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Daniel

Oral and Biomedical Sciences PhD student at Cardiff University. Interested in Candida, oral biofilms, microbial interactions, host cell responses to infections and tissue engineering. Father to two amazing boys, and husband to an incredible wife. Hobbies include writing, listening to and performing music with my band and spending time with the family.

All work and no play

Makes Daniel a rubbish and (admittedly not very) miserable scientist haha. Having not taken a break during the summer when it seemed like every researcher and his dog had a holiday, we get invited to a wedding at short notice and decide to go, why not! 

So time indeed for a break and a relax. Somewhere hot. Like Greece. Next to the pool. With a drink…Done! 

It all happens when you’re thirty…. 

So turning thirty happened the other day. Happy birthday to me! 

My twenties were a great decade. I achieved quite a lot: finished my degree and got a science job, got married, bought two houses, became a landlord, had two beautiful children, started my PhD and travelled a lot presenting my work! 

That’s quite a lot to live up to for the next decade, despite how ambitious I am! 

However, my thirties have started pretty much how the twenties left off.. I have spent the past few days with my wonderful family (and it was wifes birthday yesterday too!) and had some wonderful gifts. A beautiful watch, money, rc helicopter (thanks Mike!), wine, vouchers and mugs! Amazing if I do say so haha.. Not only that, to celebrate,  we went Bowling, then to see The Overtones, then the next day paintballing and had a party for friends and family.

Now,the paintballing was such a great day in most aspects. Even though it was absolutely torrential rain and miserable, which is where the bad news comes in. My good friend Amr, unfortunately took a tumble during game 2 and managed to hurt his ankle. Two of us carried him back to the main area only so far before he couldn’t go any further, so the marshal (who handles it all very well indeed) went and reached a wheelbarrow. Now this was easier for us, but not so pleasant for Amr. Anyway we managed to get him back and transported to A&E where he found he had dislocated his ankle and broken his fibia and tibia. He had since successfully had surgery to insert pins and is in the mend. Get better soon Amr!

In addition to all this, my you gest had his first settling in day at nursery which went very well, and his second today. He starts this Friday coming and km sure he’s really excited about it.. I am! He’s growing up too quickly though, a proper little man now, walking and babbling..! 

Ruben started school yesterday too! Now that is a scary thought. He had his first afternoon session (settling in week 1), and seemed to be absolutely fine with it all like he’s done it a million times before! I’m so proud of them both 🙂 

So it has been an eventful but very fun birthday celebration and time to head back to work tomorrow. Time to crack on and finish this PhD! 

DM

If you think you can do it

If you don’t think you can do it, you’re probably right, but if you do think you can do it, you’re probably right, you probably can

One of the most memorable phrases that I have ever heard was given to me during secondary school. I was never ‘top of the class’, but I was part of the year group that was selected for this ‘aiming higher’ course. Basically, those that were above average achievers with potential, but not ‘top of the class’ were chosen to attend a series of classes about how to achieve more. These were held in the school or at University of South Wales, Caerleon campus, and the purpose was to motivate us to try harder, achieve more etc, by teaching us how to revise more efficiently, how to use different tools to reach our potential and so on.

Some would think this is really boring and useless, but I found it particularly useful. At the time (2004), there were 15 members of the EU, and I can still tell you who they were in alphabetical order forwards and backwards, and count to ten in Japanese. These were taught to us using techniques like visual association and memory accession. These techniques I still use today, to member lists of things or particularly complex things, and sure it isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. Mind maps, for example, I find of no use to me, but others swear by them .Each to their own, right!?

Anyway, back at school, one Mr Alan Bootle, gave us a lesson on how to revise. I hadn’t really had an awful lot of face to face teaching by him, but knew who he was and what he did, an I assume he didn’t know anything about me either!. In this lesson, Mr Bootle told us that he didn’t do particularly well in secondary school, but then discovered how to learn and retain information, and how he ended up getting a first class degree at university. He went through a range of techniques and gave us hints and tips, which were very useful indeed, and not only that, the motivation and passion he showed us really rubbed off on me, and from that point I held him in really high regard, and with a great deal of respect (more so than I had before).

One of the things he talked to us about was believing in yourself. Having confidence in your own ability and belief that you are better than you think you are. He said to us, if you think you can do it, you’re probably right, and it is this positivity that has really stuck with me since then., and is a motto that I live by for everything. It translates really well in every aspect of life – for me, doing this PhD is a hard slog, and sure, not everything works, but maintaining positivity, no matter how hard it gets sometimes, is really important. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and you will get there, because ‘if you think you can do it, you probably can 🙂

I love what I do

I really do love what I do. I get to do the most fun things, researching microbiology, tissue engineering and then bringing them together to look at microbiological infections of cells.

Doing a PhD is amazing. It is hard work, long hours, and you never really switch off – forever thinking, planning, analysing, dreaming of the project, which yes is exhausting, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

It’s not for everyone, of course, and you get out of it what you want to, so for me, I grabbed it by the horns and have made the most of my (nearly) three years in academia. I’ve networked with hundreds of people, found out things that nobody ever knew before, presented my work all around the world. I’m so proud of what I have achieved so far within this project, and I just wanted to say that I am so lucky to have not only the academic support of my supervisory team (which is the best that exists anywhere as far as I’m concerned), but also day to day support from my family, friends, colleagues, and even people that I have never met before, but interact with frequently through the wonders of the internet. The roller coaster of a ride during the PhD is real, with super high highs, and low lows.. but perseverance, so they say will help you win!

I’m getting all delusional, and beyond tired, writing papers at midnight..so thats all for now! (still wouldn’t change a thing!)

Summertime!

And so the summer is here, kids are off school for summer, people going on summer holidays, the sun is out (or was for a few days at least), and people are generally in a happier mood :). And for those budding microbiologists of you out there, you know the time where you can grow your bugs on the bench instead of the incubator 😉 Come on, you’ve all done it….

Win win, right?

Unfortunately, science doesn’t know what summer is, and doesn’t know what a holiday is. But it’s not all bad! Currently I’m at all systems go! My NGS data first stage analysis has come back from the lovely Ann in BioSci (woo!) and it is pretty good actually. Some great looking data which just needs more analysis, questions being asked of it and answers hopefully coming out of the other end of the pipeline..with plenty of graphs and pretty pictures to explain them! This is the hard bit!! Staring at a spreadsheet of numbers, making slight adjustments to species names based on BLAST info..and making general sense of the just of what is going on. *sigh* PhD..keep thinking, it is for a PhD! There is soon much to learn about this bit of work, and too much to do in the other bits that I haven’t finished yet! And it I want to be out of the lab in October time, I need to move relatively quickly..

So, with that in mind, I have tissue models growing, biofilms growing, RNA ready for extraction, qPCRs ready to run, cells growing, bugs growing, hundreds of PMMA coupons made and soaking..the next few weeks are going to be busy, but all in the good name of science. The light in this tunnel is nearly closing in…! I am looking forward to spending some time with Lauren and the boys for sure!

Champion! 

It is with pride that I post this, that I am now a champion of the Microbiology Society 😀

The role involves promoting the society and organising events to encourage further education, microbiology as a career and the field in general.. Membership is for everyone, from those involved day to day in clinical microbiology, researchers, postgraduate and undergraduate students and even just those who have an interest in microbiology!

First step, workshop planning underway…more to follow!

And they gave me a badge! 😀

Biofilms7; Porto, Portugal

Doing something alone is not always necessarily a lonely scenario. I’ve never been to a conference on my own before (local let alone international), so it was obviously going to be quite a daunting experience to begin with, filled with apprehension. However, I’m not the type of person to stay to myself at these kinds of things..so after a great flight into Porto, and getting to my hotel, I ventured out and watched a great orchestral performance right outside my hotel room! After travelling I was tired, so then hit the sack and got things ready for the start of the conference on Sunday.

Lazy morning on Sunday as the conference didn’t start until 13:20, so down for breakfast and wandered around for a bit, then a cab to the Faculty of Engineering for registration. I got my badge and welcome pack, and immediately made some friends who are studying in Southampton  – lovely bunch of guys and great to hear a familiar accent too! My poster defence was in the first poster session, so after the first set of lectures, it was coffee time (although I had lemonade because it was about 30 degC!) and poster defence. After some confusion with the timings I got to my poster somewhat late and thought I had ruined any chances of getting recommended for Flash presentation, so I just went about talking to anyone and everyone about my poster with the same enthusiasm as I always do. I love this part of the job – its great to talk to anyone that will listen about something I am so passionate about!
13524555_10100316019474107_4342173435053743565_nAfter the poster session were more lectures and then a welcome reception with Porto wine, nibbles and great company. I met Joey (from Canada) who has just started his PhD. Such a cool guy, down to earth and great to hang out with. After the reception I headed back to the hotel and decided to venture out to the centre and get a bite to eat and see whats about. Now, Porto is just the most beautiful place I think I’ve been to. The views are stunning, and the food amazing. I had spoken to a number of people before my trip and one thing that came up consistently was to try the Francesinha (and to make sure I was hungry before ordering!). I was really hungry at this point, so I ordered it, and in true British style, ordered fries too! This thing is incredible. It is basically a toasted sandwich, filled with steak, sausage, ham and covered with cheese and a sauce. Best. Food. Ever. It beat me, but worth every cent.
13502002_10100316019688677_1067539296787706762_nI managed to get in a bit of football watching too as their was a TV outside the restaurant..so good times! Then I did some more sight seeing wandering around Porto and taking in the views.
13501545_10100316019798457_2135892037308106000_nDay two of the conference, and I awake to an email from the organisers telling me I had been selected for flash oral presentation because of the ‘outstanding quality’ of my poster! What a message to wake up to, and a good job I had a presentation prepared!
Day two contained a number of really great lectures and two poster defence sessions – all of which were of really high scientific quality. It’s great to come to conferences where the science is the priority and is so good, and after a day of science was the conference dinner and wine cellar tour. So while waiting for the bus to take us to the wine cellars, I met some more amazing people; Špela and Dina. We got talking and immediately felt like I’d known them for years! While waiting in the queue we also made friends with Amanda who is just writing her thesis in the states. These people are amazing, and I’m so lucky to have met them all! We arrived at Taylor’s for the wine cellar tour and conference dinner, and were greeted with more wine and nibbles. where we also met Bradley – a post-doc from the states travelling around. our group was complete.
13529262_10100316022463117_3150024464509261121_nThe wine cellar tour was amazing, and the tour guide so knowledgeable even though she is only part time and studying for a dentistry qualification! The dinner was delicious, Gazpacho, followed by veal and veg, then a cinnamon and apple turnover/puff pastry thin with caramel ice cream and coffees! Then we decided to head out for a walk around and see whats about. Nice to get more sightseeing in and more selfies of course! (although, the guys were getting pretty fed up I’m sure by this point haha).
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13557920_10100316024898237_3813982322756002349_nSadly time is a constant, and despite how much fun we were having, it was getting late (or early actually by this point), so we all decided to head back to our hotels and get ready for the final day of the conference, which for me was Flash Oral presentation day!

I decided to suit up and go all out for this, which by the sounds of it worked quite well from feedback I had! haha!
It was pretty nerve-wracking waiting to give a presentation after already giving a poster presentation, and some of those before me were doing great but going over time, so I was worrying about that too.. but when my name was mentioned and introduced, all nerves turned to positive energy. Ok the presentation wasn’t the best I’ve ever given, but I got my point across and finished bang on time, and the questions showed that people understood the content which for me was goal achieved!
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13528670_10100316025571887_3306794289086558314_n-2We then broke for coffee break while the public scored the flash presentations, and went out to socialise before the last session and awards ceremony.

I didn’t win the best flash oral (which of course I was disappointed at), but I did win Best Poster :D. Not only that, but one of my new best friends Špela won honourable mention in her session too! So we got to share the stage as we were showered with congratulations (again, always nice to get haha!), and handed our prizes of a presentation box of porto wines and certificate.
13567133_10100316025931167_3157869220434207733_nSadly, it was then time to say goodbye to those that I felt I had only just met but known for a lifetime as my flight home was in a few hours time. Much sadness to say goodbye, but will forever keep in touch with these guys, and who knows what will happen in the future! And the good news is that so far, I’ve managed to keep in touch..one week down! 😀

Best. Conference. Ever 🙂

You can take the brit out of Britain

But now I’m sat here in a beautiful Portuguese city, Porto, having just watched a beautiful orchestral performance literally outside my hotel, now sat in my hotel room with a cup of tea and a bag of twiglets. It’s a different kind of beautiful!

Had a really great flight over, although slightly delayed. And having spent half my budget on the taxi ride to the hotel (ok that may be a slight exaggeration, but it’s expensive!), I am now exhausted and think it’s time for some sleep!

From what I’ve seen this far however, Porto is a beautiful city. I hope I have some chance to get out and take a look in and around this conference! Its a busy schedule, and I am not extending my trip past Tuesday (which is when the conference ends), so will just be a busy few days no doubt!!
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It is nearly time, but there is never enough time!

This week has been a hectic one to say the least, and we’re only half way through!!

The week started with poster printing for the Biofilms7 conference this weekend (25-28 June) in Porto, Portugal. All sorted and poster collected, I then had another run of host cell responses to microorganisms underway. Seeded the cells ready to go..we’ll see how that goes in the next couple of days..

Tuesday came and went really quickly, Get into work and then straight on with challenging my cells with various conditions for the responses expt. Had a course booked, but with everything that was going on in the lab, I couldn’t go..but it was a presentation skills one (and having won awards for presentations already, I’m not too disappointed!). Antibodies have arrived to do some tissue section staining int he coming weeks/months too…so exciting times ahead, watch this space!

Wed was another super busy one. Dropped Roo off at nursery and rush into work to get everything done that I needed to. Check insurance/MOT docs for travel, sort passport details for flights, check in online and sort boarding passes, start the ELISA for cell responses and collect 24h samples for it! All while trying to give some guidance to PhD friends, and somehow fit in a coffee…! Preparations are well underway for my trip to Porto this weekend..and lots of fun to be had I’m sure. However, thinking closer to home, things may well be very different in the future if I wanted to travel to Portugal if the UK make any mistakes during the referendum tomorrow….

All this rushing has got me thinking. Imagine working in a country that didn’t adhere to the EU working directive, of no more than 48 hr/wk. Now, this is a real possibility if we are not governed by the EU. As in, if we left the EU. What a stupid mistake that would be, not only for the working directive, but for financial, economic, collaborative (particularly scientific), and security implications. We as a country need to REMAIN as part of the European Union, and give the finger to those that are on the side of selfishness, and in my opinion, bordering racist. Those who claim that immigration is the biggest issue with our relationship with the EU. Those that make worst of factual evidence that simply doe not stand on it’s own. It is such a shame that these idiots are in a powerful position of scaremongering the public (particularly those who are led by the media), and poisoning the minds of those that are unsure, or less well informed of the real facts.

Sure, our relationship with the EU is not perfect. No relationship ever is. But we cannot, and should not want to, walk away from this relationship as a result of these poisoned ‘facts’ that are being thrown around. We have one more sleep(less) night ahead before the biggest decision the UK will make in a generation, which will affect the next generation, and even the generation after that. Dint make a stupid decision, Vote Remain

Resistance is futile

I wouldn’t say that I am an anxious person, or overly scared by things. But antimicrobial resistance is terrifying. The concept that we, as technically and medically advanced as we are, can even get to the stage whereby we don’t have any lines of defence against pathogenic organisms, genuinely frightens me.

I am fairly lucky. I have only ever had one course of antibiotics (which of course I completed!), but that doesn’t mean much. I may not be contributing to the overall issue of resistance directly, but as I type this, all over the world there are thousands of livestock being administered antibiotics to keep them healthy and infection free, there are people demanding antibiotics for their cold, there are people being prescribed antibiotics, but only taking half and feeling better then not bothering with the rest. These are the scenarios that scare me more than most. Now consider those that genuinely need antibiotics; those that have a severe infection (or not even severe, but an infection that they are struggling to fight), which, without a course of treatment, would mean substantial consequences.

I know it is all over the news, and the media have a tendency to hype things, but this is real. This is a very real situation with very real and dire consequences if we don’t do something about it. Luckily we have monitoring by the WHO and other international bodies, and masses of research going into discovering new antimicrobials, but this can be a slow and very expensive process. Resistance is happening now, and spreading.

It is somewhat reassuring however, that Horizon 2020 is here, part of which is a drive for the discovery and development of novel antimicrobial compounds or treatments. Eighty billion euros (that’s right,  €80Bn – so we need to remain in the EU!) worth of funding, to tackle a range of current questions. Hopefully this push will succeed and give us more time…because inevitable we will be in the same position one day..