February Highlights

FEBRUARY

What I have been reading…

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Captivating account of identity struggle. Relatable (to some extent!) with beautfiul descriptions and imagery.

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1by Rob Thomas, Jennifer Graham
Continues the investigative life of VM, complements the TV show – I could visualise every scene, looks between characters and the tone in their voices. Can’t wait to read the 2nd one! 

The Alchemist bPaulo Coelho
Takes you on a journey, one which I could experience again and again and always see something different.

Currently reading: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

What I have been watching…

Gilmore Girls, Gilmore Girls: A year in the life
I wanted to rewatch the initial series before the follow up. I’ve been watching for a few months now and have just finished! I love all the characters so much that I couldn’t resist diving straight into A year in the life which replicates the feel of the original so well. Gilmore Girls is so uplifting and I hope for a second series!

Hidden Figures
A must-see! Devastating but inspirational! Very emotional story, bring tissues!

The OA
Got around to watching the second half of the series, not really knowing whether it was my cup of tea. I was intrigued by the story but am still unsure if I enjoyed it, or if it really went anywhere….

What I have been listening to…

Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Ride
Every track is memorable, as with the first album I can’t stop listening!
If you like… their first album, you will LOVE the second!
Best track: Red

Kaleo – A/B [recommended by Dan]
Bluesy rock upbeat tunes, easy to listen (and dance!) to!
If you like… Bon Iver, Black Keys
Best track: All The Pretty Girls

Royal Tusk -Dealbreaker
Variety of rocking riffs with a summer vibe (especially Cold on Me),  catchy choruses and good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll.
If you like… a musical journey through an album
Best track: Soon

Spotify Relax and Unwind Playlist
I discovered this playlist a year or so ago and would listen often, especially during a long bath or after a long, tiring day. I rediscovered it this month and it is the perfect remedy for a stressful day.

FEBRUARY HIGHLIGHTS

Brighter days
Feb. I have got back into running and managed to start taking it outside now it is brighter and warmer. Spring is almost here!

Trello!
Got started using this productivity tool last week and I absolutely love it so far. It is very customisable and easy to use. I highly recommend checking it out!

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January Round-up

Hello first post of 2017! It’s been a pretty turbulent start to the year so far. In the spirit of writing more, I have decided to greet the new year by recalling the positive notable things each month. To ease in I’ll start with three words to summarise books I’ve read, films I’ve watched and see where we go from there. Enjoy!

JANUARY BOOKS

Enid Blyton for Grown Ups –  Five on Brexit Island
nostalgic, jovial, light
[I also read Five go Gluten Free over Christmas which is laugh-out-loud-on-train-journey funny]

James Meek – The People’s Act of Love (not yet finished..!)
confusing, slow-burner, …(TBC)

JANUARY FILMS

Manchester by the Sea
raw, gripping, powerful

Lalaland
random, catchy, heart-warming

JANUARY HIGHLIGHTS

Yoga with Adrienne – Yoga Revolution
After completing YWA Yoga Camp last year, there was no question about giving Adrienne’s latest January yoga videos a go. Both very different, both a world of good for the body and mind post-Christmas (or any time!)! I am so far only half way through the 31 days but plan to start Yoga Camp after I complete this round and keep up with practice.

This month has been settling back into a routine after Christmas and making healthy choices. So far I haven’t read as much as I’d have liked, but since picking up this months book club read, I can’t put it down!

Things to do in Sheffield

With less than one month left before leaving my home of almost 8 years, Dan and I have compiled a list of things to do and places to visit in Sheffield before we go. Some of the places it would be good to visit one final time, others we have been meaning to visit for a while!

As an undergraduate in Sheffield, I mostly visited local pubs/bars, clubs, parks and coffee shops, with the occasional museum trip when family or friends came to stay. Since training for the Sheffield half-marathon in 2013 and recently getting a car, I have seen lots more of the city and the peak district and have come to appreciate Sheffield even more.

Sheffield Bucket List:

1. Tramlines ✓
I’ve been to tramlines festival for the past 5 years as it has got bigger each year! A range of events and music brings Sheffield to life, with plenty to do whether you have a ticket or not!
Tramlines Highlights
Alt-J in The Bowery in 2012, after queuing for hours!
FINALLY getting to see Catfish and the Bottlemen this year on the main stage!

2. Peddler Market
Plenty of street food, music and beer, now on the first weekend of each month !

3. Showroom and Curzon cinemas
Sheffield has some great independent cinemas which also host events, with good food at Showroom and a rooftop bar at Curzon!

4. Herd of Sheffield
Catch all the 58 elephants scattered around Sheffield! Almost half way there!

5. Mayfield Alpaca Farm ✓
On the outskirts of Sheffield you can visit and feed the alpacas, reindeer, horses, shetland ponies and other animals living on the farm!

6. Hidden Gem Cafe ✓
Near Mayfield Alpaca Farm, hidden away on a side street is one of Sheffield most delicious secrets. Top food, top service, with peaceful surroundings – not to be missed!!

7. Sheffield Cats Shelter
How I have lived in Sheffield for so long and not visited, I will never know!!

8. Chatsworth House
About 40 mins away is this stately home and gardens, with lots of events over the summer and at Christmas.

9. Queens Head Pub
Ye oldest domestic building in Sheffield, supposedly haunted! With good food and drink!

10. Food on London Road
Many many good restaurants, really need to visit!

11. Forge Bakehouse
Small bakery on Abbeydale road with a cafe serving delicious breakfast and lunch!

12. Rivelin Valley
First went for a wander during a long run, worth visiting for a lovely walk.

13. Antiques Quarter
With independent shops, cafes and tearooms south of the city and pop up vintage markets starting in September.

14. Our Cow Molly Farm
Dairy farm where Our Cow Molly ice cream is made! We visited during the Open Farm Sunday earlier in the year and got to look around the milking parlour and see how the ice cream is made! Also good news that Coops around Sheffield are now starting to stock Our Cow Molly milk!

15. Sheffield Theatres
The largest theatre complex outside of London with the Crucible, Lyceum and Crucible studio! I’ve been a regular panto goer for the past 8 years and have seen a range of other plays and performances, there’s something for everyone!

These are only a small selection of the wonderful things to do in and around Sheffield!

PhD complete!

Pre-viva nerves and post-viva tips!

I am writing this with 2 days to go until my viva…! But in all likelihood will post this after the verdict and probably only if it’s a good one!! ***Spoiler alert: I passed!***

Past viva experiences

I submitted my thesis way back in April, and since day one of my PhD have been highly anxious about the final hurdle – the viva. I have had a number of vivas during my undergraduate degree – for 3rd and 4th year projects and a literature project, most of which I came out (almost) in tears, over-analysing the questions I stumbled on, but actually did really well in all of them. During my PhD, at the end of my first year, I also had a viva based on my first year report. This was with my supervisor at the time and a research fellow from my group as the second examiner. We went through chapter by chapter and discussed the content as well as next steps and how to improve. There was a lot of room for improvement, and I rewrote some parts of the report.

Whilst my previous viva experiences have, in general, been positive, I cannot help but dread my PhD viva. Yes, I am relatively confident with my research and results but it is the unknown that scares me most. There is a level of background knowledge required but I am unsure how each of my examiners interpret this level and also which points stand out most to them. That aspect of the unknown is what I fear most. Something I consider trivial knowledge may be something which sparks a discussion, or something which I had not even considered or theory I haven’t revisited they may deem essential.

Viva preparation

In the 16 weeks (!!!) since submission I have had some down-time, taking 2 weeks off post-submission to recover, earlier this month I spent a week on a sunny beach holiday, lazing pool-side with plenty of food and drink, and have spent the past two weeks, since the date was confirmed, frantically scrutinising every minute detail of my thesis. In between, a month or so after submission I reread the thesis chapter by chapter, annotated and marked with post-its but I spent most of my time on other research projects, updating websites and writing a paper. I do feel that I have put in a lot of time preparing for my viva, revising and making my thesis useful and easy to navigate on the day.

In my final writing month, I also attended ‘Viva survivor‘, a viva preparation workshop, which gave me more insight about what to expect on the day and talking with other PhD students in the same situation was reassuring. Nathan Ryder who runs the workshop, also runs a podcast, interviewing people about their viva experience and other related viva worries. Finally, after the workshop I bought one of his two ebooks, ‘Fail Your Viva – Twelve Steps To Failing Your PhD’ and cannot recommend this enough. One night last week when I was having a major stress but couldn’t focus on the thesis itself, I reread the book over about an hour and it washed away my worries and gave me some final tips for the final prep!

With only a few hours of work I can squeeze in today, and a full final day tomorrow, I should get on! I will finalise this post post-viva.

Post-viva

I passed!!!! It was a long morning waiting for the viva itself and almost four hours of discussion and the verdict was pass with minor corrections! Phew!

I was very anxious and nervous (petrified) on the day but I knew that I had done everything I could to prepare. Again, I highly recommend attending a workshop, talking to other people who have been through the viva experience in your field and reading up as much as possible to know what to expect!  Also talking through your research with other students, postdocs, your supervisor, friends, family, or anyone that will listen really, is invaluable. Here are a few tips I feel, in hindsight, are most useful:

  1. Focus on what you have written!
    I spent a lot of time re-reading background material as I was unsure what would be asked but, as expected, most discussions are about points you have written and your results! Try to re-read your thesis with fresh eyes, from the perspective of your examiners! Have you explained a term? What is the main point of this section? Is it clear?
  2. Don’t panic!
    I intended to write down each question and note useful points before answering during the viva however after a few minutes, I didn’t keep this up. At times when I needed a second to think, I took a sip of water, consulted my notes, or re-read the point being referred to before answering.
  3. Move on!
    Do not dwell on points you may have stumbled on! During a short break half-way through, I started to reflect on the viva so far and started to worry. This was not useful!! There was still a lot to get through, the focus should be on the current discussion!

Finally, now the viva is over, I have scheduled some time to relax (in between corrections!) with lots of summer plans before starting the next new adventure in Germany!

Particle physics software

When starting out in high energy physics or, when getting a new computer, there’s some essential software and other useful apps to install. This list is provides short summary of software, mostly targeted at mac users.

Essential software:

  • ROOT is the standard data analysis framework used at CERN
  • XCode developer tools, usually pre-installed with OSX
  • TeXworks for word processing and other LaTeX applications
  • Vidyo for conference calls
  • XQuartz for X11 forwarding which may now come pre-installed on OSX

Useful software:

Research Hacks

To complement my recent blog posts Apps to boost your productivity and Increase your Research Impact, I have rediscovered a series of videos which summarise different ways that technology can be used to enhance your research! In addition to Research Hacks, the Learn Hacks series provides a few further resources aimed at student.

See the Research Hacks blog with a link to the videos here: Research Hacks – Short videos to help academics work smarter and maximise their impact and reach.

Pint of Science Sheffield

Sheffield hosted its first Pint of Science this year, where I was involved in the Atoms to Galaxies event “Making Contact”. Here’s a quick recap of the night!

Sheffield hosted its first Pint of Science at four venues around the city from May 23-25th 2016. I’d heard about previous Pint of Science events internationally, but had never attended any of the interesting science talks in the pub, so I was glad to volunteer in Sheffield.

The talks in each location were based on a theme with 8 out of the 12 events selling out! The themes and locations in Sheffield were:

  • Atoms to Galaxies at Bloo88,
  • Tech Me Out at The Roco,
  • Beautiful Minds at Harrisons 1884,
  • Planet Earth at The Doctor’s Orders.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 21.30.38

I volunteered for the Atoms to Galaxies event “Making Contact” on the second night with talks from Simon Goodwin and Tareq Omairi. I’ve been involved in a number of science outreach events in the past so was really looking forward to the relaxed atmosphere and different setting for Pint of Science!

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Atoms to Galaxies events in Sheffield for Pint of Science

Here’s a quick recap of the night!

Working alongside a team of volunteers and the event manager for the night, we arrived early at Bloo88 to get set up to make sure the night ran smoothly. It was the first time meeting the rest of the team but we had plenty of time to introduce ourselves and get familiar with our roles before people started to arrive.

The event kicked off at around 7.30pm with University of Sheffield Astrophysicist Professor Simon Goodwin, talking about extra-terrestrial life and techniques that are used to detect planets and life.

The second talk was by PhD student Tareq Omairi on his research sending balloons 40 km above the earth to collect samples to study microbes within our stratosphere. The photos below shows both speakers captivating the audience with their exciting research.

After each talk the audience had the opportunity to put their questions to the speaker, or to discuss further over a pint!

In addition to the talks, there were several activities. The Institute of Physics (IOP) provided a light painting tent to create images as shown below (one of my favourites made by one of the guests on the night).

My role was to help run the other activities which included a ‘Make an alien’ competition, using pipe cleaners! There were some really creative alien figures from the audience and other volunteers! Prizes were provided by the sponsors Mendeley and awarded for the best aliens and best light paintings!

In-house artist Samantha Galbraith captured the night with some wonderful illustrations! See twitter for even more from the night!

At the end of the night, the audience gave some great feedback on their evening in post-it form!

Overall the night was a success! It was great to learn about research in Sheffield outside of my field and it was very positive to have a sell-out event with enthusiastic attendees on the first Pint of Science in Sheffield. The event also couldn’t have happened without all of the hard work of the organisers, event managers and participants, thank you for all the great experience!

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to attend any other events but from the positive response and photos on twitter, Pint of Science, both in Sheffield and beyond, was full of interesting talks, discussion and activities! A great opportunity to showcase fantastic scientific research and spark some interesting questions.

Whilst I won’t be in Sheffield next year, I hope to be able to volunteer my help to Pint of Science in the future, either as an event manager or even potentially as a speaker! Science and a pint, what’s not to love!

Here’s how twitter responded globally to Pint of Science over the 3 days!

Pint of Science was attended by 160000 knowledge-loving people this year and I encourage you to get involved next year!

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