The PhD Chronicles – 6 months in

I’m 6 months into my PhD and I can’t believe it!

Here’s a summary of what I’ve done in my time in Bristol and as a new PhD student. This list includes lab things and personal achievements. Before I wrote this down I didn’t think like I had done much, but as I began to go through the little things I felt a lot more positive about how I’ve spent my time.

Lab clear up

This took quite a while! I entered a lab with lots of equipment and chemicals but with no full time staff to show me the ropes. My lab tech/clean freak instincts kicked in and I sorted out our lab store, lab bench and made an inventory of chemicals and reagents.
Sounds like a small (and pretty dull) task, but now I feel confident that I know what we have in the lab and where things are. Without this I would go crazy spending loads of wasted time trying to find things!

Cells

I’d not done any cell culture since my BSc research project, over 2 years ago! Luckily my supervisor realised this and enrolled me on a Fast Track ECACC cell culture course just weeks into my PhD. This taught me so much about cell culture and gave me a bit more confidence to bring up cells and manage them on my own.

When I got the out I wasn’t happy with the passage number or the difference in growth and characteristics between ours and my collaborating group using the same cell line. We decided to order some brand new cells. I was super nervous seeding the out for the first time…but they’re happy and alive, and now I have cells I feel confident using.

Techniques

Got stuck into western blotting…not gone overly well! I had my first go at legacy PCR and managed to fit in a little of my old favourite…immunohistochemistry.

Tissue request

Another big thing to do before my 6 month mark and holiday reward (woo!). Submit a request for a new batch of brain tissue. I’ve not submitted my own tissue request before so this was a new experience. It wasn’t overly complex as my work is building on the work of a previous PhD project, so I was using a similar study design. Doing this however, has made my work feel ‘real’ and like I’m in control. I guess how I’m supposed to feel doing my PhD!

Collaborative project

A highlight of my first 6 months, so it’s got it’s own dedicated post!

Report

As i said in my 1 month review I want to write as I go…this is definitely been a wake up call as to how challenging this is! I have written a 6 month progress report. It includes the background for my project and why. But…wow, this was incredibly difficult to find time to do. I have now come to realise that I need to incorporate some regular dedicated writing time into my schedule.

2 conferences

ARUK and BNA2015 – I’ve written reports for both of these.

Parkinson’s Disease UK interview

I was approached to help with an interview style piece for Parkinson’s Disease UK afther they saw a post I’d written about my last job working at a brain bank. It can be seen in the latest edition of ‘The Parkinson’.

Science Communication

I’ve got stuck into to helping out with Pint of Science Bristol. Do check out the team who are all volunteers and all PhD students at varying stages – they’re all awesome 😀

I also also saw a call for volunteer for the Bristol and Bath Branch of the British Science Association and I’ve met many more excited science communicators looking forward to putting on events!

Finally and definitely most important of all…I’ve got to know people at work and in Bristol. It’s beginning to feel a little more familiar here now, so may that feeling continue.

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N.B. This was supposed to publish at the beginning of May – but auto-publish didn’t work!

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