#PhDaily Day 4 13/08/2015

Wow i’m tired writing this, had a few things to sort out when i got home, and here i am, its gone midnight and I’ve just sat down to write!

Today I got into work around 9.30, and headed straight to the office, knowing my lab work would be minimal today (it’s really not been a good week for lab work!). I answer an email to our Bioscience PhD forum account about PhD funding for international students. This should have been a quick task, but I ended up going way over the top researching different ways that international students can study in the UK.  But at least I felt I had done my good deed for the day.

I enjoyed a nice cup of redbush tea as I answered my emails, and then figured out that I don’t think I will be able to afford to attend the conference I was researching yesterday, which is a shame. I did a little bit of reading, before the 12 noon lab meeting, which was pretty short, with only one 15 minute presentation, then 10-15 mins chatting. I eat my lunch (cous-cous today!) whilst watching the presentation. I’m waiting for a seminar on cryo-electron microscopy at 2 pm, so quickly pop down to NMR to check if i am still ok to run my samples tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the only person who could help me set up my particular experiments tomorrow (they are very complicated) is off ill, so i’m having to reschedule for next week! Really not a good week for science. After a quick chat, I head back up to the seminar room. It’s an interesting talk, but takes over an hour with questions!

After the seminar i venture into the lab, to find that my supervisor has troubleshooted the FPLC issues, tracing it to a clogged in-line filter. I clean this by making up a concentrated sodium hydroxide solution, and using it for sonicating (blasting with sonic waves in liquid) the filter. I then wash with ethanol and water. I do a little planning with my supervisor, and coordinate with one of the undergrads i am sharing the FPLC with.

I help the same undergrad inject yet another sample onto the FPLC (he has been producing proteins like a machine this week!), then head home around 5pm.

The forecast for tomorrow (or today seeing as it is early Friday morning when i am writing this!) calls for SOME ACTUAL LAB WORK, WOO!

As always, thanks for reading,

Microbe Stew


11 thoughts on “#PhDaily Day 4 13/08/2015

  1. Good luck with your PhD – I can totally relate! I am also a biology PhD student – troubleshooting becomes a lifestyle! Check out my blog, I’m currently in Montreal for a collaborative project!


    • Stewart Barker says:

      Thank you! Cool what year of study are you in? Yeah I’ve spent a lot of my first year troubleshooting, I have learnt a lot from it though! I will definitely check out your blog! Awesome that you get to go to Montreal, I’ve always wanted to visit Canada. Where is your phd based then?


      • I am in my second (almost third) year of study. My PhD is based in London (England) but i’m in Montreal just for a collab – it’s super cool that I got the opportunity to come here for 3 months. And haha yess – troubleshooting is key in a science PhD!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Stewart Barker says:

        That’s awesome, what uni?! I’m from and studying in the UK, in Sheffield. Yeah I am very jealous!


  2. What’s interesting about your blog (and Daily life of a PhD, who directed me to you) is that you both seem to have an awful lot more contact, in science, with undergrads and masters students than I do (in humanities). Maybe this is a result of sharing lab space (I can’t imagine that the university has lab space divided by undergrad/postgrads), but to my mind, it makes for more opportunities for you to learn several things:

    1) how to teach more effectively (because the more you teach, the better you get at it, even little things like showing someone how to clean out a machine, done purposefully, can be a lesson for you as well as them).

    2) gives you more confidence in your own teaching abilities, as you do more of it, and see your students thriving.

    3) helps to put things like imposter syndrome into place, especially when/if you do wider marking. I worked as a teaching assistant earlier this year on a module I’d done myself as an undergrad, and was involved in marking the exams at the end of the module. What that gave me was an opportunity to see the full spectrum of work, from the top mark (85, I think) through to an outright fail, to see where the average is, and, since I had done the same module/test myself two years previously, to see where I fall in that spectrum. It allowed me to see not just the actual intellectual content of the work but also people’s writing ability, their level of English, the variety of vocabulary. If, as a student, you tend to work with people who are working at your level or higher, or you only read material written by people who have polished it till it gleams, then it gives you a distorted impression of what everyone’s work is like, which contributes massively to imposter syndrome, I think. Actually seeing those marks undercuts that process.

    I think its a learning opportunity that can go both ways (to both UG and PG) and one that the humanities area could benefit from – perhaps a mentoring scheme, volunteer only, would work. But since you have the opportunities in place already – take advantage!


    • Stewart Barker says:

      Wow this is a long comment! First, thank you! Second, I will try my best to give a good response!

      Glad that you are reading Megan’s blog, plain and simple it is what inspired this one. I have had the good fortune of meeting here at a conference and she is lovely. Her efficiency and workload is something to behold!

      Yes absolutely I am not surprised by this. The undergrads do have separate teaching labs though. The summer students in at the moment are a select few, wholly dependant on external funding or them being volunteers. In the autumn every final year student gets allocated to a real research lab like ours, for a few months. It really is excellent.

      1) absolutely, I have learnt so much from supervising them recently. And I have got good feedback from them which is also nice!

      2) definitely feeling more confident!

      3) have you read my previous blog on Imposter Syndrome? For me, being in a position of increased responsibility actually triggered anxious imposter syndrome feelings, but I am getting better, and can see how it will benefit me in the long run! That sounds like really unique perspective, I’m jealous!

      Absolutely, I think other subjects could benefit massively by taking lessons from the sciences way of collaborative community working.

      Thanks again for your insightful comments, I hope you keep reading!


  3. Hi Stewart! I had read it – and commented on it – which is why I said what I said about the imposter syndrome, knowing that you struggle with it as much as I do. 🙂 I wouldn’t have said it otherwise!

    Despite actually being at the same uni as Megan, I’ve never met her – May ask, when she gets back from holiday, if she would like to meet for a coffee – it’d be good to put a face to a name! 🙂

    Being in a position of increased responsibility – yeah, I can see how that would be a trigger for it. The way i get round that one is to try to have a bit more faith in the people who gave me the responsibility, the idea that ‘well they wouldn’t have given me the job if they didn’t think I could do it’. I think its important to counter ‘the voice’ (you know the one, the one that sits on your shoulder and tells you how crap you are!), with logical statements, especially when the voice is actually saying quite specific things (as opposed to just general nagging doubts, which, for me, it does sometimes). Actually writing this stuff down, for me, helps to verbalise the doubts, firm them up so that they’re no longer the general nagging doubts which are so difficult to deal with, and then counter them with logic, with the positive statements, just keep hammering away until I feel better.

    So for example, with the assistant teaching thing, I’m actually deaf, working with sign language interpreters, and when I had a moment of doubt about the deaf issue before I started teaching, it was about verbalising my fears, and counteracting them. So, verbalise the fear: that the students would complain about being taught by a ‘deaf and dumb idiot’.
    Logical answer 1: if they do, they massively breach equality rules, because I’m clearly not dumb (by either definition – can’t talk/stupid), and they can’t argue that my deafness alone impedes my ability to teach, only if the interpreting isn’t good enough (which is a different issue).
    Logical answer 2: the convenor knows me, was my personal tutor as an undergrad, and had seen me working with interpreters throughout, he knew what was reasonable and what was not, and was fully supportive of me working in this way (and agreed with my argument that it would provide useful experience for these students for the future, should they need to use an interpreter again). And so on.

    Sorry, long answer again (really should stop these), but I hope this helps!


    • Stewart Barker says:

      I thought you might have, just checking 🙂 yeah you should, she is lovely, and an excellent scientist.

      Yeah I try to think positive, but it is very difficult with all of the conflicting thoughts flying around my head! Writing the article and talking about it helps me!

      It is long, but it’s nice to see your thought process!


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