Here we go again… As I write this blog sitting on a flight to Zurich, I have time to reflect on how great the travel opportunities are within a Marie Curie funded PhD. Being able to travel to other countries to present research is a wonderful privilege which allows us as scientists to extend our network outside of our host countries, strengthening the transferability of our research. I am excited to (proudly) show off my latest research in a poster presentation at the Swiss Point of Care (POC) 2018 symposium in Chur, Switzerland (and the upcoming Rapid Methods Europe 2018 – Amsterdam).
(Me before my oral presentation at World of Technology & Science 2018, Utrecht)
As usual, these recent months have been jam packed with presentations, transferable and scientific skills training and, of course, research. I find that presentations are a great way for me to monitor my progression, not only in terms of results, but also in my confidence and ability to engage an audience. Recently, this was put to the test when I experienced a ‘technical difficulty’ when giving an oral presentation for TI-COAST at World of Science & Technology 2018 (Utrecht, The Netherlands). The issue was that the presentation I had prepared on my USB was incompatible with the computer and would not load. I could feel my nerves rising when the chair of the session asked if ‘I would like to give my presentation without any powerpoint slides’!! This is something I definitely did not want to do! Despite this, I remained calm and found an older draft of a presentation that (thankfully) would open and presented that instead. Even with the rocky start, this experience highlighted to me how much I have grown since I started my PhD last year. A year ago, having to present an un-practised/rough draft of a presentation would have sent me into turmoil, however I was able to deal with the situation well and still give a good talk which stimulated a fruitful discussion about consumer orientated smartphone diagnostics.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, Wageningen University offers some excellent transferable skills courses. Recently, I was lucky to be able to take part in a scientific artwork course where I learnt how to use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for the design of vector graphics. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and it was a nice reminder that science can be creative. It has been fun putting the skills I developed in the 2-day course into practice when making a graphical abstract and figures for the manuscript I am currently preparing for publication and when creating my poster to present at the Swiss POC 2018 symposium. Making the poster was a nice learning curve. Trying to reduce an 8,000+ word manuscript into less than 500 words (whilst still retaining enough details) was a definite challenge. But as the saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words and my newly developed Illustrator skills meant that I was able to create graphics that effectively described what would usually be explained through text.
(Me with my poster at the Swiss POC symposium. Putting my newly developed adobe skills into practice Chur, Switzerland)
(Exploring Brambrüesch mountain, Chur, Switzerland)
Since my last blog post I have had the opportunity to learn and use some new (to me) instruments. The first was the scanning electron microscope (SEM) which is located at Aquamarijn (where I was recently hosted for a short secondment). The SEM is great because it allowed me to gain a wealth of information about my antibody-carbon conjugates as well as about the different membrane types typically used for rapid assays. As I have already mentioned a picture is worth a thousand words but maybe when talking about SEM, the phrase would more appropriately be: a SEM image is worth a million words. The secondment to Aquamarijn was a great way for me to work in an industry based setting and therefore experience a different research environment. It also stimulated collaboration talks for future work with our colleagues from Aquamarijn. Finally, I should mention the new ‘toy’ at RIKILT, the BioDot dispenser. As you (hopefully) know, I am working on rapid diagnostic assays for my PhD – and the best way to prepare such assays is dispensing reagents with a dedicated system such as the BioDot instrument. It has been so nice getting used to using the machine, especially as the BioDot system was the first system I used (which really introduced me to lateral flow and my love for rapid diagnostics) during my MSc.
(Some of the Aquamarijn team and I)
Although I could take multiple pages just discussing the project progress and results, I want to keep you enticed enough to read my second manuscript (once it has been published), so for now I will leave here.
Until next time,