My first paper

January 30, 2012 2 comments

Back in June, I had submitted my first paper for publication. It was a literature review which forms the basis of my thesis, and seeing as I was still in the beginning of my PhD and had time to perfect it etc, I decided to aim high, and submitted to the top journal in my area. I knew that it would be hard to achieve, especially since reviews are commonly written by experienced academics, rather than a lowly PhD student, and many other students in my group had found it quite difficult to get theirs published. But Oh well, to the enthusiasm of a new student. We submitted and from day to day I waited for a reject email to come back.

Alas months passed by and no response was received from the journal. Then the day I went home for Christmas (i.e. 6 months after first submission), my supervisor emailed me saying she received a communication saying I got a major revision for the paper. I was quite disheartened, but after seeing the comments I got and talking to my sister, said that if they did not reject it outright they must think I have something right. So over Christmas, I spent time working on the changes requested, discussed them when I went back to Dublin 3 weeks later and submitted just before the deadline of 4 weeks.

Then just a few minutes ago I received an email from my supervisor, saying that the paper has now been accepted, and we now need to await the schedule for publication etc. I cannot believe how happy this has made me feel and I am glad that I aimed high. So this is my advice to anyone who is in the beginning of their PhD, from the first day start writing up something. From the first week I started, when my supervisor told me to ‘read papers about the area’, I starting putting together a document. It mainly consisted of copy and paste parts or summaries of the different articles, pasted in an incoherent manner under a couple of broad topics. I also started my referencing from the start, using RefWorks, as it is what is available on campus here. Once I had read a number of papers, I organised the copy and paste parts into more coherent sections and rewrote them into paragraphs. But since I already had a number of pages of quotes it was quite easy to achieve. Suddenly, I had a literature review of the different areas I was investigating. I collated the different sections and beefed up some areas and made the document flow.

A couple of drafts later, and it was ready for submission. My advice at this point, especially if you are still towards the start of your PhD, is to aim high. It is better to aim high, get rejected and submit to a slightly lower journal. And you keep getting comments that way which improves your manuscript and writing. Getting the major revisions just before Christmas is quite disheartening, but it is so worth it now.

Good luck with your writing 🙂


School of Biotechnology Research Day and Belfast Visits

January 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Last Friday saw the return of the SoBT research day at DCU. I had been accepted for an oral presentation earlier on in December, and was looking forward to this first oral presentation of my research in a formal setting. Luckily I was scheduled first up, just after the keynote speaker, and so it meant I could get my presentation over and done with and enjoy the rest of the day, especially since I was part of the organising team on behalf of the Biological Research Society, so it turned out to be quite a hectic day.

However I must say I enjoyed my presentation. I was mostly scared of the questions people would ask, but I believe I managed to answer most of them quite well and some of the insights I got were quite good. Apart from my presentation, I also enjoyed talking to a couple of the academics about my research and also with members of the sponsoring companies (there were 10 sponsoring companies with stands there, representing most of our suppliers, and therefore it was good to have them all there to talk about your research and discuss new opportunities).

The past two weeks I have also been quite busy with two visits to Belfast. I was supposed to have a supervisor up in Queen’s University Belfast, however he has now left the University (although still in sporadic touch via email). Nevertheless, there is still work to be done there, and I have in fact been waiting for the instrument I am supposed to be using there to be fixed. Therefore when the specialist engineer was coming over, I took the opportunity to go up to Belfast and spend time with him to learn about the instrument and get trained, since the person who had used it before has now left and I will be the only person using it once it is fixed.

I had a very productive and interesting 2 days, and the instrument was up and running, so I came back to Dublin for the weekend and planned to go up the next Tuesday, to analyse my actual samples. Unfortunately, when I went back on Tuesday I found out that another part of the instrument has now broken down, as a circuit board has stopped working, meaning the mass spec magnet is no longer operating. Therefore back to Dublin I came after a day of trouble shooting, and we are now awaiting confirmation for fixing the instrument (or not) depending on what the powers that be decide.

Nevertheless, my PhD is now getting into the swing of things, and I am getting busy. I look forward to what the coming weeks and months bring up, and hopefully it will be mainly good news 🙂

Coding Fun :)

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Last week, I saw mentioned on a blog I subscribe to that this year is the year of Coding. Therefore Codecademy have taken on this initiative to teach code for free to the world (or at least to whoever is that way inclined). I have very limited coding experience. I have only done Pascal way way back when I was 15 for my Computing O-level exam, and then I have a basic idea through my use of LaTeX for writing my dissertations. But these, especially the last, are not what anyone would consider to be coding, so you can imagine my extent of (non) knowledge.

Therefore I decided to take on this challenge. Not because I particularly need to learn, but because I am always looking for new things to learn. And I figured that it cannot hurt. The system works in that once you sign up, every week an email is received with that week’s lesson. In addition to the particular lesson there are a number of lessons which are used to apply what you have learnt e.g. to make a game or a fun activity.

We are now in our third week, but it is quite easy to pick up. So I do suggest you give it a try. You also get to ‘win’ badges as you take on the different courses. I already have 13 achievements, of which I am well proud :).

My codecademy achievements

My codecademy achievements

Overall it is being a good experience. My only negative would be that sometimes there are some hitches, where something that might have otherwise been correct, is not accepted as correct (or vice versa) due to the way the system checks for correct / incorrect responses. But there is a good forum going on, and it is really great fun.

Do you have any coding experience? Are you doing the Codecademy experience? What do you think?

Research Questionnaire: Use and Disposal of Medication

January 17, 2012 2 comments

Have you ever thought about what happens to medications once they are expired or when you stop taking the course of medications? What about veterinary medications? Are these dealt with in a different way to human medications? What about the environmental effects of different disposal strategies.

I am exploring such issues as part of my PhD, and in order to understand better how people use and dispose of their medications I have set out a short questionnaire. It takes around 5 minutes to fill in and your time will be greatly appreciated. The questionnaire is completely anonymous, and I have no way to link your answers to you. However, if you are interested you can give me your email address and I can inform you of the results. Alternatively you could just stay in tune with this blog and you will definitely be informed.

So just click here, and tell all your friends to fill it in too.



Productive Holidays

January 6, 2012 1 comment

My Christmas holidays here in Malta are nearly over, and next Monday I am back to Ireland and back to work. However I find that saying back to work is a bit of a misnomer, as I have been quite productive, if I must say so myself, during these holidays. I find that being home, although I do get to go around and relax quite a bit, I still manage to get quite a lot of work done.

First up were the corrections for the paper I had submitted back in June. In six months I heard nary a comment from them, and then the day after I arrived home my supervisor emailed the comments from the reviewers. They have me major revisions, but the comments were mainly quite useful. Since I only had 1 month in which to do the changes, out of which I am in Malta for 3 weeks, I had to get down to business. I had them down in a couple of days and am now awaiting comments from my supervisors about the changes. It was my first experience of getting such comments back (my supervisors do not criticise as much, as opposed to many other supervisors I hear about) but I think they polished my manuscript to no end. Here’s to now hoping for the manuscript to be accepted.

Apart from the manuscript changes, I also had to prepare a graphical abstract (a new thing for the journal), a presentation for the School of Biotechnology Research Day, which will be held later on this month and 2 abstracts for 2 separate conferences to be held later on this year, and whose deadline is around the end of January.

Now I have a weekend of relaxation (unless my supervisors send the changes) and then next Monday afternoon, it is back to actual work. But then again…what is actual work? I do not feel as if working during my holidays detracted from my having fun (I generally worked for an hour or two in the morning, and not even each day) and relaxing.

I hope you all had good holidays and managed to relax well. Yesterday (or so) a very apt PHD Comic was posted, which I am reproducing here. Which of the different activities people do over winter break did you do?

Research Excitement

December 15, 2011 1 comment

The past few weeks I think I have regained my love for research, possibly because I finally managed to get down to doing actual lab work. My LC-MS method has been validated and the first samples analysed. I am finally on target in this respect. What have I learnt in the past few months, during good times and bad, but mostly bad. The project is yours. You have to work hard (sometimes with blinkers on) to get ahead and cannot depend on anyone else. But a positive outcome is that at the end of the day the satisfaction of seeing the job getting done is increased.

Tomorrow I will be heading off back home for my Christmas holidays a satisfied girl, and looking forward to relaxing, but also getting my head sorted in relation to my research and get a plan down for my project due to all the changes that have resulted lately. I am also excited about getting to work on a piece of new equipment that I hope to be using later on in my project and that has been received at my home Uni.

So thank you for following, and wishing you a Merry Christmas

Categories: Uncategorized

ATWARM Meeting: November 2011

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

This week I attended my third ATWARM meeting. I have written about the previous two here and here. The first day was the typical QUESTOR meeting, with presentations about current and upcoming projects. We also had an interesting presentation by the Environmental Sustainability KTN, which was a new concept to me, and which I found really interesting. We also had the student council meeting, where the new President and Secretary were elected, and my position as student council President came to an end. Following the student council meeting I attended the Supervisory meeting as a representative of the student council. I always find attending the supervisory meeting beneficial, and I really wish that all students could be present (even if just as observers) at this meeting as I think it is a good idea to know what aspects are concerning the supervisory board and how we can work together.

This time apart from being the usual QUESTOR/ATWARM meeting it was also time for the mid-term report which is due regarding the ATWARM project for FP7. Therefore the research officer responsible for the project came over for the ATWARM part of the meeting and we had a day of meetings with him. After an introductory report, all the fellows had to give a short 7 minute presentation about their background, research activities and our aspirations. I really appreciated that this time we kept strictly to the time allotted, since some people tend to keep talking way over the allotted time, and as has happened at these meetings before, people who are to present towards the end have had their presentation truly shortened or alternatively even transferred to another day at the end of a long programme. This was followed by a meeting between all the fellows and the research officer. The research officer was certainly not what most of us were expecting. The thing which surprised me most was that he was not too obsessed with the rules and regulations, but was very flexible to hearing what we had to say. He understood that the most important aspect of the fellowship was that we get training and get our PhD rather than fulfilling the original plan to the letter.

Alas, after the wonderful two days we made our way back to Dublin, albeit not without an initial stop at the Belfast Christmas Market for an hour or so, until the planes, trains etc were due to leave, or alternatively for those who were staying the night to go to their next outing of the night. I look forward to our next meeting in May, where we should be heading to Cranfield, at our partner site there.