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Posts Tagged ‘presentation’

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?

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Attending a conference without attending

I have been receiving the newsletter of the American Chemical Society ever since I moved to Ireland to start my PhD. I generally just read through it when I receive it in my inbox and archive it. However this week a notice grabbed my attention. An ACS national meeting has just been held, and all presentations were uploaded online, together with synched audio. More than 500 presentations are available for free, making it possible to feel like I attended the meeting without actually attending.

I had never even thought that such things are done, and was pleasantly surprised at the different topics covered during the meeting. I have now gone through the list of presentations and noted the presentations which are of interest to me. Hopefully I will manage to go through those that caught my attention (around 11 in all). Most are linked to the area I am currently researching, but some are in the wider area of science.

Today I decided to follow an easygoing presentation to start with:

Challenges and joys of an industrial career when “far, far away” becomes “just around the corner

Carolyn Ribes (DOW)

The presentation spoke about the challenges and strengths of women who take on international assignments within their company. Although I have not actually taken such an assignment, most of the things discussed within the presentation are highly relevant to my situation. I found it interesting to learn more about the topic and also to look at how other people prepare presentations and present their work. The presentation (you just have the powerpoint slide on view) and the audio are excellently linked. Overall I really enjoyed listening to it and I look forward to going through the remaining presentations on my list. However at 20-30minutes per presentation it might take some time.

I think such efforts are an excellent way to disseminate details from such a meeting or conference and should be a minefield to any PhD student for whom attendance to conferences is not always possible due to financial or time restraints. It is great that the content is made freely available, and I hope that more conferences go down this route. This is the first time I hear about this, but I will definitely keep my eyes open for similar initiatives.

ENVIRON 2011

April 10, 2011 1 comment

From the 6th – 8th April, the 21st Irish Environmental Researchers’ Colloquium, ENVIRON 2011, was being held at University College Cork. This is organised by ESAI (Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland) and is a conference which our whole lab attends each year. During the first day of the conference, a number of relevant workshops were held, and since two of my lab mates and myself were interested in that on Geospatial Technologies, we made our way down to Cork a bit earlier. I had used GIS during my fourth year project, however I only had a basic understanding of this tool. However I hope to be able to make use of GIS further during my PhD, as I believe it will significantly help my research. The workshop consisted of 1.5hours on GIS and 1.5hours on remote sensing, and therefore we did not really get an in-depth knowledge of the software. However, it was a good refresher course to remember what I had done before. I really liked that the workshop was mainly practical based, in that during each session, we had a short introduction, followed by hands-on experience of carrying out a tutorial.

That evening, a wine reception followed by the opening speeches were held. I was particularly interested in the keynote speech by Professor Michael Depledge. He touched upon a million and one things during his presentation, but he managed to make it accessible to all, yes still scientific enough. The next morning, the ‘conference proper’ was to start. After an initial plenary session, the various sessions of presentations were held. 4 different sessions were held at the same time, and one chooses which session he attends. Such sessions were to be held over the last 1.5 days, since the conference ended at lunch on Friday.

During the first session of ‘Water Quality’ I was to present a 1 minute oral presentation on my poster. I am glad I got to present my work and my slot was at the start, since a number of people came up to talk to me after that. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of students coming up to me to ask about my research and that they would be interested in my findings, since it could add something to what they are already doing. Therefore it is encouraging to see that IF my method works, it will find some use. Alas, it is an IF. It was also slightly unsettling, that some people are doing quite similar work to what I am doing. But that is research, and hopefully the work they will be doing will not be too similar.

I was particularly excited when my supervisor told me that a person from the EPA was interested in my work. I had been trying to contact people at the EPA, but it seems as if my messages were not going through. However I now have his contact details, and I will get back to him next week. If I can get the support of the EPA, it will certainly add some essential backing in relation to the relevance of my research.

As with the other conferences/meetings I have been at, I have found that it is not the actual presentations which are most useful, but rather the discussions held during the other activities, such as poster sessions, lunch or dinner. ENVIRON 2011 is over, and I look forward to ENVIRON 2012.

English for Academic Purposes

As part of the Graduate Training Elements courses I am following at my University is a course called ‘English for Academic Purposes’. I have followed another course previously about ‘Advanced Analytical Techniques‘ about which I have blogged previously. The English course is mainly aimed at non-native speakers of English, although some Irish students are also joining in. Lectures started a number of weeks ago, and I have been finding them really informative (albeit a bit slow-paced some times). I really appreciate the lecturer’s flexibility in setting out the course, whereby she addresses the issues we are dealing with rather than following a set syllabus. The fact that there is no mark associated to the course, is likely a big contributing factor.

As part of the course, some of the students are presenting their work to the other members of the class. The main idea is to get more experience presenting. After the presentation, we ask questions about the project followed by comments about how the presentation went, and how to improve our presentation skills.

Today it was my turn to present. I was a bit worried about making my presentation accessible to everyone present. Although most of the students are in science/engineering/IT, there are a few from the arts and humanities (including the lecturer). As a basis for my presentation I used many slides from my meeting earlier on in the month. However I tried to adapt them to a less technical audience.

Overall, the feedback was quite constructive, as it usually is. I am glad to say that the consensus was that they could understand my project, even the people from other fields. Some of the things I need to improve are related to eye contact. I was told that although I make eye contact, I tend to keep making eye contact with only a few people over and over again, rather than to all the group. I guess that is true, since I tend to make eye contact with either people I know are most critical (generally at the beginning of my presentation) so that I know from their body language what they are thinking, and then if I feel as if they are not showing an interest and I start getting stressed I look for friendly people in the audience. It was also said that I should improve the quality of the equation I inputted (it is an image, so resolution is not that great) and to use the Equation Editor.

Another comment I do not know whether to take as positive or negative. One of the guys commented that I was animated during the presentation. I know I tend to move around and move my hands quite a lot (or alternatively play with my scarf) when presenting, and also tend to go to the screen and point towards things on the screen sometimes. So perhaps I do need to tone down on that. Though other people in the group said that that kept them interested.

Overall, there is room for improvement, but I am happy about the comments I got. I should be giving a similar version of the presentation in the coming months to students from my school as part of the postgraduate presentations that the Biological Research Society are organising. So hopefully it will be an improvement on my presentation today.

Making Connections

March 17, 2011 1 comment

Since my research concerns environmental and local issues as a start, I am fast recognizing the importance of having connections with the relevant agencies and companies working in the area. Being part of QUESTOR certainly helps in getting the foot in the door, particularly for first contacts, for meeting QUESTOR industrial partners. Therefore, over the past months I have been trying to get into contact with relevant agencies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

I have met informally during QUESTOR events with one of the companies in the RoI, who have shown willingness to give support to my project. I have been in contact with them, and hopefully things will move forward soon. Yesterday, I had a meeting with another agency in Northern Ireland. I had been in communication by email for a couple of months now, and had finally managed to organise a trip to their offices, where I was to meet people involved in water chemistry.

Over the past week I was pleased to see that my supervisors were showing interest in attending, with 3 out of my 4 supervisors (the fourth is sick and so could not make it) attending the meeting. It feels good to see their interest in this project, and that they could be present to show support. Therefore yesterday morning saw my two supervisors attending from DCU and myself driving up to their offices. Once we arrived we met with my supervisor from QUB and in we went.

First up, after initial introductions was a short presentation I prepared about my project. This was the part I was most scared about. I was not sure of how much detail I should include or how technical the people I was meeting were. I decided to give a short presentation of around 10minutes. Had only managed to try it completely from start to finish once, yesterday morning. However it seems to have gone well. They commented that it was succinct and to the point at the end, and my supervisor from QUB requested that I send a copy. So it seems that my worries were unfounded.

After my presentation, we got to discussing our possible collaboration and what logistical issues need to be sorted out, what support they could offer etc etc. In general it was a very positive meeting, and I hope that something fruitful comes out of it. They seems really interested in the project, and as usual the main feeling at the end of me explaining what I am working on is that ‘if this works, it will be great’. But Oh Well. That is research.

I hope that what we discussed will come to fruition, but I am sure that even if it does not, this initial contact has been useful and will bring some benefits somehow.

QUESTOR@DCU

As I have said previously, although my PhD is funded by the EU, through the FP7 Marie Curie people project, the QUESTOR centre is the coordinating body. Apart from the 5 ATWARM students at DCU, there are a couple of other QUESTOR funded (these are actually funded by QUESTOR) students within DCU, and yesterday (Friday 4th March), we had the annual QUESTOR@DCU meeting. It was the first time, I think, that all QUESTOR funded students at DCU met since I have started my PhD, although most of us met in Belfast for the QUESTOR/ATWARM meeting in November. The director of the QUESTOR centre was also present, as were a couple of people from industry, who are either part of QUESTOR or are thinking of joining.

After introductory presentations form the QUESTOR@DCU coordinator, Prof Fiona Regan and the director of QUESTOR, the student presentations were next. We were 12 students in all. In order to limit the length of the day, we only had poster presentations. So the way it worked out was that we all got to stand in front of our poster and speak for around 5 minutes about our project. After this, questions were asked by the people present. I think I did quite well in my presentation and I got a couple of questions I could answer and a couple of suggestions etc. However the problem which always comes up in my presentations cropped up again, where I start talking and halfway through the presentation my mind wanders and then my brain notices that my mouth is talking but I have no idea what I am saying. People say that they do not notice it (although my sister has commented on it before, in that my eyes start to wander), and so think it was overall successful.

After lunch, we had two presentations from the Industrial partners. The presentation by Mark Bowkett from T.E. Laboratories was particularly interesting, as it showed me how companies look at research, and how academic and industrial partners can come together and make it work for them. After that was a presentation by Dr Conor Tonra from PatelTonra Ltd. who gave us a case study on the application of scientific and environmental knowledge to the business mindset. Although this last presentation was interesting overall, I think it was too focused on what the company does, rather than how we can get into such an area or make it work for us.

The day had come to an end, however before we left we had some important discussions to make. The next QUESTOR/ATWARM meeting, will happen in May in Germany, and we all got together to discuss how to organise the trip. We will probably all go together, get the same flights and stay at the same hotels etc. We should be getting further details in the coming weeks, however by next week we will probably know what flights we will be getting. Germany here we come.

The QUESTOR@DCU students with Prof Regan and the director of QUESTOR

The QUESTOR@DCU students with Prof Regan and the director of QUESTOR

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.