I m excited to announce that I am the recipient of the 2019 Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair (CITER) Young Investigator Award. This is a fantastic award to recognise high quality research, reviewed by an inter-disciplinary team, and I am very proud to have received this award. I am eternally grateful for the academic support I received throughout my PhD, and the opportunities that I was given, that each led to achieving the successes that I have.
As part of the award, I am invited to present as keynote speaker at the annual CITER conference in September 2019, where I will receive the award. More information here.
That has always made me chuckle. And for those who are concerned, hard at work, all the time ;). But the past two weeks have been particularly super busy! Mainly in the lab. That’s a good thing I guess, in some ways at least. It means you can’t get distracted, but by working in the lab you are by definition distracted from writing.
This week, Josh and I had some tissue models come in for infections, so we grew biofilms as we do for a few days, and then infected the tissue models. All 72 of them!!
Luckily we can do the analysis in stages, so we did LDH, and then the RNA extraction, and Josh has since done his RT, which I’m yet to do. We also had some. Time in pathology, embedding the models in wax, with some help and training from the lovely lovely path guys!
So, that doesn’t sound like much but it’s taken a week to do that! And ne t up we have the sectioning and staining, microscopy, qPCR and analysis of the data then from the stained sections, more sections and use of fluorescent probes and more microscopy! Much fun to be had.
And in the background, I’ve been writing the thesis. It’s been difficult, and I wasn’t able to get as much done foe my first section (which was the lot review, and was incredibly difficult to do!) but i did get to hand in a draft of another section of a chapter, and I’m ahead of schedule (a day early of my weekly targets!) for this next one! These may only be materials and methods, but are still important and a necessary part of each chapter.
I’ve made some changes to my IADR poster and sent that for printing (paying £50 for the privilege! £30 of which was the rushed delivery haha!). Looking forward to receiving it and taking a look, fingers crossed for no typos haha. Onwards!
As a PhD student, it is inevitable that you’ll have opportunities to attend academic conferences. I’m in science (biomedical research specifically), and while the content may differ, all conferences are the same thing really – a chance for people to present current, novel work to people in their field, to network with peers/experts/friends, to make new contacts and discuss potential collaborations, and of course to drink and be merry. It’s a bit like Christmas really…you get to see people you haven’t seen all year and have a good time, and learn about science at the same time!
For some, the prospect of being thrown in front of many people (Daniel in the lions den so to speak (rich coming from an atheist)), whether it be to present a poster, short talk, or longer talk, or just to attend the conference, can be quite a daunting thought. I’m fortunate enough to have been to many conferences in my time as a PhD student, and I thoroughly enjoy going to them!
I’ve put together a list of what I consider top tips for attending your first conference (or any subsequent conference if you aren’t a big fan of them or people!).
Enjoy it. Enjoying the experience is by far one of the most important factors of attending a conference. You are there, of course, primarily to gain knowledge from presentations by experts and peers in your field of research, but having a good time while you’re there is a must. There is no easier way to learn so much, in such a short space of time, than attending a conference, but with that said, it is not necessarily the be all and end all of the event. There are endless opportunities to network, to engage, and to really get to know the people that you may very well hold in high regard (and they will probably turn out to be (quite) human after all!). Of course, conferences can feel very formal, particularly, for example, gala dinner events where the heading ‘black tie’ can be very off putting, but most are friendly, relatively low key and really supportive environments. If you are presenting, I know it can be a nerve-wracking experience, but once the presentation is over you will feel so much more relaxed…so just go and enjoy yourself!
Talk to people. Ok, for some people, this is easier said than done, but for me it is one of the most important things (apart from enjoying the whole thing of course, hence why it’s number 2). Conferences are a prime opportunity to get yourself known by face. It is all well and good knowing people by name, but there is nothing like being able to stand face to face and have even a small chat with them. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of making yourself known to people, as this will come back on you positively for sure. If you’re a bit nervous, and you’re attending the conference with your supervisor, or colleague, then taking them with you is not a bad move, but don’t just let the opportunity slip to introduce yourself. Make sure to shake hands (even if they don’t offer to first!), and get some contact details if you think they could be useful for the future. Business cards are a great opportunity to make another mark for yourself here – why not design your own, and give them to people while you’re there. It isn’t something commonly done by PhD students, but makes you stand out and gives them a reason to remember you.
Go to the talks/posters and engage. The main advantage of going to a conference is to broaden your academic knowledge base of current work in your field, without having to trawl through hundreds of papers. You can just visit the poster/talk and see whats going on. If it is of interest, follow it up with them directly, or in the literature. If it isn’t, then nothing lost! Talking to the poster presenters is a great way to quickly get some inside info on the project/area, and you’d be surprised at how open people and projects really are (unless there are IP issues of course). The main thing here is not to come across as the arrogant, over confident, uninterested person, there only to be super critical of their work. Don’t forget that most poster presenters are students, and/or early career researchers, and could probably do without being excessively grilled (they’re there to try and enjoy the conference too!). The good thing with poster sessions is that you can read the title/abstract and then get a gist of whats going on, and if it isn’t of much interest, move on to the next (but be polite and compliment (where appropriate) the presenter on their efforts!). If attending an oral session, engagement is somewhat more formal, and takes the form of a q&a section after the talk. It can be daunting enough asking a question, but if you’re brave enough (and don’t forget, theres no such thing as a stupid question!), ask away and other people may benefit form their answer too! Otherwise, find them after the session and have a chat (see no. 2 above).
Dress for the occasion. It might seem quite a trivial thing, and it is something that I struggle with if I’m honest…even now; more than 3 years into my PhD. I never know whether to wear jeans and a t-shirt, shirt and trousers, suit….and it can be easy to over- or under-dress depending on the conference. For a small meeting, I would suggest smart casual. For a larger conference, or on the day you are presenting irrespective of conference size, I would say dress up a bit. Maybe not necessarily suit and tie, but certainly consider suit without tie, or shirt and tie with no jacket etc. For females, I think it’s somewhat easier – a smart-ish dress, trousers and smart-ish top.. you can’t really go wrong for smart casual! Just be wary not to over or under do it.
What a great visit. The past two days have been some of the most fun moments you can possibly have in science I’m sure.
It’s that time of year when GSK very kindly host their annual student science symposium. Once again the evening poster session and dinner was held in the beautiful Oatlands Park hotel in Weybridge, then the next day on to the GSK Oral Healthcare base.
The evening poster session was once again full of great science from early stage PhD students (and Jonathan who despite being a third year, did a poster as well as his oral presentation!)
The dinner was delicious, and the company was even better. Kelly, William, Chris, Jing, Jonny, Sharon and Ezra. Lovely students who are such great fun. Dinner was broken into sections with entertainment by the now infamous Jon and Dave, with their QI inspired quiz. Hilarious to say the least.
Then came the socialising and drinks flowed freely. Such a great opportunity to really engage with people on a personal level, and make new friends.
The oral sessions were so inspiring. So much great research, and great presentations, from all sorts of disciplines: proteins, materials, Dentistry microbiology, tissue engineering. All of really great quality and solid science.
I was fortunate enough to have given a talk on my next generation sequencing data (hot off the press this week!), which went down a storm. Great feedback and ideas bouncing off the results. And great contacts made which which be really useful in the future I’ve no doubt! Additionally, I had a few ideas of my own for possible collaborations and group work, so that is something I’m keen to pursue in the near future… Fingers crossed!
Today also saw the (initial as I’m sure it will be extended, as ever) deadline for the abstract submissions for IADR 2017 in San Francisco, California. Yep, I did get an abstract submitted so fingers crossed and watch this space for updates in the coming months of the outcome 😀
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!
After 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.
I 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.
Day 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.
The 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).
Sadly 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!
We 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.
Sadly, 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! 😀
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!!
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
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!!
They say s PhD journey is 10% intelligence and 90% persistence and perseverance, and to be honest, I’m very lucky to have the project and supervision that I do. However, I would liked to have had this the other way around – not being able to get things to work in the first year, only to then generate a ton of data in the following years. It’s also times like these that the ‘imposter syndrome’ begins to rear its ugly head; why am I here when I can’t get s simple experiment to do what it should?! Why is cell biology such that cell lines appear to change in behaviour the more they’re passaged..that’s the whole point of an immortal cell line, it’s consistent! And thinking about it, it’s been consistent in my case but not the way it should be! Oh well, n=3 so whatever is, is.
On the positives, medic students are joining me next week for a dabble in the tiny world of microorganism and adherence,.going to be good fun and they’re really looking forward to it which is always nice :).
Preparation for OMIG well and truly underway too, car hire being sorted, presentations being written, posters being designed..and lots (and lots!) of lab work to boot! Looking forward to catching up with friends over a few drinks (soft, of course) 😉
It didn’t feel particularly busy, because working with cells means a lot of waiting for them to…well, grow. It’s all the little bits that seem to add up and make what seems like it should be an average week, into a very not average week.
Did some flow work at the start of the week which showed the new antibody I bought in worked :D. I also had another clinical sample – a stomatitis one this time too, so excited to see what comes back off the plates for isolated bugs..and need to sort the DNA extraction for that too.. good times! Nearly half way with these samples now.
My supervisor had his reviewers comments and scores for a grant application which he needed to get on with, and has taken such a long time to get this far (fingers crossed David!), so this week was mainly focussed on establishing cell lines after the infections, making sure my bugs were viable and growing ok, trying to ship cells from Sheffield and preparing abstracts and presentations! The cells did finally arrive this week after a nightmare with the shipping, but they’re now established and growing (hopefully well!). I managed to get images of all the tissues from the batch that were infected, which took forever to do…the bloody microscope is not very easy to work with, and the x40 mag sense is awful!! Does not work at all..
Wednesday was a good day…gave a presentation at the School of Dentistry Research Day – all about biofilms and my work. Went pretty well, had some good questions (which I think I answered ok!), and some great feedback from people after the talk which is always nice to get. Also submitted an abstract for Biofilms7 in Porto, Portugal – a biofilms related conference (it’s in the name!) so fingers crossed for the tone..next I’ll be applying for some money to actually go haha! Priorities 🙂
Next week is going to be a busy one..as it’s half term too, so staggered days of doing things, but should work out quite well I’m sure!
Time to go and pick up the kids now though!