To say that the time has flown by might be an exaggeration, but it certainly has gone quickly. As each day goes by I kind of think “what am I doing?”, but when I actually think back over the month, more has been achieved than I realize. This may not be directly related to the research or the PhD, but with numerous inductions, training sessions and meetings, I have been kept busy. One thing that was really exciting right off the bat was the opportunity to attend the Photonex Conference, held in Coventry on the 15 and 16 October. But let’s get into some of the nitty gritty of my first month.
Inductions. Well, everyone has to do them. And whether you’re sitting there thinking “what am I doing here?” or not, there is always something from each induction that you didn’t know and are grateful for having sat through the monotony of most of the inductions (INTREPID induction excluded from that description, obviously!) Well, I jest… the INTREPID induction was by far the most informative, most useful and most worthwhile. Being specific to the 10 (or 8 who have already started…) INTREPID researchers meant that everything throughout the induction was extremely useful. As for the other inductions, there were long periods where you feel like a school kid being told things you really ought to know by now, interspersed with the odd bit of information that makes the whole 2 hour session worthwhile, with you leaving thinking “wow, I’m glad I know that now!”
Training Sessions. My supervisor was keen to explore the different equipment available to us (me and Annelies) at the University that we may be able to use further into our research. It’s better to have the knowledge and not need to use it than to need to know the knowledge and not have it. So he organized a weekly training session to learn the fundamentals of hyperspectral, mutlispectral and thermal infrared imaging. This occurs every Wednesday afternoon at the hospital, where the imaging equipment is located, but is informal – in that it is not an official University training or teaching program. Another type of training, you could say, is attending final year or Master’s year lectures in a subject you don’t know well, but is worth knowing. And one cropped up that I thought was perfect – Advanced Forensic Science. As has often happened in this first month… I sat there in the first lecture thinking “what am I doing here? I know nothing about this stuff!”, but with everything else, it’s just a matter of time until everything starts to make sense and becomes very useful. Also, being in the Physics Department and needing to obtain 45 credits over the first 2 years, means attending 15 credit modules is an easy way to achieve that 45 credit goal… although unlike the Chemists (i.e. Thalassa and Sophia), in Physics you just have to attend the lectures, without completing any of the assignments or exams… sorry girls 😉
Meetings. These mainly consist of supervisory meetings with your primary supervisor or secondary supervisor. More often than not it is a mutual arrangement, but you have to have at least one formal supervisory meeting each month. Which is a very good thing I think. Starting off not knowing many staff members, lab techs or admin people – these meetings are an amazing opportunity to ask as many questions as you like to familiarise yourself with who to ask for what, where to go for what, how to get what…. instead of needing something and asking yourself “what am I doing? I don’t know where to get what I need!” Supervisors are there to help and formal or informal meetings are the perfect time to get the assistance you need. And of course that leads on to more meeting with the people you need to get to know…
Conference. This was an extremely exciting proposition – two weeks into the PhD and already attending a conference (just attending, not presenting). It was so exciting, an opportunity to meet people and get contacts, see which companies are trying to sell products that could be ideal for my research, learn from presentations, ask questions about posters… A lot of potential. But unfortunately this really was a case of “What am I doing here?!” The conference was about hyperspectral and multispectral imaging. I hadn’t had any training by this point and my knowledge of this area is… let’s say, lacking. It was advanced, too advanced! And a lot went straight over my head. At times speakers were describing something and would say “as you all know… so I won’t go into detail”. “Ahem…!! I don’t know. Please explain! PLEASE!” was going through my head on numerous occasions! Having said that, one presentation was very useful. So even when it seemed like all was lost, there was still that one piece of information (or rather one presentation as a whole) that I could take away and think “that’s why I’m here”.
A lot of times I’ve asked myself what? Why? Should I be doing something else? Why does everyone else seem to be doing so much more? The truth is, everyone is feeling the same, everyone asks themselves the same questions and everyone always finds the answer one way or another. It’s only the first month after all….