Sciatribe

How to thrive as a research student (part 2): Overcoming self-doubt

Often such thoughts of self-doubt can get between you and your PhD project. Your intention to finally make some progress is replaced with anxiety. If in addition, your results do not reflect the time and effort you invested in your project, this will inevitably have an impact on your motivation and slow you down. Self-doubt has the power to reduce your effectiveness for days or even weeks. You will start to avoid work altogether and lose yourself in procrastination. Sound familiar? Read more »

How to Thrive as a Research Student. Part 1: What not to do

You wake up in the morning and decide to finally get going with that research project you've been postponing for a while. It's been on your mind for quite some time, but you just never got around to working on it. You arrive at your university office early, full of enthusiasm. Sitting down at the computer, you are ready to start researching and writing.

As the computer fires up, you think: “Why don't I check my emails quickly, before starting to work on my project?" The next hour is spent replying to some of the emails, clicking on the email links and browsing the internet. When you finally look at the clock, it is time for morning coffee. In the break room you start chatting with someone you know. When you get back to your computer, it takes you some time to refocus on your initial intention. Read more »

Standing up for Science Media Workshop

The idea of interacting with media outlets, and using them as a platform to communicate research to the wider public is often a daunting prospect for early career researchers. They lack exposure to the machinations of the media, and examples of poorly reported science, as well as limited media and PR training combined with often irrational fears leave them insufficiently prepared to deal with media. Consequently, young researchers often neglect the media as a very effective stage for communicating their science. Read more »

What Does University Life Mean for the Old and the New?

The end of summer and start of the new year in Edinburgh always mark a somewhat odd period. Both these times signify transitional stages as the crowds, whether drawn by the festival or Hogmanay, exit the city en masse, leaving the regular dwellers to breathe a sigh of relief when entering their favourite café or local supermarket. The quietness of it all can be eerie, but you know that soon the ‘newbies’ will arrive and the usual chaos will resume. Read more »

Trying to do a maxi-prep in a chaotic lab

Bench science is a frustrating beast; things that seem ever so simple can often take all day. Because labs are such large communal spaces, there’s a lot of equipment and chemicals that are shared. As there’s no official ‘lab admin’ to clean up and order new things, it’s everybody’s responsibility to take care of these things, but the problem is, very often they don’t. A worst-case scenario can be exemplified doing a maxi-prep, used to get DNA samples out of bacteria.

Maxi-preps are not fun. I have to culture a ton of bacteria and spend all day pipetting and centrifuging and pipetting and centrifuging again. All I get out of it is a piddling little tube of DNA. Add in the fact that everybody around me has forgotten to do all those little tidying-up jobs around the lab and I’m having a really crap day. Read more »

Study draws sensational conclusion – hysteria ensues

“Health warning: exercise makes you fat”

“Social websites harm children’s brains”

“Jab as deadly as the cancer”

“Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped”

If you’re anything like me (and since you’re reading a science magazine I’m going to assume that you are at least a bit of a science nerd), then these are the sort of attention-grabbing and woefully inaccurate headlines that make you audibly grind your teeth every time you see them. Unfortunately, they are by no means rare. The above are just a drop in the ocean of misleading headlines and downright dodgy science stories that were forced upon the masses last year. Who writes these things, and why? It’s painfully obvious to the informed observer that these stories are rubbish, yet they persist. Read more »

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