September 16, 2013

Please pray for me and a day in my PhD!

Hi all,

Another Monday flys around and I find myself sat at my desk, mind whirring, thinking of what I need to get done this week, in what order, who I need to speak to and what I need to chase up. So, I spent my first hour flying through the e-mails that have appeared since Friday and getting myself up to date with what I need to do in the lab.

I then spent half an hour talking to one of my supervisors, most of which was a discussion about things we could buy for the lab and grand plans, followed by four hours flapping around in the lab setting up my work for the day. By mid-afternoon, I needed a ham sandwich and a helping of facebook and BBC news, followed by more e-mails and trying to finish off a few small tasks whilst wondering where the day had actually gone.

I am now finishing the day waiting for my precious gel to run and tell me that everything is going to be ok. I'll let you know how it goes in my next blog.......hopefully I will look at it and something will make the mean time......cross your fingers for me!

September 13, 2013

Life post–PhD

This week I have started to think more about life post-PhD. As I am coming towards the end of year 3 of 4, I am becoming increasingly aware of the need to think more about what I want to do next. I have been on some courses to consider career options and look at my strengths and weaknesses and I think these have definitely helped me understand the process of job applications and interviews much better. However, I'm still not set on one particular career path- its all still a bit fuzzy!

To be honest, I have never really understood people who know exactly what they want to do. I have always made decisions based on what I am interested in and enjoy doing, as I feel this is really important if you are going to be both successful and happy in any particular role. On reflection I have been quite lucky as things have fallen into place for me at the right time so far, but my need to plan and organise makes this option very nerve-racking for me!

On the one hand I could stay in academia- I have enjoyed my MSc and PhD and I like the independence and flexibility an academic life can offer. However, I am aware of the need to obtain regular funding, of short post-docs and all the additional teaching responsibilities that come with being an academic, so it's difficult to know if I would be happy with this!

The alternative is to move out of direct research and into maybe an admistrative or research support role. I think I would enjoy a change, but I don't know if I would become bored after a short time and seek the challenge and pressure of an academic role again!

So, it seems like there are lots of job options out there, but the number of jobs is variable in the current economic climate. People often ask me what I am going to do after my PhD and they expect a specific job title. It is sometimes difficult to explain that a PhD leaves many options and not just one!

Ah, more thinking to be done I suppose!

September 05, 2013

Labbing, conferencing, general flapping…..

Hi all,

Where has the time gone?! September already and now I have started to see the adverts for Christmas in the shops argh!

I say this as come October I am in the fourth and final year of my PhD!!!!! My supervisors seem to be happy with how everything is progressing and I think I know things will work out well for this last year, but that doesn't stop me from worrying about it!

I think there is an inherent pressure you put on yourself doing a PhD, as personally, I feel it is my responsibility to get the project successfully completed, so any failure within it is difficult not to take personally and I always feel the need to go that extra bit further as it is my work and so I care deeply about its success.

Time has also flown by since my last blog post as I have been sending lots of e-mails, speaking to lots of sales and technical staff from scientific companies about products for my industrial placement work and attending the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn conference where I presented a poster which you can see at:

Despite the general faff of attending a conference i.e. travel, what to bring etc I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit another university campus and speak to some new people. I also felt good about being able to make more people aware of my research! There are lots of opportunities to attend conferences amd courses as a PhD student, and plenty of travel grants awarded by relevant societies that you can join to cover costs your PhD funding doesn't so I would highly recommend it!

The next few weeks are going to be busy PhD ones! I have some undergraduate demonstrating, another symposium based at Warwick that I am presenting a poster at, a writing course, a Vitae Gradschool, plus my work as an IGGY student mentor in addition to lab work to prepare 400 samples for sequencing and then work in Somerset come November for my industrial placement!

So, right now is both an exciting and nerve-racking time in my PhD! Watch this space for more reports on how things go!

August 19, 2013

I strangely like Mondays…......

I got into uni today mourning the fact that it was Monday again and my weekend away from my PhD was over....again. Shouldn't the weekend be three days long? It sometimes feels like by the time I have actually caught up on some sleep and ran around doing a few chores it's already Monday again argh!

But as I sit here, trying my best to be productive, I am starting to think that there is something strangely satifisying about a Monday- it's the start of the week, a day where you can wrap up things from last week and plan your next week ahead. I always seem to quite enjoy leaving for home on a Monday, knowing that everything is in order and feeling that turning up has been a useful thing!

I sometimes find when I have a Monday off that it feels like the rest of the week is a catch-up! Maybe I need to relax a bit more before I send myself crazy! Saying that I am rather looking forward to the bank holiday weekend (including the Monday off!)...................................enjoy your Monday everyone!

August 12, 2013

Lab stress!

Afternoon everyone!

Recently I have re-started my lab work and it has made me realise just how much time seems to fly during the day when you are trying to do office/admin work and lab work!

Working 9-5ish seems like a pretty sufficient day, I mean eight hours should surely be enough eh?! But when I am doing both lab work and computer-based work, it seems like eight hours is just not enough!

I suppose it doesn't help time management wise that I like to sit down first and plan all my lab work, so I know exactly what I am doing, what equipment I will need etc and then when I get results I like to sit-down again and write them all down and think about what they mean before moving on to the next stage of lab work. However, this does mean that I am methodical in my approach and I think it is important to keep pausing and thinking about what you are doing and why, otherwise you can end up wasting time and energy doing things that are actually irrelevant.

Some people love lab work, others hate it, some like a mix of lab work and computer-based work so I suppose it is a case of people suiting themselves. If you do what you prefer, then I assume that you are more productive, but it is important to be able to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself!

August 06, 2013

Juggling PhD and Life!

Morning all!

These last couple of days I have been having those random 'omg!' moments when I think about how long I have left to finish my PhD and how much work I feel I need to do before the ominous hand in date!

I sometimes wish I could skip to the end of my PhD to actually see the end product and know that I don't need to panic, that everything that needs to be done will be done and so I don't need to do so much flapping- more just getting on with things!

I think I have been waiting for a few things recently and the slight delay in getting everything together has freaked me out a bit! Today I am reading through the details of a protocol I need to get my head around before seeing my supervisor to try and finalise what I need to do and how to get things moving again. Once this protocol is planned out on paper (I love writing in my lab book and planning stuff waaaaayyyy too much!) I think I will feel much more relaxed!

I keep thinking to myself that patience is the key! Things will start to move quickly once everything is in place! With a PhD though, it is difficult to judge your own progress, I am always asking myself- 'Have I done enough today?', 'What realistically can I complete this week?', 'Is this taking too long?' and 'Am I doing enough work?'. I don't think these thoughts ever go away, it's more a case of learning how to manage them in a way that actually helps you be productive rather than hinders you!

Anyway, enough talking more PhD'ing!

Happy blogging all!

July 30, 2013

Seize the day!

Morning all!

Today I am thinking about what motivates me.

I like to keep myself occupied and complete a range of different tasks and goals I set for myself everyday. Regardless of how mundane some of these may be, setting targets and reaching them, no matter how small, motivates me to keep moving forward.

Recently, I have been trying to incorporate more time into my weekly schedule for me to reflect and have a break from academic work. This is mainly in the form of going for a long walk, a session at the gym and swimming pool or taking some more time to complete more simple tasks like food shopping. This helps me to relax and feel more organised and prepared in the non-academic aspects of my life. This in turn helps me to relax more when I am actually working as I know everything else is already taken care of.

I have been altering my schedule whilst awaiting equipment to re-start my lab work- sometime going walking and the gym before coming to uni and sometimes leaving a little earlier to do this or sometimes waiting until the evening depending on how I feel. It can be difficult organising your own time as a PhD student as you question how much time you spend doing different things and whether this is right or wrong. I have come to believe that there is no right or wrong way, just try out different ways of working and see what helps you get what you want to get done in the least stressful way!

How do you organise your schedule? What does or doesn't work for you? How do you manage your work versus everything else in your life?

I leave you with this quote:

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

Thomas A. Edison


Happy blogging all!

July 22, 2013

Pets, Jobs, Cars, Babies and Shopping

Hi all,

The theme of my blog this morning mainly covers the events of my last week/weekend.

The week began with a sad start as I had to put my 16 year old dog to sleep. I know its just a dog, but they become part of the family and the constant presence of pooch trotting around my house brought a smile to my face everyday. We miss her terribly already and it will be a long process getting used to living without her. RIP Gizmo.


On a much brighter note, as of last Thursday, I am the proud Aunty to a new little nephew Killian born at 4.18am weighing 7lb 3oz. He is going to be a heart breaker and I can't wait to see him when my brother brings him over from Ireland for a visit in the next few weeks! So after some sad news there is always something good so I am focusing on thinking positive!

My weekend was also jam-packed with some car shopping (not as fun as it sounds) as the old saxo is starting to creak in irrepairable ways! After much foot stomping and pulling grumpy/indecisive faces, I have a new car on the way next week (please pray for me that I do not crash it pulling out of the garage!). To increase the positive vibe for the weekend after the sad start, I also decided a new handbag was in order and dragged my poor beloved around the shops until I found the one I the meantime he was kept quiet with a remote!

The weekend ended with some hard work helping my boyfriend complete an application for a job he is desperate to get. I felt slightly like a school teacher pep-talking him when he was getting frustrated filling in those ever tiresome application questions that bore you to death before you have finished reading them, but fingers crossed he got the message he wanted to give them across!

And now it is Monday morning, and I have so much to pack into today I can't type fast enough! So enough of my chattering and back to work!

Stay positive kids and happy blogging!

Enjoy your week!

July 19, 2013

What skills do you learn in your PhD?

Now that I am in my third year of my PhD (how time has flown!) I think I can start to put together my thoughts on what it takes to undertake a PhD/what you learn from it.

I wonder if fellow PhD's will agree with me?

Firslty, I think you have to be independent and motivated. Someone once told me that 99% of all the work for your PhD will be done by you and you alone will know the most about it. I think it is important to remember this and take this attitude with you into a PhD so that you get the most you can out of it. You also need to realise as soon as possible that you are the main driver for your project. I'm not saying that supervisors do not help or complete any work towards you project, but the more pro-active you are the better!

There will also be stressful times, times when you might want to shout or scream or cry or run or a combination of these activties. Learning how best you cope with your PhD responsibilities will help make the stressful times easier. Try to work through problems instead of avoiding or ignoring them.

You are also a project-manager. You have to determine your own timetable, determining (depending on your subject area) your time in the lab, in the office and/or when you are away. You will be multi-tasking to meet deadlines, both those that you set for yourself and those that are set for you by others. You will no doubt have to manage completing a range of smaller tasks that take a lot of time, but only result in baby steps in progress and be able to deal with this.

Now that I have said what immediately comes to me head as the 'PhD criteria' if you like, I want to end on a positive note! I really enjoy the independence and responsibility that my PhD gives me. For me, it is a compliment that my supervisors trust me enough not to micro-manage me, but instead let me get on with things and just keep them updated on progress and any problems/issues. My PhD also gives me the flexibility to organise my life in a way that works for me and in turn that keeps me interested, motivated and most importantly HAPPY!

Remember, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, there are fellow PhD students out there who can relate, so talk to people and make the most out of you PhD time!

Happy PhD'ing kids!

July 08, 2013

Holiday blues

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the collection of my my random thoughts/rants!

I woke up this morning to the sound of the fan in the current bizzare UK heat wave wide awake in the awareness that today was Monday morning and I'm back to PhD life.

After a week away in Cyprus where I had hardly given any thought to my PhD, my mind was now racing thinking what do I need/want to get done today.

Not exactly, the same as last Monday morning, when I opened my window to this view!

My holiday view

That's what I find difficult- working at 100 miles per hour to get ready to go away on holiday and then you blink and it's gone argh!

I definitely needed the break though, there is only so much one person can do for so long before wearing themselves out!

So, today, back at uni, my first task was to move labs- not the most awe inspiring start! After grumpily shifting aload of equipment and having a general discussion about where all this stuff we had forgotten we owned should go, I wearily trod back to the office to start some computer work.

So now I am sat here trying to motivate myself back into work mode. I think I work better in the mornings, so loosing the morning to the lab move has set me back both in time and in mental capacity on this sunny afternoon..........I'm gonna try and do one task at least before packing up and going home..............

Happy Monday/blogging everyone!

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