Browse Category

Off Topic

Post conference ramblings in San Francisco

So with the conference done and dusted, good sessions, good poster presentation, good discussions and great to catch up with people (and some future potential there for sure!), it would be silly to travel half way across the world, to spend it working and then go home, right?

We didn’t. Josh, Elen and I decided (ahead of our travels of course) to stay out for some more. Time to see the sights and do some things! And what a great decision that was. First up while the others were still around was Alcatraz (and Angel Island for this of us who didn’t manage to book in time, but ended up with a better day anyway!). The boat trip to Angel Island was pretty smooth, and the island tour was pretty cool. The views from the top of the bridge and the wildlife were very impressive to say the least. And of course, what’s a view like without some group pictures eh? 

To see the Golden Gate Bridge from here was awesome, but a shame that the others didn’t come with us too. Alcatraz itself was a great experience too! The audio tour really immersed you into what happened all those years ago. 

After we waved goodbye to our colleagues on the Saturday evening, we prepared and set off for the natural beauty of Yosemite National Park early Sunday morning. The train and bus journey felt like a lifetime, but we eventually arrived in an area of such natural beauty, I had never seen anything comparable.

The tent was funny. Small, very basic, ridiculously cold (hovering around zero degrees every night), but luckily we’d upgraded to a heated tent, which turned out to be a lifesaver! We did a few walks, saw some rocks, scenery and wildlife which actually was pretty good fun. Very tiring, but good fun still. 

A great experience of course, but for a city person, I was itching to get back to the bustle of the city (despite the infamously evident socioeconomic crisis that exists in SF with the extent of homelessness). It had been great in Yosemite, but there’s only so long I can spend walking and enjoy it before it becomes a bit boring (personally!). 

We returned to the city and checked into the hotel, before heading out for some Mexican food. After walking for miles (again) we settled on the next closest restaurant we stumbled across, which happened to be a brilliant Mexican one! The food was amazing the desserts not so, but we were very pleased :D. 

We had planned for our last full day to go to the Science museum in the golden gate park area, that we had seen on out previous bus tour. Not too pricy an entry fee, but worth every penny. The rainforest zone with the plant life, butterflies, birds and other insects/reptiles/fish, the aquarium and the diving demonstration (!), then the planetarium with virtual fly-throughs of. Earth and space. All very entertaining and worthwhile. 

We then spent an hour at the Japanese tea garden before heading for some proper American pizza for dinner. Josh had a deep pan (more like a pie than a pizza!) , I had a thin and Elen had a pita bread filled pizza. They were delicious, but we were very full and tired, so headed back for our final night at the hotel. Morning came and we had a nice sleep in, then packed our stuff, checked out and went foe a bit if last minute shopping. The shops are plentiful, but somewhat expensive. Then an uber ride to the airport where we no await our boarding doe the flight home.

A great trip, lots of memories and experiences,  and hundreds of photos, but now time to go home. There’s no place like it. 

Goodbye and hello

Today sees the end of a roller-coaster year, namely 2016. It also sees the introduction and welcoming of 2017, an important year in academic terms – my final stretch of the PhD studentship.

2016 wasn’t all bad though. So what happened?
– I went to Gregynog and presented my early tissue model work, with great feedback and comments. Met some new faces and sparked a few potential future collaborations.
– I went to another conference in Porto, Portugal and presented an updated version of the tissue model work, winning the poster prize! I again met new faces, and some friends for life.
– I submitted a paper to a journal to which I was invited to publish, this was reviewed and required a bit more work, but sparked an application for additional funding which was secured in December 2016.
– I am co-authoring a paper independent of my PhD project, which hopefully will be published in the near future
– I have analysed and interpreted all of the metataxonomic data (except for a few additional bits for my thesis) which forms the basis of another paper – to be submitted to a journal early 2017.
– Upon successful receipt of the grant for tissue model work, much more analysis can be done to further understand extra areas that I would have like to have done, but didn’t have time/funding to do earlier on (…watch this space!)
– I’ve had an amazing amount of support from my sponsors; GSK, and hope that there are many things that we can do together in the future. This relationship is too good not to continue with!
– I had an abstract accepted for IADR in San Francisco in March 2017 – looking forward to an exciting trip with Josh and Elen!

All in all, not a bad year. Some mixed news form the world of OBS too, but more on that another time!

2017 is going to be just as amazing, stressful, but positive for sure. Cheers and happy new year!

I can see clearly now

The leading statement ‘I can see clearly now’ has dual purpose. Firstly, I have new glasses 😀 20161019_165146

I haven’t had glasses since I was really young – probably 20 years ago now (man that makes me feel old..). I should have continued wearing them through my childhood and maybe I wouldn’t have needed them now!! Oh well. Ruben has glasses, and if he can pull them off as well as he does, I’ll give them a go. So I went to have my eyes tested, and sure enough I still need them (believe it or not). Heres the technical part – my eyesight is 20/20 apparently…but my prescription is longsighted; a 1.75 in both eyes but they gave me a 1.25 (to make it easier on my eyes first time round), theres also a 2 point astigmatism, and very slight turn in for my right eye. No, I have no idea what it means either, but I need glasses for concentration work. So I chose these – nice eh?

Anyway, I digress.

I have had a ton of NGS data back form the sequencing company, and the lovely Ann has done a load of analysis for me on it. The data is really good quality apparently (which is always nice to hear of course!), and the analysis has started. Trying to make head or tail of the hundreds of thousands of cells of numbers, OTUs, proportional data, phylogenetic stuff and diversity/abundance…its all very new, very daunting but very very interesting.

Ann has done such a great job of answering the questions I have for my project so far, with a few more to come, and the data was presented at the recent GSK symposium, and after a supervisory meeting this afternoon, is beginning to make much more sense. It turns out, its actually a pretty good result overall! #LetsGetThisPublished

More to follow when I can! But lots more to do for now, so bye!

I did it! #CardiffHalf

I did it! For my third consecutive year, I finished the Cardiff Half Marathon: 13.1 miles of beautiful scenery and incredibly supportive crowds. Ok maybe only 10 of those miles were fun, but the support and sheer determination got me through the other three!

20161001_220138

It all started out as a beautiful Sunday morning, crisp and clear with the forecast of sunshine for the duration of the race. After arriving at the race start, I met up with some of the guys from Stroke Association (I was running in memory of my nan, Joan, who had suffered a stroke before her passing, and my next door neighbour Doreen who also suffered strokes prior to her passing). Then after some waiting, caught up with my good friend Clotilde. We started the race and that was the last I saw of Clotilde, who eventually finished in a fantastic time of 2:01:19.

20161002_100626

My pace was fairly slow to begin with, 5km in 33 min, 10km in 1:06 which was consistent and I didn’t want to push as I had only run a 5lm the week before, but nothing for months and months beforehand! No training isn’t the best idea to go into a half marathon if I’m honest!

The first 10km felt really good, the pace was fine, felt comfortable and managed to get some energy gels at this point. I pushed on through miles 7, 8, 9 and arrived at mile 10 – the dreaded oath park section. As beautiful as this section is, and despite the crowd being the most supportive of all the course, this section is what I fear the most. Knowing that you have to run up the hill at the start of mile 10, then another at just before mile 12 is daunting being so tired already. But most people powered through and got themselves onto the last mile, at which I saw Elen and Genevieve! Elen plays in a brass band and they played the Ghostbusters theme as I was passing, so after a quick hello, off I went toward the finish. The crowd during the last 500 metres were really great, shouting and chanting to get the runners to the end, and with a what little engird I had left, the sprint finish is a must!

20161002_125018

There is no feeling quite like running across the finish line of a half marathon, knowing that you’ve raised much needed funds for a very good charity, but achieving that personal goal of having run a long distance race, in a decent time! Heres to a new PB in 2017 (Target=2 hours!)

screenshot_20161002-150426

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!)

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..

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.
DM

  • 1
  • 2