My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

The Research Meetings Continue

Around a year ago I had mentioned that we had started research meetings in the department. I haven’t mentioned them since, but this is not because they have been forgotten. Far from that! The research meetings are still being held once a month during the winter months (the June meeting is planned as a visit outside the department and then we stop for summer). The research group is constantly growing larger, with two PhD students and a researcher joining the group since the last time I wrote about these meetings, so the group is definitely growing.

So what happens during these meetings? There are generally two sections to the meetings, which may proceed in any order depending on the day.

One section consists of everyone giving a brief update of what they have done since the last meeting. This keeps everyone up-to-date and in a way also allows everyone to give some input on each other’s work if this is required.

The other section, which is normally the meeting’s main reason, is a presentation by someone in the group. The presentations can take a number of forms. First of all, when a new person joins the group, they normally give a short presentation about their planned work to introduce the rest of the group to their project. This helps everyone to know what is going out while a the same time allowing people to think about how their project might interact with the new person’s and what help may be offered. When no new people have joined (which is the norm), one of the group presents the work they have been doing over the past few months in more detail. This may be done either to ask for input from the group about some issue they are having problems with, or to prepare for an upcoming presentation, or just to keep the group up to date.

The last research meeting was held last Thursday. It started off with the new PhD student giving a short introduction to her project (she only joined last week so she will give her main introductory presentation next month), followed with an update by each of us. Then Dr Irina Spulber updated us all on her experiments and her results. As her background is electrical engineering it is not that similar to mine, but I still find her work interesting. Particularly I found her presentation so engaging…she managed to make her work accessible to all…I’m particularly jealous of that skill as I know that I am not always successful in that. Hopefully practice makes perfect!

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Computer Skills: Learning and Testing

In this blog I have been writing about courses I have been taking through the UCL graduate school. However, it seems like most of the courses I have mentioned are mainly courses concerned with the research process. I have not mentioned courses such as the IT skills possibilities available.

Getting More from Photoshop

One of the courses I attended was the ‘Getting More from Photoshop’ course. I have used graphics packages, includingCorel and Adobe Photoshop. However, I have always just figured out the one thing I needed and never really explored the possibilities of any graphics package. So when I saw this course available from the graduate school I was immediately interested. I was particularly interested as, since I am working with photographs, gaining some experience with image editing would definitely help (not to fiddle with results, but to prepare useful images and/or prepare images for presentations to show the changes visually).

The course was very useful. Finally I learned what the wand tool does…a very useful thing I must say! Learning about colour correction, and adjustment layers also showed me how I can do some editing that I had been struggling with. I was expecting to learn much more, or to come out of the course knowing everything about Photoshop. But as the lecturer told us this would be quite difficult as there is so much that even someone who is constantly use it can always discover new functions. I do agree with him though that learning a few tools can give you the basic expertise you need to figure out the interface…the rest you can do on your own with experience…and some googling 🙂

European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)

Ahh – the wonders of graduate school! In the beginning of the academic year I received an e-mail about the possibility of free ECDL testing through the graduate school…I just had to fill in a questionnaire and see if I was chosen. In one of my I-don’t-feel-like-working moods I decided to fill in the questionnaire. A few days later I received the reply: I was chosen to follow this course. WOW! This meant that I had to start to look into what ECDL really entails.

The way the session were divided was that every other Wednesday there would be a testing session where you can either do the exams or mock tests, while during the rest of the time you can do some self-studying and/or drop in at set times to ask questions. Well, after looking at the syllabus and talking to some friends who have done it, I decided that self-study would be more than enough. So on the first testing Wednesday I went down and started to do the exams. I managed to do 5 out of the 7 module exams…and pass. Not bad. 2 more modules to go! I couldn’t make the next one, so at the third session I went down to finish the exams…and I passed!

Why am I remembering this today? Well…today my ECDL certificate finally arrived! I am not sure how to feel about this. I know that this certification is required for certain jobs. However, I wonder if it will be significantly important for any job I apply for…I would expect that people who get a PhD will be able to do basic IT stuff. Also, I would expect that certification would not be the be all and end all. After all the certification only proves basic skills in IT, not any advanced skills. But I always say that extra certification would not hurt! It didn’t require a lot of time, so it was worth doing it (normally it is expensive) just in case.

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What Evidence? Computer Modelling?

Yesterday I attended another of the Skills development Courses I am expected to attend (and no, I have enough to cover this year…but when i see something interesting I still like to attend). It was another course from the Interdisciplinary Studies of Evidence series of which I attended one last year. This time, the course, presented by Emma Byrne, was about Computational modelling: man-made evidence.

I attended this course as I am and will be using computer modelling in my work. Computer Modelling is essential in a number of fields, including prediction of data based on a dataset you already have, as well as to be able to build models to mimic a process you are investigating. In the course these different aspects of a computer model were presented, I must say in a very entertaining, though useful and exact manner. We were also given some time to discuss our ideas of what computer models may be and what are the reasons for their use, as well as to discuss what makes a ‘good model’ (if there ever is such a thing).

All in all a very enlightening, interesting and stimulating course, what with a mix of theory, case studies and discussion in just the right amounts. I was impressed! I must say this is probably one of the better courses I’ve attended as part of the graduate school courses. It was a last minute decision to attend, but I definitely do not regret it!

The Effect of New Behaviour

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February 2010