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Posts Tagged ‘PhD’

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 🙂

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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.

 

 

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?

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 🙂

My first PhD Woes

January 12, 2011 2 comments

Well…they have to come…those days when your work does not exactly to plan. Today was when I was expecting this to happen, and it did. Today I tried my first HPLC runs using the method I found in literature. Unfortunately things did not go to plan, as my chromatogram was all over the place. I could not even get a good baseline. What is promising, however is that (till now) the problem are equipment related…not getting a good baseline…so it might be that either a change in column is required or I need to allow the HPLC to stabilise more (I hope…I have no more ideas at the moment :S)…so we will see…hopefully one of the options will work.

Tomorrow I will try the longer equilibration option, and then I will start trying the different column option…I hope one of them will work…we will see…keep your fingers crossed for me!

Low Cost HPLC :)

Low Cost HPLC 🙂

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 🙂 ).

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.