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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 🙂

An update

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

It has been quite some time since I updated this blog I have noticed. Research wise I have not progressed that much, but I feel that my project is getting a bit more shape, albeit not in the original direction I had been hoping for. Since the ATWARM summer school which was a great success, I have been to a conference in Crete on Instrumental Methods of Analysis (IMA 2011) in September. It was truly a new experience for me, as it was my first large conference. I really enjoyed that most of the speakers were not students but heads of research groups and people from industry, so I got to hear about a wide range of projects in each presentation rather than a detailed explanation of one project. The hospitality in Crete was also second to none.

I have also attended a networking event organised by the ISPE Ireland affiliate (An association of pharmaceutical engineers) held in Dublin earlier in the month. It was a good way to meet individuals from industry and I enjoyed the discussions. A high point for me was that I won the ‘Postgraduate student award’ for my poster presentation. I really appreciate what that meant.

On a personal note I have become secretary of the Biological Research Society and I look forward to a successful year of events. I think we are a good team of hard workers who just want to get the things done, so it should be a positive experience.

Hopefully more posts will be forthcoming in the next weeks.

Categories: Conferences, Lab Work, Research

A Validation Week

Sometimes I think that having a holiday is what you need to guilt you back into working. Last weekend I went home (together with 3 friends from Ireland) for an extended weekend. I really enjoyed showing them the sights of Malta, and also meeting my sister who came over too. However once I got back into the lab I knew that I needed to get down to business. Since the Mass Spec is still not working (still waiting for the parts to arrive), I decided to make use of the HPLC part of the LC-MS instrument. Usually you are not allowed to make use of this front end portion of the instrument on its own. However since the MS part was not working I got permission to use it. Therefore this gave me time to work on my method’s transferability to the actual instrument I will be (hopefully) using.

Before my trip I had ascertained that the method transfers quite well, and I was pleased with the preliminary results. However I knew that as with any method this needs to be validated. Therefore on my return I started working on this section of the process. I have now finished the validation of the HPLC method and I am quite pleased with the overall results. I did have to remove an analyte from the 11 I had started with, since it did not validate in any test. But I am not too concerned about that. After all that is why I started with 11. My supervisors had initially told me not to go for more than 5 analytes, but I had argued that it is better to start with more, and then eliminate later on, depending on the results.

I certainly hope that the parts arrive soon, and that the instrument is fixed very soon. In the meantime, I have figured out what I could do to ‘fill the time’. The parts have been said to be delivered either yesterday (so no) or early next week. I desperately hope that these parts are the actual ones required and that once it is fixed it keeps working. Another girl who is finishing her PhD will probably get onto the instrument first. But as long as it is working there is hope.

An unproductive week

March 25, 2011 2 comments

Another PhD week is over, and it can certainly be labelled as unproductive. I submitted the second draft of my literature review to my supervisors last Monday (1st time all except one are seeing it) and that is practically the extent of my work. The problem is that I have been planning on working on the HPLC method development, but I am having big problems with that. Some tubing has been changed in the past couple of weeks, and therefore big problems with pressure are ensuing, resulting in the tubing popping off.

I hope next week I can be a bit more productive and get my HPLC method working. If I can get back to how I was a couple of weeks ago on my method, it should only take a couple of days (2 or 3) to get everything I want done done. But Oh well.

Wish me luck for the coming week.

Categories: Lab Work, Research Tags: , , ,

More HPLC Woes

My HPLC woes continue. I have finally gotten onto the HPLC to do some work, but have not been getting any peaks whatsoever.  I tried a couple of different approaches, but to no avail. Being sick over the past few days certainly does not do anything to help me think or to boost my morale. After carrying out a couple of runs this morning, I decided to take the rest of the day off and have a good rest. I turned over the HPLC to the next person who needs to use it, and hopefully can get access to it, and some work done tomorrow.

On a positive note, I managed to finish my second draft of my literature review yesterday and sent it to all my supervisors for comments and advice. I had sent the first draft to just one supervisor, and had gotten some constructive comments on how to improve it. I will await comments on this draft hopefully in the coming weeks.

Lab Meeting

On Thursday I managed to squeeze in a lab meeting with two of my supervisors on Thursday between the two lab demonstration sessions. Rather than a lab meeting where all of us are present, it was an individual meeting where only myself, the two supervisors (the other is away sick) and the lab post-doc was present. I had not had such a lab meeting in more than a month, so it is good to give a presentation on progress.

First up for discussion was the literature review. One of the supervisors had seen it and all that I had done was work on the changes she suggested. However the other knew that I was working on it, but not on the progress. The changes are by no means completely done, but hopefully I can polish it up somewhat in the coming weeks. I am pleased that there were not many changes suggested by my supervisor, though there are a couple of areas I feel I need to improve.

I then discussed my method development. I have now nearly determined the method for the first few analytes. On Thursday, after the meeting I also received the next few analytes, so what I am doing today is trying to include them in the same method, to reduce sample preparation and analysis time. It was good to present some actual findings in the meeting, and got some good suggestions from one of my supervisors, who is a chemist and knows a whole lot about everything.

As with all of my meetings, it was a short and sweet meeting. I hope I manage to have some good results for the next meeting, whenever that will be. Hopefully I will have nearly finalized my HPLC method, so I can go on to SPE and LC-MS method development. I have some analysis currently running, so hopefully by the end of the weekend I will know a bit better about how much more work is needed. Wish me luck 🙂

Another Week is Over

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

The past week has been a hectic week PhD wise. I had a conference on Monday and Tuesday, a meeting with my supervisor on Wednesday and lab demonstrations on Thursday. In addition I have been working to develop my HPLC Method. I have spoken about the conference and lab demonstrations previously. I have also touched upon the HPLC method development.

The method development has been progressing slowly but steadily. If things keep on progressing the way they are I would be indeed quite happy. I tried out some things suggested by a girl I met at the conference last Tuesday, and things have improved. I did some more runs yesterday (yes I know it was a Saturday) and got the results this morning (yes it is a Sunday), and I am quite pleased with the way things are progressing, though 1 peak is still missing/it peeks out a bit from behind another, so that it on my agenda for tomorrow. The R squared values for the calibration curve I did are all greater than 0.99, so not too bad, though there is room for improvement. Once I (hopefully) separate my current 6 peaks, I will then need to add in another 5 compounds (ordered this week 🙂 ), and then start working on joining the HPLC method to the sample preparation technique and the Mass Spec analysis technique. So still a way to go to be able to start collecting samples for analysis. But we will get there.

I also had a meeting with my supervisor on Wednesday. We generally have lab meetings every Thursday, but since I am demonstrating all day Thursday, I will be having meetings with my supervisor every now and then depending on need, until I finish demonstrating. During the meeting we discussed a couple of things I had been meaning to talk to her about, in particular things which do not lend themselves well to discussing during a lab meeting.

First up was the thing I was dreading most. I had given her my literature review a couple of weeks ago (just before she went on holiday, and she read it during her holiday). I was quite pleased with the feedback however. She said it was quite good for a first try (that is what we aim for after all), and she gave me a couple of changes to make. I have now carried out all the minor changes, and will start focusing on the sections which involve searching for more data and so on. The main issue I need to do is to summarize  everything  at the end, rather than simply saying what other people said, without giving any opinions, and therefore this leaves everything hanging a bit. She also noticed my love of the words therefore, nevertheless etc, and was told to cut down on those. The last part of the meeting consisted of me discussing some points I wanted to talk to her about, such as ordering of the new chemicals, how my progress is getting along, the conference details, and lastly, but quite importantly for me, we discussed time off. I now have approval for my days off till the end of August. It feels good to know roughly when I can get to go home etc etc.

Overall, a busy but pleasant week. I could do with it being slightly less hectic, but rather a week like this one, to a slow week, or one when nothing goes well.