The trials and tribulations of a girl trying to make her way in the wide world of science

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50 shades of animal research

50 shades of animal research

An interesting article posted on The Guardian website today about the rise in the use of animals in research. Cue massive sweeping statements from the against and for camps. 


The Results Are In: Part Deux

It’s now official! After months of hard work, sleepless nights and endless anxiety I have earned my degree and have the grades to continue on in this crazy world of science. I am absolutely over the moon about it all and celebrated in the appropriate fashion: drinks and a midnight showing of Prometheus. Hopefully I’ll be able to update more often now I have some time on my hands till I start at The Trop Shop in September.

Heres a nice photo of most of us celebrating our hard-earned 1st and 2.1’s with one of our favourite lecturers:

If you don’t already own it, I implore you to go out and get your hands on a copy of Mark Henderson’s The Geek Manifesto. A great read that highlights whats happening and whats wrong with science policy in the UK today. You can follow Mark Henderson on twitter here:

And on a final note, good luck to Tarsier Sally in her forthcoming adventures. She has set up what will no doubt be an amazing blog.


The problem with postgrad applications

A wall has been hit in the planned career path.

Due to the overall lack of postgrad jobs and exacerbated by the lack of funding available, the prospects of a happy postgrad life are beginning to look a little bleak.

Originally, my plan was to go straight into a Phd following my undergrad studies. Being a mature student I wanted to go head first, guns blazing into the industry. However, that is now looking less and less likely.

I have now applied for quite a few Phd studentships, ranging from advertised 4 year placements to emailing prospective supervisors whose work i am interested in. All these have come back with one of two replies:
1. “I am sorry, but we do not currently have any funding in place to be able to offer any positions”
Or 2. “Due to the high standard of applications this year…”
I have found that with the latter, my friends and myself tend to be up against other applicants who also have a masters, a load of work experience and a few publications under their belt. In short, people who a lowly undergrad cannot compete with.

Now of course, with that much experience they should get the position, but I cannot help but feel slightly disgruntled at the prospect of not being able to compete for ANY Phd studentship. However, a year or two ago, these high fliers probably felt exactly the same way.

So, I have resigned myself to doing a masters degree to be able to compete for positions at a higher level. Now it is not the extra year of study that has put my off till now, it is the shear amount of money that they cost. Now, unless a rich distant aunt is feeling particularly generous, not many people can afford the near £10,000 fees for a year plus living expenses. Funding for these courses is also inadequate, with some offering no funding, most offering sparse funding for a fraction of the amount of money needed and a very small number offering full funding for a small number of select students.

It feels like we have gone back in time, to when a career in science was the luxury of a select few who could afford to do so.

Now, with some very careful budgeting and a career development loan (Oh yay. More debt) I should be able to make the financial grade. I took the plunge by applying to The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last December. The decision is expected by the end of this week…..

I ask for your luck academically and financially. And perhaps a cardboard box donation.


On the phenomenon of feeling constantly stupid part 2

A referral back to an early post now. This interesting article comes courtesy of one of my lecturers. Enjoy.

On the phenomenon of feeling constantly stupid

As I approach my final year the talk in the air around campus is all centered on one thing: Upping The Game.

Until this point a smattering of intelligence has been enough to get us lowly undergrads through the course, however, this is all about to change.

Smarts just isn’t going to be enough anymore. Intuition, self ambition and drive, skill and the like will need to come into play much more. Many of you will be thinking that these surely are all part of what makes intelligence, that how could we have got this far without using them before now. I can tell you something for nothing, the ability to remember lots of facts in the right order is a world away from becoming ‘proper science like’.

The perfect example of this has been my adventures of the last few weeks. I have begun the lab work for my dissertation, and it is a whole new ball game.

I always thought I was reasonably intelligent, even for an undergrad-the lowest of the low in the academic hierarchy- but most days I have been feeling as thick as shit to put it frankly. In hindsight, this is to be expected. I am working with a man 3 years into his PhD whose little finger probably hold more knowledge than my entire self, and rightfully so. I seem to be lacking so much of the basic laboratory knowledge. Its no ones fault in particular. It is a learn on the job exercise.

But apparently, as far as feeling not at all that bright goes, I am not alone. After having a conversation with one of my lecturers the other day he confessed that at times he still feels the same way, in science there is always someone how knows more than you until you become something akin to President of the Royal Society.

I’m not sure if this information makes me feel better or worse at the moment. It is hard to know how to feel, being surrounded by people that you feel in constant competition with- if I get less than her in the exam etc etc- it is hard to realise that you should only be in competition with yourself, improving your knowledge, moving forward and all that jazz.

Perhaps we should be content with that, competition with ourselves instead of others. But then again, thats half the fun of it sometimes.

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