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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.

Lab Meeting…lost count of the week

January 13, 2011 1 comment

Today was the day of our next lab meeting. It was the first after the Christmas Holidays and as such we had to prepare a short summary of what we had accomplished to date and the way forward for the coming three months. So…what is the plan forward? Well, I hope that in the next couple of months HPLC method development will be largely complete, my literature review will be polished and hopefully have a trial test for another aspect I might be adding to my project.

The supervisors seemed quite pleased with my progress. I hope I manage to accomplish these 3 aspects in these 3 months, and if I will I would certainly be quite pleased with myself. This would allow me to move into LC-MS and SPE development and therefore to move forward in my research quite well. So what do I hope to achieve in the immediate weeks that are coming? I hope to have a first draft of my literature review, an HPLC method which somewhat works (if I manage to get a good blank run it would be perfect at the moment) and have the sites for the preliminary test identified.

I am mostly worried about the site selection for sample collection. I have limited knowledge about Irish environments. If it were Malta it would be quite easy to pinpoint sites. However here it is a whole different kettle of fish. However my supervisors gave me some suggestions of people who they will contact and hopefully could be helpful to me. So we will see how that goes.

Wish me luck 🙂

PhD: 1/12 over

December 19, 2010 1 comment

The first 3 months of my PhD are over it seems. That means that 1/12 of my PhD is (hopefully) over. Hopefully as I would not like that my studies take longer than the 3 years for which I am funded.  I think I achieved quite a lot during these 3 months, and I am happy with the progress I am making. In my last week in Dublin I managed to order the first analytes I selected and will be analysing for. Hopefully these will be received soon, so that as soon as I go back to Dublin in January I can start working on my method development. I am really excited about that, because if I manage to achieve that with minimal problems (I am being very optimistic here) it will mean that my PhD life will be easier. However I am not looking at less than 3 months (if everything goes well that is) for this portion of my project.

The day before I left DCU I also had a meeting with my supervisor. This time instead of a lab meeting we had 1 to 1 meetings, where we discussed progress and the way forward. They seemed happy enough with my progress and told me to go ahead. One of the supervisors also suggested that I start working on my literature review. I have already read a lot of papers and have a number of separate documents from which I can pull the details. So I will hopefully organise what I have and add more to it as necessary. On the last day I also got word that I got accepted to give a poster presentation to the DCU School of Biotechnology Research Day in January. Therefore I now need to prepare a poster…have started working on it somewhat since I arrived in Malta, and hope to have most of it ready by the time I go back, since I would definitely need Bernard’s help with the design aspect.

The next months will probably be really hectic as regards to my PhD. I have to work on method development and my literature review, Graduate training elements (I actually have 2 scheduled for the same week…will probably have to drop one), I will give my poster presentation at the Biotech Research Day in January and sent my abstract for another conference at the end of February, I start practical session demonstrations in February too etc. I look forward to this however. It will be hectic, definitely…but hopefully I will actually start seeing some progress (reading papers all day long gets a bit monotonous at times).

So bring it on (and think of me so that hopefully things work out well 🙂 ).

Week 6.5 Lab Meeting

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week, we did not get to have our lab meeting, as it was postponed till today. I presented the pharmaceutical selection process I have been going through. I am pleased to say that today was one of the most involved I have seen my supervisors in my (or any of the other students’) projects. They seemed interested in what I was saying, they asked questions and gave suggestions and opinions. I will certainly take these into account and look forward to the next step in my work. Most of the students complain about these meetings, as they think that they are held too often. I think that later on I will feel the same way. However at the start of the project, this is exactly what I need. It makes you work from week to week, and it means that you do not have to schedule a meeting every time, and have to request meetings each time you take a baby step. In addition it gets your supervisors (or most of them at least), together, which would be next to impossible otherwise.

I also got good news at the meeting. I should have been going up to Belfast for a Network meeting for the ATWARM project on Thursday. However they asked whether we would be available to go up a day earlier, to attend a meeting being held the day before by QUESTOR. I obviously said yes, so tomorrow afternoon (we go the day before so we can be there at 9am) I will be making my way to Belfast. I will be going up with a couple of people from the lab, who need to attend the QUESTOR meeting, so even better I will not take the bus on my own. Rather I will be going up by car.

Will update you on the meeting later on, once it is over 🙂

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PhD Week 4: Done

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Thursday has come and gone and the weekly lab meeting has also come and gone. This means I am slighty overdue with my update. This week during the meeting I presented the results of my HPLC trial run and they seemed to like that I got a 0.999 R squared value. However they suggested I compare the areas of my peaks to those obtained by other people (I have done that now and they match 🙂 ).

After this I presented some background to the use of pharmaceuticals as chemical tracers of faecal contamination. I still have a long was to go in this regards, as the number of papers is greatly increasing minute by minute. But I think I am slowly getting to the point where papers cited would already be in my reference library and therefore I should hopefully soon be getting to the bottom of this.

Now what is the plan for the coming week? I should keep on working on reading literature related to the use of pharmaceuticals as chemical tracers. In addition they have requested that next week I present to them how I plan on executing the project…what samples I will be taking, the methods I will be using etc. I was panicking a bit about this last part, but Ann Marie, who is finishing her PhD at the moment and has some experience in the basic area I will be working on (the other people in the lab work on a completely different subject area) took some time out, so that I could thrash some ideas about, and I feel somewhat better.

The last thing on the agenda for the week was to attend the Orientation for Researchers at DCU, which was held today. A blog post should be coming up on that soon, so keep your eyes open.

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PhD Week 3: Done

October 21, 2010 2 comments

Today is Thursday. Therefore it was time for the weekly lab meeting, where we get to discuss what has been achieved in the previous weeks. I am getting to like these meetings. Although they might seem a bit stressful, they help you to figure out and reflect on exactly what  you did the week before. It does not take all that long to prepare the presentation. However I am finding the thought process behind it and all the cogs and wheels that start whirring around in you brain is what takes over, even after the presentation is finished.

I am also getting a focus for what I should be doing in the coming week. Sometimes I feel as if there is just too much to achieve and I would like to achieve everything in that week. However (as a wise person has told me) you need to prioritize. Therefore I hope I have a plan for the coming week/s and can follow it and be successful.

The supervisors, although not that knowledgable in the specific area I am working in, give quite constructive criticism, and are ready to learn and discuss. I particularly give importance to the input of two lecturers, who seem to be more knowledgable in such research matters.

What comes next? Well it seems as all of my supervisors are pushing for me to publish a review paper. I have some ideas where the gaps in the knowledge I would like to investigate are, and where I think a review paper would be useful. Even if I do not get a review paper out of it, I think it could be particularly useful later on in my project and in defining exactly what my project will be.

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