All 5 entries tagged Elle

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March 13, 2012

The world of work – by Elle

Well, last week certainly turned out to be interesting as I experienced my first taste of redundancies and life in industry! I managed to time the first day at my industrial sponsor with the same day as they announced the next round of job losses. So that was fun...

I arrived after a very early train journey up North, and was met by someone I hadn't met before as my industrial supervisor was in his meeting to find out if he still had a job (fair enough!). This comes just 6 months after he moved sites because the original site he worked on was shut down last year. I waited around for him to come out of the meeting and had a coffee with another CASE award student whilst I waited.

When he finally appeared two hours later the news wasn't exactly wonderful and the whole atmosphere of the office I was in was pretty depressing. Lots of people standing around talking about their fate and by 3 pm that afternoon most people had left. The same happened on Friday. In two days I managed to complete 30 minutes of radioactivity training and the SHE lab safety training I needed to, but the rest of the time was spent filling my own time.

The up side is that I managed to be fairly productive and continued with writing the introduction to the chapter that will be based on my most recent work, but it was a fairly depressing start to what I was hoping would be a fresh and welcome change from the lab at Warwick.

I'm back there again this week, fingers crossed it will be more productive! In case it isn't I am packing up a stack of papers to read so I can do more reading/writing.

It did get me thinking about life working in industry and weighing up the options of where to find jobs once this PhD is finished. Do we think the grass is greener on one side or the other? What do other people think?

March 01, 2012

Bored of work – by Elle

So its been a little while since I wrote a blog, and I'm not really sure why I haven't. I haven't been doing much else with my time, or so it seems. I don't have any instrument time available to run experiments until April at the earliest, and so I'm trying to do other things to fill my time - organising conference travel/accommodation, writing abstracts, writing a presentation/poster, producing (shock horror) a thesis plan. This last bit was definitely the scariest, but its been sat in a corner ever since while I procrastinate with other things.

change of plan

I took on an extra two days of demonstrating this week, and I've got more to do next week which will fill some of my time, but in some ways I would rather have a block of days with nothing planned where I can sit down and really focus on padding out the thesis plan with some text. I could write the first two chapters now as they are both introduction type chapters and aren't really going to change much over the next 6 months. I could have written chapter 1 in my first year, but of course I didn't. I don't know how to start, I think that is the problem. I think I am also put off knowing that even if I do sit down and write something, it will get put on hold in a days time while I do something else.

Its making getting up in the morning and going into the lab pretty frustrating and demotivating.

I'm off to my industrial sponsor for a placement next week, backwards and forwards between Warwick and Cheshire for a bit, but I don't know how I'm getting there or where I am staying yet so it doesn't feel real. I think once I get there I might get some motivation back for my PhD, but at the minute I am definitely just plodding along...

P.S. sorry for the fed up blogging! I'll get back into it soon...

February 13, 2012

Remind me why I came back? – by Elle

I didn't know about Murphy's Law until I read the previous blog post, which seemed incredibly relevant and made me feel slightly better about today. I need some motivation to stay in the lab and do something productive today because all I feel like doing is going home and starting on the mountain of washing I appear to have flown back from France.

Before I went away, I was feeling pretty good about the PhD and I knew what I needed to do when I go back from holiday. I had one week of mass spec time booked for when I got back, and then I didn't have any more time until at least April... bit of an issue in your final year, but I was prepared for it.

I wasn't, however, prepared to get back and discover that it is once again broken and awaiting an engineer. Arghhhhh! Goodbye planned experiments, hello stress! I should have stayed on holiday! At least I was making some progress on my skiing ability out there. I am now at stalemate with my PhD once again.

I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself and at one point nearly put my coat back on and walked home.

Anyway, after a few tears and a coffee (plus a quick chat with my Dad to vent frustration) I have booked a meeting with my supervisor later in the week to discuss a seminar talk I need to prepare, and decided to focus on things I do have control over. Like writing a this blog and starting to write some articles for the Research Exchange. It might not help the PhD progress, but its certainly more productive than going home!

It made me wonder how other people pick themselves up when faced with frustrations and interruptions in their PhD? How do you re-motivate yourself when you hit a low point and get going again?

February 02, 2012

Taking a break – by Elle

So after my last blog panicking about time left and some of the worries that come along with this, this post might sound a little strange, but I’m off on holiday!

Not today, but come Saturday morning at some ridiculous time in the morning I will be heading to the airport and flying off to go skiing for a week in France. Bring it on! A whole week of worrying more about remembering how to ski (I still do not classify myself as a skier despite the picture below fooling everyone) and how cold it is outside rather than the PhD and experiments.


But that isn’t the main thing that excites me today. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to go on holiday, but at the same time things just got interesting in my research. A side project that I started to fill in the time between receiving samples from my industrial sponsor has actually turned out to be more interesting, exciting and successful than anything else I’ve done so far. I’m really looking forward to continuing with it, getting the experiments done and putting the results together.

This isn’t something I have experienced much of over the course of my PhD. Most of the time I find it hard to motivate myself with aspects of the research, especially when a lot of it has involved frustrating experiments that feel like a waste of time.

Its rare times like these when I get excited by my work that I remember why I am doing a PhD and I think we all have to hold onto to get us through the low points. Hopefully reading this you might remember some of the highlights you may have had so far, or remind you that sometimes this process can be quite exciting. It just doesn’t happen very often for most of us in my experience!

Fingers crossed the holiday gives me a break to relax and I'll come back refreshed and ready to tackle these last 8 months. It might be the last proper holiday I get for a while...

January 28, 2012

The countdown begins – by Elle

It feels strange to be starting this blog so late into my PhD, but perhaps it will be a good outlet for me over the next few months. I'm going to start with something that's been playing on my mind a lot now we're in 2012 - my submission year!

I have 9 months of funding left, or I did until January flew past. Now it's 8. I have a vague idea of what I need to do research-wise to have enough for my thesis and a vague plan of timings of how to get there. Despite having this fairly sorted in my head, I am still completely freaked out when someone asks me "How is the PhD going?", "what are you going to do afterwards?", "when do you finish?" or worst of all "have you started writing yet?" I clam up and tell them how much funding I have left, alongside other non-committal answers that don't really answer anything but get me out of a sticky situation.


Why are these questions so scary? Maybe it's the expectation that after nearly 7 years of University education I should have a clear idea of what I want to do afterwards, or maybe it's the reliance on other people I still have at this point that is worrying me.

It's all very well planning to be finished in the lab by the end of June to give me 3 months of funded writing up, but when you have to share instrument time with other people (and mass specs break all the time) things don't always go to plan. Combine that with waiting to receive samples from an industrial sponsor and a June finish is looking unlikely!

I've always been fairly organised and like to know that if I have a deadline, I'll have finished in time. I think that's what annoys me about needing to rely on other people, especially when one of the major people (my supervisor) is a very last minute person.

I am actually looking forward to pulling everything together and writing up. I just want to know when I'm going to get there...

Does anyone else panic about this sort of thing, or it is just me?!

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