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Life as a student in Bath

Topic: Postgraduate

MBA Global Residency in St. Petersburg, Russia

📥  Global Residencies, MBA, Postgraduate, School of Management, Uncategorized

Dee JiaTakahito Honda

by Dee Jia & Takahito Honda (2016-17 MBA students)

We have spent seven wonderful days (June 10 – 17, 2017) in St. Petersburg for the Global Residency program from the Bath MBA. The International Management Institute of St. Petersburg (IMISP) was a great host and presented us with a multi-dimensional experience of Russian business and culture.  Below are a few things that highlighted the trip.

IMISP

Lectures and Presentations  

IMISP is one of the leaders in Russian business education, offering high quality of continuing education for more than 1,000 managers from Russia and Soviet Union. Sitting in their state of the art lecture room, we’ve taken advantage of this great opportunity and learned a great deal about Russia and its culture.

The Professors from IMISP gave wonderful lectures and cases, from which we have experienced a different business world in Russia. The classes on “Doing business with Russian business people”, “Business-Model-Canvas” and “Five Russian Tsars – Five models of Russia’s future” definitely helped us understand the way of doing business in Russia. In particular, “Doing business with Russian business people” has shown us the unique character of Russian culture, and the typical organizational structure and decision-making process. In return, we gave presentations such as “Seven Business Models” to IMISP.

presentation   presentation

Company Visits

We had the opportunity to visit three companies in St. Petersburg during the trip.

· ESTEL: a beauty cosmetic manufacturer;

· Baltic Beverages Holding (BBH): the biggest beer manufacturer in Russia;

· YIT Company:  a property developer.

The company visiting experience is invaluable. ESTEL and Baltic are both Russian-based businesses. These companies are operating in the Russian domestic market, as well as the post-Soviet Union markets such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Belarus. Due to the massive geographical scale, the companies usually face supply chain management issues. However, they have adopted global operating systems such as the TPS (Toyota Production System) to improve their operational processes.

On the other hand, from the visit to YIT, we learned that there are many Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) who are looking to invest in Russia, especially in St Petersburg. St Petersburg is the biggest trading gateway in Russia and post-Soviet Union market, and several global companies such as Siemens, Coca-Cola and Toyota have already launched production lines in St Petersburg. The challenge for manufacturers in St Petersburg is its infrastructure. For example, the lack of water and an unstable electricity supply.  However, the local government is making effort to solve the issues.

company visits Russia   company visits russia

Leisure Time and Russian Culture

In addition to the lectures and company visits, we enjoyed very much exploring the city! St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and an important Russian port on the Baltic sea. It is Russia’s “Window to Europe”. The city combines Russian, Asian and European cultures in the most extraordinary way. It has many magnificent architectures, museums and parks. To name a few, we visited the famous Hermitage museum, which contains the masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso; we took a wonderful boat trip on the canals; and we certainly did not miss the famous Peterhof Palace, the Russian Versailles. Peterhof is an imperial palace in the suburb built by Peter the Great in 1700s.

While wandering around Peterhof, we couldn’t stop admiring the magnificent palaces and gardens. If you have one day in St Petersburg, we’d suggest you to definitely visit Peterhof Palace!

Sights of St Petersburg

Foods in Russia

We also have enjoyed the diversified and hearty Russian foods in St. Petersburg. The foods are a mixture of Asian, European, Middle Eastern and Russian. For example, Polo (Pilaf) and Mantu (Dumplings) were originated from Central Asia whereas Beef stroganoff and Ikra (Caviar) were from west and sea side. The traditional Russian foods include Borsch (beet and cabbage red soup), Blini (Russian pancakes), Russian salads, and Russian dumplings. This variety of choice absolutely satisfied our hunger for an exchange of British foods…

Russian food 1 Russian food 2 Russian food 3

 

MBA Global Residency at the entrepreneurial French Riviera: an inspiring setting for innovation

📥  Global Residencies, MBA, Postgraduate, School of Management

Students sitting on a wall by a beach

Once upon a time, nine entrepreneurs from Bath MBA decided to go to Skema Business School's campus located at Sophia Antipolis to get a further understanding of innovation and its endeavors.  Even though Sophia Antipolis sounds like a town in Ancient Greece, it is the European Silicon Valley situated between the sea and the mountains at the French Riviera.

 

collage of beach shots

Looking at the scenery it is easy to understand why Pablo Picasso decided to stay and to see where his inspiration and enthusiasm came from. As Pablo Picasso was the pioneer of the Cubist movement, the Côte d’Azur has at least 200 start-ups in Information and Communication Technologies and Perfumeries spread between five incubators and four accelerators. Our journey in the South of France started on a Sunday. We went to explore Monaco,

Our journey in the South of France started on a Sunday. We went to explore Monaco, Nice and Menton, a hidden magical place located on the Italian-French border.It was the perfect mixture, culture, natural beauty, and leisure.

 

Pablo Picasso house collage

On Monday morning we departed to Skema University, where we met our wonderful professors and hosts: Dominique, Michel, Etienne, and Elisabeth.  During the week, we were delivered the program of innovation and Entrepreneurship: Doing Business in Europe. The content of the course not only was practical but also complemented our studies with an effectual approach to entrepreneurship. Between classes, we developed two different business ideas that aimed to disrupt the fashion and travel industries.

 

Skema University

After Class, we had the chance to explore the little villages around from Cannes to Monte Carlo. Later, between 7 pm and 9 pm, we enjoyed the sunset at the beach only two blocks away from the hotel. La French Cuisine was the protagonist of the trip. Every day we had the opportunity to eat at least one meal by the seaside, and a promenade afterward was mandatory. If we had to choose the best dinner of the week that one would be Chez Lulu, a Michelin recommended restaurant, were we celebrated Joanna’s Birthday.

 

Celebration meal

During the week, among du Vin, de la Champagne, des Macarons, du Fromage, Volleyball at the beach, morning runs and group projects, we had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Amadeus, the biggest corporation, and employer located in the region.

 

Amadeus picture

We also had the occasion to observe the perfume production at Fragonard, perfumery.  There we explore the whole process, and of course, we had the emphasis on the sales customer journey, which was a total success. Regarding entrepreneurship, we had three talks with entrepreneurs located in a start-up incubator in Le Grasse, the capital of perfume in France.

We could not be more grateful for an experience where we learned by exploring; the Global Residency is without a doubt a very mindful part of the program. It was a lovely event composed of fun, family, friends, culture, gorgeous food and most importantly knowledge.

Animez-vous pour découvrir la France, Bon Voyage !

 

Lisa flowers picture

“The trip was perfect! We saw beautiful sights along the stunning Côte d'Azur, got to enjoy the beach, sea, and sunshine every day, had very interesting company visits and insights into the innovation and entrepreneurship scene in the south of France. I would highly recommend this trip to all future students!”

Lisa Solovieva, MBA student

 

Joanna Borecka photo

"I had such a great time! SKEMA School was so well prepared for our visit, the teaching program was excellent, it has genuinely enriched my understanding of entrepreneurship. It was also a brilliant opportunity to spend more time with my fellow MBA students - they were fantastic companions!"

Joanna Borecka, MBA student

 

We need to start talking about mental health

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

- in general, not just in Universities.

With many recognised illnesses, there is one group that is still tough for people to talk about; mental illness. Like any illness, it can impede your progress, but quite often it can remain unnoticed and undiagnosed, making it even more difficult. In fact, I’m often surprised about how many people are affected by it.

Well, I believe that the first and most important thing is to be more open about mental health; this will mean that people are more able to recognise that they are ill, to know that they are not alone in feeling this way. Because there is this stigma around mental illnesses, people may be scared to ask for help, and this could lead to devastating results. By being more open, I would like to think that something can be done before it’s too late, but also that people struggling are more willing to seek help. I also think that by being more open, people who are not suffering from mental illnesses would feel more confident in how to help someone else who is – because, to be totally honest, while I would do my best in that circumstance, I’m not sure if that would be helpful or not to the other person.

One thing I’ve learned about research is that it’s competitive, can be isolating and there are constant changes (the up-and-down nature of research), and this can make it really difficult to make friends. This is made worse by the fact that PhD projects start throughout the year. It’s not surprising to find yourself feeling down when your experiments are not working, and you feel totally on your own. It is usual to feel upset that someone had published something similar to what you are working on, if that does happen. Other things happen too, and if you are struggling, then please do not suffer on your own; there are services, from the University wellbeing service, your supervisor and colleagues, the Ombudsman, your GP. Talk to your friends about what you are going through – maybe they’re going through something similar – and about what would help you. Different things work for different people – I found talking to a psychologist helpful after being diagnosed with a physical illness, but you may find that medication is more helpful.

The thing to remember is, that mental illness can happen to anyone, like physical illness. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, and keep looking until you find something that works for you. Don’t beat yourself up about it – being ill has nothing to do with “just having the blues”, etc. Find people who are willing to listen, and be prepared to listen; by being open, I hope that less people are suffering with a mental illness on their own, and that people feel confident in how to help others who are struggling with a mental illness. Let's stop stigmatising mental illness.

 

PGBio Inspirational Speaker 2017

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Every year PGBio, the post-graduate biology society, invite a senior scientist to deliver an inspirational talk. This year, we were very fortunate to have the Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse come to us. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine alongside Leland Hartwell and Tim Hunt for their work on the regulation of the cell cycle, was the former president of the Royal Society and is currently the director of the Francis Crick Institute.

It was amazing to have Sir Paul talk to us, and later on I had the opportunity along with other PhD students, post-doc.s and a Masters student to have an informal group coffee with him. Sometimes, these kinds of situations can get awkward, but that was not the case here, and I really appreciated his honesty and kindness. Here are some of the highlights from the day;

Attack your hypothesis from many angles, and if it’s still intact, then it’s probably true – I have not considered this before, and I guess a part of me is scared of doing this precisely because whatever hypothesis I have may not stand. But I can see that it is important to let that dear go, so that you can be thorough in your research and, ultimately, have confidence in those hypotheses that remain intact.

Reality of research is that we all make mistakes – this is definitely true, but it’s something that is not always evident when you read research papers; well, they are usually the “good bits”, right? It is comforting to know that you are not the only one to make mistakes.

Enjoy what you are doing, and have breaks – this is something I definitely stand by; the ups and downs of research is tough, and if you’re not enjoying it then it is going to be harder. And sometimes, the best thing to do when things are not going well is actually to have a break, whether that’s going home early and not thinking about whatever experiment is not working until you come back the next day, or just taking a few days/weeks off. It really does help to have a fresh mind!

I am so glad that I had this opportunity, especially at this stage in my career, and this will be one of those events that will stay with me. So, thank-you Sir!

 

Learning and collaborations

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Recently, I got a chance to learn about a technique which I knew about but have never used before. This was definitely a great experience for me, as a big part of doing a PhD is learning new techniques and expanding your knowledge. There are certain techniques and experiments which will be applicable for a lot of fields, while others are more specific to certain fields, and having a chance to use a technique which may not necessarily be a standard in your field is rewarding and also helpful in improving your knowledge (as you can probably imagine). Also, it's like a breath of fresh air when you are stuck repeating the same experiments.

Projects will require a different set of techniques, and each set will be different. And the truth is, there is a difference between knowing the theory behind the techniques and knowing how to use them (however, knowing the theory definitely helps, especially when you’re stuck); even though I knew the theory of Western blotting, it still took me ages to get one to work! Sometimes, when you need to do a particular experiment that you've never done before, this can mean collaborating with other people in your group, or other groups. Given the vast amount of techniques available, you end up knowing quite a lot about a few, selected techniques, so collaborating is a fantastic way of learning that little bit about a different technique - who knows, that little bit of knowledge may in fact give you an edge in future job applications! I guess that is also why a lot of research papers contain a lot of authors.

This PhD has been enlightening in that I have got to see how research actually works in reality; from how to figure out why the experiment is not working, to getting an insight into how long it actually takes behind the scenes – I now know how long it can take to get the data for a paper, then how long it takes after that before the paper is actually published, and I really didn't anticipate how frustrating that all can get at times. All in all, I have really enjoyed getting to use the techniques which I have learned, and I suppose learning something new recently reminded me of the thrill of research and why I wanted to do a PhD in the first place; definitely helpful to be reminded of that when you are lacking motivation... Use opportunities to expand your knowledge when you can, because, like I mentioned above, you never know when that little knowledge may come in handy...

 

Thesis...

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

So, I guess most of you will know that you have to write and submit a thesis to get a PhD. It’s basically a book on your research, detailing what experiments you did and why, what you found, etc. Now, as you may have gathered from reading my blogs (thank-you!), I’m coming towards the end of my PhD, meaning I’m now starting to write this book... well, at least trying to anyway! It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind since I started, and now it’s time to start tackling it, it’s really scary! – I’ve never written anything that long, so it just seems daunting right now.

Some people will stop doing lab work and concentrate on writing full time – I’m not currently doing that, as I have not finished my projects yet. Now, I originally thought that writing while still doing lab work would be... well, not easy, but... do-able; it’s actually proving trickier than I anticipated. The difficulty is that lab work obviously takes time out of your day, so even if you start writing and get into a good flow, you may need to disrupt that to get back to lab work, which then makes it hard for you to get back to writing. Or, you may only have a short gap between stages of experiments, which makes it difficult to get started. How do you find the motivation in those scenarios?

Another thing that has an impact on me is the fact that my projects are still not complete, therefore what can I write about? Is there any point in starting something that may change anyway? – knowing what research is like, what you think will happen may not actually happen at all! Also, if you are aiming to get your research published, should you be concentrating on writing your thesis or the paper? – I personally say concentrate on the paper, as that will be an important factor when applying for jobs, and also when you come to do your viva (so I’ve heard). You can then modify the paper for your thesis – win-win really! Or put the papers together as a thesis, which I believe is now possible in my department.

One saving grace has been being around post-doc.s; it’s so helpful to hear about how they approached their thesis. Most have said something along the line of “start with your materials and methods/introduction”, and that’s the approach that I’ve taken. And I have to say that it’s great to know that I won’t have to sit down and write a whole materials and methods section from scratch! Of course, your supervisor/other academics will be able to advice you too; interestingly, I’ve had one piece of advice that it’d be better to concentrate on finishing lab work, and writing full time after; now, I can see advantages to that, as you probably gathered from above. However, due to the fact that my project is not finished, I’m currently concentrating on lab work. Who knows, I may finish lab work at some point in the spring, maybe I won’t...

How you approach writing a big “report” like a thesis varies from person to person; I guess the trick is finding what works for you. My advice for those about to embark on something similar, like your thesis or a final year dissertation, would be to start with the introduction and materials and methods, like I was advised. That has definitely worked for me, and that can be started even before you have a definite idea of what the outcome of your project is. Another thing I find helpful (and what I should start doing more often!) is finding somewhere to go and write; library, café, doesn’t matter. It’s better to be away from the office/home with the intention of writing, and I’ve recently discovered the graduate commons areas in 10W (4th and 5th floors); I went there with my laptop and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, as I find background noise distracting and music helps me concentrate better, and was more productive writing there than in the office. If you are still in the lab like I am, just find a couple of hours where you are not doing anything in the lab, go somewhere else and start writing.

Now, do I have a gap tomorrow...?

 

Publishing

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Publishing scientific papers is key for career progression, and it’s not until you start thinking about what should go into a paper that you realise how much work goes into one – for example, it’s taken me most of my PhD to get the research done to even start writing the paper. Then it was time for the manuscript to go to our collaborators, and I’m now (still) doing more experiments. And really, that’s only half of the story; once it’s ready, then it may or may not be sent out to reviewers, who might say more experiments need to be done!

The main factor in getting your research ready for publishing is getting the experiments done, and, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, they don’t always work the first time you try it. This then takes time to try to trouble shoot, which means that another month, two months, go by. It’s scary really, how time flies sometimes! You may also be asked to do experiment(s) for other people’s research – I’ve had the opportunity to do this, and it’s nice to know that I’ve been part of different research projects. I enjoy learning about what other research goes on, and it has been great that I’ve been able to be part of projects outside my own.

Once the manuscript is ready to be published, it gets sent to journals – now, I don’t really know too much about journals and their impact factors (rankings, basically), I can’t say much about this – where it either gets sent out to reviewers, or rejected. The reviewers then make suggestions for improvement, or rejects it. Now, this could mean more experiments, and that again could take a month or too! So all in all, you can see how quickly time flies in this process. Next time you find yourself reading a research paper, bear in mind that it probably represents years of work, possibly by a big group of people.

 

Choices…

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Life is full of decisions we need to make, and sometimes that’s not easy. Right now, being in the latter stages of my PhD, the big decisions I need to make is “what next?”. “What are my options?”. “What do I want in my career?”

Sometimes, it does feel like I’ve ended up here without really thinking about the next step – I mean, I never really imagined that I’d be doing a PhD at all! For me, it was more a case of “I liked doing my dissertation project, perhaps I would like doing something similar”, and I have no regrets. But, when it comes to thinking about my career, rather than more short-term goals, it frankly scares me… Am I meant to know what I want to be doing in, say, 10 years’ time? I think part of the reason I get scared is that I feel as if my decision needs to be a concrete one, which, thinking about it, doesn’t really have to be… right?

It wasn’t until recently, when I attended a PG Skills course on careers, that I realised I basically had most of what I thought was important in my career already. That seems something totally unexpected if I’m honest! Well, perhaps deep down I knew, but that really was eye opening! Although I’m not yet decided on what my “end goal” is, I have an aim for the near future, and that’s far more than I thought I had.

Knowing now that I want to look for post-doc. jobs, it has made it slightly easier – however, there is still the question of what exactly I want to work on. For now, it probably would be ok to just look for projects that are interesting to me (which hopefully will match my skills!), but then what? Would that project guide me to the next stage? Or what if it only confuses me? – actually, is there any point in worrying about it at this stage? Is there anything wrong with waiting to see what opportunities arise, and taking them when they come along?

I think this is probably a hard choice for everyone, and there probably is no right or wrong answer in terms of how we go about making this choice – everyone will have a different way. The one thing I hope for is that, whatever I do decide, I will be happy with my choice and have no regrets.

 

Adventures in Germany

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📥  Faculty of Science, Postgraduate

My research involves using an atomic force microscope (AFM) to see into the tiny world of atoms and molecules. I was lucky, then, to find out that there's a week-long summer school focussed on AFM that comes around every three years, and my first year as a PhD student happened to coincide with one of these summer school years. Since Bath Uni would pay for my travel expenses through my postgraduate budget, I'd be silly not to go.

plane-dewan-c-2

This year, the school was based in Osnabrück, Germany. Visiting Germany brought back memories from when I visited the Netherlands. Specifically, there's the issue of jaywalking. In the UK, when we see no vehicles approaching either way on a road, our tendency is to walk across. In contrast, people in places like the Netherlands and Germany only go when they see the green light. For the first few days in Germany, my rebellious British habit stayed with me. However, seeing the locals wait while I crossed the road made me feel guilty. That guilt eventually broke my habit. I felt awkward at first standing in front of a deserted road waiting for the light, but I was embracing the feeling that this was probably as close to being German as I'd get.

garden-dewan-c

Our meeting point for the summer school was at a botanical garden owned by the University of Osnabrück. It’s a beautiful sight, but temperatures soard to a high of 33 °C during my time there. The heat, combined with 90-minute long lectures (my concentration limit is barely an hour), meant that my mind turned to mush. I was keen at first, sitting in the front row, but was gradually forced to retreat to the back row in case I needed to close my eyes without many noticing. It was a good move.

lecture-dewan-c-2

Overall, I had an enjoyable time. I met experts in the field as well as other PhD students who, like me, are basically the kids of the academic community. This was the first time I saw how much enthusiasm an academic community can have for its subject. Their enthusiasm turned question sessions at the end of lectures into rich discussions and debates. I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't feel like I was melting.

So, where to next? Well, I hear there’s a winter school in France early next year... For now, I’m back to my rebellious British habit of jaywalking.

 

The social side of a PhD

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Being a PhD student is time consuming, but this does not have to mean that you spend all your time working. In fact, I think it’s very important to socialise with other people, as it can otherwise become very intense! Things like getting a group of people together to go to the Parade can give you the extra motivation to get things done when you’re struggling, and even things like going out of the office for lunch with a few people will give you an opportunity to step away briefly, to come back refreshed. It’s important not to get too caught up in the PhD, I think…

One thing I appreciate about being here is that there are social events for postgrad's, students and staff in our department. From September induction week, Halloween party, Christmas dinner, international food evening and the Cider and Ale festival, to something as small as Friday coffee mornings, it’s always nice to have a chance to socialise with other people in the department. These are organised by PGBio, which is basically a group of us postgrad’s in the department, and something I’ve been involved in since the beginning of my time here. Being in PGBio has given me the opportunity to “work” with people outside my lab, while also meeting others in the department – being away from the main B&B building, I don’t see many of the other fellow PhD students usually!

These events are usually open to staff too, and we do get some postdocs coming along. This is a great opportunity to get some advice! – From advice about an experiment that you’re struggling with, what you should be aiming to achieve during your PhD (such as; applying for travel grants, publishing, experiencing as many techniques as possible) to how they approached writing their thesis, and also finding out how they got to where they are. All this is very useful, especially as I’m coming towards the end of my PhD and am going to have to start thinking about what I want to do next.

So, if you are looking to do a PhD, make sure you take these opportunities to socialise - day to day, it can be a bit of a bubble, so I see these socials as great opportunities to escape the bubble! Not only that, but they can also be ideal places to get some advice from others; people from outside your lab will have different expertise, which may in fact be very useful!