My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

Scheduling my Cheltenham Experience

The Cheltenham Science Festival is getting closer and closer, and my excitement level is getting higher and higher. Thanks to the UCL bursary I have the opportunity to attend quite a good number and range of events (though some events I really wanted to attend did overlap, so difficult choices had to be made too).

Well, are any of you attending the festival? If so, this is the event schedule I will be following: quite hectic but still highly enticing.

Day Event Time
Thursday The Ultimate Piano Lesson (extra event) 5:00 pm (60mins)
Heston Blumenthal in Conversation with Harold McGee 6:30 pm (75mins)
Fakes and Discoveries: The Madonna of the Pinks 9:00 pm (60mins)
Friday Robert Winston: Bad Ideas? 2:00 pm (60mins)
Bill Bryson: 350 Years of the Royal Society 4:30 pm (75mins)
Performance Under Pressure: Stressed Out? 6:30 pm (60mins)
A Question of Science 9:00 pm (90mins)
Saturday The Bigger Bang 10:00 am (60mins)
Chemistry: A Volatile History 2:00 pm (60mins)
Is this the Golden Age of Science Writing? 4:00 pm (60mins)
Coast: Alice Roberts and friends 6:30 pm (60mins)
FameLab International 8:30 pm (120mins)
The School for Gifted Children 9:30 pm (90mins)
Sunday Science vs Magic 10:00 am (60mins)
Stopping the Spread of Superbugs 2:00 pm (60mins)
The Wavewatcher’s Companion 4:00 pm (60mins)
Call My Scientific Bluff 6:15 pm (60mins)
Stand Up Mathematics 8:00 pm (60mins)

It would be great to meet up with you there, or to hear your thoughts about the events and the Science Festival in general. So if you’re going to be there, drop me a comment here, ping me on twitter, or smoke signals would otherwise have to suffice.

There are a few more things in the pipeline for me to get more involved during the festival. But more about that later!

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Ethnographic Object Analysis

Another of the courses offered through the UCL graduate school is one on ‘Ethnographic Object Analysis‘. I had planned on attending last year’s course but during the month of May I was on a research visit in Pisa so I had to cancel my registration. I have been keeping an eye out for it all this year, and when registrations started being accepted for this year’s course I immediately signed up.

‘Why would I be interested?’ you might be asking. Well, although I am not working with ethnographic collections per se, I am interested in museum and archival collections. However, I don’t have a museum studies background but a scientific background. Nevertheless, working in an interdisciplinary environment it is always highly useful to understand something of the background of the people you are dealing with. A problem with interdisciplinary work is that often people come to the table with a different way of thinking, methodology and also a different vocabulary. This certainly does not facilitate discussion!

The course was divided into 5 sessions: Analysis, Description, Displaying, Conservation, and finally Analysing Ethnographic Photographs and Archives. I was of course particularly interested in yesterday’s sessions on photographs. I liked the fact that we were presented with a wide variety of materials which we discussed in terms of dating and interpretation, but even further in an ethnographic context, such as what might be being implied by the photographs, or what has been inscribed into them further than what you might see at first glance. It was highly enlightening to see photographic materials from this point of view, rather than from a simply material one.

A plus of the courses was that we were always around 8-10 students. This allowed for much more discussions to take place. Also, there were practical sessions throughout all the sessions. This made it a very hands-on experience, which definitely helped us learn even more from the programme. Also, the fact that the course was not only taught at UCL but sessions were also held at the British Museum and the Horniman museum was definitely a bonus!

Definitely one of the better courses I have attended through the graduate school. I must say that I am very glad to have these courses available. they allow me to learn more about areas I need to know more for my research, as well as about areas I am personally interested in. These courses definitely enhance my experience here!

A Light-Hearted Look at Ethnography

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NOISEmakers – an Introductory Meeting

As I wrote in a previous post, earlier this year I got accepted onto the EPSRC NOISEmaker‘s programme. Yesterday was the introductory meeting so I eagerly went off to meet the others and learn more about what will happen in the coming year.

First up was a small lunch over which all us NOISEmakers got to know each other better and just in general chatted along. This was then followed by a short presentation about what will be happening in the coming months. They told us about the workshops on podcasting, writing, media training etc they are preparing and I can’t wait to start learning more about these different opportunities! There is also the possibility to attend a number of science festivals and other events. So it looks like it will be a good time (and the other people in the programme are nice – so looking forward to seeing them around!)

The last part of the meeting was a presentation by Alok Jha, a science journalist at the Guardian.He spoke to us about how science journalism works. He also presented the point of view of the journalist when it comes to working with scientists, and their needs, to make us aware of how things often work out. It is of course always interesting to put yourself in the other person’s shoes so quite a useful presentation.

End of the meeting then meant a trip down to the pub! There the head of public engagement of UCL met up with three out of four (out of twelve) of the new NOISEmakers from UCL and we had a bit of a chat (and a drink). I must admit he is highly entertaining – so looking forward to what comes out of that! The UCL NOISEmakers look like a very nice bunch, as are all the others, so on to our NOISEmaking!

PS: I also learnt that there were more than/around 60 applicants for the programme and only 12 got chosen – WOW – I’m impressed by myself 🙂

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Graphical Representation

Recently I have been having some issues with how to present my data and how much of it to present.

I am always inclined to insert graphs wherever possible. To me graphs represent an easy way to at a glance get a quick idea of the overall trends being discussed. However, it seems like this love of graphs rests mainly with scientists. However, doing research in an interdisciplinary field means that often I am not presenting my work to scientists, but to people from the arts & humanities. This means that my background and that of my audience is quite different.

So far it is proving to be a quite steep learning curve to figure out how to adapt what I say for a specific audience. I feel like I am definitely getting better (and this I hope is the reason I was chosen to be a NOISEmaker – that during the interview I managed to get my point across in an accessible way). However, there is still some way to go. I realise that the only way to improve is to learn more about the issues and also get more practice under my belt.

Today this article on bad ways of graphically representing your work. It made me think about how other people might react to the different graphs and images I have been using in my presentations. Are they serving their purpose? Or do I insert them just to fill in some space? And how much is my love of graphs and graphical representation of ideas in my presentations hindering my explanations rather than helping them along?

Love Graph?

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Presentation at IAQ Meeting

I thought I’d share an edited version of the presentation I presented with you. Hope you enjoy it!

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May 2010
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