First Week

Calling this the end of week one is definitely cheating, since I’ve only had two days of lectures! It’s been great to be back in London and see everyone who has stuck it out for another year though.

A thing that has surprised me this term is that that the most timetabled hours I have for any course is actually for a sort of business course. I missed the introduction of this course last year as I was sneaking the end of term off volunteering at Cheltenham science festival, but what I heard about it filled me with utter dread. This is two actual sentences from the PowerPoint we were given in the first lecture:

‘The UK’s most viable route to continued prosperity is to go to higher technologies, higher added-value solutions to problems which result in create wealth.  This means physics must begin to address a greater responsibility towards wealth creation than has been the case in the past.’

While it would be slightly over-dramatic to claim that this kind of sentiment actually makes my blood curdle into little Kármán vortex streets, it certainly has made me feel like putting my head in my hands and letting out a feeble sigh. While I know that funding is an integral part of science, spending four hours a week hearing things like this is not my idea of a great time.

However I have to admit, after much moaning about this course to my friends and family over the summer that so far I am completely wrong and it is actually pretty fun!

That is mostly because straight after this lecture of doom I met my team for the project that we will have to do while on the course and they are all painfully lovely and optimistic and helpful. I really tried my best to explain to them that I didn’t want to do the course and that I was planning on being miserable throughout, but they weren’t having any of it.

Curse them.

The lectures also don’t seem too bad. They are on topics like patent law and academic consulting—things I really don’t know anything about, so should be pretty interesting. The basic idea of the course is that in our assigned teams we have to come up with an idea or invention, and then demonstrate through various exercises how it will generate a profit.

I have absolutely zero skills in this area at the moment, so it will be interesting to give it a go—especially with a team who seem determined not to stress about it and to try and make it into a fun activity. I will tell you how we get on!

In complete reversal to that course, my Masters project is going terribly so far!

Over the holidays we are meant to write a literature review looking at the previous research in our project area and summarising it. Sounds simple enough, but when your project is really open ended, you can’t get in touch with your supervisor and your partner has to re-sit the year before, it is not so much fun.

The day I finally managed to get in contact with anyone at all, was the morning I was flying to Menorca for two weeks which was less than perfect timing. One positive is that because I was not sure what I was meant to be doing, I’ve read a lot about the physics of food in general, which I will definitely write a blog on sometime because I have some great website and book recommendations. It’s a really interesting topic and I’ve definitely got a new hobby from it, but unfortunately it turns out none of it is really useful for my literature review, which is due in this Wednesday.

project
“Research”

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been researching something pretty different—the use of electrostatic fields to thaw and freeze food. It’s something I had never really heard of before this, although I have read a bit about water’s amazing properties (and I love those supercooling instant slushy kind of videos like this). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5T68TvdoSbI. Even within this area I’ve had to change what I am researching about three times as published research about this is pretty sparse.

I don’t really mind what area my Masters project is in because the main thing I want to gain from it is experience of doing real experimental research within a research group and to get more of an idea whether or not I would be suited for a research career. I’m going to meet my supervisor early next week, so hopefully then I will have a clearer idea of what is going on with it. I really hope so, because I’ve been excited about doing a Masters project for a really long time, and I’m determined to get as much out of it as I can.

Anyway… I should probably get back to trying to figure out how to get Mendeley to present references in a half-decent way in LaTeX. (LaTeX is like Word for scientific papers and Mendeley is a really good referencing software.) Once I’ve figured it out I will definitely write a blog on that, because OMG most of the online guides are really unhelpful.

Also you should all go to Imperial dentists because they are lovely! I had to have a filling and I will still recommend them— they show you the x-rays of your teeth on the screen and talk you through what is wrong and why they are doing what they are doing. They’re also NHS prices so register and go!

One comment for “First Week

  1. Paul Eccles says:

    Load of bollocks, basically. This is where money corrupts science. Scientists should be able to focus on science and not have to worry about this kind of rubbish. Wealth creation for whom? The elite of the U.K.? It sounds like a pain.

    Anyway, I believe information should be free.

    Good luck with the masters. Sounds pretty rad. From what I know about Latex it’s got a bunch of percentage signs in for the equations. Yeah

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