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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.

Do the hokey cokey

“You put your left leg in, your left leg out. In, out, in, out, and shake it all about.”

Being a father to two young children, and married to a wife that does baby and toddler music and movement classes, this song is very familiar indeed.

“You do the hokey cokey and you turn around…thats what it’s all about!”

Now, if there are things I’ve learnt in my 29 years of living, it is not to debate/argue over religion, or politics. So i won’t. However, this impending EU referendum is beginning to get on my nerves a bit. The scaremongering by both sides using the same facts is pathetic. The facts and figures given by each campaign with a complete and blatant disregard to the actual factual content is not really acceptable in a situation where it could mean huge consequences after a decision. I don’t know who to trust more..the politicians leading these campaigns, or the children putting their left leg in, their left leg out and shaking it all about!

I’m not afraid to say that we need to remain as part of the EU. And I will of course be voting that way myself, and it frustrates me to think that there are people who want to vote out (which is fine of course – opinions are to the individual, democracy and all that), but have based their decision on propaganda from the media. Immigration is obviously a big issue for some people. But what about those of UK origin currently living in other EU countries. What about those that come to the UK that do find a job, pay their taxes, establish themselves as part of the bigger community and contribute to society etc. As far as I can see, there is no justifiable reason for them not to be allowed to come here. Surely it is a good thing that they want to come to our incredible country in the first place. We live in a fantastic country, and yes we do get a lot of benefits of being here – we are a rich country, have a good economy, good housing, healthcare, security etc. Just because we have it, and others were born into a situation whereby they don’t have the same as us, who are we to say others can’t have it. It is not a right.

I don’t want to generalise too much, but those that do want to come here, want to in order to have a better life – get a job, more security etc. They want to work. Want to contribute, and this effort is far in excess of even some of our own, which is a real shame.

For me personally, I am a scientist, a very early career scientist, but will rely on getting funding from charities/funding bodies to support research in the wider world. This funding is very often as part of a collaboration – that can be intra-UK, or inter-country. A significant portion of funding that the UK research community gets is EU sourced. There is a very significant, and scary risk that this will stop, or at the very least become much much more difficult to obtain if we leave the EU. I have a family, house and commitments, and cannot afford for this to happen. That might be a selfish way of looking at things, but in all honesty, I can’t afford not to think of it this way. Another way of thinking about it (particularly for those not involved in research/science/academia etc) is research will suffer without funding. We will not be able to make the progress and findings without the money in order to support it. It’s a fundamental issue.

I’m not going to go on, because I don’t need to. Leaving the EU is a ridiculous prospect which as far as I’m concerned, should not even be on the table.

No more hand-me-downs

NEW PIPETTES! Most often is the case that researchers join an already established group, where they inherit equipment, consumables, reagents etc, and included in this are pipettes. They may be old, uncalibrated, unchecked, but still used. In a scientists day to day life, here are few things quite as exciting as getting new pipettes! Not very often do you get an opportunity to browse, test and evaluate pipettes and then get a new set! Of course they belong to the group, and I won’t be the only one using them but they’re amazing and I’m so chuffed 🙂 I can’t wait to get my qPCR on and make use of them!

Too many cooks

Too many cooks

Too many cooks spoil the broth. A well known saying, however take away those cookers and this means things burn.

This has so many connotations, particularly in academia. Too many people’s opinions can lead to a difficultq decision process, less clear vision and lack of good direction. However, less guidance is also a dangerous scenario; too easy to go too far off the beaten track, into unknown and unnecessary territory. Not only that, but in every day life, too many inputs makes things unnecessarily difficult.

Anyway, this post is absolutely not about me personally (in the academic sense at least!), I am very lucky indeed. I have the perfect balance of amazing supervisory guidance, advice, and independence. But i made a chilli this evening and left it on the hob too long without stirring and it’s burnt! Still nice though, just a bit of a smokey flavour too! 😀

Life balance

A PhD is a big deal. It’s a great big research project spanning three or four years, in which you have to find something novel.. To contribute to knowledge.
It not only takes over your life, it becomes your life. It engulfs you in its enormity, sapping every ounce of strength you have (or think you had)  until your submission, and even then it isn’t finished with you…until the viva.

During this most incredible journey, you do have highs, and lows.. Some very high highs, and certainly some very low lows. But what makes it all bearable, is the acknowledgement that you do, and should rightly so, have a life outside of the PhD.. For some, it may be socialising with friends, down the pub, gaming or whatever. It doesn’t actually really matter what it is, just that you know it exists. Make use of it, let it help those low days become average days, let it help those average days become good days and most importantly, let it tell you that you are still human.

Today I spent some time with my two boys, and sat out the back while I watched my eldest play with his friends – friends that he has established on his own, by engaging with them, playing with them and just being a nice little boh. Trivial so it may seem, but this is such a precious sight and puts everything about life into perspective.
Oh, and I had an oreo ice cream 🙂 #GoodDay

If it looks too good to be true

Then you’ve probably done something wrong! Like picking up a pack of chicken breasts at £1.15 thinking you have a real bargain, when they are actually £1.15 for each breast…so £4.60 in total!! But you buy two packs because you’ve no idea, and get home to be told what an idiot you really are!! Or adding too high a concentration of standard! In this case anyway…
Looking at host cell responses for cytokine production of cells after microbial challenge, the ELISA to quantify this cytokine worked all too well. The concentration of the standard was way too high for the samples a few amendments needed but nearly all good to go – great news!

Write, they said..

It’ll be fun, they said.

One necessary evil of doing a PhD is the thesis. Some see it as a celebration of the culmination of years of hard work, in a single volume of easy reading. It might well be, but it is still a very daunting task – 80,000 (give or take) words, flowing story, novel research communicated in a succinct, but scientific, and valid but not boring manner. Simple right!?

There is no best time to start – only “if you haven’t started yet, its already too late!”. That said, I have, if only for my own sanity, started writing, and while knowing my field somewhat better than I did two and a bit years ago, still struggle with the imposter syndrome that appears to rear its ugly head at the most inappropriate times. Do I really have the knowledge to write a thesis?! Am I going to have enough to make my three year journey seem worthwhile and sufficient for a doctoral degree?! Time will tell, and PIs of course..


Yesterday afternoon I attended a seminar all about social media, and my use of it as a researcher. We heard some really great talks; Joe Nicholls talked about why it is so important to have a social media presence for current a future research careers. Lucy Collins then told us about Altmetrics, and how social media usage impact can be measured (very interesting!), which is as important as journal impact factors for publications!

Having heard some inspiring talks, and all about the other side of social media (when it goes wrong..), I decided that my social media presence was a good thing, and plan to continue this. As a result, I updated a few things on the web ( for one) and invested in a domain to tie things together: 🙂

Next is to keep up to date and interact more with experts in my field (which I do already – mainly on twitter) and decide how to best separate (if necessary) personal/professional social media..tough one that!


Holidays are like buses

You need a holiday, and then Easter holiday arrives, and your planned holiday to Burnham with the family does too! Fun times!!

The kids had a great time away, Oliver crawling like theres no tomorrow, Ruben winning another Minion toy not he grabber machine…on the last attempt! Time spent on the beach, in the arcade, in the pool (and on the slide!) and Ruben swimming like a pro. A well needed break away, and although I had a stinking cold for a few days through it, was good fun and lovely time spent with the family.

Back to work and getting things in motion for a busy few weeks of experiments. Host cell responses and biofilm interactions to do, sequencing data is starting to come back now so will have many meetings on analysing that no doubt – and let the supercomputer do the number crunching! So after a slow few weeks since Gregynog (with breaks and such), letting cells go, and grow again from LN stocks, things are looking ever more promising.

Had a lovely catch up with Chris from genesis (my old work) last week too – nice to see he’s doing well, and such a shame that he’s now left the company..but all good things..

I’ve also entered the Cardiff Half Marathon again this year, and am running for Stroke Association – hopefully we can raise some much needed funds to help those suffering with stroke (or helping those that suffer from them!). You can donate by visiting my just giving page ( or by texting DJMO86 <amount> to 70070 (e.g. DJMO86 £5 to 70070) – I’d be really grateful if you could support me 🙂

OMIG – Gregynog Hall

What a great week!

This week saw three of us from DENTL attend the Oral Microbiology and Immunology Group meeting at Gregynog Hall. Josh, Zahraa and I drove up (in a beautiful Toyota Verso) with no navigational problems this time round – after taking more than twice as long to get there last time because of a battery issue with phone leading to no sat nav, and no maps!!)

Upon arrival it was great to catch up with David B and Jon from GSK, Marcello and Dave S (OMIG committee) and the others.. We then attended the post-PhD career talk where we were given some insight into industry from Jon, and academic careers by Prof. Deirdre Devine – a wonderful woman with a wealth of academic knowledge and advice to give!

I also met a lovely student who is doing a very similar project to me, and there seems to be scope for some exchange of knowledge somewhere along the way I’ve no doubt :). My presentation went fairly well, although very nervous starting, and handsome great thought-provoking questions – particularly from Deirdre and Julian (Naglik). Josh presented really well, and handled his questions with confidence and good knowledge. After dinner, Zahraa defended her poster, again really well and with confidence – great representation for Cardiff University overall.

So it seems that the future for my research is looking pretty fruitful, and with many many external support networks/potential collaborators and just people that I can now approach for some guidance or advice, I feel in a great position moving forward and thinking longer term.

Such a great feeling attending a conference, it really fills you with motivation, confidence and gives you a great perspective on the bigger picture of your research. Cannot wait to get stuck in back in the lab again and deliver some incredible research!!

Aseptic technique..

This is a pretty important aspect of microbiology: necessary to avoid contamination, or cross contamination; good old observation of strict aseptic technique.

Now you don’t necessarily have to observe strict protocols or even adhere to ‘strict’ aseptic technique, but if you are advised to work around a bunsen, flame tweezers before use, flame lids and keep tip boxes closed between use, then you’ll probably avoid most contamination risks. Well if you don’t listen, this is what you end up with.. 

 I’m pretty laid back about working habits and don’t get contamination, but I’m also impressed that it’s even possible to get this much contamination.. Oh well, positivity..that’s what they say right?!