Student bloggers

Life as a student in Bath

Welcome to Another Academic Year

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Once you get into the swing of things, days begin to merge. When summer arrives, things go quiet.

Having about three months of quiet, you quickly get used to that. Then, the next academic year starts…

New students start, others return, leading to a busy campus, packed buses and traffic jams. Having to be careful about when you leave for the bus and having difficulty finding a table for lunch…

New people starting in the lab and department, along with the project students. A scramble to try find places for them all. Helping them get their bearings, and social events to meet them…

New set of seminars in the department, and for me, an invitation to attend another. New set of practical’s looking for demonstrators - hoping to get the slots…

Time to say goodbye to some old friends, who have finished Masters and PhD. - thinking about my own thesis…

Welcome to academic year 2016-17

Hope it will be a good one for you!

 

Starting PhD life

  , ,

📥  Faculty of Science, Postgraduate

Being a first-year postgraduate, this is my first summer at Bath Uni. I thought campus would be somewhat deserted – undergrads are away on holiday and we postgraduates who don’t get that luxury make up a quarter of the student population. I was wrong. I didn’t expect summer students, including entire classes from schools, to arrive and keep campus buzzing with life. Well, now I know.

In the Physics CDT programme, my first six months consisted of lectures, lab techniques, computational techniques, and an industry placement in the Netherlands. For the next six months up to now, I’ve been working on my PhD project.

The project involves using my supervisor’s atomic force microscope (AFM) to image the surface of crystals. Images can have such a high resolution that individual atoms can be seen. That all things are made of atoms is like the holy grail of science, so to see atoms for the first time can be satisfying. Have a look – they appear as orange/red dots in the photo below.

dewan-labdewan-computer-analysis

Imaging samples to atomic resolution allows their nanoscale structure to be analysed. What’s more is that an AFM can also move atoms. The goal is then to customise samples at the atomic level such that they gain desirable properties for use in future technologies.

Experimental physics can be frustrating because things don’t usually work. It’s the hope of finding a way to make things work that provides motivation to keep going. However, there can only be so many failures before I start to doubt my sanity. Here's what I’ve gathered that helps keep my mind in check.

  • I get along great with my supervisor. When we’re having lunch or coffee together, she tends to mention how wonderful her dog is. I used to be a cat person before I met her; I am now a dog person.
  • There’s more freedom in PhD life compared to undergrad because I choose how to spend my time. The caveat is that it’s super easy to procrastinate. You see, with great freedom comes great responsibility.
  • I’m more willing to organise lunch with friends. Working on a PhD is isolating enough as it is. Making the most of opportunities to socialise keeps me in touch with reality.
  • Small breaks between work is refreshing. Pokémon Go has given me extra incentive to walk around campus. (I’m in Team Mystic.)
  • Having tennis scheduled at the end of my day helps me unwind. It gives me something different to look forward to.

Despite frustrations of not making progress and the guilt of procrastinating, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. After all, I didn’t run in the opposite direction after graduating, so student life must not be too bad, right?

 

Exploring “The Edge” at Roche Continents ‘16

  

📥  Uncategorized

Agnes Wong, one of our MPharm students, has just returned from taking part in this year’s Roche Continents project in Salzburg, Austria.

The project aims to bring together 100 top students from across Europe to give them the opportunity to explore sources of inspiration at the intersection of science and art, as well as the creative processes that drive innovation. 

Agnes has written a short blog about her experience


The journey did not start in Salzburg, nor at W.A. Mozart Airport, nor at Stansted airport… It all started with the application form.

The Roche Continents program was a pivotal moment in my three years as an undergraduate pharmacy student. After being nominated to attend the event, I was directed to the application site where I was to put on a different thinking cap after a long time since studying Theory of Knowledge during my IB days. “What does ‘The Edge’ mean to you?” This question was not an easy one to tackle but it definitely set off my personal expectation for Roche Continents 2016 – it was going to be an exceptional experience.

Roche Continents ’16 group photo. Photo credit: Roche

Roche Continents ’16 group photo. Photo credit: Roche

This year’s theme was “The Edge” and broadly speaking, we were meant to challenge the boundaries of our thoughts across the arts and sciences – two subjects at both ends of the area of knowledge continuum. Throughout the week, we had the privilege to listen to talks by renowned speakers on various topics such as astrophysics, evolution, cancer and genome sequencing as well as musicologists and Salzburg artists on the evening concerts we were to attend. Another brilliant experience I had was when we were given a task to present an artistic concept representing “a billion” which had a mix of science and art students. This was definitely an eye-opener for me as I had the opportunity to explore the mind works of scientists and artists.

Me outside the Mozarteum where the works of Cerha, Schwetsik and Gruber were performed.

Me outside the Mozarteum where the works of Cerha, Schwetsik and Gruber were performed.

Intriguing talks, evening concerts, sumptuous food (yes, we had waffles for breakfast) etc, but personally my best bit of Roche Continents was the opportunity to listen to the stories from my fellow friends from across 29 nations. During the week, I met some of the most inspiring personalities and creative characters who are courageously pursuing their passion in different fields, some of which I have never heard of such as theoretical chemistry. The individuals I encountered were bubbling with so much enthusiasm when they spoke of the work that they do, be it producing compositions using African polyrhythms, doing a PhD in Wallerian degeneration or even organizing Roche Continents for the nth time; these special people have certainly helped deepen my understanding on what it means to be Passionate about something. Over the course of six and a half days at Salzburg, this group of strangers became a group of friends whom I seemed to have known for six and a half years.

The Roche Continents experience has taught me a lot about passion, to never lose the willingness to explore the unknown and last but not least, to continuously push my “Edge”.  It has been a pleasure to have been part of the journey. Thank you, Roche Continents and thank you, DPP!

 

Starting my Industrial Placement

  

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

As some of you may already know, I am currently on my placement as part of the ‘year in industry’ scheme available to the vast majority of students at Bath - the Electronic Engineering Department is no exception. To be quite honest, when I joined Bath back in 2014, I didn’t really envisage going on placement and I was certainly very apprehensive about taking time out of my studies to work for a year. How naïve I must have been? Going to just one of the many talks provided by the engineering placement team persuaded me of all of the benefits of taking a year to experience industry in its fullest. One thing that really surprised me is quite how much information is available to students about the placement year, which, in general, doesn’t even take place in Bath. The placement team could not have been more helpful. I attended loads of lectures about the year away prior to even applying for a placement scheme and now that I am on placement, I can say with confidence, that this level of support carries on which is fantastic.

The myriad of connections Bath University has with the engineering industry worldwide means that the number of placement schemes listed on the University Moodle Server feels unending and really allows for a very personal and thoughtful choice of which schemes or jobs to apply for. Personally, I wanted to find a relevant, well known, engineering company in the South-West. A country boy, I didn’t think I could handle the bright lights of the city just yet. Fortunately, this was no problem at all with hundreds of placement opportunities dotted about the South-West region. This range of choice meant that I needn’t apply for jobs outside of my search radius as there were numerous opportunities within it.

Having followed the very thorough and helpful instructions provided by the university team, I was quick to send off several cover letters and applications for various jobs in the South-West including Babcock, Centrax and Pipex px NOV. At this stage, out of the control of the swift acting placement office, it was a waiting game to see what opportunities materialised; meanwhile the placement team were flooding me with further options into the summer months as other positions became available.

I was very lucky to be accepted by a Plymouth based company called Pipex px who have recently been acquired by the American engineering giants National Oilwell Varco (NOV). Pipex px NOV is proving to be a really worthwhile placement scheme and I am benefiting from the wealth of experience and opportunity across the now enlarged global company.

Following a swift induction to the organisation I was set to work right away. Moreover, I wasn’t just making cups of tea – from day one I was able to apply the skills learned at Bath to real world engineering problems. One of the things that has surprised me most thus far is how much the employer appreciates the Bath IMEE course and recognises the vast skill set I have developed at Bath. From minute one I understood that my presence within the Engineering Services Department was on a very professional basis as I was assigned an audacious desk space, an engineering grade PC and four screens to play with – yes, four computer screens!

My favourite lunch break destination on the Moors

My favourite lunch break destination on the Moors

Another of the many things that I have come to appreciate during my first few weeks is just how tailored my Integrated Mechanical and Electrical engineering course is to the requirements of engineers in industry. I have already been contracted to design, model and draw a water filtering system – skills that I have ‘mastered’ during the first two years of my degree course. To my surprise, the system which I have designed has already been sent to the factory for production - albeit a prototype -  to be sent to various sales teams in the States. How extraordinary?! I would not have been able to do any of this if it had not been for the rigorous design modules that I have studied in Bath.

Always kept on my toes, it was not long before I was requested to ponder over some beam calculations as part of a feasibility study. This was a real test of my memory, having studied statics as part of the Solid Mechanics course in year one. To my relief, I was able to re-enrol on the course using the University Moodle Server – something I never thought I would do. Yet another pleasant surprise.

It goes without saying that my CAD skills have been completely overhauled since entering the professional workplace and I very much look forward to becoming better and better in such fields. I already fully understand why the year in industry is so recommended by the Bath team and I cannot wait to re-enter year three with the array of new skills I will develop over the next year. As always, I will keep you posted…

 

“We need to do more for women in science”

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

This is the title of an article I found online, in the journal Science. Clearly, there are still issues in terms of bias against women in science/academia – and I’m sure this is not something that’s limited to science and academia. The article mentions incidents, and thankfully I have not experienced anything like that yet, and for the majority of my university life I have been looked after by female academics. And it is definitely good that there are schemes to support women in science, such as Athena Swan.

But here’s a thought: a study published in 2015, in which the authors used hypothetical applicant profiles for an assistant professorship in various fields, found that in most cases women were favoured over men. So if there is a higher preference to hire women, why is this not reflected in reality?

According to an article in the Guardian (citing an article in New Scientist), this may be due to the fact that early stages of a research career involves short-term contracts in various places; this coincides with the time when people want to have children, and the nature of these post-doc. contracts is hardly ideal for anyone wanting to settle down to start a family. Now, this would equally affect men as well as women, but further in the article it cites a study showing that men are more likely to have partners who are willing to stay at home to look after the kids while women are more likely to be with a fellow scientist. This would create a situation where women are more likely to have to choose between a family and their career, and it is a sad thought that capable young scientists are having to make this choice.

This got me thinking: is this choice something that women have to face regardless of what they do? Or is it more difficult in science? Surely there are men out there that will have to make this choice too? Personally, my main focus for the future has been a career. This does not mean that I don’t want to get married and have a family – is this something unrealistic for me to try and achieve?

I guess it’s hard for anyone to make these decisions. It took me a long time to think about what exactly I wanted to do, and it seems like I’ve ended up here without really thinking too much about what next! Right now, I am happy to be doing what I’m doing, and somehow it feels like I am where I’m meant to be right now… Doing this PhD has made me realise my passion for research, and although I have not really thought too much about what I will do after, my feeling is that it will involve research in some form or another!

 

My Motivation

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

One of the reasons I chose to do my PhD in microbiology is that I believe a lot of modern medicine relies on the ability to treat infections. For example, without that ability, things like surgery, transplants and immune suppression will be too risky. And the scary truth is that antibiotic resistance is becoming a big problem. Recently, a review on antimicrobial resistance by Lord O’Neill was published, and this article summarises the key findings.

A brief overview of how antibiotic resistance can occur: sometimes it only takes one change in the DNA sequence of the bacterium to become resistant to an antibiotic, and if that particular species is a fast growing one this can happen quite quickly. Another way of acquiring resistance is by picking up bits of DNA from the environment, which is not necessarily from the same species; these genes exist because antibiotics are based on products which are made by bacteria. So in a way, we’re trying to control nature by using chemicals derived from nature. While bacteria can adapt to this new challenge easily, it can take a while to adapt the chemicals. This leads to a situation where the number of antibiotic resistant infections are on the rise, but the number of agents which are available is not rising at the same rate; it was last year that a new class of antibiotic was found after almost 30 years.

So what can be done to make sure that we keep antibiotics effective? Certainly more awareness and control of its use will be helpful (especially in veterinary medicine), as will improving hygiene and surveillance – points which the report highlighted. But I believe focus on research and development is important, not only to discover new antibiotics but also to create new tests to ensure that appropriate antibiotics are given – again, highlighted in the report.

While these above points are important, I also believe that the pharmaceutical industry need to play a part too – after all, even if discoveries like teixobactin are made, there are lots of steps before it can become a medicine and I believe that this will be difficult without the involvement of pharmaceutical companies. Now, the fact that resistance to antibiotics can occur rapidly means that it can become ineffective very fast – not great if you are trying to cover the cost of its production! There have been proposals both from the pharmaceutical industry and in the report of finding alternative ways to fund antibiotic discovery; this I think will be crucial.

Funding for research I think is another crucial piece of the puzzle in terms of finding new antibiotics or new ways of treating infections – that is how teixobactin was found, and I hope that research like this will be happening long into the future. As technologies improve, we are able to increase our understanding of how the infection process works, and who knows, this may lead to a change in how we approach infection treatment. With genome sequencing improving all the time, there may come a time where a clinician may be able to sequence a patient sample quickly, and then work out if antibiotics are necessary or not, and also work out which antibiotics will be effective/ineffective.

I am hopeful that with the above report and the Longitude Prize being focused on antibiotic resistance we will be able to tackle this problem which may indirectly affect a lot of us.

Bath University Boat Club's Campaign at Head of the River Race 2016

  ,

📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

A little while ago I was lucky enough to travel to London with my Novice Rowers from the University Boat Club for their biggest race to date. The Thames riverside was packed for the annual Head of the River Race which attracts an array of clubs, schools, university teams and international crews. This year, as one of the Novice Men’s Captains, I have worked incredibly hard to get the Bath University Novice Rowers racing as much as possible and, despite the quality of the competition, the Head of the River Race in London was not to be an exception on our calendar. Collectively, thousands of hours of training had led up to this race, including tens of early morning sessions in the build up to the event. It was going to be make or break for my Novice Men and right from the off I was very proud indeed.

Having loaded the rowing boats onto the trailer in the early hours of Friday morning before heading to lectures, it was an early night for everyone prior to a very early departure to Putney on Saturday morning. The majority of us travelled by car to the capital city and were quick to unload and rig the boats in Putney along the side of the river. It is very rare to see so many rowers (let alone rowing boats) all in one place and it was an amazing experience for everyone involved.

Due to enormity of the event, the novice rowers were quick to boat on the Thames and ended up sat in boating queues for a huge amount of time. Although cold, this meant that they were fully immersed in the racing shortly after arriving and could focus solely on the job at hand – completing the course in as little time possible. The course, which is traditionally the reverse of the Oxford Cambridge boat race course, was their longest race of the entire calendar and hence was set to be gruelling! It wasn’t long before myself, as a captain, and all of the other spectators who had made the trek from Bath, set off towards Hammersmith Bridge to watch the event unfold.

The Novice crew in action

Once propped up along the railings of Hammersmith Bridge (which was very cramped due to the sheer numbers of people watching the race), it was time for racing to begin in earnest, with the fastest international crews being let off first. Senior University teams were quick to follow; Bath University Championship VIII being no exception. It was great to see the senior crews put in a strong performance and hold off arch rivals Bristol, over the length of the course.

Some of the crews taking part in the Head of the River Race 2016

It wasn’t long before both of my Novice crews made an appearance in the distance and everyone associated with Bath began screaming words of encouragement. Coming through the bridge, both teams looked incredibly strong with no obvious faults in technique or mechanical failure. This made the day even more exciting for everyone in London. It was the first time in years that Novice crews had raced the HORR course, let alone completed it with such confidence. I was incredibly proud and relieved to see that all of our hard work over the course of the year had paid off. All rowers came off the water with beaming smiles, although exhausted they had clearly enjoyed the experience and were delighted to have been part of such a prestigious sporting occasion.

Once warm and dry it was time to de-rig the boats and load them back up onto the trailer before making a speedy exit and heading home. We all made it back to Bath safe and sound, but most importantly, we made it home just in time for a team meal out in the city centre followed up by a round (or two) of well-earned drinks.

As the mad weekend of rowing and racing came to an end it was swiftly time to return to our studies on Monday morning. There’s never a dull moment in Bath! Having said this, it is impossible for rowing folk not to be excited about the hectic season of regatta racing coming up after exams. The summer cannot come quickly enough…

 

Open Days- things to do while visiting Bath

  ,

📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Hannah

The season for open days is coming up! An open day can be really useful to help you decide which universities you want to apply to. You’ll be able to visit your subject department, learn more about the course, meet some of your future lecturers, and get an opportunity to explore the campus and accommodation.

While open days are often pretty busy with trying to cram in all the talks and events you want to attend and trying to see as much of the university as possible, it’s also a good idea to get a feel for the town or city that you’ll be living in for the next three or four years. While I haven’t been into the city centre on a regular basis during my first year at Bath, I’ll be living in the city next year and in my final year after I have completed my placement. That's twice as long as I’ll spend in my first year university accommodation, and so open days are a good opportunity to see what Bath has to offer. If you’ve got some time to kill before your train home after the open day, or if you will be spending the night in Bath, the city has some great places to explore.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey on a sunny day!

Bath Abbey on a sunny day!

One of the main attractions in Bath is the beautiful Bath Abbey. Entry is free (although they do ask for a small donation), and there’s a lot to see inside. When I visited the Abbey with my family (it’s a great thing to do when family and friends come to visit you in Bath) we spent ages reading the plaques and stone tablets of people who had been interred in the abbey and buried in the churchyard. People from all over the world have been buried there – I think we read nearly all of them! You can also go up the bell tower, and although they do charge (around £7), it offers amazing views of Bath. There are only certain times of day you can go up though so make sure you check in advance if this is something you want to do!

Museums

Hopefully you will visit Bath on a sunny day, but if not there are plenty of things to see and do indoors as well. Bath is famous for its link to Jane Austen, several of her novels are set here and she herself lived in Bath for part of her life. The Jane Austen Centre offers a wide range of information about her life, her family, and Bath society during the Regency period. The museum is situated in a house very like the one she would have lived in, and there are frequent talks and tours. There is also the chance to dress up in Regency period costume – something me and a friend enjoyed a lot when she came to visit me!

Trying my hand at old fashioned writing in the Jane Austen Centre

Trying my hand at old fashioned writing in the Jane Austen Centre

If, like us, you hadn’t had quite enough dressing up in the Jane Austen Centre you can also visit the Fashion Museum which has a really good exhibition of fashion from the 1700/1800s to modern day. Again, there is a whole room dedicated to dress up, this time with crinolines, corsets and a special backdrop so that you can take photos. The fashion museum is also free for Bath university students so it’s a good place to go when friends visit you at Uni.

Enjoying the Fashion Museum

Enjoying the Fashion Museum

You can find out more about the great museums in and around Bath here.

Walks

If the day you visit Bath is sunny then I would recommend either the Bath Skyline Walk or a gentle stroll alongside the River Avon. The Bath Skyline Walk is a round walk of around six miles that starts in the city centre, climbs to the top of the hill where you get amazing views of the city and then descends back down. The walk is accessible from the University campus – walking round the edge of the golf course just above the university you will soon find signs pointing you to the walk. If you prefer a walk more in the city there is a path that runs just alongside the river and gives you great views of the city.

Shopping and Eating

And last, but not least, what lots of people come to Bath for: shopping. Bath has an excellent range of shops- both chain high-street stores (Primark, H&M, Topshop, Zara etc.) and also many smaller boutiques and independent stores. Wandering round the shops is also a good way to get to know the city centre and to try out some of the great cafés and restaurants in Bath. If you’re looking for a light lunch or a snack I would recommend the Boston Tea Party (amazing lemon cake) and although I am still to try it, the world famous Sally Lunn’s is very popular as well.

Whatever your tastes you should be able to find something to see or do in Bath that suits you. I think that getting a feel for the town you are going to live in is as important as getting a feel for the university, so don’t pass up the opportunity to sample what Bath has to offer!

 

The difference between an MSc and an MRes

  

📥  Faculty of Science, Maeva, Postgraduate

I would like to share a big factor I really had to consider when I applied for a scientific master's degree. Like many people, more than I realised, I started my application well into the summer, after my third year exams were out of the way. Those of you thinking it is too late to apply, it’s not! I wasn’t too sure what kind of course I was looking for. As I did more googling, I quickly became overwhelmed by the numerous course options available with similar titles that differed by just one word. The main thing I struggled to decide on was whether I wanted to do a taught or research master's degree. What were their differences and did they really matter? At the end I’d still get a postgraduate degree, right?

Remember, choosing to get a postgraduate qualification is a great way of enhancing your chances to rise above your competitors in the competitive science industry. That is why choosing the type of postgraduate programme (MSc or MRes) best suited to your career aims and preferred learning style is very important.

Essentially, an MSc primarily contains taught modules, whilst an MRes is more heavily research based and you learn through the projects. Whereas an MSc will generally have one large research project, which makes up the dissertation and one third of the course, an MRes will have two research projects and one third of the university credits will come from taught components.

The emphasis in an MRes is development of individual research skills, providing students with a deeper introduction to research methods and writing, which provides a strong foundation to build on for those considering a PhD. This isn’t to say to that you can’t follow-up an MSc with a PhD. An MSc does provide sufficient preparation, but if you are pretty certain research and academia is something you want to pursue, then an MRes should be seriously considered as it facilitates the transition. Another thing to point out is that many postgraduate funding bodies only award money to PhD students who have completed research programmes, something to keep in mind as finding PhD funding can be notoriously difficult. An MRes also gives you a better taste of what a PhD or a research career could be like, allowing you to work out if it is really for you.

I ended up choosing to study an MSc, because what I really wanted to get out of my degree was a broader understanding and theoretical expertise in multiple topics that I was interested in, instead of a more narrowed focus. Also I know that an MRes requires a lot more independent study which I felt I wasn’t quite ready for.

Another thing to consider is that there are more taught master's options across the country than research master's degree. A search on FindaMasters UK (www.findamasters.com) showed that for the Life and Chemical Sciences discipline there was 2372 MSc courses available for only 294 MRes. However, sometimes an MSc will have an MRes counterpart; same programme title and content focus, just with a different course structure. This has been increasing in recent years.

At the University of Bath, there are seven MSc and seven MRes on offer in the Biology and Biochemistry department. Six of the MSc share the same programme title to an MRes counterpart and thus are good examples for course structure comparison. Students doing an MRes in Biosciences, for example, can pick the same taught modules as those doing a MSc in Biosciences. Often MRes and MScs of the same program title or nature, will share compulsory units, again showing the similarity in overall course objective. Yet, across the two semesters MRes students can only pick two optional modules, whereas MSc choose seven, as they only do their project in the summer once the taught modules are out of the way. MSc have more assessment through examinations, coursework, dissertations and group projects which can feel very similar to an undergraduate course, which appealed to me but is not for everyone.

Due to this, MSc have more diverse modules, whilst an MRes can feel a lot more focused right away. I have been told by MRes students in my department that it can feel difficult prioritising optional and compulsory modules when there are the two big projects looming over them. They really had to develop a strong work ethic to not let the project interfere with the success of  their taught components.

Neither degree is more prestigious or preferred by employees. Both will ultimately teach you how to be a good researcher and analytical thinker with strong transferable skills. It really just boils down to which type will make it easier for you to achieve your best work and keep you interested.

 

 

Reality of doing research

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

Things don’t always work. I know I've mentioned this before, but it’s the truth!

This time last year, I was in the middle of trying to get a Western blot to work. A Western blot is a technique with which you can pick out a specific protein in a mixture of proteins, and as it involves various reagents and steps, some of which can be changed, there are quite a few things to tweak. I was changing this and that, trying it this way and that way, but nothing. When I finally got a signal, it was messy – lots of background “noise” – so I had to change the procedure bit by bit, and also change how I prepared my samples. Then the results were not showing any differences, so I then had to prepare samples from different time points. By changing things here and there, I got what I needed from the Western blots in the end. It was a rather tedious task, and took too long, but I made it through to the other side as it were!

Other experiments have been smoother, and others have been difficult like the Western. For example, initial polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) I did was generally fine, no huge problems, but when I started doing them again last autumn, I had contamination issues which proved to be tricky to solve. This was the case for real-time PCRs I did around that time too – took till Jan./Feb. till I got that sorted! So all in all this project was over two years of work, and I was so happy when I finished it all! – however, once you have a look at all the data and look at the story of the project, you’ll most likely have other experiments to do!

What I really want to say is, I think the hardest part of research is staying motivated; it's quite disheartening when you try everything you can think of, only to come out with nothing. It’s easy to lose motivation. So if you are currently in a similar situation, don’t be too disheartened – you’re not alone! I think that’s something important to keep in mind. It can feel like others are doing so much better than you, but please don’t compare yourself to others; probably the worst thing you can do if I'm honest! If you are concerned, talk to your supervisor - I'm sure it won’t be the first time they've encountered this.

How did I stay motivated? Well, I don’t think there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach here unfortunately! But I think the one thing that kept me going, particularly this time last year, is the fact that I wanted to find out the results. I wanted to know if what we thought was actually the case. However, this does not mean that I didn't have days when I was just distraught – I have cried a few times! I kept changing things in the experiments, and hoped that it worked. Essentially, I knew that I was not alone, and I knew that I had people I could talk to about this.

To people considering research/PhD; it is hard work, I won’t deny that. But at the same time it is rewarding, and I don’t regret going down this path at all, despite everything I've mentioned! It is also flexible, in that it doesn't matter when you work, which I like. And, you’ll be adding to existing knowledge, and possibly this could change things for the better – that is a big motivation for me, to think that one day the work I do may benefit people. Find what motivates you, and go for it!