The waiting game…

…by Katherine / from Canada / PhD Biomedical Sciences 2015-2018

So Edinburgh has been under the siege of a major blizzard as you can see from this photo of George Square Gardens. In fact the University will be shut tomorrow. Snow day!


New year, new equipment, new student

After I submitted my thesis, I took a long break. I spent the holidays in Montreal followed by a trip to Australia. I only got back at the beginning of February. I flew around the world and thus returned to the lab a little under the weather but ready to get right back into the swing of things. But alas, I had been gone so long that there were a few new things in the lab, including a brand new microscope with focus control (no more z-drift!) and a brand new MSc student to supervise.

The microscope has proven to be somewhat problematic to use in its first month of action. Focus control refusing to run, neutral density filter not wanting to be controlled by the software and washers falling out of our filter wheel! After a few visits from Zeiss technicians, including one this morning, our beautiful new microscope and software are up and running ready for tomorrow’s snow day…

I also have an neuroscience MSc student working under my supervision. This is the first time I am teaching an MSc student. I have previously supervised PhD students who had past lab experience. This is a little different. What my student lacks in wet lab knowledge (though she is picking up the techniques quickly) she makes up for in ambition and motivation. And besides, with my viva pending it is probably good for me to go back to basics and explain the theory behind why we do what we do.

Viva date?

Speaking of vivas… I am still waiting for a viva date. I submitted in mid December. Whilst I am a bit disheartened (although mostly just impatient), I am using this time to prepare myself: combing over my thesis, re-reading articles, looking up various uses of different reagents… I am a bit nervous, but I think it will go well. As I have previously said, your thesis is your baby, it contains the past 3+ years of your life. I did all the experiments, I did background reading and I wrote the thesis. I should know most of the material pretty well. I still know that when I will be given a date, I will be frantically annotating my thesis and colour-coding key findings, important references and vital background information. I will be refreshing Pubmed to see if anyone has published anything related to my work. I know that each viva is different and there isn’t a universal question that everyone gets asked, aside from give an elevator pitch of your project. So it can be hard to know what to expect. From what I’ve gathered from speaking to other PhD students, I think that it is important to know the rationale behind why you did a specific experiment. I think you need to be able to justify your hypotheses especially if you haven’t clearly laid it out in your thesis. I’m sure it’ll all be fine. Apparently some people come out of their vivas saying that it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of their lives… I’ll keep you posted.

Now off to sit in front of my window and be mesmerised by the wind blowing around the snow outside.

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