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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 🙂

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

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!
DM

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! 😀

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..

DM

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?!

DM

Doctor in training, teaching doctors in training

And so the practical SSC for undergraduate medics started and finished this week. Such a lovely group of students – very knowledgable, inquisitive and what I think was genuinely interested in oral microbiology!

The adherence assay is not a particularly challenging experiment to do, but for those that have no lab experience, it can still be quite exciting. The intro lecture was pretty good too – covered quite a lot of background, and hopefully passed on some knowledge and expertise of my own. Now they have a presentation of their own to think about and prepare for..

Final preparations are underway for OMIG which starts this Wednesday! Presentation is 95% finished, awaiting supervisors final input and then think about packing and the trip up :).

DM

An early (or late) present-ation

Today I headed downstairs to the labs and bumped into Josh (friend of mine in my research group), and as we’d both submitted an abstract to OMIG for this year’s meeting, I suggested that we may hear sometime this week – as last time the response was about a week after the submission deadline.
Anyway, we had a chat and I said for him to keep an ear out toward the mid-and of the week for any news. Low and behold, literally two hours later, we received the notification email!

Both of us had received the same email stating we have accepted for oral presentation at the meeting, meaning our registration fee is to be waived! A great meeting, now made much more affordable for the group!!

The meeting is 9-11th March at Gregynog Hall, Newtown, and proves to be another great success. Looking forward to it!
DM 😀

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