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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.

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.

ATWARM Meeting: May 2011

May 13, 2011 1 comment

The second ATWARM meeting has come and gone. It was held from the 10th-12th May 2011, at the University of Duisburg-Essen. I had written about my first ATWARM meeting in November previously, and the format of the meeting was relatively similar. On the first two days, the QUESTOR meeting was held, and on the last day the ATWARM meeting was held. Since the ATWARM programme is coordinated by the QUESTOR centre we were all invited to all the sessions.

We traveled over to Germany on Monday evening, since the programme started on Tuesday morning. The first activity was a choice of 2 site visits, and I joined the Water Purification Plant site visit. We visited the RWW Mülheim Water Treatment Plant, where we had a shot introduction to the processes they use, namely the Mülheim method. They do not use chlorine during the treatment, but rather treatment is based on the use of a sand filter, activated carbon, ozone, UV etc. After the short presentation, we all went on a site visit of the plant.

After lunch, and a formal introduction to the QUESTOR meeting, a brokerage event was organised, for one-to-one meetings between the industrial members of QUESTOR, academics and researchers. I had requested meetings with three different companies, and it was a good opportunity to meet with them, discuss my project, how we could collaborate and see their opinions. In the evening a networking dinner was then held at the Museum der Deutschen Binnenschiffahrt (namely museum for German inland shipping). We had an opportunity to visit the museum, followed by a delicious dinner at the restaurant within the museum.

On the second day of the meeting, presentations by students and academics involved in QUESTOR funded projects, updates on the progress of new initiatives and also 2 ATWARM project presentations. In the evening, the QUESTOR industrial advisory board had its meeting, and therefore we had some free time, for some sightseeing.

The third day of the meeting was the ATWARM meeting. This was the most intensive day and the most productive. The first session was on the progress of the ATWARM programme and a discussion of issues related to the programme in general of interest to all researchers, academics and industrial members. After that came 10 minute poster presentations by each ATWARM researcher. This was the first time that all projects were represented, since at the last meeting not all researchers had been appointed or could make it. That made 16 presentations in all. We had all prepared a poster, and we had to present to all the other attendees what our project is about, progress made and future plans. This was followed by questions from the audience. I found this session to be highly interactive, with comments, queries and suggestions, including suggestions for collaborations and the like being discussed. I think the relaxed nature of the session, whereby people were standing/sitting informally on chairs helped for such an informal discussion.

Once all presentations were delivered, and lunch eaten, a session on the secondment process was held. This was followed by the student council meeting. During the student council meeting, all researchers meet to discuss aspects of the ATWARM programme which are of interest to them. Aspects discussed during this meeting included financial issues, how to acknowledge the funding agency and secondments. Once the meeting was reaching its end, an election should be held to elect the student council president and secretary for the next 6 months. Since during the previous 6 months the students were from QUB and UDE, we agreed to have representatives from DCU and Cranfield this time round. Francesco Ometto from Cranfield and myself were nominated to the positions, and therefore for the next 6 months I will be acting as student council president and Francesco as secretary.

Following the student council meeting, the supervisory board meeting was held. The previous president and secretary of the student council attend to bring forward any issues felt by the students, and the newly elected president and secretary attend as observers. It was interesting for me to attend the meeting, and understand the way the supervisory board functions, and how willing they were to take on board our opinions.

Alas, the meeting was now over, and we started making our way to the airport, saying our goodbyes to all our ATWARM friends, and looking forward to our next meeting for the ATWARM summer school, to be also held in Germany in July.

As all ATWARM meetings to date, this was a successful meeting. I feel honoured to be part of the ATWARM programme, and the QUESTOR centre. In particular I believe the strong industrial-academia partnership is extremely important as it allows for immediate and continuous feedback from individuals from industry and also academics from different institutions, allowing for more effective collaboration.

If I were to change anything in the meeting format it would be factors such as the short length of the student council meeting (we had 30mins scheduled and stretched it to 1 hour, however if perhaps it could happen at the same time as the industrial advisory board meeting, it could have been more successful, as we only end up talking about the more important aspects, and less about the possibilities for collaboration and the like). another aspect is the financial aspect. I believe that if for example, we shared rooms or so, we could have all stayed in 1 or 2 hotels (rather than being spread over 4 – due to the Eurovision being held in nearby Dusseldorf, most hotels were quite full) and also saved money from our funding.

However, overall, the meeting was extremely successful. I always feel energised coming back from these meetings, and being in the company of the ATWARM fellows, all of which are really nice and supportive.

QUESTOR/ATWARM meeting

November 30, 2010 5 comments

My PhD project is part of a QUESTOR coordinated Marie Curie Initial Training Network programme funded by the EC FP7 project People: ATWARM. As part of the ATWARM network, we have Bi-annual network meetings, where all the research fellows and their supervisors meet. The first network meeting for the ATWARM fellows was held in Belfast, on the 18th November. This was preceded by the QUESTOR meeting on the 17th, which is also held bi-annually. I was not planning on going, but on the previous Monday, my supervisor received a request for us to go, and since some of the people from my lab were going up on the 16th for the meeting on the 17th, I decided to make the trip with them.

I was excited to attend both meetings. In the QUESTOR meeting I was mainly interested in a presentation given by one of the QUESTOR funded students, who is also using stable isotopes in his research. It was also interesting to learn more about how QUESTOR functions. Basically it is composed of an Industrial and Academic board. The industrial board is made up of various companies who are interested in the research carried out in QUESTOR.:

“Providing application focussed environmental research to generate knowledge and technologies for the future needs of industry.”

The attend the bi-annual meetings and they determine which projects QUESTOR will fund, depending on their company’s requirements and whether they see an industrial scope to the project. In fact each funded project has an industrial partner in it. The academic board is made up of researchers from various Universities and institutes in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Canada, US and elsewhere.

The next day was the ATWARM meeting. I was really looking forward to this. I got to meet the other ATWARM students who are carrying out research at the other Universities, and understand better what they will be researching. This is because we all got to give a 10 minute presentation about ourselves and our project. I was one of the last people to present so my nerves kept building and building. I was particularly worried that I simplified everything a bit too much. However I think that overall I did well. I also got a couple of people congratulating me, so I was a happy girl.

The ATWARM fellows

The ATWARM fellows

Since my supervisor from DCU and I were up in Belfast, we also scheduled a meeting with my supervisor at QUB, who was also attending the meeting. We had scheduled to have it after the ATWARM meeting, but since we had a long coffee break (we were running ahead of schedule) we held it then. This turned out to be a good thing, since we realized we could talk to people from the Industrial board who were also present, and whose help we might need there and then. The two companies we talked to were really interested in my project (one came up to me himself) and I look forward to working with them in aspects of my research. I also got to discuss my project with both supervisors at the same time, which was really helpful. We talked about my progress to date and how I will be proceeding from now on.

Overall I guess this meeting was a success personally. This was not only in relation to meeting the other ATWARM students, who are really nice and I look forward to meeting again and again, but also in relation to understanding better the way QUESTOR works, and how I can best benefit from its industrial relations. The meeting between both supervisors and myself was also really helpful, so I have nothing to complain about. I also got to hang out in an informal manner with the other students at DCU, my main supervisor at DCU and other individuals involved in ATWARM during dinner the night before, and a very insightful train ride back to Dublin with the ATWARM principal scientist.

Next ATWARM meeting…Germany in May.

Hello world!

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

This blog will hopefully see me through the trials and tribulations of getting a PhD. I will be starting my PhD studies this October at Dublin City University as part of the ATWARM project. I will also have a supervisor from Queen’s University Belfast, where I will be carrying out some of my research.

I will be considered to be an Early Stage Researcher and am funded through the Marie Curie Actions for Initial Training Networks. 14PhD students and 2 post-doctoral researchers will form part of the ATWARM projects at 7 institutions in Germany, UK and Ireland.

My project is project no 3.6 entitled:

Assessment and usefulness of integrating stable isotope data and data on pharmaceuticals to disentangle point and diffuse sources of pollution

The description of the project is:

Identifying the source(s) of nitrate in water bodies is crucial to preserve water quality and achieve sustainability. This project will identify source(s) of nitrate in water bodies. Most nitrate sources are characterised by distinct N and O isotopic compositions, except for sewage and manure, which have overlapping values. This complicates nitrate source identification. The project will assess the effectiveness of integrating isotopic data on nitrate and data on pharmaceuticals to disentangle point and diffuse sources of nitrate pollution.

I look forward to started this new phase of my life. At the moment I am still waiting for official acceptance from the University and receipt of my contract. I look forward to the 30th September when I make my way to Dublin and the 1st of October when I will meet my supervisor to embark on this next stage of my life and also the other students who will be starting their project with me.

I hope this blog will serve to keep in contact with other people working in the same areas as me, and possibly to rant sometimes.