Wow, has it really been that long?

Well well well, let’s start off by acknowledging the fact that I haven’t posted on here in FOR- EV -ER. But I do have good reasons for not..or do I? It’s been that long, I can’t actually remember them right now.

Anyway, from now I promise to be better at the whole posting thing (my intention in this moment is completely pure).

Let’s do a quick little recap,shall we?: Hi! I’m Haafizah, a 25 year old PhD Candidate in infectious diseases (parasitology/molecular microbiology). I have a BSc in Biomedical Sciences and a completed and verified IBMS registration portfolio :). I started this blog around the time of graduation as sort of ‘journey through the life of a scientist’ type thing where I could document the ups and downs in research/postgrad life, while offering (and accepting) some tips and advice for current and prospective researchers/scientists/students (basically for anyone who finds them useful!).

In case anyone is wondering how exactly my postgrad journey is going, let’s just use the fact that this is the first time in nine – ish months that I’ve actually been able to sit down and write a post as a benchmark for “normal”.  And even as I write this I’m thinking about the list of things I have to do once I get into the lab. But as I always say, there really isn’t anything else I could imagine myself doing.

So, now that I’ve publicly declared it – keep your eyes peeled for more posts. Probably about the last few months and what I’ve been up to and how much has changed – as well as the things that will probably always remain the same!

Keep Reading!

H.

Thank you Madrid!

So my last post on here was written pretty soon after I reached Madrid for my 2 and a half month research/training trip. It is safe to say that arriving in Madrid with the worst cold I’ve had in a long time put a haze of sadness over what I thought was in store for me. I spent that first weekend (and pretty much week) wrapped up in bed only leaving the flat to go to work.

Fast forward 9 weeks and cannot believe how quickly I have fallen in love with Spain. As I sit here in the airport waiting to catch my flight back home I can’t help but think back to everything I have learnt during my time here.

Apart from being introduced to a new language (which I’m still fairly shy to speak but I WILL get better). I have experienced a new culture, which yes of course was strange for me at first, but once I embraced it, parts become second nature (namely the coffee and food parts).

I became more confident in my skills as a scientist and my ability to work in new and different environments with changing teams. I was taught new skills by experts in parasitology diagnosis and I learnt that even they, these wonderfully intelligent people get stressed, have doubts and experience days where they want to just give up.

Uprooting my ‘life’ for 3 (ish) months taught me so much about myself. Firstly, I CAN do it. It may not always seem like it but I’ve actually come quite far from the person that started her PhD journey a year ago.

I really like learning about different cultures, countries and their history and it is fairly naive to think that only your matters.

I’m leaving Spain with new loves but also the most comfortable I have ever been with myself. I’m a young South African, British, Manx, Muslim, Female Scientist and I love each part and the role they have played in shaping me.

This experience reinforced what my parents have always told me: that opportunities are all around you but nothing will just fall into your lap. You have to work hard for what you want. The world will not think it owes you anything. But you owe yourself to be/do the best you can.

I’m going to end this post with one piece of advice: Just go for it.

Keep Reading!

H 🙂

What do you do?

So, after a few months (+ an extra few months) it’s dawned on me that I haven’t really touched on what it is I actually do. So let’s start from the beginning:

Hi, I’m Haafizah – a first year PhD student at De Montfort University. I graduated last year with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences (with a year placement – which was tough but amazing!) and then went on to this programme.

My PhD project is based around the detection of parasites within the environment (from faecal, soil, grass/shrubs and water samples) how prevalent they are and the impact they may have on public health. Detection methods include both microscopy and molecular. In addition we also look at the presence of some antibiotic resistant bacteria.

So that’s a brief introduction of my work!

Keep reading,

H 🙂

 

De Montfort University – SAHRC 2016

A little post about a conference I recently attended!

The 15th June 2016 marked the day of De Montfort University’s inaugural ‘School of Allied Health Science Research Conference’ where I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to give an oral and poster presentation on some of my research.

The day consisted of:

A broad spectrum of posters outlining some of the research that is being conducted within the School (from both staff and students).

The Keynote (delivered by Professor Mark Jobling, University of Leicester) titled ‘Sex, surnames and the history of Britain’ and an overview of Research in the School of Allied Health Sciences (Dr.Pravez Haris, Head of Research for the School of Allied Health Sciences).

A range of different topics presented by Early Career Researchers in the School. Which were then followed by presentations from some of the School’s postgraduate students (including me!)

The day ended with the closing address from the Pro- VC and Dean of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, who also gave out certificates and prizes to the poster and oral presentation winners.

As a whole, the day was really enjoyable and interesting to find out about the other research going on in the school.

Even though I have attended a conference before this was my first time presenting at one and it was a totally different (some-what nerve wrecking) experience.

 

Here’s what I learnt from it all:

  • PRACTICE – Even though I practiced quite a lot (or so I thought) and knew my presentation slides well, if I could go back I’d practice more.
  • You are going to be nervous – especially if it’s your first time. But it’s okay, the audience you are presenting to understand this and most (of not all) will have been in your position at one point or another.
  • Expect questions – answering questions was one of the areas that I think I was most nervous about but one piece of advice I’d give is when practicing – do it in front of one or two people because they will most likely have questions. Oh, and if you don’t know the answer -be honest.
  • Don’t fill your slides with text – the audience will be focused on trying to read all the text instead of listening to you. So try and use images/diagrams to aid your story.
  • Make sure you stick to the time frame given e.g. if your allotted time is 15 mins including questions, try to talk for 12 minutes (10-13 slides) which allows time for questions at the end.
  • Try and enjoy it! You’ve put time and effort into preparing for this so enjoy it.

 

Attend as many of these as you can – it can be difficult to decide when and where you are going to attend a conference (time off, travel costs etc) but conferences like this one which are at your own university or in your own city are good to attend. They give you the chance to practice your presentation skills and allow you to learn about research you may not even realize is being done. You’ll meet people you may have not met before and be introduced to topics that could impact your research too.

 

Overall I had a great time and am definitely looking forward to the next one!

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

PhD life and Ramadhan

Hello everyone!

Let me start of by saying I know it’s been quite some time since my last post – it has been a MANIC few weeks! Hopefully, at least a small portion of the craziness will pay off!

For this post I decided to do something a little more personal than my others. As I’m sure we’re all aware our personal beliefs, ideals, morals and faith play a part of the person we are and in turn the type of student/employee/teacher we become.

Ramadhan:

This week (06/06/2016) marked the beginning of the 9th Month of the Islamic calendar (Ramadhan). This is the time of the year when Muslims all around the world fast; abstaining from food, water, worldly desires and urges (whatever these may be for the individual) from dawn to sunset for the entire month.

The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar phases the time of Ramadhan changes annually and in 2016 it has fallen during the summer months in the northern hemisphere (June-July).

For most undergraduate students it means that the academic year is over and exams are coming to an end, if not finished and they’ve gone home.

But for some (like me!) the year is not over. We are still running around campus trying to conduct experiments, working full days (and maybe nights?), going to presentations/ conferences or doing a bunch of other things that are just part of the usual day.

During Ramadhan – Muslims try to involve themselves in more prayer. One way is by praying Taraweeh – this is an additional prayer that is performed at night (which can last around an hour).

So with this in mind and in addition to the lovely weather we’ve been having it is no wonder that tiredness creeps in at the oddest times!

This first week (for me) has been a lot of trial and error of which is the best way to plan my day. So here’s what I found:

Start the day a little later than usual (if you have that option) I usually start the day at 8 am, but during Ramadhan I’ve found it much better to start around 10am (maybe 11 :P) and work later into the evening.

Take time out to Pray the 5 Daily Salaah at the recommended time (this will change place to place) it allows you to have breaks in your day. Also try to pray some Qur’an (Islamic Holy Book) after each prayer.

Having Iftar / fatoor (post -sunset meal) on your own IS NOT FUN. Trying going to the local mosque / prayer room (we’re fortunate enough to have one on campus) and breaking your fast with others or invite friends over to join in this time with you.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER *during Suhoor (pre-fasting meal).

If you feel a burst of energy USE IT.

Listen to your body – if you really need a 30 minute power nap, take it. Not only do you need to be alert for your work day but for the night to.

It’s easier than you think to burn yourself out.

Remember: Ramadhan is the time to be the best version of yourself, so don’t use it as an excuse to let your work/effort slip. Instead use it as ‘training’ for the future, as a way to plan and use your time more efficiently.

I hope this was help for you and may this be the best Ramadhan for you yet!

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

New Appreciation.

Hellloooo Everybody ☺️

There are some things that we encounter everyday but don’t really realise how wonderful they are and how much better they can make life.

With that being said, here are 10 things I have a new found appreciation for since starting my journey:

  1. Post – it / sticky notes
  2. Refillable water bottles / coffee mugs
  3. Memory sticks
  4. A GOOD CHAIR
  5. Diary / Calendar /List
  6. Lanyards
  7. Individually wrapped snacky bits / packs
  8. Earphones / headphones
  9. Walks / Jogs in the fresh air
  10. Marker pens

I could keep adding to that list but thought I’d better stop at 10 or we’d be here forever.

Keep Reading!

H ☺️

What’s for breakfast?

Hi everyone!

As students (or maybe just people in general?)  we all need more of one thing.

That’s right I’m talking about SLEEP. So it’s sometimes easy to choose those 20 minutes of sleep over a good breakfast but in the long run that is NOT a good idea.

It’s easy to grab a cup of coffee on the way out the door or even when you get to campus/work but come 10.30am and your caffeine high starts to drop you are going to regret the decision to forgo that good breakfast.

Starting the day of well can set your mood and productivity for the rest of the day. It’s not easy to change habits you’ve had for years, especially if you don’t know where to start. So here are some ideas 🙂

I like to start of everyday with hot water, lemon, mint and a dash of honey and then usually go on to one of my quick and easy breakfasts:

Oats with peanut butter – as my father says “peanut butter fixes everything!”

Breakfast smoothie – Banana, coconut milk, natural yoghurt, 2tsp of coffee and 1 scoop of ice cream/frozen yoghurt.

Rice cakes with Avocado with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Omelette (peppers,mushrooms, onions, cheese)

Usually accompanied by either tea/coffee (depends on the mood I’m in :P)

So let’s try to start the day with a better breakfast. It may take some time to get used to but it’ll be worth it when you do.

From one reformed breakfast skipper to (hopefully) another!

Keep Reading,

H ☺️

Spring Spring Spring.

Anyone else love it when the sun shines? It can completely change the mood of people, a town, a university and even a country.

So it’s no surprise I’ve been having more good days than bad this past few weeks and it is a great feeling!The same fears are still there but I feel so much more motivated to get out of bed and tackle the stacks of paper (electronic and physical).

If you’re like me and love the sunshine, use it as a motivating tool. For every hour of work/revision you do (and actual work not just an hour of sitting in front of your laptop refreshing social media) give yourself ten minutes of sunshine love. Or try and sit near a window to get those beams ☺️. It really does make a difference!

So lets make the most of the rays!

Keep Reading,

H ☺️.

Is it a Break?

Hey Everyone!

So March is nearly coming to an end and it has gone by so incredibly fast but has been packed with SO MUCH.

At the beginning of the month I had this very real feeling that there was no way I was going to be able to do/finish everything I had set for the next few weeks. This then turned into major panic – you know that feeling when you realise there’s so much to do, so you make lists and lists and then the lists have lists and you’re dotting from one thing to another not knowing when or how you’re ever going to get it done – yeah (not good).

I realised that I had to nip this in the bud. Feeling this way was not helping the situation at all. So I decided to take a step back and attempt to organise all these thoughts and tasks (okay, so it took more than two attempts – at least). I spoke to my family, friends, colleagues and supervisor (who is just the best most encouraging and helpful supervisor I could have asked for!) about the feeling that and they all reassured me that it was normal. They also gave me some very helpful and practical tips to tackling it (some were new and some I had already been trying to do):

  1. Talk to people about your research (within the limits set) – this will help you to understand what you’re doing and why a lot better. It will also raise questions about the practicality and time frame of what you’re doing – this will help to focus yourself. It’s also increased my passion for my research.
  2. Establish a good relationship with your supervisor. This is vital and can completely alter your experience.
  3. Set time limits – not just ‘an hour to write’ but what should you have done in that hour. Be specific.
  4. Exercise everyday – even if it’s just a walk, do something.
  5. Have a good breakfast – this I find hard to do everyday because I think ‘Well, I could have 20 minutes more of sleep’ but on the days that I do it – I can really feel the difference in my energy levels and productivity.
  6. Figure out when you are most productive – everyone is different but figure out if it’s morning, evening or afternoon for you and set that time side for the pieces that require your most effort.
  7. PUT THAT PHONE AWAY – limit the amount of time you spend on Whatsapp, texting or on social media. If you don’t want to turn if off use the Do not disturb/equivalent option or put it on flight mode.
  8. Plan the day the night before – this can mean making sure you have the right books/journals/protocols in your bag, having a schedule/aims for the day, figuring out what to wear or even whats for breakfast. I like to do this toward the end of the night (usually with a warm drink and something on in the background), not only do I prepare myself for the next day but it gives me time to unwind before I sleep.

Though it is still the busiest I have ever been, I feel so much better about going forward. I know it is not going to be easy and those pangs of sheer panic will still be there BUT I know I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

To anyone going through something similar, I hope this helps and remember you are not alone!

Keep Reading,

H 🙂

Oh, Hi There.

Well, March has certainly creeped up on me. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem that bad- it’s still the beginning of 2016, Easter break hasn’t started yet, it’s not exam season and it’s still cold out. But what it actually means is: I’ve been at university for over a month, I have two deadlines by the end of this month and two for the next, the teaching course I thought was far off is in a month plus I’m a third into my allocated literature review time – and I have definitely not read or come to grips with a third of the relevant literature.

I felt like in the first month, it was ok to feel a little lost because I’d just started and was still finding my feet. The only problem is I STILL FEEL LIKE THAT (maybe even a little more so).

My very well thought out and detailed timeline doesn’t even bring me peace right now 😞.

It can only get better right? RIGHT?!

So that was my little panic –  lets hope some good came out of it and you feel a little better or you had a good chuckle

I guess I’ll be off to make some strong coffee and read or write…Something… Anything.

Keep Reading,

H ☺️