Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

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 🙂


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.



An LC-MS, samples etc.

November 8, 2011 2 comments

In previous posts I have mentioned numerous times my Mass Spec woes. Unfortunately the LC-MS at DCU seems to have died completely and so I took matters in my own hands and have organised access to another instrument at GMIT (Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology). Today was my first visit to their labs, and I am really excited about the coming weeks when I can go to GMIT to finalise my Mass Spec method. I met with the lecturer in charge and the technician in charge and the technician, patiently explained how things worked and we managed to set up a method.

I will now hopefully visit the labs again next week for a couple of days, so that I would be able to keep working with developing and then validating the method. I am truly grateful to the people at GMIT who have made me feel really welcome and took time out to help me out. The instrument at GMIT is only in use 1 day a week it seems, which is truly a godsend for me, but nevertheless a shame. This is especially so when considering that people at my university have to share the LC-MS between them and it was always in high demand. At least I will make good use of this instrument now I hope.

Today I also received my second set of samples, which I started processing after coming back from Galway so that I could immediately proceed with SPE tomorrow morning. Though it was a busy day, I am truly happy today, because this is what I started a PhD for: hard work and possibilities.

Categories: Research

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

PhD status

July 4, 2011 1 comment

It has been quite a while since I last posted here. A lot has happened and I do not even know how I feel. I am no longer disappointed, but just have no feelings I guess, plodding on.

First for some good news: I have managed to validate my HPLC method using distilled water, have had my literature review paper submitted to a journal (though that is only the start of the publication process), selected the SPE cartridges I will be using and got accepted to a conference in Crete next September.

But then for the bad news. The Mass Spec is still not working (and no end in sight for it starting to work…what is most frustrating is that I have been waiting to get access to a mass spec since March i.e. for 4 months now. Whenever I ask my supervisors about getting access to another mass spec at another university they tell me things like…we have around 15 mass specs at our university…there is no reason for you to go to another university. But it is getting really frustrating, as I have reached a status of not having anything to do and not knowing what to do to progress. I need the mass spec to soldier on, but it seems like there is no end in sight to the mass spec’s problems.

A second issue that has cropped up is that my supervisor at Queen’s, who is the only person in the supervisory team who has knowledge of the isotopic side of my project will be leaving Ireland to go back to Canada. I don’t know how things will work out, but he said he is still interested in that project, so I will hope for the best and see how it goes. We should hopefully have a meeting with him soon (but one of my supervisors here at DCU who should be organising that meeting does not seem to be all that ‘hard-working’ in getting this meeting done…was told that they’ll email the guy in Queen’s after they get some things out of the way…cos they are a bit busy now…so they said in about 3 week’s time they will contact him…which in my opinion is taking things a bit slow.

Sorry for the rant, but I rally feel as if I am here in Dublin, ready to work and work hard, but cannot. I have done all I could think of without the mass spec, and have also done things which I need to repeat again with the mass spec, such as validating the method, which would not have been necessarily have had to be done twice (one for the HPLC and one for the mass spec) if I had a working mass spec. But I do not know how else to proceed. My supervisors always tell me I am ahead where I should be at this point and have done lots of work, but at this stage, I feel as if I cannot do much more. The added blow of my supervisor in QUB leaving (he was the one guy who actually understand environmental sampling and so on in my opinion and is the main driving force behind the project in terms of expertise) has left me without any feeling. I am no longer angry at not having a PhD, I just feel as if my feeling are of ‘whatever will be will be’, which is definitely not me. I need something to do, cos this is frustrating.

I hope things look up somewhat in the coming days/weeks, and will keep you updated.

Categories: 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.

Mass Spec Woes

May 20, 2011 3 comments

As part of my research I need to get access to an LC-MS. I have carried out most (all?) of the work I could do on the HPLC part and have been waiting to get onto the Mass Spec. Unfortunately this instrument is quite old and does not work well it seems. I have been hearing tales of horror about it from previous researchers using it, and it seems that the cycle repeats. It had been down since the beginning of March and they just got it to work again this week. I was supposed to get trained on it next week, but today I received an email saying that something else came up and it will be out for another ‘couple of weeks’.

I find this to be extremely frustrating, as I cannot progress in my research without this piece of equipment. I will hopefully go talk to my supervisors next Monday or so, and see how to proceed. One of the suggestions might be to go to another University and get access to their Mass Spectrometer. But generally these instruments are quite in demand, so to get access to one might not be that easy. I will see how this goes. Without it, I am not too hopeful about the future of my PhD.

Well, as you can see, I am not in the greatest of moods. I have been waiting to get access to the Mass Spectrometer for a couple of months now, and if only it worked, I would have progressed quite a bit I would hope.

Wish me luck!