My First Conference Talk, Slogging Through Lab Work, and Trying to Put Everything in Balance

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Hey all 🙂

For the last two months, I’ve presented at a conference but otherwise just getting on with things.

 My First Conference Talk

I finally gave my first conference talk! I went to York to attend ASAB’s easter meeting. The easter meetings are always focused on early-career researchers. They put on professional workshops for the first day and the other two are all research talks and posters. I had a great time, best conference so far. The others I’ve experienced have all been so big that it’s difficult to navigate. In particular, if you want to meet a certain person. This one was small enough that everybody was always together. I met a lot of people, got nice feedback on my presentation, and generally had a great time. There were good social plans including an animal behaviour themed pub quiz and a fancy meal out. Plus, the lunches were included in the registration. I was super nervous for my actual talk but thoroughly enjoyed delivering it. It was great to actually have the moment to talk about my piece of the world.

Slogging Through Lab Work

Lab work has been slow. A lot of ordering and waiting for things, sending samples for validation and sending them again, and generally just getting everything in line. The work has been delayed again as well due to some worrying outcomes. The first step in the current method, involves extracting material from a sample. When I’ve measured this, it has largely been undetectable. So the extraction or the detection could be off. We’re currently trying to obtain what we need to check either way but the delay is frustrating. I’m counting down the months now until I finish and I’d just like this to be done now.

Trying to Put Everything in Balance

I really enjoy doing a lot of things but sometimes they get overwhelming. There’s a lot of good to get from the things I do. I find it boring to just do one thing all the time, I enjoy the challenges, some of the things give me savings/spending money beyond what I can get out of my regular job. Everything in the last 3 weeks just converged and became quite overwhelming, however. I’ve got a lot of mental balls in the air and sometimes I just can’t keep them going. There’s compulsory (research, work), optional (amount of teaching), and personal (moving home, family worries). It straight up just sucks sometimes because at times you can’t stop any of them. But the balance is what is most difficult. The optional stuff has now died down. Semester is over so teaching options are gone and the chinese class I was taking is over. So i’ve just got research, work, family, and moving (plus all the stress an worries which come with it) to process. Am hoping that fewer things means I can make them all work better. Who knows…

So that’s me for the last two months. The next two will be spent continuing trying to finish this last stint of lab work, revising my paper, prepping to start my thesis, and starting delivering a summer school.

Thanks for reading 🙂

BCT

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Saying “no”: Making Good Choices for Your Health

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Hey all 🙂

My first posts each year tend to focus more on big picture stuff such as things I’m proud of and my feelings on a PhD so far. One of the lessons I’ve really taken from doing this is to know when to say “no” and take a step back and this is what I’m going to discuss in my opening to 2019.

    Those who know me know fully well that I’m trigger happy when it comes to doing things. Outreach, teaching, discussions etc. I want to pick up hobbies, try new things, I outline research ideas I’ll never get to. It leaves me sometimes attempting a lot and achieving little. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone, growth comes from challenge. It’s also good to enrich your life with other interests, hobbies, and activities, as it is very unhealthy to bury down into one thing and make that all which matters to you. I know, for example, that I could have finished my doctorate sooner than I am currently on track to. However, my well-being would have been far poorer were I to not engage with the amount of teaching that I do. Teaching for me is intrinsically rewarding; that is to say that I would do it for free (though am very happy for it to add to my savings). The other small activities I do as well such as outreach and beginning to start writing a novel also help me relax, test my skills in other areas, and be more rested for when I focus on the research.

    But a balance is needed and sometimes you just have to say “no” to be able to stay healthy as well as commit to the things which are important to you. There’s no point trying everything if you get nowhere with anything and mostly importantly: you are the centre of your world, you matter. I expressed this sentiment on Twitter in what turned out to be my most liked, retweeted, and responded to tweet:

My supervisor, rightfully, called me out for my phrasing here as it comes across that I’m suggesting that mentors and the like should be ACTIVELY involved in structuring a student’s life balance. This isn’t what I intended. I more meant that, because academia has such an issue with work-life balance and, in particular, PhD students committing themselves to more work at the expense of their health, a shift in attitudes and increased transparency of expectations needs to be seen at all career stages. This includes increasing awareness of detrimental schedules but also mentors taking the lead with how they make their balance work and, ultimately, when to say “no”.

So I was left this coming Spring intending on doing a multitude of things to do with my research, my job, and my creatives hobbies. But also I planned on doing two things which I’ve decided not to do for the sake of balance across my weeks in order to give myself the time and energy to focus on the more immediately important tasks of finishing my lab work, writing papers, and maintaining my job. The two things were Masters level education modules as well as (potentially) drafting a research grant idea. I will get round to these thoughts but for now they are less important and I will get to them later. Take home from this: explore and do all the things you love but know when to say “no”. That point is when something takes over your life, infringing upon your health, or when something new would give you less time for what is currently important.

So that’s me for the last two months. The next two will be spent starting my last stint of lab work, writing a paper, and continuing to try new things.

Thanks for reading 🙂

BCT