Assisting a revolution of the rugby analysis

📥  Health

In this post, I am going to talk about one of the PhD student's study: The biomechanics of rugby kicking.

Before starting, I think it is important to define some key words for those of you who aren’t in the sports science field. Biomechanics is the study of the forces acting on a body or object (a ball for example) and the effects produced by these forces. More precisely, kinematics focuses on the description of the motion of a body while kinetics explains how those movements are created.

In this post, I am going to talk about one of the PhD student's study: The biomechanics of rugby kicking. Alex will measure the kinetics and kinematics of kicking of international rugby players as well as provide a mathematical model of the rugby ball trajectory after a kick. This latter element should predict if the ball will go through the rugby posts after having being kicked by a player. Ideally, it would be like the software used in tennis to verify the exact location of the landing of a ball on the court.

The software actually used in tennis

I have been assisting in a number of testing sessions so far. During an outdoor session on the rugby pitch, 30 kicks performed by a university player were recorded by five cameras (including high speed cameras). My role was particular important on that day as I had to press "record" and "stop" on 30 different occasions (Hardtimeforplacementstudent). These data are necessary to investigate the ball trajectory and verify where the ball actually lands. It was also important to take into consideration environmental conditions (weather conditions, gravity, air resistance). These measurements will subsequently be included in her final mathematical model.

Setting the cameras Setting the cameras

However our main testing sessions have been carried out in a lab using a very sophisticated software called "Vicon Motus" which is composed of 11 cameras placed at particular location synchronized with a force plate (An instrument measuring the forces that a body/object apply on the floor). It works in combination with a number of reflective markers located on special anatomical landmarks and/or other material, in this case the rugby ball. When the actions are executed, for example a rugby kick, the cameras track the markers’ displacements and the movements are recreated by the software. Another  study was performed on International Rugby players in order to practice and test the set-up and equipment which also provided some technical data to their coach. If you were wondering how it is possible to kick inside the lab with some very expensive material, a net is used to stop the ball.

In the lab using Vicon

I am more involved in helping out during the testing session rather than the actual analysis of the data but I enjoy taking part in this project.What has been done so far is considered as a preparation but the best is expected to come with the main participants coming later on during the year.

Hard job!



Placement at St Mary's University, Twickenham


📥  Health

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog.

St Mary's university in the sun[]

As you can read in the title I am actually spending the year at St Mary's University College which is approximately one hour away from where I live in London. Here my responsibilities are very various and differ everyday. I am based in an office with three PhD student in biomechanics and physiology; Alex (who was also at the University of Bath a couple of years ago), Adam and Danny (spanish - So pleased to have an international fellow). For those of you who wonder what they are actually doing all day, it's simple: Reading millions of paper, testing participants and teaching sometimes. My role is to assist and help out with some of their testing. I also get to design/perform my own little study which seemed to be clear and straightforward at the beginning and actually proves to get more complicated and interesting as you progress . I've also started to do some physiology testing. Oh, and I am really good at making tea now!

Video analysis on a rubgy pitch

Video analysis on a rubgy pitch

Adam performing a VO2 max test

Adam performing a VO2 max test

I will post further information later on, on particular aspects of my placement.

Thank you for reading this, please leave a comment if you have any question.

See you soon

Mathilde, Sports Science Placement Student.


The Perks of Living at Home

📥  Education

So after 2 years at University I was apprehensive about moving back home for my placement year. The inevitable squabbles with my younger siblings, being told what time I had to be home for dinner and living back in the middle of nowhere as opposed to in the centre of a city.. yes it was fair to say I wasn’t overly excited about the prospect of living with the family again for a whole year.

However, 4 weeks in and I don’t know how I will cope when I move back to into a student house once more! I love living back at home! The homemade cooking, having someone to do your washing and cleaning, being able to have my car again, having my dog in the house and most noticeable is how much warmer it is when you aren’t paying for the electricity bills!!

My placement is based at Loughborough University as a ‘Sport Psychology Research Intern’, and as like most of the sport psychology placements it’s unpaid. So living at home is a godsend when it comes to counting the pennies!

Currently my placement requires me to work with a phD student helping him collect data for his research project, basically I am sending heaps of emails on a daily basis until we reach our target number of responses! The placement began slowly and for the first two weeks I found myself with little to do, however this gave me time to look around the Uni and get involved with different opportunities on campus. There is also another student from Loughborough University on the same placement as me, and he was helpful in showing me around and introducing me to different people and activities available to Loughborough students.

It also is really handy as two of my closest school friends are also on placements in the Loughborough area so have moved back home for the year too! It is so nice to get to spend time with them properly again, and we make sure we catch up regularly. That’s one thing I’ve noticed already, working in an office Monday to Friday, 9-5, you are living for the evenings and weekends!  Once a week my friend and I go to a bootcamp exercise class – which might I add is super intense! But is a nice way to spend an evening and make sure we both get some fresh air whilst keeping fit!

It is so easy to come home at the end of a long day when its bitterly cold and raining outside and just curl up on the sofa and do nothing, but what a waste! Before I began the year I sat down and wrote down what I wanted to get out of the year, I was going to fill it to the brim with different challenges and experiences, and so far that is what I have done! I think there has only been 2 nights since I started my placement in which I have gone home for the night and not done anything in the evenings! I have been busy attending exercise classes, socialising with new work colleagues, hockey coaching, babysitting, extra data collection… the list goes on and I hope I keep it up for the year as so far I am thoroughly enjoying being busy all week working and experiencing the thrill of getting the ‘Friday afternoon feeling’!


Willkommen in Deutschland- a crisis, country-crossing and a new career

  , , , , , ,

📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

'Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit'- gosh, I'm getting misty-eyed...'Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit'- gosh, I'm getting misty-eyed...

I don’t think there’s anything quite like packing for your year abroad.

It’s not like university, where you can pop back over the Severn Bridge at the weekend for things you forgot, or if it’s desperate, nag your nearest and dearest (I still don’t think my father has quite forgiven me for the reading-glasses incident in Freshers’ Week.) It’s not like a holiday, where even if you forget sensible shoes (this time the finger of blame points to Mutti) you can hobble onto the plane and comfort yourself with the thought that you’ll be home in three hours. No, you literally have to think of everything- personal documents, clothes for all seasons, adaptor plugs by the handful- as well as quintessentially British bits and bobs, like Weetabix. (Yes, Weetabix. Yes, I brought a big box of it. It’s funny the things you miss when you’re away. I recently begged a friend for a voice recording, just so I could hear a lilting Welsh accent again!)

I think the year abroad is akin to the university experience in that nothing can really prepare you totally for it. Lecturers can (and will) hark back to their own experiences, and you may have friends who have taken gap years and tell you it’s the same kind of thing, but at the end of the day it’s just one of those things you have to do for yourself. Expect the unexpected- 40 euro fines for not knowing where to stamp a bus ticket, a cheeky opportunist trying to take a photo up your skirt on the U-Bahn escalators… But also expect to have a really, really fun time. It’s not like a school trip, where you stick to your Anglophone friendship group and leave all the admin to the teacher in charge. You do have to do everything yourself, for example, registering as a citizen of whichever city you happen to be staying in, setting up a bank account, getting to grips with the transport networks and visiting the tax office. It’s all a tad daunting at first, especially if you’ve led a rather sheltered existence, but with every little thing you accomplish, you begin to have more faith in your linguistic ability and your general getting-things-done ability. Give yourself a pat on the back. A wonderful thing about the Vaterland is that there always seems to be something to do, and more than likely you’ll accidentally stumble across it, think it looks like fun and join in, pretending you knew it was going to take place all along.

My own year abroad has, so far, been somewhat more stressful than most. I moved to Berlin at the beginning of July, completed training for a placement involving teaching English to kindergartners, started the job and realised it wasn’t for me, which was a real shame, because Berlin itself is an amazing place to live, absolutely teeming with things to do. But I had not realised that on top of my teaching duties, I would be left to shepherd kids into the cloakroom, make them put shoes and coats on, herd them outside, follow them to the toilets, stop them throwing loo roll and prancing around with their pants down- and all this was expected of someone who had never worked with children before. I was there to teach, not to babysit 25 children who didn’t know German yet, let alone English. A particularly attention-seeking little one lobbed a spade from the sandpit in my face. I resigned that evening and madly started scheduling interviews and house viewings, wishing I could sprout about six extra arms and multitask. Sadly, though, this was no sci-fi film, just a big clump of chaos. I very nearly got conned out of a lot of money by someone offering a non-existent apartment- the housing situation in Munich is notoriously difficult, and many unscrupulous people take advantage of that. When I got on the train with my cases and bottle of Müllermilch, I had nowhere to go on the other side.

Finally, just as I was at the end of my tether, things began to look up. I got an interview in Munich. I went to it. I got the job. My boss had found me a place to stay. It was incredible- something that had taken months to organise in Berlin simply fell into place here. Whoever or whatever was looking out for me deserves the biggest Bienenstich cake in existence. (Google it. Beg, steal, buy or borrow it. You’ll thank me later.)

Now I’m a translator in Munich, six hours from Berlin by train. Here, they only throw spades at me when I deserve it.

So that’s my most important piece of advice, really. Always do what suits you best. Ask questions, and if the employer is being deliberately vague or you don’t feel right about it, just don’t go for it. Think long-term, because you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time doing whatever it is you choose. Don’t just take the first job that’ll have you, like I did, thinking my language skills rudimentary at best- you owe it to yourself to make an informed decision in your own time. Remember it’s a real job, or a real course- if you quit, that is your responsibility, as is finding something else pronto. I half expected to be on a plane home, having to redo the year. You might say it was insane of me to change; I probably would do too, if it wasn’t for the small fact that I am me. Actually, forget that. It was insane of me. There.

But you know what? I haven’t been wholly unlucky, I’ve been unbelievably fortunate. I’ve got to know the people, places and personal quirks of not one, but two beautiful cities. I’ve sung ‘Viel Glück und viel Segen’ to Berlin on its 775th birthday in the Nikolaiviertel, and bellowed ‘Ein Prosit!’ with over 3000 merry Münchners at Oktoberfest. I have learned self-reliance, bits of Bavarian and even how to untangle the spaghetti-like mess which is a Tube map. (London, eat your heart out. For complicatedness, Munich wins hands down.)

Now that everything is organised and I don’t have to worry any more, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.


A Follow Up: Sexism In Tech Aftermath

  , , ,

📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

Last week was a bit of a crazy one for me and the blog.

During my time at the wonderful GOTO Aarhus conference in Denmark, I published a blog post discussing the presence of subtle sexism within the tech industry. The blog post, which was originally about yours truly blowing off steam and venting frustration, proved popular in the Twittersphere, receiving over 1200 hits in one afternoon, hundreds of re-tweets and even making it onto the front page of The Huffington Post US tech page, as well as being featured on their 'Women In Tech' section. The post is now number eight in the UK Google search for sexism in tech.

The responses I received from across the world were numerous and varied.

Whilst making the rounds, the article seemed to inspire other women in the tech industry to come forward and share their personal experiences with me, and I would like to take a moment to thank them for this - it was truly inspirational. I received emails, comments and tweets from tech ladies; some of which made me furious, some of which made me laugh, and a handful of which made me cry. I certainly wasn't alone in my experience, and indeed my encounter with the blight of sexism in tech appeared to be amongst one of the most mild.

But it's not all doom and gloom. In fact, I actually came away from the experience feeling incredibly positive about the role and future of women in tech.

You read that right. Though the post certainly earned me a handful of negative comments and a few poorly written hate-emails, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support which came from all corners of the tech world.

At the conference itself I was delighted and incredibly surprised by the number of fellow attendees and exhibitors who stopped by my booth to tell me that they had read the blog post. Many apologised on behalf of the industry - greatly appreciated but totally unnecessary; it is just unfortunate that a few bad apples exist in what is an otherwise wonderful industry to work in. Some wished to discuss at length the circumstances surrounding the incident, and others still to share their own personal experiences and opinions of the existence of sexism within tech. Each person I had the pleasure of meeting had something new to say, and I learned a great deal - so for those who took the time to stop by, men and women alike, thank you so much.

The article also led to my meeting some of the most inspiring men and women I have ever met - many of whom were members of a group known as 'The Ada Initiative', which is 'an unconference for women in open technology and culture and the people who support them'. In particular I would like to mention the likes of Therese Hanse, Dan North, Kristjan Wager Liz Keogh, Jesper Ottosen, Linda van der Pal, Gitte Klitgaard, Sam Newman and the incredibly inspiring Linda Rising, whose talk at the Women In Tech meeting truly blew me away.

The most inspiring incident of the entire event didn't happen until my last day at the conference.

As was perhaps to be expected, the man who made the original remarks published in the article ended up reading it himself, and the way in which his throwaway comments had impacted me. Prompted to think about the encounter, he sought me out to discuss the issue - a brave step in itself. Though at first defensive about the intention of his comments, we soon found ourselves sat down together and discussing the role of sexism and diplomacy in tech, culminating with him vowing to really think about the way in which he broaches conversations with women in the industry from now on, and apologising profusely for any upset or outrage he caused me.

I could not have wished for a better outcome, and left the conference feeling full of positivity and renewed faith in those around me in the industry, as well as far more confident in my own abilities.

The biggest lesson of all which I learned from the experience is that words can have a powerful affect - do not believe those who tell you otherwise. Speak up and speak out.


Insight Of An Intern - Sexism in Tech

  , , , , ,

📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

Believe it or not, I'm generally not one to get on my high horse. Despite being a politics student, I attempt to keep my mind open and, where appropriate, my mouth shut.

But I have my limits, so I apologise in advance for what may be quite a long entry.

I am currently attending a GOTO conference in Aarhus, Denmark; it's a software development conference designed for developers, team leads, architects and project managers. Overall, it has been a great experience; my first ever tech conference, my first time travelling to a new country on my own and a really great chance to immerse myself in the latest developments in the software development community.

As with most things tech, the conference is hugely male-dominated - I'd estimate that around 90% of the attendees are male, and around 80% of the exhibiting sponsors, of which my placement company 10gen is one.

Now, this isn't generally an issue; I've always been somewhat of a tomboy, and in my short time in the tech industry I've been fortunate to meet some of the nicest people I've ever met; in fact, my placement company itself provides undoubtedly the most welcoming and supportive working environment that I have ever had the pleasure to experience.

Yet there are still moments where I am forced to consider whether this is really an industry culture I wish to be a part of- and whether it really wants me to be a part of it...



So what exactly is A4e?

  , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

A4e stands for ‘Action for Employment’. Quite simple when you think about it, however in researching the role pre-interview I seemed to not come across its meaning.

Whilst sat in the waiting area of which I am now in charge, it suddenly occurred to me that I did not know its meaning and was therefore sure to fail. As I sat there, panicking, I looked at the material adorning the walls and figured it out logically. Proud of myself I then just hoped that logic had in fact served me well (not something which happens often with my natural hair colour).

I suppose it must have done so seeing as I now find myself firmly in the role, however I am still not 100 per cent certain that it is correct! The sentiment fits anywho.

A4E is a private social-enterprise company concerned with social mobility through employment and education. Basically the people the job centre struggle with get referred to A4E who have a more interactive and dynamic approach to help them find work. These people then become ‘customers’ of A4E, a term I once found strange on first entering the company seeing as the customers don’t buy anything from us… but now fully understand and appreciate.

They are customers, because they are treated with the same respect that any client for any business should be accorded. To a degree, they are in control of their own path, and the staff at A4E are just there to help actualise, facilitate and encourage this journey. Also A4E are paid by the government per customer they get into work, so in a round-about way, it is the customer’s actions which make A4E the successful business that it is. The staff are kind of the sales team if you will (to roll with the usual customer analogy), but instead of selling the latest gadget or trendy attire, we sell life skills, motivation and attributes which are actually useful to people’s lives instead of cluttering them and affect their happiness long term as opposed to being a short term distraction.

Customers are referred to A4E from the job centre for a plethora of reasons. They may be long term unemployed and need a fresh face and an extra push. They may have some extra trouble in their life such as domestic issues, health problems, or substance dependence. Or they may have been convicted of a crime, and spent time in prison. This makes the job all of us do at every level, very rewarding, very challenging, and of course, at times, very stressful. But even after three short weeks, I can see that the first two far outweigh the latter.

A4E is not only a nationwide initiative which is part of the government’s Work Program, but also stretches across three continents; Europe, Australasia and Asia. Personally I think such a program in America could go a long way to helping solve some of their multiple problems but I suppose that would be like asking Romney to support free healthcare.

A4E obviously cannot succeed alone, another important part of the mission to decrease unemployment and improve people’s quality of life who are commonly and wrongly thought of as ‘the underclass’ (on which I wrote an extensive paper if you are interested) is the partnerships made with employers in both the public and private sector.

A4E although primarily concerned with employment, also crosses the boundary into many other policy areas including welfare (my office’s remit), education, health, legal and financial. As all of these factors can be barriers to long term employment and are all very heavily related. I am shocked that the good work A4E does locally, nationally, and internationally is so poorly reported that even I; a student of politics interested in the ‘underclass’ and social mobility, and striving to be a journalist, has never come across them. Tut tut media, but then again maybe I have found my niche?

The A4E catchphrase reads ‘improving people’s lives’ which I admit when I first read... I scoffed at. How could a private company possibly have that as its goal? In my mind it felt a little like the moment I found out McDonalds were actually sponsoring the Olympics. But it does, and you can certainly see it at the heart of the staff on the ground. The diverse range of training, advice and general support available is the perfect environment for society’s most vulnerable and outcast citizens to find themselves again.

The offices are a safe space for many too, with customers having access to refreshments, fresh fruit, computers and a friendly person to chat to outside of all their troubles. This alone seems to make a big difference to many of the customers I have spoken too.

I think what makes this company and this job so inspirational to me is that I could have so easily been sat the other side of that table, in the customer’s position. Terrifying thought. Which is also why I think I can see myself wanting to be an A4E employee for longer than this original six month period… even if it is something I return to later in life.


Photos: 10gen London Office Warming Party

  , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

Some of my time here at 10gen has been spent planning and organising the London office warming party, as we moved into our new offices only a few weeks ago. The party coincided with a special visit from 10gen President Max Schireson, who is normally based in our New York office.

A blog post on event organising is sure to follow in the next week or so, but for now I wanted to share some of the photos from the event itself - it was a great success, with a turn out of over 100 people.

The cupcakes which myself and a colleague made the night before seemed to go down a treat as well...


[POLL] - Surviving Unpaid Internships

  , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

📥  Politics Languages & International Studies

[Don't forget to take part in the Internship Poll!]

It's a tough time to be an intern at the moment. Though the number and range of internships in the UK have increased considerably in the last few years, a staggering 1 in 3 interns are working for nothing. Zilch. Nada.

A report by the TUC warned that many employers have sought to take advantage of students' desperation to find work in the economic downturn and see interns as a useful source of free labour (though often this is breaking UK minimum wage and employment law).

Though an unpaid internship may be feasible for a lucky handful of students, for most of us the prospect is an impossible and undesirable one; and rightly so. True, you will be gaining a great deal from doing an internship, but it works both ways - as an intern you are contributing time, knowledge and skills to the company and so deserve to be treated as an employee. In fact, the prospect of a company (NGOs and charities excluded) deciding not to pay interns raises numerous flags for me personally, as I'd worry about the value and respect placed upon any intern who ended up there.

But if you can swing it financially, is an unpaid internship worth it? Probably not.