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Showing posts from 2014

The Age of Discovery (How old are people when they do their best scientific research?)

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Science is an extremely competitive field, getting research funding requires an excellent track record and researchers judge themselves against their peers. I wrote a blog post about the number of publications scientists are 'supposed' to have per year in order to be competitive on fellowships and grant applications a few years ago. I am surprised at the number of people that find that post by  searching for 'How many research papers should I have?' . It's a worry or thought most researchers have throughout their careers. There is of course no magic number and there's a need for a track record of quality publications vs a quantity of publications.

The ultimate accolade for a scientist is being awarded a Nobel Prize and I came across an interesting infographic about the age of Nobel Prize winners (when they completed their prize winning work) and also how that relates to the age at which they wrote their PhD dissertation. I have included it at the bottom of thi…

Can Research Groups communicate as a collective rather than as individuals?

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I'm speaking to more and more research groups about how they can get online and share their work via social media.
I used some of the thoughts and diagrams from'An introduction to social media for Scientists' published in PLOS Biology 2013 to illustrate some of the thoughts, barriers and journeys to engaging online in a short talk I gave..

I'm looking to speak to more people and read more case studies about how collective research groups have shared their science openly online - rather than the science being communicated by single individuals -  which I see to be more commonplace. Research rarely exists in isolation so I see more groups moving to this collated model.

Communicating as a group is, in theory, easier than as a single entity as there is potentially more to discuss and potentially less onus on one individual to provide all the narrative. That said, it is more difficult for people to communicate as a group as you are representing more voices and within a res…

Academic productivity app review: Habit RPG

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In my previous post I asked people to share which digital tools and apps they use to help them work faster (and smarter). Lots of them sounded useful and interesting so I thought I would try some of them out and write some short reviews.

@java7nerd recommended HabitRPG. The habit changing app that turns your life into a COMPUTER GAME. The aim of the app is to help you ditch bad habits and pick up good ones. The app sounded like great fun and perfect way to help me get more into a work/life balance (by that I mean not sitting at my desk when I should be at the gym). I signed up and tried it out.

The app is FREE (whoop), easy to use and fun to look at. It takes some setting up as you decide what tasks you want to set where (and decide on which points to reward yourself).

The app works by assigning points for tasks which accumulate until you earn enough for a reward. Points do get taken away for bad habits though....


As you can see on this list you can include anything you like. I thoug…

Which digital tools do you use to make your life easier?

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I've been thinking this week about all the apps, tools and plug-ins that I use to make my digital life easier. I use a variety of tools to catch up with digital conversations, save things for later and to make sure I don't miss blogposts.  I also use them to manage my own digital footprint so I can update blogs and twitter when I am away from my desk and laptop.

There are lots of options out there so I want to collect a round up of what people use and for what. I'm particularly interested in hearing from researchers.

98% of the tools I use are free and I am reluctant to pay for something new without a really good review first.

New tools are launched on a what seems like daily basis and older apps and tools get changed, removed and updated frequently. Here's a run down of what I use (and for what). I would be really interested to hear from others about what they use and how it makes your life easier!

- Twitter - I use twitter.com from my desktop and laptop and the twit…

How to help someone that is writing up their thesis

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Writing a thesis is a lonely and it can be a very stressful time. I found it extremely difficult to keep up with friends and family. Holding normal, conversations that lasted longer than two sentences without my mind drifting away to thesis related thoughts was also a challenge.

Quite a few of my close friends have gone through their thesis too and I thought it might be useful for those that haven't experienced the joys, highs and lows of thesis writing how they can help support those that are writing up.

A few things that you can do to help...

See if they would like to go out for food or a walk but don't get annoyed if all the said person does is talk about their thesis. Getting writers away from their computer can be a welcome distraction.

Send them some nice smelly soaps/shampoo - I stopped all shopping when writing up

You could also send fruit and healthy snacks. Confession time. I once spent a weekend at my desk writing up and ate all of my desk mates food because it was w…

Academic Blogging - Getting started

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Looking to share your research project online via a blog or social media but not sure where to start?

I often get asked how you blog. So here's a post with some hints, tips and how to get started with a blog.

I think blogging can be an extremely useful tool but it isn't for everyone, it is hard work and can be extremely difficult to do well. There are also risks involved and it usually isn't the best way of engaging with the public.

Researchers can blog for a number of reasons. It could be to share work with a wider audience or to share it with peers and there's plenty of folk (myself included) that blog about working as a researcher in a general sense. These posts are mostly read by other researchers. I found blogging through my PhD quite therapeutic and it helped me make a few new friends along the way.



I've included lots of links in this post to resources elsewhere on the web. I'm definitely not the first person to post about blogging so I have included lots…

Why do scientists work in strange cabinets...?

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Scientific laboratories are often surrounded by strange cabinets or 'hoods' which researchers work in...but why? 
*please note I was approached to post this blog post and there is a disclaimer at the bottom*  I worked under a hood when working with my cell cultures during my PhD in order to keep the cells sterile and avoid contamination and infection of the cells. 
Their history
These sophisticated systems were initially developed for the aerospace industry in order to control dust contamination that could negatively impact on the reliability and precision of parts.
Microbiologists did not take long to switch onto the benefits associated with the technology. A 1967 scientific paper notes, experts in the field had long been seeking ways to control contamination. In their piece, which was published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, Martin Favero and Kenneth Berquist stated: “For many years microbiologists have attempted to devise more efficient techniques f…

Read my thesis and let's chat about sharing research

Follow my blog with BloglovinSo my thesis has been published online on the University of Aberdeen Library page. You can read it by clicking here

It has the very snappy title 'GPR30 and ERĪ±36 and their potential role in breast and endometrial cancers'

This is my lay abstract:

Oestrogen is a hormone that is mostly associated with the development of sexual organs and the female monthly menstrual cycle. However, it is also known to play a role in breast cancer. The presence of oestrogen can make some breast cancers grow and in the 1970s ‘anti-oestrogens’, like tamoxifen, were developed which have successfully prevented the growth of some breast cancers by blocking the action of oestrogen. Oestrogen causes this growth by binding to specific ‘receptors’ in the body. The anti-oestrogens work by blocking the oestrogen binding to the receptor. Some breast cancers do not have the receptors and therefore can’t be treated with anti-oestrogens. These types of cancers tend to be more aggress…

Want to see more good science writers in the future?

Producing a science magazine is tough going. These guys have produced a magazine and a video. Watch it and share it to help them raise funding to do even more awesome science writing.


You can read their magazine here too.

Post-PhD life - Life decisions and blogging

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I graduated from my PhD some time ago now. I moved away from research when my funding expired and after a lot of decision making and deliberating I took a post in Public Engagement at the University of Aberdeen. I started in late 2012 and I've really been enjoying it so far. I am involved with planning, organising and running lots of public engagement events along with speaking to researchers about the many different ways they can engage with the public, how to bring the public into research, a bit of training and also discussing how to use social media as a researcher (which I really enjoy).

It wasn't an easy decision and I didn't discuss it on this blog at the time for a number of reasons. There was a post-doc opportunity too but that was in Canada and I wanted to stay in Scotland as my (now) husband is based here and I decided that I wanted to move full time into public engagement. I knew that I would enjoy the role and it seemed that this option would lead to a much m…