The Road to PhD

Hello again,

I just want to reiterate how quickly these last 5 months have passed! On my last blog post I mentioned that I had started a food allergen literature review. This review was intended to be a mini-review but as the scope widened it has become a major review and I have been on a cycle of writing, editing, writing, editing and writing again for the past few months. My [massive] review has expanded from assessing commercially available food allergen assays and detectors to covering all smartphone linked food allergen assays. This has been great for me as it has let me see what type of assays are already out there, and to gather inspiration for my own assay. It has been particularly interesting looking into linking traditional lab based analysis methods such as enzyme-linked-immunosorbent-assay (ELISA) to smartphones as read-out systems. Whilst writing this review I started attending a scientific writing course at Wageningen University, and although my style and form of writing has improved as a consequence of this class, it has also highlighted how much I still have to learn. Even as a native speaker, there are so many tricks to learn about writing a scientific article that engages and informs the reader! I will be taking a publishing course in 2 weeks, so hopefully soon you will be speaking to a published author!

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My friend Hannah, Miffy & I: Miffy is a character designed by the late Dutch artist Dick Bruna 

 

Last week I gave my first seminar to the department in Organic Chemistry at the university. I am not the most confident public speaker, so although it was only an introduction to my background/MSc project and review, it was a nerve wrecking experience for me! My preparation for the presentation consisted of recording videos of myself presenting to try and speak slowly enough to be able to speak for the whole 25 minutes. Needless to say the videos are embarrassing, but I am going to keep one of them to monitor my public speaking progress over the next few years and can hopefully look back and laugh in the near future.

 

Starting Dutch lessons has been a new and interesting experience. Although I am picking up loads of the vocabulary and finding Dutch okay to read, my pronunciation of the language is laughable. I am particularly struggling with the “ui” sound which I can only replicate by saying “oh” in a really posh English voice! And don’t even get me started on the “G” sound, I am convinced I cannot make such a sound with my throat. Luckily my colleagues near/in my office are constantly testing me on my pronunciation, and I am slowly but surely seeing an improvement. I have also had the opportunity to start a karate course which is something I have been wanting to do for years but have never gotten around to it (plus its super expensive to do things like that in London). It is fun but definitely a lot of hard work and you have to do push-ups on your knuckles (I struggle to even do a normal push up on my knees!) I am also doing a guided meditation course at the karate studio, I would definitely recommend a similar course to all the other ESR’s, it is very refreshing to take some time to quiet down after a busy day researching and have some internal reflection time (although I will be the first to admit, I am rubbish at meditating and usually end up thinking about what I will make for dinner, but it is a learning process!).

(Rotterdam by Day and Night)

I mentioned in my last blog how great NL is for travelling around. There is a great travel card where you pay 30 euro a month and you can have unlimited weekend travel on public transport. I have been taking advantage of this. A lot. Since we last spoke, I have been to Groningen where me and fellow ESR, Vincent and another colleague explored a cat café. I lovvvvveeeee cats so this was great, even though at first none of the cats would come over to our table L.

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(Cute cat at Cat Café in Groningen – using FoodSmartphone gift of smartphone attachable fish eye lens)

I also spent a weekend in Rotterdam which I really enjoyed. Rotterdam is a modern metropolis in amidst the classic style displayed throughout the rest of NL. It is a vibrant city teaming with cute hang out spots and great street art, and in many ways it reminded me of London. It is not only travelling in NL which is easy, but also to other parts of Europe. I was lucky enough to travel (on a 6-hour train journey) to Berlin. I had not paid attention to how close Wageningen is to Germany, only an hour on the train and I had already crossed the border, this is something we greatly miss out on in England. I have also taken the time to explore my local area a little more visiting the Kröller-Müller Museum which houses the largest number of Van Gogh artworks, outside of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The Kröller-Müller has the added benefit of being set in a beautiful national park and a wonderful sculpture garden (our fellow ESR Andriy mentioned this in his last blog so I will not go into more details here).

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(Lollapalooza festival in Berlin)

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(Remains of Berlin wall ft Albert Einstein)

(Van Gogh’s Self Portrait and Café Terrace at Night)

For now, I am home in London for the weekend, and going shopping for a graduation dress for my MSc graduation next month. I am looking forward to seeing all of your guy’s videos for RAFA and excited to continue on with the project.

 

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