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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?

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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 Summer School

The first ATWARM summer school has come. It is being held at the University of Duisburg-Essen, from the 19th-22nd July. This is where the last ATWARM/QUESTOR meeting was held in May. This summer school is entitled ‘Enhanced technologies for water and wastewater treatment’. Till now the first 2 days are therefore nearly over, and it is proving to be a really interesting couple of days. When all of us ATWARM fellows meet up it is always a great time, and I am really impressed with the quality of the summer school. When it comes to activities like this I am really feeling honoured I am having the opportunity to participate.

The first day was mainly a theoretical day, where we were based on the Essen campus and started the dat by a lecture by Prof. Dr. Jorg Dettmar from the TU Darmstadt. The presentation was entitled ‘Novel cultural landscapes in the Ruhr metropolis’. We all agreed that it started off the day to a very high standard. For me it was not only interesting to see what he had to say about how the area developed and how culture determines very much what comes out of a place, but also to see the way he presented his ideas and how he used his academic knowledge to help develop the area.

Following this introductory lecture, a lecture was given by Prof Dr Jens Martin about ‘Water and Culture’. He linked how poetry by poets based in London in years gone by (mainly Johnathan Swift) were shaped by the current culture, and how they wrote poetry indicating water issues. This served as a starting point for presentations by all of the fellows about the relation between water and culture in their different countries of origin. We went from China to Romania, to Poland, Iran, Russia, Italy and Spain. Unfortunately some people took longer than the allotted time, so Malta, France and Ireland are yet to come.

In the evening the session was entitled ‘Basics in water and wastewater treatment’. First up were 2 introductory lectures. Dr Ralph Hobby (UDE) on ‘Overview of technologies for drinking water treatment’, followed by Dr Jochen Turk (IUTA) on ‘Micropollutants in the water cycle: occurrence, analysis and advanced technologies’. I especially liked the latter lecture as it was quite related to what I am doing, including some ideas about LC-MS/MS which is currently the bane of my life. Following this introduction different fellows from ATWARM gave short presentations on different technologies which are currently used. This was very useful as we are all coming from different areas, and therefore this allowed us to get up to scratch on the different technologies.

The day then ended by a key note lecture by Prof Dr Ing Andre Niemann (UDE) about ‘Integrate water management: issues, aims and problems’. he is an ‘ex-academic’ who went into consultancy and now back to academia. Therefore he really managed to show his expertise in the area resulting in a really interesting talk.

In the evening a guided tour around the Zeche Zollverein and old coal mine, which has now been turned into a sort of industrial park and has found numerous uses. It was truly an experience, not just to see how the miners worked, but also to witness how previously ‘dilapidated’ buildings could be restored and a wide area given back for use by the community whilst maintaining its previous heritage. Therefore the mines are still there, and the ‘industrial buildings’ were restored rather than just flattened out and a park built…they have enough of them in Germany as  e had heard a lot about these efforts by Prof Dettmar in the morning and it was an experience to witness the efforts first hand. I wish Malta does take aboard more such activities. After this tour was a relaxing evening dinner together, which was a perfect end to the day.

Lab demonstrations

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

A part of being a postgraduates in the School of Biotechnology at DCU is lab demonstration responsibilities. I will be demonstrating the labs in Microbiology and Cell Biology for 1st year Undergraduates. I have demonstration duties on Thursdays for the whole day, with two different groups coming in for the morning and afternoon sessions. Going in I was quite worried since I have very limited experience in microbiology and no experience in cell biology. However the first practical was microbiology. At least I knew the concepts behind it and the basic techniques, through my job before starting my PhD. Unfortunately this is what happens when you are in the school of biotechnology.

However when I got to the lab I noticed things were quite different, since we would be working on an open bench rather than a laminar flow hood. Luckily we were too many demonstrators with a small number of students (here there are a number of demonstrators per class: a lecturer responsible who explains the different aspects of the lab and who oversees everything and is actually present throughout the experiment, unlike in Malta where they only pop in generally, if ever they pop in; and a number of postgrad demonstrators who are responsible for a bench of students, of up to 15 students or so and demonstrate each step of the experiment before the students go on to do the same thing). Therefore some of us got sent off whilst I stayed with the lecturer in charge who demonstrated for my group whilst I looked on.

In the second week i.e. this week, we again repeated the same practical with a different group of students. After seeing it being done last week I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at demonstrating it myself. The morning group was not a success. However for the evening group things went much better, since I knew a couple of mistakes I had done in the morning. For the evening group I also had a smaller number of students, so it was easier to explain something that I was not too confident about.

Next week we will have to demonstrate the next practical. Hope things go well 🙂

Dealing with these guys...hopefully they did not agree to proceed

Dealing with these guys...hopefully they did not agree to proceed

Malta: Biology Symposium and Graduation

November 30, 2010 2 comments

After the ATWARM meeting I traveled to my home country, Malta the next day, in order to present at the University of Malta, Biology Department annual symposium on the 20th November and Graduate with an MSc in Biology (Research) from the University of Malta on the 25th November.

The Biology symposium is held annually by the department where students who have carried out research in the department during the previous year get the opportunity to present their findings. I presented the research carried out as part of my masters’ dissertation:

Using Posidonia oceanica (Linnaeus) Delile as a biomonitor of heavy metal pollution in Maltese coastal waters

My presentation went well overall. I got one question that I thankfully managed to reply to successfully. I had treated this aspect considerably in my dissertation, but I did not include it in my presentation, since I only had 15 minutes allocated. I also enjoyed meeting up with other people who have either studied with me in my undergraduate course or else I have had contact with during my research.

After the presentation came my graduation on the 25th November. Even though I have already started my PhD studies, it felt good to close the chapter to my MSc (although it has not yet closed completely I think). Even though it is just a piece of paper, which you know you are going to receive beforehand, it is still a special day. My next graduation will hopefully be in around 3 years’ time. I look forward with enthusiasm and apprehension for the intervening years to then.

Refworks

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Today I went into Uni, ready to work. The most important thing on my agenda was to understand how the Reference Management Software used at DCU functions. The software is called Refworks. I had never used it before. However I understand the need for having organised references. All the work done at the beginning pays off big time towards the end. I used the tutorial available online, since classes in the subject are still a way off from being organised. It was quite easy, as everything is explained step by step. I like the way Refworks is set up. It seems to be quite user-friendly and simple to import citations, and keeping the citations linked to pdf documents etc. It is also web-based and therefore it is easy to access it from any location.

I am however still not convinced in the ease of introducing in-text citations. Refworks comes up as a separate window, and not inbuilt into Microsoft Word. So each time you have to go out of the window, scroll through all the papers you have (could not find a search function), and cite it. I do not think it is that user-friendly, especially once you have loads of papers. I have experience using BibTex, and while it may not be that easy to import citation data (or at least I never used it, but I think there is a way to do it), it was much easier to input in-text citations.

Now that I know how to use Refworks, I hope to become more proficient in it, in order to start effectively searching for relevant articles and saving their details effectively.