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.

Presentation Prep.

So let’s get one thing on record: Presentations TERRIFY me, but they’re something that I have to get used to handling. As a PhD student, presenting to different types of audiences is part of the package and something that can severely impact that progress of my research. So whether I enjoy them or not I have to pull up my socks and just go for it. Over the last year I have given various types of presentations in different atmospheres but there are some things that I tend to do the same in preparation for them.

Aaannndddd, here they are:

Write a script to explain your presentation

Keep ’emergency’ notes near by – hopefully you won’t need them but if you get lost in your presentation you’ll be glad you’ve got them

Stick to the same structure, that way you won’t get confused on which area you should be addressing

Keep your display simple, with a ‘clean’ appearance. It makes it easier to follow your information (and helps if you loose your way too)

Wear something you’re comfortable in, worrying about your top or doing the ‘my feet hurt’ dance is not something you want to be doing (I’ll be doing a post on conference/presentation friendly looks – so keep an eye out!)

Use diagrams or pictures to explain complicated processes or methods, it’s better than using lots of words

Keep a bottle of water handy

Practice, practice, practice – this is probably the most important of points, it takes extra time before the event but it does help (a little) with being nervous

 

Keep Reading!

H 🙂

5 things every phd student should have.

Hi everyone!

I thought I’d write a short post about what, after near enough a year, I have found I can’t really live without.

So here they are – the FIVE things that I will not leave for university without.

  • diary / calendar – because well, how else are you meant to keep track of the HUNDREDS of things you have to do in a day?
  • good headphones – these have two  uses: 1. put on whatever gets you in the mood to be the most productive 2. if you don’t want to listen to anything, put these in and you’ll have blocked out any background noise.
  • a meeting book – you’ll probably have more than one meeting a day and meetings tend to follow on from each other so by having a dedicated book you can have a record of each meeting you attend in one easy to find place.
  • organisational stationary – plastic wallets, folders, post-its, paperclips, stapler/staples. You’ll always need them so just don’t take them out of your bag.
  • a decent water bottle – keep hydrated people! I tend to spend a lot of times in labs where drinking/eating is a major no no, but when I’m back in the office it’s always good to find a bottle of water in my bag. Staying hydrated helps with your focus and to relieve headaches.

There you have it, the 5 things I think every PhD student should have.

Keep Reading!

H :).

Long Breaks vs Short & Frequent

Hey Guys :).

For this post I decided to address a question I get asked quite a lot – is it better to have one long break during the year or have multiple short/quick ones throughout it?

Both of these have pros and cons. So let’s start with a Long Break.

Pros

  • There is enough time between the beginning and end to actually relax.
  • You have something big and exciting to look forward to.
  • The time off will allow you to miss and appreciate your work much more.

Cons

  1. You are taking a big chunk of time out of your research/work.
  2. If you decide to have a completely work free time, you will most likely miss out on announcements, events and deadlines.
  3. Regardless of how you left it – your work WILL pile up.

Short & Frequent.

Pros

  • You can have lots of these in the year.
  • You have something to look forward to.
  • They can help plan your work/research by seperating them into shorter managable ‘chunks’.

Cons

  1. Usually only a couple of days.
  2. Can interrupt the work flow.
  3.  You try to pack a lot into a short time so you can come out the other just as tired.

There will inevitably be more to add to these lists but I just wanted to give a quick and simple idea of what to expect.

From personal experience of taking a Long Break, I think I’ll be sticking to the Short & Frequent approach going forward. Though it was good to have an extended time off, the work pile up and time being out of touch with my work was not worth it for me. It wasn’t all bad though, I had sufficient time to unwind, spend time with family and being away reminded me how much I actually enjoy what I do – and being reminded of your passion is never a bad thing :).

My advice would be with whichever approach you decide to take, way up the pros and cons and how they will affect you before making the decision.

Oh, and it’s not a bad thing to need a break. It may be hard to admit that at some point it’s all getting a bit too much but more than likely everyone around is feeling a similar way and it’s okay not to be okay.

 

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 ☺️.