31 March 2016

12 self-assembling peptide hydrogels, 3 hours teaching, 1 primary brain dissection, and getting home in time to get my new blinds installed before I am off to my Xtend Barre class and then back to the lab later tonight – today has it all: research, teaching, home life, and exercise!

Easter baking – egg nests

Here is a little taste of my easter baking – vanilla cupcakes (Primrose Bakery recipe), with a vanilla buttercream base, chocolate buttercream ‘nest’ and assorted Cadbury Easter eggs. I also tried my hand at silver leaf – and then, once I finished the last one, realised that it looked a bit like foil was still stuck on it! Oh well, I mastered two new techniques with this (grass tip and edible leaf), so I was happy ūüôā

One more PhD student in the blogosphere

I have decided to try something new. And when facing the most demanding and scary year of your life so far, that makes a great time for new things, right? Of course!

Tomorrow is the start of the third, and what I hope to be, final year of my PhD. I have had an interesting experience so far. I have encountered the usual challenges during a PhD – problem scoping (brain repair? no big deal), access to research equipment and resources , people management (managing-up, sideways and down),¬†balancing teaching with time in the lab, and then writing, getting conference presentations, supervising students,¬†and just trying to do absolutely everything that I can and want to do. During this time, I have learnt a lot: about my subject area, the people I work with, and most importantly, about myself. Whether you thrive or just barely survive your PhD, I think you would be hard pressed to say that you didn’t learn, you didn’t grow, that you didn’t develop.

However, as a¬†PhD student, I have found there is very little support, and very few systems in place, to ensure that we are thriving, having a positive experience, and most importantly, developing the higher order thinking skills that supposedly set us apart from the our peers already¬†out in the “real world”. It is apparently supposed to happen organically, without interference (it may well do so, but at the same time, it may also be presumed, like my first year students depicting a research, that it happens by magic). During my PhD I have developed my reflective ability, but mainly as an implicit practice in my everyday thinking. Articulating my development is a whole other story, and one I only seem to¬†do when I am mid-conversation with an impressionable first or second year student, and a light bulb goes off in my head, a few more pieces of the jigsaw fit together (and whatever other analogy you can fit¬†in here). Suddenly, I have a much greater perspective on previous events or experiences in my life, but I want¬†this to be a more conscious occurrence, to improve my impact and effectiveness as a researcher, teacher, mentor, and in my personal life as a partner, daughter, sister, and aunty.

I make my students reflect every week, as part of their assessment in class. Some of them take to it like a duck to water, and some of them are a little slower to the party. I like to practice what I preach, so this year, this blog will be my reflective portfolio. It will cover everything from the nitty gritty of my project (but communicated beautifully, so have no fear), to the daunting task of figuring out my next career move, to teaching, mentoring, gender equity in STEM, and of course, because I am a big believer in balance (and again, trying to practice what I preach..) Рmy baking! I am also incredibly interested in the journey and experiences of others, so I hope to be talking to many people who have thrived/survived their PhD, and trying to distill some common themes whilst also respecting the distinct uniqueness of each PhD experience.

So, let’s get started… 365 days and counting!