All 9 entries tagged Ian

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May 13, 2012

Preparation for Euro heartache talks and game! – by Ian

Hi all. On Thursday week 7 (also known as June 7th) the PhD network is going to host an event with 3 short talks (5 mins) loosely based around the impending Euro 2012 competition, followed by a Euro (not all football!) based game.

We are calling for people to send us a title for the talks and would be interested in any topic, from your favourite Euro moments, how much Southgates penalty miss has destroyed your life to how stupid and over paid footballers are (in your opinion!).

In terms of the game, we plan to give each group a choice of 5 research areas, a choice of 5 Euro nations and a choice of 5 random pictures and teams have to come up with a research title. For example:


So for this example, Borris likes to ride his bike, the Netherlands is known to be flat. Therefore one title could be 'Calculating how much energy Britain would save if we flattened our landscapes and all rode bikes!' Obviously not a well thought through example! However on the day teams will have 15 minutes to make choices, come up with a title and prepare a 3 minute presentation, with prizes for the best!

What do you think about this idea? Any volunteers for a football themed talk? Please look out for the chance to register and hope to see you at the event, with drinks and nibbles as usual!

November 09, 2011

This one's for George! – by Ian

Naming cars is common. Boats have names plastered down their hulls. In our group we name our research equipment!


I have spent many hours over the past 3 years using our Asylum Research MFP-3D, or to use its correct name, George. The name came about due to his resemblance to the George Foreman grills, with a little handle on his isolation cage just like the grills. He has been very reliable, capable of far greater things than I make him do, yet he is always happy to see me in the morning!

Now I am in my final year, if I move else where I will miss George and how at times he seems to work best for me so I raise my glass to George!

Does any one else name their equipment? (Research equipment only, I see you at the back giggling)

October 17, 2011

23 ways to improve my PhD! – by Ian

Hi all. I have just signed up to the 23 things program run by the library. The program is a blog based course that can be done on my own schedule and promises to teach me 23 different digital features or programs that should help me organise, promote and save time during my PhD.

I really like that the program is blog based and therefore I can access the content whenever I want, with the ability to look at it again in the future. Blog posts comfirm your understanding of the digital features each week, and can be made so only the people running the course can see them!

I hope to get a greater understanding of the programs that can help me achieve my PhD on time (if I am lucky...) and promote myself in order to get further career development. I believe you can sign up by creating a blog and registering at:

It only took 5 minutes and I look forward to the course!

July 06, 2011

It's all gone quiet! – by Ian

It's all gone very quiet on campus. There are no longer swarms of people desperately trying to get to lectures on time. The pubs and eating outlets are empty. In my daily trip to costcutters I no longer have to wait 10 minutes to be served!

This time of year was very bizarre in the first year of my PhD. Since I did my undergraduate degree here I was used to a busy campus for 4 years. Then quiet.

It certainly has advantages, the shops and banks are empty, parking spaces are available any time of day and there are fewer project students to help (and the Chemistry common room has milk for longer).

However towards the end of the summer, around the start of September, I start to get excited about the start of term. Places on campus will open longer, more new faces about and the department has a whole new load of people to meet. I guess as Kenneth said in his blog, campus can be a lonely place, especially if you were a solitary researcher in the arts.

At least football pitches should be easy to book with the undergrads gone!

July 04, 2011

The good times of a PhD! – by Ian

Much of the time spent as a PhD can be frustrating and filled with angst and worry. Research doesn't seem to progress, the equipment breaks down or the material I use is not pure enough. The daily grind can really get to you quickly. Then there is writing, be it a poster, presentation, report or paper. In your eyes it never seems to flow, or you worry no one will care about it (possibly true)!


However this makes the good times in a PhD all the more rewarding: when you pass the internal viva to carry on to the next year, when the presentation is finished or when a paper is accepted in a journal! This week I have a paper coming out in applied physics letters (co-authored by Luke Rochford, David Clare, Paul Sullivan and Tim Jones). I am determined not to let the equipment breaking and research not working get me down just for one week!

July 01, 2011

Conferences: posters vs talks – by Ian

Hi all. Most PhD students get to go to two or three medium to large conferences (at least in Chemistry). Most supervisors get the student to submit for a talk. However some then say if you do not get a talk then you can not go (especially if the conference is in the USA).

I guess the idea behind this is that the work will not get as much publicity if only a poster is presented and so it is not worth the money and students time. I strongly disagree however, I have presented a poster at a couple of large conferences in the USA (5000+ people) and with such a large amount of people talks are short and can get easily forgotten compared to keynote speakers.

Posters on the allow you to get direct feedback from both your peers and also senior members of the field. In the talks I have done very little feedback was possible apart from a couple of questions at the end. For example at a poster session I managed to speak to one of the top professors working on similar research for around 15 minutes and then to several members of his group. The feedback can also help generate ideas for further research. Also it gives an opportunity for networking and increasing the amount of citations your papers get.

Use this as an arguement to still be able to go to the conferences you want to attend!

June 30, 2011

How the internet changed the PhD! – by Ian

Hi all. I went to the discussion yesterday in the Wolfson exchange on how the internet has changed media. It highlighted the massive impact it has had on news, advertisements, and physical media. However this got me thinking about the impact of computers and the internet on PhD life (from a science point of view).

I remember asking my supervisor how he did literature searches in his PhD and he explained how he would spend hours in the library archives searching for literature. He would have to spend quite a while checking the new journals as they came in also. Since there was no Igor Pro, graphs were hand drawn (!) and must have taken an age to plot. Also collaborations must have been much harder, particularly trans Atlantic, since you couldn't just skype or send the latest word copy of a paper draft!

I think it is easy to forget how easy we now have it compared to the past, searching web of knowledge from the office, reading advance articles in your pyjamas whilst eating breakfast. Data is easier to manage, copy and plot, with many programs making analysis much simpler. I am glad I am doing my PhD at this point in time and not 25 years ago!

June 17, 2011

Life after the PhD – by Ian

What happens after my PhD?

life after phd

That's the question I have been asking myself a lot recently, in the late part of my third year of four. In a few months I will stop experiments and have to start writing the dreaded thesis. However that is not as scary as what will I do next. As a PhD you set your own goals and your work is your own. I enjoyed looking after students, while still learning everyday off others! What will I do next? I don't know yet, however I doubt it will offer the same rewards, frustration and panic as a PhD project does, even if its in the same area of science!

I do not think I would swop the PhD experience for anything. You learn so much about your abilities and new skills such as time management, team work and analytical skills. But something has to come next . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

June 05, 2011

How different PhDs work (a scientist's view) – by Ian

Hi all! This is my first blog, I am a third year (out of four) PhD student in the Chemistry department.

For my first topic I wanted to find out how people from other departments go about their PhD since, from the limited number of non chemist PhD students I have talked to, each PhD seems to be set up differently! This stems from a discussion that I had with my brother (a second year PhD at another university) after he seemed so shocked that I had not even started writing my thesis yet.


I think that there are both large differences and also similarities between a science PhD and one in arts. There also seems to be some differences within subjects that are seen to be similar, such as chemistry and physics.

Hopefully, people will comment on how their PhD works so everyone (and especially me!) has more of an understanding of what goes on.

Anyway, how a chemistry PhD seems to generally work:

First couple of months: Get given a topic by your supervisor, read up and start some initial lab work. Write a short 3 month literature review report.

Rest of year one and year two: Get as many lab results as possible, publishing as you go in journals if the results are good, yearly panic with a long first year (40 – 50 page) and short second year update (20 pages) accompanied by a mini Viva with two academic staff.

Third year: Panic sets in, do as much lab work as possible and tie up loose ends in data sets.

Then start with a blank word/latex document and spend 5 months writing a 150 to 200 page, concise scientific thesis. This contains roughly 25% background literature, 25% on the techniques you have used and 50% results and discussion on why you deserve a PhD! Then the dreaded Viva (one external academic, one internal). . . . . . . .

So thats the basics of a chemistry PhD, I hope you can comment on how this is different for your subject and how it is also similar!

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