Post Graduate Researcher Conference Committee

This year (October 2014-April 2015) I was involved in the 5th Post Graduate Researcher Conference, which is an annual in house conference at the University of Surrey. I had attended the 4th PGRC conference in April 2014 and I was amazed by the breadth of fields of research that were currently active at the university. I was inspired, entertained and impressed by some of the talks at the conference. None of the oral presentations were related to my field so I tried to pick some of the “whacky” (in comparison to my field and my opinion) talks to go and I felt that I learnt a lot, including how to make engaging presentations.

So when the call for students to come and join the new committee for 1025 arrived in my mailbox I didn’t hesitate to join. The first meeting started off with someone from the previous years committee doing their very best to put us off coming to the second meeting. I think it was a good thing that they did this, even if he may have been slightly exaggerating, it was a tough experience and those involved really needed to be committed to be able to pull it off at all. Being on the committee was tough and took up a lot of time. Whilst I didn’t let it take up too much my Ph. D time it did eat into my personal time but it has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in terms of both the learning curve and the *feel good vibes* from working with a range of people outside of my field and putting together something massively beneficial to our community.

I learnt an awful lot about how different sectors of the university work together, especially those outside of academia where the politics and personalities seem to differ slightly. I also made some great friends and connections who I feel will be there for me through out the rest of my Ph. D.


The 23rd Thing

So it is the final blog post of the 23 things programme! From now on I will be “going it alone…

There’s still a few things I need to learn, such as search engine optimisation (SEO) and how to spread the news that I actually have written something, like commenting on others blogs and responding with a relevant post or using my twitters and other accounts a bit more effectively.

I have already thought up a few ideas for future posts, some of these regard my mentoring experience, in addition to posts about aspects of my work that would be in the public interest (or at least I think it would be). I think the biggest obstacle is giving it enough priority that I actually get content created.  I think this will be useful for me to continue, although lots may change in how I currently do things at the moment.

I’m glad I was able to join the 23 things programme as I learnt an awful lot and it gave me a routine to (sort of) stick to when it came to creating content.

Funding and your profile

This weeks “things” as part of the 23 things programme run by the RDP department at the University of Surrey included looking *Research and managing your profiles on different networks. To me these two have a strong relation to each due to recent events. I was accepted onto the Synthetic and Systems Biology Summer School in Sicily, Italy this summer. As a result I have applied for a small travel grant* from the Society of Micobiology. Since I have been doing my research around grants and funding I have seen how useful it is to show that you can/have obtained funding if you wish to continue with a research career in academia; where it is all about finding the money to sponsor your research.

So I am grateful to have found something like *Research Plus and I am glad to have a tool that can allow me to search for this kind of information.


*UPDATE: I got the funding!

23 Things Update: Google, Doodle Poll and Webinars.

This weeks “Things” for the RDP 23 things for social media programme included looking at tools such as Google Drive, Doodle Poll and webinars. This was a pretty easy week for me as I already use these tools every week and I find them invaluable.

Google Drive – I am on the Post Graduate Researcher Conference 2015 committee and this has been so useful for organising different sub committees and sharing data. We can all work off the same spreadsheet and save it to the cloud so all of us are always working with the most update to date version. Drop box was used by the previous years committee and it was pretty simple to transfer the data between the two storage systems. We preferred Google drive for its ability to allow users to edit in browser and so updating the cloud version instantly.

Doodle Poll – This is such a time saving tool for when it comes to organising meetings between large groups of people. I’ve used it for organising meetings for the conference committee, mentoring, lab meetings and PGR rep assemblies. It’s quick, easy and free to use. Making an account is great to get notifications of updates about participation.

Webinars –  I have attended monthly webinar sessions for a modelling and programming course that I am completing. It is completely online and I find the webinars give you that contact time you might otherwise miss. Useful for live interactions and explaining topics that might be better given in person where live feedback regarding understanding can be offered.

Sharing and receiving credit. . . and Home Brew.

Continuing with the “23 things” programme with RDP, we recently looked at how to share information but to be able to still be able to maintain a record of credit for anything produced and to perhaps exert control on how information is used by others (creative commons licences). It was fairly interesting and builds on my knowledge of giving credit outside of citing authors in an essay for example.  Furthermore, as part of my Ph. D is supported by GreenBiologiics, who have an extensive IP portfolio, it has been interesting to learn about other ways of protecting IP.

My Ph. D has a lot to do with fermentation science, which a lot of us will be familiar with in terms of producing ethanol for alcoholic beverages. Fermentations can be carried out on large industrial scales at brewers whose brands were probably already too aware of. In addition to this, fermentations can be carried out at home resulting in “home brew beverages”. Wines, beers and ciders are commonly made by home brew enthusiasts. My project is similar, except instead of yeast I use clostridia. Instead of mildly intoxicating ethanol I make butanol… inedible but useful as a biofuel. Photo attached is an example of a home brew kit, it can be really simple to do with just a couple of clean and sealable buckets.

Making and Sharing Content Online

This weeks two “things” for the RDP 23 things programme looked at creating and sharing content on-line such as screen casts and slide sharing.  I am currently enrolled on SysMIC an online learning programme teaching how to use MATLAB for computational and systems biology. So they used a lot of these screen casts to show their workings. I had wondered how they did this so I am glad to know where I can find the tools. I probably won’t use it just yet, but if I were to go further into to teaching and complete the Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching I would imagine it would be a great tool to incorporate into lesson or lab practicals.

Sharing research online: I am still thinking about this one before I will publish anything. Firstly, I have to consider the interests of my industrial sponsor, GreenBiologics, before I publish anything. Also, I don’t know how protective I should be about sharing research online before submitting my thesis. Would it effect my outcomes? What about plagiarism, where do I stand if I publish something here that is similar to what might end up in my thesis somewhere? This is perhaps all fuelled by my paranoia about sharing anything online even on my personal Facebook page where I only have friends and family. It will be something that I will have to slowly adopt and get used to.

Confirmation: Defending your Project.

So I passed confirmation a few weeks ago. This is a process that occurs after the end of the first year of a Ph. D programme at the University of Surrey in order to confirm my status as a Ph. D student and so ending the “probationary” year.

It consists of writing a short report on the progress so far, including not only your experimental findings but also details of training, conferences and other such like events that you have attended in addition to a plan for completion. The second component is a viva voce. A shorter version of the viva  that takes place at the end of a Ph. D. This is meant to provide feedback of work so far and can offer advice as how to continue/develop the project in future years. . . as well as a defence of what you have done and why your work is novel.

The feedback was great, it was what I would have wanted and I have already started work on improving my report, just as a learning exercise for my final thesis. I’ll be working on editing some of my data presentation, which is something I have found that I am finding more and improved way to present my data as my project progresses. I also have a few more ideas for topics to put into my literature review.

However, it was still quite a grilling. Afterwards I felt strangely exhausted and mine only lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes. I can’t imagine how it will feel during the final viva, they can go on for several hours. I’m glad I know what I might be facing but the confirmation hasn’t made the final viva feel any less daunting or intimidating!