool?

Cherry Sun: [00:02:33] So I think it was about a year and a half ago now that I was introduced to Notion. And that’s when, before all that I tended to still rely on a traditional, like paper journal to keep track of my life. And my main focus at that point was just a transition to something digital, just because I knew that it was going to have way more power. Um, and Notion status, making sense to me, but there was like, obviously people talk about the steep entry or steep learning curve, right? Like to set up your databases in a way that this links to that and that linked to this, in a sense that things ran themselves and became more automated.

It took a lot of input and I overcame all of that and notion became quite good for me in that sense. Until I stumbled on Roam. Yeah. That’s when I realized that you didn’t have to go to all that effort to build this kind of setup and that it could happen organically. And the way that your thoughts formed, like in that following the way that your thoughts formed.

So I guess my entry into these kinds of tools and thinking tools started from, I just want us to organize my life sort of entry point. Like that was my first, the original goal. And then obviously branched out into just thinking into these tools. My planning and thought it’s and how I decide on experiments and how I decide on things would also go into there, and reading papers and what I understood from papers and the key results and data would also go into there so that everything now was a network that organically formed rather than me having to form those things myself.

Yeah, I went for awhile.

Norman Chella: [00:04:26] This is interesting because you transitioned from you having to create the structure beforehand in Notion, and then stumbling into the tool Roam. And you’re like, Oh, you don’t have to do that. And it will naturally grow. Um, step-by-step creating the, I call it architecture, but network is also, you know, a very good term to describe it.

Um, was it difficult to try out Roam in the beginning when you were making the transition from a structurally dependent tool like notion and then you’ll get a Roam account and there’s like, nothing but daily notes page. Was there a lot of difficulty like doing that?

Cherry Sun: [00:05:03] When I first opened it up, I was like, what is the point here? Because all there is is bullet points. Right. I typed for a little bit. And then I think when I did my first sort of followed, I think just the basic tutorial of the block references and sort of made those connections of how those linkages worked and where that could expand to. I was like, Oh man, I can do a lot with this because.

Yeah. Like I realized that those links were being made for me, the background and that depth, that kind of automation was really powerful. Yeah. So, no, it wasn’t hard. It wasn’t, it wasn’t hard because when that started happening and the square brackets started flying, like it just organically came together.

Norman Chella: [00:05:50] The square brackets started flying. I feel like that’s a feeling that every, every #roamcult knows and you type a lot of, uh, a lot of notes or a lot of thoughts into Roam and you just naturally, your finger goes to the, uh, the square bracket button, just to turn it into a page. Actually, now that I think about that ever since you’ve started using Roam, how has it changed the way that you write? Now I’m curious.

Cherry Sun: [00:06:18] Yeah. With Roam, because  of this block referencing system, right? And the fact that you can link anywhere, when I’m writing each bullet point. Even though I’m writing it, like within this current page, it feels as if this blog actually is everywhere. It could be anywhere. And my entire database, because of this back meeting system, or block referencing system. I need it to be that when I think of key words and when I think of something, when a thought reoccurs and I type it into the block referencing this, it will reoccur. And so this is a lot of thinking about key words and phrasing and, um, how, how to essentially make everything searchable. As long as you understand the thought almost. The searchable, I think searchability.

Norman Chella: [00:07:09] Yeah, that criteria is very interesting because I, when I started Roam, I didn’t think of searchability as a factor when making a page or a tag, or essentially the taxonomy of trying to create pages in your network. So let’s, let’s talk about that. If we dive into your workflow.

Uh, how, and I’m going to play like this person who is a first time Roam user. How do you make your notes searchable? Let’s just start from there.

Cherry Sun: [00:07:37] Yeah. So, um, let’s say for example, I, there are a lot of sort of numbers that you often use in the lab. Um, like reoccurring things, for example, the concentrations that you use to, um, make up sort of reagents at or yeah, just like numbers that you often use that are standardized.

And so I would make things like a standard seating density for a six well plate and by typing seating, density six well plate, I would always just be able to embed that and do an experiment or into a protocol or into my planning for an experiment. Um, so that’s like one. Uh, I guess kind of way that I use that to make these facts always accessible also to do with my experiments, like different protocols and different steps each block again, because it’s a block referencing and it can essentially exist anywhere in your database.

I can pull those protocols out anytime that I want to as well.

Norman Chella: [00:08:37] That’s interesting because, not only searchability, but the, I’m not sure if it’s a work that repeatability. Of a block since you have standardized numbers or at least like SOPs for a specific experiments or for specific, um, shall we say results or output that you want to achieve and I take it that you do like multiple experiments at the same time and you just let it. You know, you just measure it over time. Is that how it works?

Cherry Sun: [00:09:06] Um, yeah. And so you’d be collecting data over time. So as I would be doing that, these things, I would be entering into my daily notes page within my lab notes section.

And then also. Um, I talked about my act of cultures page, um, in the article and that’s where I have a running timeline or schedule for every cultural plate that I had growing in the incubator at that time. And so now in my linked references section for each daily notes page that comes up, I have this organically generated.

Right. Well, I did input, but quite easily because of my phrase express, like I’m expansions, so I can type a few characters and now I’ve got my whole schedule laid out. Um, yeah. So, and because of that, I’ve now got this organically formed, semi-organically formed list of things that I should be looking at that day.

And I can at a glance, um, see kind of where all my cultures are at and just keep an eye on things really easily. It’s taken a lot of just having to have these thoughts that clog up your brain when you could be thinking about more valuable things or like forming more valuable trains of thoughts. Yeah. Then just keeping track.

Norman Chella: [00:10:19] Yeah. Roam is a pretty good place to outsource a lot of the planning. That involves, what’s the word for it? Just the standard procedures that just happen over time. You know that you know that this, you know, that you have to do it, but it’s not really a good use of your time when you’re touching it.

Cherry Sun: [00:10:37] It shouldnt have to occupy your brain, right?

Like if you can outsource it and someone can run it in the background for you while you’re doing the higher level planning and optimization. Yeah. You know, that’s what Roam does.

Norman Chella: [00:10:50] It feels like you’re building your own lab assistant. Yeah, it feels like it, like you have your own like assistant and instead of telling that person like, Hey, you should, uh, can you plan that like seven days for me or at least tell me, what do I need to check, uh, today instead that you have like a, I believe you used phrase express, is that the name?

Cherry Sun: [00:11:07] Yeah, that’s the program. That’s the text expander

Norman Chella: [00:11:11] Similar for our listeners, similar to keyboard Maestro, uh, except that I believe this is also for windows, which is fantastic. So I do have to check it out cause I’m on windows. Oh, okay. This is, this is interesting because now that you not only keep track of the different experiments that you’re running you also to a certain extent, doing your project management, your tasks, and you are recording all your data.

On the daily notes page, as opposed to trying to find the right page to put those measurements in or those results in, when you started doing that in your experiments or so when you started implementing roam into your research workflow, how has the results change over time? And what I mean by that is not that you have Roam to help you with your work. How has your work been? Like, how has your work changed as a result?

Cherry Sun: [00:11:59] I think I definitely spend less time planning on the next day’s dry lab work. Like I can kind of flip up my Roam and know exactly what I’m doing that day. Right. Um, so more of it is just spent on. Yeah, I, I just don’t have to spend as much time on this dry planning. That’s the awesome thing.

But it also means that s when I’m trying to report things to people, like when people ask me questions about certain reagents, how I made certain things up, where certain things are in the lab, I, if I know that I’ve recorded it in my Roam, I can really, really easily find it. And it’s down to these nit, these details, like for example, I like calibrated some machines today and I recorded exactly what I calibrated them at, what was the problem with each one?

And so the next time I need to know when it was calibrated. Well, it’s linked to my daily notes page, and the details will be there as well. And I think the interesting thing is, I guess. With the daily notes page, the date is the smallest sort of metadata tag that you need to apply to some of your thoughts for it to make sense in a context like chronologically, that’s kind of one axes in which you can define your thoughts in.

And I think that’s a smallest metadata tag, almost that you need for it to organically generate. So you see how it makes sense as almost like a bullet journal replacement, right? Like there’s a rolling log. So I guess for me, it’s almost like I’m using it as this massive extended bullet journal slash experimental planner slash lab book, like this big wonky five notebooks in one kind of thing.

Norman Chella: [00:13:46] Do you tend to use bullet journals a lot? Like when you’re writing things on paper,

Cherry Sun: [00:13:51] Um, yeah, I’ve been relying on bullet journaling as a system since like early high school. Can’t seem to move away from it and Roam like immediately make sense to me for that as well, because it was so easy to just go out to do and command enter it’s done.

Yeah. Like it was just really easy to seamlessly transition into using it as all of those things.

Norman Chella: [00:14:12] So when you started using Rome, did you stop writing bullet journals? Like on paper?

Cherry Sun: [00:14:17] Yep, completely. And it was awesome, because that meant that my writing time, like my actual paper and pen writing time in my journal was now just journaling for like mental health and wellbeing, just for like, I wanted to write for enjoyment and it doesn’t have to be this like, sort of shared space anymore between my tasks and daily concerns in the lab versus what I’m just wanting to write about that day.

It’s been great in that sense too.

Norman Chella: [00:14:48] Why is that better for you? And the reason why I’m asking this is because I noticed that it’s better for me as well. Since outsourcing a lot of tasks and project management, uh, to my Roam. And essentially that is the place where all the things that I’m trying to create to contribute to the world live in my Roam, but all the thoughts that I have for penning down. You know, potential worries, et cetera, et cetera, AKA the journaling goes on pen and paper. Why do you think that it’s important to have that kind of distinction? I would love to hear your take on this as someone who actually firsthand experienced that.

Cherry Sun: [00:15:25] Um, for me, it was a really relieving to have like a complete work-life separation.

Like I remember I used to even dislike having my bedroom and my study space in the same room. If I could be able to like have the conditions to separate that. So I think being able to just walk away and feel like this experience is fully for dedicated to this purpose, it felt really good to, it was just cleansing to have those things separated.

Um, And the fact that Roam was already doing the other side of things so much better, you know, it was like you, you had more time to just come and relax and write about things that you cared about. And with your pen and paper experience.

Norman Chella: [00:16:11] Do you get worried about writing all your journaling on pen and paper and not seeing it get referenced like in a Roam system?

Cherry Sun: [00:16:20] I guess for me, I’ve not really thought that it was important. I didn’t really want to track my, like these like work thoughts of my worries and stuff that I was writing in my journal using this like referencing system. Like I was, it’s more for me to just like write and then put away. Um, a lot of it is even just like, not even important things.

It’ll just be like daily ramblings that I want to write. It’s just for an experience really. Um, yeah, so I haven’t really applied that to them though.

Norman Chella: [00:16:53] So I take it. It’s like a combination of just being meditative, right? The ability to write manually on onto paper, whatever is on your mind and you just dump it there and you just leave it, set it and forget it.

I think that’s like a really, I think that’s like one of the most effective methods for really calming someone down. And the theory for that, at least for me, is that by recording it on paper, you have imprinted a past version of yourself just a few seconds ago onto pen and paper. And now that you look at yourself, you look at these words in present time, you can dissociate your past self with your present self.

And then you can look at yourself from a third person point of view, and then you can like review and think like, Oh, this is who I was, or this is what I was writing about. I’m angry because of this. I’m sad because of this. Yeah.

Cherry Sun: [00:17:42] Today I was having a conversation about how someone asked me, how would you feel if from now on every book that you read was written in that person’s handwriting rather than printed intakes. And I thought, Oh, that would actually feel a little bit weird because it felt too personal. Like I was reading somebody’s journal all the time. And so I think like, Handwriting does feel very personal to me. And so I don’t think I was put journaling and such into like a digital format all the time. And so that’s just a personal preference to me to separate those.

And I think it really just good practice to keep doing that too

Norman Chella: [00:18:21] I never thought about reading someone’s handwriting. It’s too personal to read it all. Okay. So if you, if you were to have a book in your hand, would you ever write notes on the side? Like marginalia. Or would that be too personal for you to like even consider having that written out for the world to see?

Cherry Sun: [00:18:40] So I was, I would love taking margin notes in like journal articles that I’m reading. Um, but they always have to go onto Roam. So before, like I would really actually enjoy printing out the paper or having the paper on my iPad and writing out margin notes or underlining things directly on there.

But now that my margin notes, these supposed margin notes are going directly into Rome because I know that I’m going to want to have them recorded in there anyways. I’m, I’ve skipped the writing step now. Um, so I guess because of that low friction of moving your thoughts, there’s marginal notes and ideas and ramblings into Rome and expanding on them and turning them into something concrete as you think along within these bullet points.

Right? So because of that, you don’t really have to think as much, um, Yeah, about the whole note taking process.

Norman Chella: [00:19:38] It really is a lot easier to integrate notes. No matter what form it is, whether it’s like margin notes for what you just captured from the internet, like a, like a book or a journal article or something, and then just put it into Roam and then just see it grow over time and connect, uh, with all these notes.

So I’m actually curious now that you’ve done a lot of that is there anything that you’ve created as a result of working in Roam. I know that you’re working, I know that you’re measuring a lot of things in your experiments, but what about things that you uniquely created because you’re using Roam?

Cherry Sun: [00:20:11] I feel like Roam is so like  functional to me that I don’t feel like I create really anything on it. I guess. Yeah, because I guess I’ve got like a invoice management system now. Like, I guess that’s something I’ve created. So it’s just with a simple, like hashtag invoice and so I can find anything right. And I write what it was for and how much it was. And it’s just as simple. You know, a few seconds to input and now I don’t have to ever worry about losing the invoice.

So it was just like really little things. I don’t think I’m, I don’t think I’m terribly creative with it.

Norman Chella: [00:20:43] So the focus of Roam for your, for your case would be. Just the, the functionality of it and what you’re doing, right? Like it was there. There’s no, like, I’m assuming there’s no like large project or large article or a book or something or other that you may be thinking of creating and then you can just link all the references together and then you might build it in the future?

Cherry Sun: [00:21:04] I just liked the idea that every time I’m reading a paper and that I’m putting double brackets around key terms and ideas and, um, even like key insights, right. That these things are always linking together.

And that when I come to, um, sort of wanting to look at a particular node or wanting to write a review, wanting to write an article, wanting to, you know, look at some relationships between even certain proteins like that. These could be there because I’ve thought about them before and read them somewhere.

And that one memory of something in that network of connections could bring this whole series of ideas back to me again. And that all the thinking that I do and recording that I do. Essentially, I know that it won’t be going to waste. At some point I know I’m going to be needing this because it’s all relevant to my research.

Norman Chella: [00:21:56] Okay. I like that. I really like that. Like it’s I feel like you already have a very sure intent. Every time you put anything into Roam. I think that’s, I think that distinction is very good, important, because there will be other roam users who wouldn’t use it with a specific intent. They would just take in what’s interesting to them. What’s curious to them a thought or a quote from somewhere. They don’t know what they’re going to use it for, but they believe that having it in Roam may lead it to it being surfaced up later in the future, but it looks like in your case, you were like, Oh, okay. It’s just perfectly for understanding what I’m interested in right now and like that circle that’s truly yours. I like that.

Cherry Sun: [00:22:35] If I think take a step back. It’s like my life right now is basically very thesis driven. And so my Roam is very thesis driven. Yeah.

Norman Chella: [00:22:46] And just to give an idea, actually, for people listening. Oh, what is your thesis on? If you could give me a, a dumbed down version for myself to understand.

Cherry Sun: [00:22:55] In a nutshell, my project is that I’m looking at a STEM cell population from the human placenta. And we’ve seen that the STEM cell population has changed and functionalities and placentas where babies are born, dangerously small, and it’s called [[Fetal Growth Restriction]]. So I’m trying to look at the study of this STEM cell population comparing between diseased placenta and normal placenta and seeing whether we can fix those placenta potentially using STEM cell technology.

Norman Chella: [00:23:29] So from what you’ve seen so far, can we fix that?

Cherry Sun: [00:23:33] Um, there’s a lot of potential.

Norman Chella: [00:23:35] Okay. Okay. Cool.

Cherry Sun: [00:23:37] A really exciting field right now in the, um, placenta fields.

Norman Chella: [00:23:40] Why does that excite you?

Cherry Sun: [00:23:44] Um, I guess because STEM cells are quite, there are a lot of tissues with well characterized STEM cell populations, and the placenta is one of those where there actually hasn’t been done so far yet.

And it’s interesting because the placenta is actually probably one of the human tissues where we have probably the best access to, um, if you think about just being able to get them from every every baby that’s born. And because of this amazing access, there’s a huge potential for if we were able to harness these STEM cells and understand them better of what we could apply that to. Yeah. So the placenta is really interesting, I guess, in the STEM cell fields in that way.

Norman Chella: [00:24:26] Okay. And, uh, hopefully, yeah, with this access to Roam, we can see somebody amazing. The results are more on your thesis as well as, uh, and I take it your RoamBrain article as well. It really covers how you manage your pursuit of trying to achieve this. Okay. Exciting. Okay. This is pretty cool. I’m sure that a lot of our listeners would be very interested in reading more, up, more about it.

And coming out of left field, I know that we were talking about this in a Twitter DMs, that you were preparing a lot for this chat and you set that, uh, you made a page called, uh, square bracket, square bracket, Roam thoughts.

So, could you tell me, uh, what goes into your square bracket, square bracket, Roam Thoughts?

Cherry Sun: [00:25:09] Um, yes. So this is where I’ve just been like every time I’m having a Roam thought lately, I’m just talking on this page and I suddenly realized that Roam was actually helps me sort of bring to life, this project that I’ve been meaning to do since I was probably like 10 or 11, I remember having this idea where I wanted to make an A4 poster for every subject that I was interested in.

And then I would put it on my wall and so now I have this like a full poster, summarizing key information on a topic and it would, and I have similar topics sort of together so that I can think about them together. And I never made a habit, obviously because it’s a lot of work and it was always just a thought and I was like, Oh, I’d be so cool if I do this. Now that I’m using Roam and I’m using these square brackets to turn these key terms that I care about into pages, and these pages are accumulating whether by me making these connections or just accidentally even via unlinked references, right.

That they’re accumulating all these keynotes and things that I stumbled upon. And that, that were my thoughts rather than just random information coming off Wikipedia. Right. Those are the thoughts that I put into Roam that it was that project, but way better. It was like that, like automated as well.

Norman Chella: [00:26:34] So are you printing these four posters out for every subject you’re interested in

Cherry Sun: [00:26:38] There’s just no need to.

Norman Chella: [00:26:40] There’s no need to, okay. Yeah. Cause I’m assuming like one dedicated page, age as something, I call it a resource base. Right. If it’s like one field that you’re interested in, everything goes in there from your linked references, being an inbox for everything related to it, to the actual content of the page itself, being an organized version of your notes.

From like overview to specifics. Oh, I like that. I find it interesting that actually that you, you had this project since you were 11 for every subject you’re interested in. So wait, what, what are some maybe outside of STEM cells and placentas what’s are some of the subjects that you were interested in?

Cherry Sun: [00:27:16] Oh, I was. At first, it was just that I wanted to be well versed in a lot of things. And I was just going to start from A to Z and just keep doing different topics. Um, just so I knew a lot about the world, but then I guess the major ones that went up were things about sharks and snakes.

Norman Chella: [00:27:35] Why sharks and snakes?

Cherry Sun: [00:27:37] I don’t know. Just when you’re 10, 10, 11. I don’t know.

Norman Chella: [00:27:41] So you kept this habit up until now, or at least this, uh, this project running in your head up until now.

Cherry Sun: [00:27:47] Always been thinking about it, because I always thought it would be really useful at first, just from like an interest perspective.

But then now that I have this targeted, like placental STEM cell field that I’m interested in and trying to move forward in, it’s like a really, yeah, like again, thesis driven sort of process.

Norman Chella: [00:28:08] Cool. I actually do want to see these A4 posters, uh, sometime soon. Oh, that’d be cool. Oh, okay. I, yeah, maybe we can do something like a lot of Roam users would probably benefit a lot just from having a page that is dedicated to learning a field.

I’m not sure for what purpose, maybe it’s the pursuit of intellectual activity by learning more and more about this one thing you’re like, Oh, each and every point is, you know, it’s a, it’s a little tinge of excitement. Uh, and, uh, I, and I think you would understand that a lot, if you have like five to 10 different pages of 10 different things that you’re just like, Oh, snakes or sharks, right.

Cherry Sun: [00:28:47] It’s one of the things that excites me and like makes me want to input things into Roam is that every time I put something I’m like, My brain tells me like, Oh, this might form a connection somewhere down the line. You know, like this could form a connection somewhere and that’s, I could stumble upon it again, you know, that’s, I think that’s. Cause there’s always like this initial inertia that you have to overcome to pick up your phone, or pick up your thing and rice, write down the thought phrase that it’s important enough for you to even start to record it.

And I think the notion of thinking, this could still have value and that it’s there somewhere now for me to stumble upon in my own language, that it’s worth doing it.

Norman Chella: [00:29:31] I like that. Beautiful. Having that constant also constantly accessible, which is another thing, another great feature of Roam because as much as you want to make connections between notes on a specific field, regardless of connecting it with past notes or, you know, past experiences that you’ve written down, having that on your phone or on your laptop or on somewhere all the time for you to refer to is really, really useful.

I find I use that a lot when I would, be thinking about, you know, five different fields at the same time, and I would write notes on each one. The ability to tag them to those specifics is just very, very useful. So with all of this, right, this ultra complicated, uh, non organizational, yet able to organize all your thoughts, network thought thinking tool.

Since you’re using it a lot in the lab. I’m actually curious about, whether or not you’ve tried to describe or pitch this tool, like pitch Roam to your colleagues or others in the lab. So could I just ask, how would you describe Roam to someone who hasn’t started using it yet? And maybe have you tried actually showing people, uh, the amazingness that is Roam Research.

Cherry Sun: [00:30:45] So I think, most of the people in my lab around me know that I’m using this tool now to run my life. It tends to be on my screen all the time. So it’s pretty obvious if I was to pitch it to somebody though. It’s like if you’ve, if you’ve had the experience of having too many thoughts, flying around at the same time, but under, but feeling like they all have value, but not being able to consolidate enough of them before you lose them, then you need to use Roam.

If I was to pitch it. I think at the, the highest level of that is what it does. It removes, I guess [[Thought loss anxiety]].

Norman Chella: [00:31:38] Thought loss, anxiety?

Cherry Sun: [00:31:40] Yeah. Like, um, yeah,

Norman Chella: [00:31:44] what’s a, what’s what’s your definition of [[Thought loss anxiety]]? I’m curious now.

Cherry Sun: [00:31:49] I think I, as this happens a lot, right. Especially because I’m running for example, multiple experiments at a time. So I have thoughts come up for these multiple experiments at the same time, often I almost feel like I can’t even catch up with recording all of them and not even just recording all of them. The next most important step is then to consolidate each of them and turn them into something concrete that I can then act on.

Right. So I can turn it into my plan for an experiment and that flow needs to happen in one place, um, for it to be easy enough to happen, having to do it in Notion before was just too hard. And so now that I can, now that in my daily notes, I can just put these thoughts down and then sort of reference in my experimental plan page, which I have set up with, or I also wrote about in the article as well, with exp as the starting name of the page.

And those are all my experimental planning pages. And I could just take thoughts that I had from the daily notes page and directly reference it in there. And I knew where it came from. And I could go back to my thought process if I needed to. Um, so yeah, no, no [[Thought loss anxiety]] in that sense.

Norman Chella: [00:33:09] Yeah. I can empathize with that because that happens a lot to me as well.

I’m not sure if, when you’re going about your day and you know, you have like 60,000 thoughts racing through your head. Um, and the ability to capture that and to refer to it later, let’s say in any other app is, is great. You know, it’s, as long as you have those notes written down or like those words written done, it’s fantastic.

But to act on it, to process it, to review it and to edit it for intention or editing with intention is, you know, that’s like steps two to step five. And we won’t have the time and we won’t have to the ability to just relax, sit down and slow down and then think about, okay, I just wrote this, what can I use it for?

I get that a lot, because even though I write as much as I can, uh, with, uh, with any other app, cause I use Google keep naturally just to, just for quick capture it. Yeah. I, I feel that, uh, anxiety a lot. I feel like I haven’t written enough and I think Roam is like a really good, it’s really good a solution for that.

Cause it forgives you for writing chaos. At least that’s how I look at it. Like, I don’t know.

Cherry Sun: [00:34:21] Do you really feel like you can start wherever and it can still turn into something as you go along.

Norman Chella: [00:34:28] Yeah. Do you, for, for a lot of like personal notes or maybe things not really related to your experiments, do you tend to look back on your past notes and edit them a lot?

Or do you keep them just as they are and interpret it that way?

Cherry Sun: [00:34:45] I think I tend to, I do tend to go back and edit them a lot. So I would look at the linked references and sort of if things were quite important to me and I thought they really made sense I would drag them up. So I don’t make a specific attempt to curate the pages, but for things that I really care about, I will go in and do some ordering. Yeah.

Norman Chella: [00:35:10] Okay. Okay. So some level organization. Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah. Also another quick question, uh, because I, and I think I would love to hear your take on this now that you’re using Roam Research as a lab book. What would a future lab book look like? Not that you have this tool with you, do you think that there’s going to be, do you think that there’s like should be a little bit like a specific feature that Roam should have that maybe could accelerate your experimentation?

Or have you thought about like crazy ideas in your Roam thoughts that you want to see happen in Roam research?

Cherry Sun: [00:35:46] So I think first of all, one cool direction that I think it would go in is like, this lab book would become a lab group wide thing. So the oldest students under my PI, my supervisor. We would all have access to this shared Roam space and like a lot of the stuff that we think about overlaps.

Yeah. Our readings would overlap, um, and experimental ideas and contributions would probably also, at least we would have shared inputs, right. So I think that would be quite an exciting thing that would happen in the future. And in terms of, I guess, image management.

So like I presented a lot of images, um, and sort of comparisons between images and presenting figures. So the ability to like, you know, how Notion has galleries.

Something like that, but less cumbersome to manipulate.

Norman Chella: [00:36:56] Less cumbersome to manipulate. Okay. Alright. Roam Research team if you are listening to this, image management, highly requested, especially by members of academia and PhDs. I do agree. Uh, image management is, is something that I would use a lot as well, namely, because, because I still have a hybrid system when it comes to writing notes, I still use pen and paper a lot.

And that’s mainly because I have different modes of writing or different modes of articulation. Context-switching is extremely important for me. So who I am when I’m writing is different from who I am, when I type, which is the distinction is really, really useful. I’m sure that you might feel something similar when you’re writing, like, you know, journaling on paper, and then typing in Roam.

Having the, uh, images thing would be really useful because a lot of people would, you know, upload scans of their manual, like pen and paper, or they have diagrams maybe such as, you know, what you have to present to other people. Now I’m just curious, how would you pitch Roam to your supervisor? I think that’d be very interesting to like see as a situation.

Cherry Sun: [00:37:58] Yeah. Um, I guess I would pitch it as a set up once and run your lab forever kind of notebook kind of lab book. Yeah. So it’s a. Yeah, set up once and automate forever.

Norman Chella: [00:38:16] Who would own it? Cause you know, that you have shared graphs. Like at the moment we have shared graphs as a feature and there’s like multiple editors and one admin.

Do you think that like, Oh, the supervisor should be the main admin or is it best that since, you know the tool best, you can help with managing the knowledge graph and then other people contribute.

Cherry Sun: [00:38:37] Yeah, I guess the latter for now it would be, yeah, I guess it would be cool if you could just have your own separate one and they’re still linked together somehow right.

Norman Chella: [00:38:48] Ah, okay. Yeah, that’ll be really good.

Cherry Sun: [00:38:52] You kind of still want a thought privacy likes to somehow separate that. Yeah if you had your personal thing and a separate graph or something,

Norman Chella: [00:39:01] Yeah. It’s definitely in the roadmap or you can, um, refer to. Block like do block references across every single knowledge graph in Roam

so maybe not, maybe not have like a shared experiment graph, but, uh, from someone’s graph, they can refer to, you know, blocks from yours. And then from there you can, you know, uh, aggregate all the data together. I’m sure you can create something pretty interesting. Oh, I would love to see that. I would love to see like, uh, a research team with their own graph, like their own Roam graph, and then just dive into it. Like, I’d be really fascinated. Like

Cherry Sun: [00:39:40] If we just like each had a shared,  like readings graphs, right? Like this is all your readings notes go. And all of those are shared across the lab group. And then your, um, results and data were all shared across the lab group. It could just be those kinds of things.

Norman Chella: [00:39:54] Yeah. Would, um, I think I also pair up with their own comments or discussions or margins, because if you can, since you know that where it’s based on daily notes, You can track essentially discussions if people have their own dedicated block to like, talk about a specific reference or talk about a specific reading.

If say you’re looking at one article and you’re like, Oh, okay. The supervisor said the following, my comment. And then from there, reply to somebody else, I think that’d be pretty awesome. Like the ability to map that out on a graph will be a fantastic. And also Cherry, what does Roam mean to you?

Cherry Sun: [00:40:35] Uh, right now, it plays very much the part of my personal assistant. I would say. Or a lab assistant system, as you said before as well. Um, and I guess it means to me, just a way to have more brain hygiene. The thoughts that are only important momentarily in your day can be stored for later to still create value later. Like they don’t continue to be valuable, they don’t continue to be useful to you throughout the day. You just want to get it down and move on. Um, but you know that they’re still there for you sometime later. Hygiene from those things sticking around, I guess.

Norman Chella: [00:41:27] Yeah. Jotting it down, keeping it for later and with the power of Roam, have it surface up when it becomes relevant while you’re going about your days measuring and working on your experiments. Cherry, thank you so much. If we want to contact you for anything related to your workflow, your thesis, all about STEM cells and, uh, You know, or on placentas or really just on how you do things, how do we contact you and where can we find you?

Cherry Sun: [00:41:56] Um, probably just Twitter is best. My handle, I think is I don’t know what it is, @cherrysun606

Norman Chella: [00:42:03] yes. Okay.

Cherry Sun: [00:42:04] Yeah. Um, I’m meaning to get more Twitter active, I actually only came onto Twitter because of Roam.

Norman Chella: [00:42:11] Oh, okay.

Cherry Sun: [00:42:12] Yeah. I was never on Twitter before and I realized that most of the power was in of course the #roamcult.

And so I had, I had to be on Twitter and now I’m realizing there’s also a lot of power in sort of academic Twitter as well. So yeah, meaning to be more active there.

Norman Chella: [00:42:28] Wait, how is, how is academic Twitter? I’ve never really dabbled in it before. How is it different?

Cherry Sun: [00:42:33] It’s very active, um, people that are constantly sharing papers and discussing and like forming collaborations.

My supervisor said to me that, uh, quite a few of our collaborations were formed because of conversations over Twitter and stumbling on each other’s work that way. So yeah, it’s, it’s massively powerful for just networking and seeing what’s going on in your field.

Norman Chella: [00:42:55] Oh, awesome. Okay. I should totally check them out.

Yeah. Like if there’s any, um, any notable profiles around, around your research that, you know, people can follow all those specific profiles. Yeah. That’d be great because we can just yeah. Add them in to the public Roam graph. So for those listening, uh, all of everything that we talked about, uh, will be in the show notes, which is basically the RoamFM graph.

And, uh, I have to say, I apologize because I stopped writing on the fly notes halfway through, because it was just so fascinating listening to how you work on your experiments. So, Cherry, thank you so much and I will see you on Twitter.

Cherry Sun: [00:43:31] Cool. Thanks. See you. Thank you for having me.

Norman Chella: [00:43:38] Thank you for listening to the show, make sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcast listening app, and for a full version of the show notes. To this episode, you can check out the public Roam graph. The link to that will be in the description right below for more updates, comments, feedback, and suggestions. You can reach

Cherry Sun: [00:43:56] out to me @RoamFM on

Norman Chella: [00:43:58] Twitter. Keep roaming your thoughts, and I will see you in the next episode. Take care.