Monday, 18 June 2018

Natalie Lamb and some networking questions: Water industry specific

I will be attending an event in a few weeks, The Institute of Water Annual Conference, where I need to have questions prepared regarding networking and the water industry, for their Meet the Leaders Event. I wanted to prepare some specific questions and also I thought keeping a record of them would be a good idea because it is good blog post material!

Digital Future

  • How could the use of apps be incorporated into the water industry?
  • Social media has currently had a big impact on the water industry. How could it further have an impact in future?
  • Will I need to learn coding to benefit my career in the water industry?

Water and the Environment

  • How can we better engage with the public regarding increased water efficiency?
  • People genuinely seem to care about microplastics in water. What is the next topic relating to water that is most likely to hit headlines next?
  • Will water treatment and reuse be a topic that is ever covered in school?

Leadership & Careers

  • How can we overcome the barriers between different teams e.g. cleanwater and water recycling
  • What can you gain from having a mentor?
  • What is the best approach for keeping people who have completed graduate schemes in the business?
  • What are the different roles that a post doctoral researcher could undertake in the water industry?

Some general leadership/careers questions can be found here too.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Natalie Lamb and Travel: Zagreb, Croatia

I attended a conference in Zagreb, Croatia on 09/05/18- 11/05/18, The 10th Eastern European Young Water Professional Conference. I had a day and a half free before the conference and so did a lot of research into Zagreb to try and fit in a good visit to the city. I thought I should share what I got up to while it's still relatively fresh in my mind and work out how much it cost.

Day One 

  • Total spend 131.22 or £15.56

See on Google Maps-

I arrived on Tuesday 8th May at 2pm local time. I was a bit cheeky and took a pre-booked taxi to my hotel, which the conference organiser booked. Normally, I take public transport but I had set off so early in the morning that I thought I would treat myself. I paid in advance 45 euros each way so I'm saying 0 Kuna because I paid in advance.

I checked into my hotel, the Panorama Zagreb Hotel. The lobby was very nice. The room was quite basic but large and filled my needs. It even had a fridge, which was great for storing my food and water. On check in, I had to pay a city tax (which I already knew about) and a deposit in case of damages (which I didn't know about). I don't have a credit card so I had to leave 400 Croatian Kuna, almost half of the money I brought! To be refunded on check out. I paid in advance £249.06 for 3 nights including breakfast so I'm saying 0 Kuna because I paid in advance.

Because this was my only completely free day, I wanted to make the most of it. First off, I went to Lidl, which was very close to my hotel to get some food for lunches and for breakfast tomorrow because I knew it would be a very early start. Cost 37.22 Kuna.

Image Credit: Boris Gramnjak

I climbed the stairs to Upper Town (instead of taking the world's smallest cable car). There weren't many stairs at all and it took around 5 minutes, probably a lot less. Cost 0 Kuna.

There was already a great view from the top of the stairs/cable car entrance in Upper Town but I decided I still wanted to climb Lotrščak Tower to get an even better view. Cost 20 Kuna.

Next I visited the Museum of Broken Relationships, which consisted of a multitude of random objects with short descriptions of relationships next to them. It was an OK and an unusual little trip but successfully made me miss my boyfriend on only the first day of the trip! Cost 30 Kuna (student ticket).

Image Credit: Wandering Earl

Then I went to St Mark's Church, a classic place to visit while in Zagreb. As you can see, it makes for a great photo and wasn't very busy with tourists (when I visited, anyway). Cost 0 Kuna.

I wanted to have at least one traditional meal while I was away. For me, this was Sir Slatki (sweet cheese) Zapeceni (baked) Štrukli - basically, a special dough with fresh cottage cheese that was very cheesy and looked like lasagna. I had it at a place called La Štruk, which is in the center and only serves Štrukli of different types- there wasn't even bread on the menu! I sat outside in a little garden and it was really lovely. You get given tap water for free but I would also recommend buying an additional drink because the amount of cheese used will make you thirsty! Cost 44 Kuna.

Then I went to go and see The Cathedral of Zagreb. It was a lot more touristy than St Mark's Church and I found it hard to get a good photo. Cost 0 Kuna.

Next on my list was the markets. I visited Ban Jelačić Square, a small market because the much larger Dolac Market shut at 3pm so I had missed it. Cost 0 Kuna.

On my walk back to the hotel, I happened to pass The Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb. Cost 0 Kuna.

 By 7:30pm I was in bed watching Netflix (the hotel had pretty good WiFi) because I had to be up early the next day. Cost 0 Kuna.

Day Two
  • Total spend 112 Kuna or £13.30
Today I took the bus/tram to the bus station. I took the 5:06-5:22 from Taolvceva bus stop to Autobusni. I then took the coach (that I had pre-booked) 5:45-8:10 to Plitvice Lakes. A very early morning! The bus and the coach were prompt and I arrived at the time I was expecting. The coach even had free WiFi- a nice bonus! I booked the bus using this website. I booked in advance for a return trip for 176 Kuna.

Plitvice Lakes were definitely worth a visit, even for a stay as short as mine! I found that, at about 11, it suddenly got very very packed, mostly of Asian tourists on coach trips. Luckily I left on the 12:50-3:10 bus so missed the most of it. On arrival, though, the lakes were pretty quiet and I didn't have to queue for entry. I had brought my own packed lunch and refilled my water bottles in the bathrooms around the site. Cost for entry 100 Kuna (student ticket).

I started my walk following Programme B but found it quite short so I started following Programme E. I think it would be really useful if the routes told you how long they are while you are following the signs. More information about the different routes can be found here.

I took lots and lots of photos during my visit, as you can see! I really enjoyed the lakes and had a great visit.

I was a bit concerned that I had missed my bus. I had arrived to the bus stop (on the other side of the road to the entrance to the site, under the bridge in a small bus cabin) 15 minutes early but my bus arrived 30 minutes late. I was really worried I wouldn't get back to Zagreb! It did arrive, thank goodness. It didn't have WiFi this time and was very packed.

I walked back to the hotel instead of going on the bus and picked up a huge slice of pizza to eat on the way for 12 Kuna. My conference was going to be starting at 5 so I went to go and get ready for the three conference days ahead.

Total Cost

  • Advanced costs £348.81 for hotel, taxi and bus plus £176.95 for the flights = £525.76
  • Day 1 131.22 Kuna or £15.56 
  • Day 2 112 Kuna or £13.30
  • Gifts ~331 Kuna or ~£39.31
  • I brought £155.22 worth of Croatian Kuna (1,200.00) and ended up exchanging 840 back, £95.15 of it.
  • Total spend £593.93

Natalie Lamb and Travel: Hay Festival 2018

At the weekend I visited Hay Festival for the first time. I had lots of questions that I struggled to get answers for before the festival and only really got them answered during the event itself. I thought I would make this post about Hay Festival 2018 and it will potentially help others attending for the first time next year.

I would advise signing up to email alerts because events sell out very quickly. Yes, the booking fee is expensive (I paid £3 plus delivery) but if you have the slightest inclination that you're going, get it booked. It seemed the big named events and the children/family activities sold out first. Also, they release the events in a staggered way so you may have to check multiple times.

One thing I did discover at the festival is that if you can no longer attend an event and it is sold out, if you go to the box office, they will give you a refund for the cost of the event (not the booking fee etc), no questions asked. If you can't attend but the event hasn't sold out, you can place it on a table and someone else can pick it up with a donation to charity. So nothing gets wasted, which I thought was really nice. I would recommend going to the desk to the right of the box office to see if there are any spare tickets going too.

Image Source:

Getting to the festival
The postcode HR3 5PJ took me straight to the festival.

I wasn't sure what to do about parking. The website said the closest car park to the festival site was the "Car Park at Hay in Aid of Macmillan" and it seemed you could come and go as you pleased but it cost £7 per car per day, which I thought was expensive. The only other option on the website was the Park & Ride at Clyro Court (Baskerville Hall Hotel, HR3 5LE), which you have to take a free regular shuttle bus which drops you off at the Festival entrance and costed £5 per day. In the end I decided to go for the closest car park because I couldn't find out any information about how "regular" the regular the shuttle buses were. After seeing the massive queues for the shuttle bus, I think I made the right decision on that front. But, once I arrived at the site, there were so many signs for "charity car park" that I got confused and just followed the first one. It turns out, if you drive to the festival site, there are actually multiple car parks around. I parked in one very close to the festival, opposite PCI Pharma Services for £5. It was a very cramped car park and I was worried my car would be scratched but there are other parking options out there. I saw car parks advertised for £5, £4 and £3, all very close to the festival. I would advise driving very slowly and reading all the small signs. Better yet, take an observant passenger!

The festival: What I brought
Security are fine with you bringing any food and drink to the festival. I brought chocolate fingers, cheesy Doritos and a reusable bottle with water in and it was OK. I took the following for a day at the festival:

  • Bottle of water- could be refilled at the festival using multiple free taps
  • Books- to be signed by the authors I would be seeing
  • Food- biscuits and crisps to keep me going, although I would being more food next time
  • Purse- to buy gifts/more books
  • Tickets
I would bring more food with me next time because I found the food prices extortionate. I was expecting music festival prices, £7/meal, £5/snack but it was more than that, think £9 for a burger. Also, I found the food very pretentious (difficult for fussy eaters!) with no cheap alternatives.

Image Credit:

The festival: Attending events
The festival itself was so much more packed than I was expecting, True, I went on a sunny Saturday in June, but I wasn't expecting it to be THAT busy! The queues for events were incredibly long. I would say get to your event tent with at least 15 minutes to spare. I quickly found that getting from one side of the festival to the other was very difficult because everyone walked very slowly and would often stop suddenly in front of you, I felt like I was in London travelling for work but surrounded my tourists. I can imagine it being worse if the weather is poor. The festival is essentially one massive tent with walkways in it. There are the event tents, a food tent, stalls etc., all under this one tent. When I went, the people were pretty spread out because many of them were sat outside on grass (there weren't many options for indoor seating). So in bad weather, I assume everyone gathers inside this giant tent.

After getting in the event tent, there were two sets of seating on plastic chairs, normal and tiered. I opted for tiered so I could see even if I was at the back. I found the seats very close together and had peoples legs pressed against mine (which I hate!). Volunteers were shouting "leave no gaps" on entry but actually there were entire rows free behind me so I wish I would have left some gaps!

The festival: Signings
Book signings took place in the book shop, which was pretty packed. They happened straight after an act finished and the correct door to queue at would be added to a chalk board outside the shop while you're still in the event. However, this didn't happen with all authors (I was disappointed to find out!) so don't assume you will get your books signed. There are copies of pre-signed books within the shop too, which you are free to browse and purchase if interested, as well as gifts (which I thought were very expensive- £25 for a mug!).

I bought myself a gift- £12 pencil case

A summary
Overall, it seems like I'm moaning quite a bit but I genuinely had a great time at the festival and I would go again! A summary of my top tips:

  • Book in advance
  • Don't worry about or pre-book parking 
  • Bring food and drink
  • See if there are spare tickets for a donation
  • Get to events early-ish 
  • Go straight to the shop after events if you want a book signing 
There are a few things I haven't experienced and would be interested in future. Firstly, it seems like student tickets were a possibility (I didn't realise this) so I would check that out if I was to go again. There is also an option for "Hay Player", an audio subscription for £15 that allows you to watch audio and film recordings from the festival. This is not something I have tested so I would be unable to recommend it. If you're thinking of going to Hay Festival 2019 have a great time!

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Natalie Lamb and 4 steps to overcome challenges

Underplanning means you are likely to be setting goals and prioritising them, resulting in you working less efficiently. 

Overplanning is a waste of time.

In a previous post, I have spoken about goals and prioritisation but I wanted to talk about it in more detail in this post. What are the 4 steps to overcome a challenge?

1. Identify your challenges
Are you trying to overcome challenges in your research field?
Kevin Byron (2018)

In your research activity?
Kevin Byron (2018)

Or in your professional life?
Kevin Byron (2018)

2. Write your challenge
Avoid using short sentences in your challenge by adding some context and some facts. Start them using "How might I" to focus on how you are going to overcome these challenges. What does success look like?

3. Produce SMART goals
Interpret your challenge into goals which you can overcome.

  • Specific: What is the specific task?
  • Measurable: What are the measureable parameters?
  • Achievable: Is the task feasible?
  • Realistic: Are sufficient resources available?
  • Time-bound: What are the start and end dates?

4. Produce a Gantt Chart
You know what your end goals are, now it is time to work out all the steps that need to be taken before you can can get there. It is best to start at the end goal and work your way backwards.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Natalie Lamb and what to expect from a PhD journey

I attended an event recently, "Managing your PhD as a Project" delivered by Kevin Byron at The University of Sheffield. This blog post summaries some of the information I learned during this training course, including what a PhD is and what to expect from a PhD.

What is a PhD? 
“To be admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy a candidate shall have presented a thesis on the advanced study and research which has satisfied the examiners and contains original work, and contains material which is deemed worthy of publication, and shall have satisfied the examiners in an oral examination. A candidate may submit in support of the thesis any published work in the general field of the approved study.”

What is a PhD really about?

  • You!
  • Knowledge
  • Contribution
  • Understanding 
  • Skills- both discipline specific and transferable
  • Ability to communicate
  • Professionalism e.g. honesty, integrity, reliability, integration with profession, self-improvement

One really important thing about a PhD is developing your skills. You can complete a self-assessment exercise to determine if your skills are developing and where you may need further training.
Kevin Byron (2018)

What to expect in year one

  • To record meetings with your Supervisor (and frequently!). Find out what works best for you
  • Update a "daybook" of progress and tasks completed
  • Produce and plan monthly/6 monthly reports
  • Know how to use purchasing forms etc. i.e. get the equipment you need
  • Prepare for and complete your confirmation review 
  • You have to answer a list of questions:
    • What are the gaps/discontinuities/existing boundaries in the current knowledge base of your specialised topic?
    • What specific problem(s) based on these observations are you aiming to investigate?
    • How would you succinctly express these problems as original research questions, and what is novel in your approach to solving them?
    • What is under investigation by others in this area? who and where are the key researchers?
    • How would you express your research questions as hypotheses?
  • Have you done everything on the below checklist?

Kevin Byron (2018)

What to expect from the later years of a PhD: The PhD journey

Things to go wrong! It may look like the PhDs of others follows a route of continuous progression but actually research follows a pattern of creative steps, delays and setbacks. And everyone gets these problems- you are not alone.
Kevin Byron (2018)

I produced this image depicting how I feel like my PhD has and will progress. As you can see, there is a lot of going around in circles!
Natalie Lamb (2018)

The research cycle should look a bit more like this! A useful infographic for describing the PhD journey can be found here but I find this image a little too clear cut- everything looks a bit too easy.
Harwood, WS et al. (2004)

It is true that things go wrong and it can make things difficult, however some emotional pressure can be important to improve performance. It is very much about getting the balance right.

Kevin Byron (2018)

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Natalie Lamb and SheffWHO 2018: Helpful resources for a WHO Simulation

I had never before participated in a simulation event like The Sheffield World Health Organization Simulation 2018. I was really interested in giving it a go for two reasons, during my research I had investigated WHO policy and I was interested in seeing how it was formed and also because the topic was "Outbreaks and Pandemics: Addressing the Next Crisis", an area that is appealing to me, as a microbiologist.

I produced a pack for the event to help remind me what the procedure was and to remember all of the facts, figures, solution and challenges I was trying to present for the country I was representing. This post details what I included in my pack and how I prepared for the event.

1. Resources provided by the event
I found the resources provided by the event a little overwhelming so I printed them all of, highlighted everything I didn't understand (there was a lot of highlighting required!) and wrote notes everywhere. Mostly my notes consisted of writing the definitions for all the different words I hadn't heard of before because they were in a separate section and it was annoying flicking backwards and forwards. I also added a title on the top of all of them so I knew which guide to grab if I wanted to review my knowledge.
This section also included a list of all the regions because I wasn't certain on them. This can be found here.

2. Resources specific to my country

3. My own notes
My notes consisted of facts and figures (e.g. about the maternal mortality rate, TB, HIV), which can be found in a separate post here and my Position Paper that I had printed, highlighted and wrote notes on, which can be found in another separate post here. I also added a script for myself to remember what I should say. A better version of my makeshift script can be found in a post here.

4. Spare paper

Natalie Lamb and SheffWHO 2018: 6 easy steps for basic contribution in a WHO Simulation

I had never before participated in a simulation event like The Sheffield World Health Organization Simulation 2018. I was really interested in giving it a go for two reasons, during my research I had investigated WHO policy and I was interested in seeing how it was formed and also because the topic was "Outbreaks and Pandemics: Addressing the Next Crisis", an area that is appealing to me, as a microbiologist. 

I found it very difficult to remember what to say in which situation so I have written a script, which can be found below. I think one of the most difficult things to do is always remember to not use first person- it should be "The country representative of XXX". You can only speak if the Chair says you can, which can also be a bit hard at first.

1. Say you are present
Firstly, all the countries will get called to see who is present and who is going to be voting during the session. When your country gets called reply:
"Present and voting"

2. Open a debate
After all the countries have been called, a debate will have to be opened:
"Honorable Chair, Distinguished Delegates. The country representative of XXX would like to motion to open a debate"
There will be a vote where you raise your placard (bit of card with your country name on) to vote for or against.

3. Create an agenda
Then a topic list is formed (i.e. what you are going to be talking about). This topic list cannot be added to so ensure that all the things you want to talk about are included. To add topics to the agenda:
"Honorable Chair, Distinguished Delegates. The country representative of XXX would like to motion to add the topic of XXX to the speaker list"
If the majority votes against it, it will not be added to the topic last and cannot be added to after.

4. Have a formal discussion
When all the topics have been added, it is time to motion for moderated caucus (a formal discussion) about the first idem on the agenda. The person who proposed it would say:
 "Honorable Chair, Distinguished Delegates. The country representative of XXX would like to motion for moderated caucus about XXX for 15 minutes, speaking for 2 minutes"
This means that each person who wishes to talk will have 2 minutes to talk. You can speak more than once in the same moderated caucus but the session will end after 15 minutes (you can select whatever times you would like but the maximum session time is 20 minutes). This will also be voted on. The person who added this to the agenda and has raised it for discussion will have the option to speak first or speak last.

5. End your formal discussion
If you are speaking in moderated caucus and you have excess time left, you must relinquish any spare time, either to the Chair or to another country representative:
"The country representative of XXX would like to surrender the remaining time to the Chair."

6. Extend the formal discussion or have an informal discussion
When the time runs out, there is a choice to either extend the moderated caucus:
"Honorable Chair, Distinguished Delegates. The country representative of XXX would like to motion to extend moderated caucus about XXX for 15 minutes, speaking for 2 minutes"
Or decide that an unmoderated caucus (informal discussion) should be raised
"Honorable Chair, Distinguished Delegates. The country representative of XXX would like to motion to have unmoderated caucus about XXX for 15 minutes"

Any time during the session, you can raise your placard. If the Chair says you can speak, you can then say one of the following.
"Honorable Chair, Distinguished Delegates. The country representative of XXX would like to make a..."

  • Point of order- the rules are not being properly followed
  • Point of reply- my country feels attacked by what was just said
  • Point of personal privilege- I can't hear that person
  • Point of inquiry- I'm unsure about something