Balancing Research, Summer Conference, and Summer School


Hey all πŸ™‚

The last few months have been a good busy. I’ve progressed on my research, been accepted to present at a conference, and commenced teaching on a summer school!


Lately, my research has swung from full throttle to nothing and back again several times. I’ve been finding it very difficult balancing it with summer school, work, and finding ‘me’ time and at times the research has had to take a back burner. I’ve specifically been working on song recordings. I’m looking through numerous sound files for bouts of bird song, copying them into a catalogue, and then analysing them for various things which we think are important. None of this is difficult but it is repetitive so sometimes I’m on a roll and really into it and others it’s just tiring thinking about it. It’ll get done though. I’m 25% through 340 or so bouts. I just needs to get back on the wagon, even if means doing 10 or so a day in my breaks. Thankfully, the data I’m hoping to present at a conference later this year is all prepared so the current work slowing down is ok. Speaking of conferences…


The accepted me to present at the conference in Liverpool! Quick reminder: it is the European Conference on Behavioural Biology which runs every 2 years. This year it is in Liverpool which is great in terms of time and money needed to go. I applied for a talk but unfortunately they were quite oversubscribed for them so I was given a poster slot. Still an opportunity to present my research though and have some great chats as well as meet some nice people! I have also, thankfully, been granted some travel funding to help pay for this trip too. It won’t cover all of it but the vast majority and any deficit is more than made up for by the summer school payment. Speaking of which…

Summer School

Summer school is off to a great start again this year!Β  I am teaching ‘molecular biology’ again and have 4 great students from a variety of backgrounds and countries. This year, I’ve learned from experience to make my program more hands-on and about doing things as opposed to content. To make that happen, i’ve drafted a balance of ‘lectures’, research lab visits, collaborations, hands-on lab experience, and student-directed sessions. Three classes in and I feel it is going well. Although, I have the continued anxiety of known that whether I think it’s going well is irrelevant as it is the enjoyment of the students which matters. It’s difficult to judge that but I’ve heard positive things from those running the program. The program has a blogΒ which has a few awful pics of me so have a look through for a regular update πŸ™‚

So that’s me for the last two months. The next two will involving finishing summer school, finishing the next step in my data analysis, and attending a conference!

Thanks for reading πŸ™‚


Graduation, Bursary Application, and Job Hunting


Hello there. I haven’t posted for a while for a few reasons. Firstly, the awkward limbo period that is the gap between results and starting a PhD is a tad…uneventful. Secondly, this limbo has been punctuated with packing to move (which is by nature boring to chat about). Thirdly, I’ve been just a bit lazy! Through it all there have been three things happening which are significant to the main narrative of this blog: Graduation, a bursary application, and continued job hunting.


The process of graduation started a while back with confirmation my attendance. On results day in mid-june I then submitted measurements and paid for my gown hire. The day itself was exciting and tiring at the same time. Starting with arranging for family to converge at a useful time and then sorting out the best places for them all to be for the day; students are guaranteed two guest tickets thus additional family members need seats out of the ceremony! It was all a tad pretentious but good fun and it was amusing to see my lecturers in their robes! It was remarked numerous times how chilled and nonchalant I was when shaking the hands of the chancellor which I’m not sure is a good or a bad thing! Perhaps everyone else thought it was a situation to be worried about…ah well. Afterwards there was a nice wine reception with lecturers which I got to early by skipping the cohort picture as to avoid the crowds. My mother decided pictures with lecturers were required (mothers hey?). The whole event was good fun. I spent the evening with my family having cocktails and great food at Frankie and Benny’s before a well earned sleep!

Bursary Application

In a previous post I mentioned that I did not secure a fully funded studentship for my PhD thus am in search of income to both support me and pay tuition fees (yes they exist at post-grad level too!). TARGETcourses have started running yearly bursary competitions in which 5 winners a year win Β£2k towards tuition for any PG study (they provide a list of example winners to demonstrate the diversity of recipients!). To win this, I answered three questions on my post-grad study in the most engaging way possible: How will postgraduate study contribute to your career goals? How will your postgraduate experience and qualification benefit the community, the economy or indeed any other person or group? Apart from academic knowledge, what else do you expect to learn from postgraduate study? Neither I nor the University have heard anything so I can safely assume I didn’t receive the bursary. Either way, it was a good exercise in writing about my interests, research topic, and life goals πŸ™‚

Job Hunting

I am continuing to search for a part-time job on a weekly basis and two have come up lately. The first was an administrative job in the lab of a researcher at St Andrews which would have been perfect. The hours and wage was good and the research interests of the lab were interesting. Unfortunately I didn’t make the interview list for that though. Ah well. No point feeling glum about what you can’t change hey? I’ve more recently learned of a retail position associated with the University which would be excellent! I’m starting my application as I type this (well…not precisely as I type this). I’ll let you all know how that goes πŸ™‚

In the near future I will be continuing my job hunt, settling in to St Andrews, and getting on with some reading for my PhD!

Thanks for reading.


PhD rejection number 2, PhD application number 3, grant proposals, and dying cells


Hello all. A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks. I received a rejection from my application to Cardiff. The course was funded much like the one at Oxford thus it was very competitive. A bit disheartened after my second rejection but I knew it was a long shot. There are a lot of very good students out there so to get in to the top 2% is pretty difficult! I submitted my application to St Andrews this week! Which is a positive πŸ™‚ I had a bit of a last minute freak out as I repeatedly checked my documents to ensure I had everything ready. Then I double checked the email I had to send the documents to (I did NOT want to mess this up). I should hear back from them and, if accepted, be interviewed by the end of this month so I’m looking forward to hearing back! But I’m doing my best to not worry about it yet as there’s nothing I can do for now πŸ™‚

Enough of PhDs. During the MSci year we had a two day workshop on funding science. We were introduced to the overall process from building a research idea to obtaining funding, the various funding bodies and their priorities, how to break down a project both financially and temporally etc. It was a really good couple of days and very eye-opening as usually you would not be introduced to this until you are part of an active lab yourself! To extend the workshop into practice I have been put into a group of four and we, without guidance, have to take what we’ve learned and apply it to modern science. We have to highlight an important area in need of research and build an entire mock proposal as if we were actually intending on doing the research. We have to research the background, the impact, the costs (specifically to equipment and people), the duration etc. The assessment is done such that all questions needing answered in a real grant proposal, bar those we could not such as preliminary data, will need to be addressed. I think this is a really good exercise in seeing how long and detailed the process of obtaining research funding is!

Finally, my project is still a bit on the -_- side. I am growing neurons in a cell culture and I’m having the repeated issue that they keep dying. A few reasons haven’t been my fault, or obviously my fault, but it’s still happening and I’m not sure why! If anyone out there is experience with neuronal cell culture do feel free to send some tips my way πŸ™‚

That’s all for now. Continuing the project, working on my grant proposal, looking at funding for LESIS More.

Thanks for reading.


Applications and Research Proposal Stress


Short post today.

I submitted application to Oxford and Cardiff on the 4th! Cardiff was difficult again! Their system for references is ambiguous: They seemed to required a posted copy of a University headed letter from the referee; not something I can exactly do one week before application! My referees said that a headed and typed pdf emailed to the primary contact should be ok so we went with that! Oxford interview over the 24th-25th so I should hear back soon (as the first of those dates is in 11 days!) and Cardiff state that they contact you if invited to interview within 4 weeks. I’m fully expecting that both won’t contact me at all unless successfully invited to interview -_- but hey!

In a slight moment of stress (slight, yeah right) I received feedback on my first research proposal draft. It was full of honest, but constructive, criticism from my hopeful supervisor. I fully agreed with all of the comments but for my first go it did feel a tad demoralising, though she did say she knows how difficult first attempts are. I took the day off and did some fun things :).

So anyway that’s where I am. If you’re reading this and you’ve got to that point in your applications don’t worry. Everyone pursuing PhD goes through it and no one is expecting something utterly brilliant from us first time round πŸ™‚

Continuing my masters project next week, a bit of prep today!

Thanks for reading πŸ™‚