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So it’s been a month or so since I last posted…you might be asking….why? why the delay? You promised us blogs, and shed loads of them! To you, I apologise, but through this month I’ve learnt one key concept in life, one issue of paramount importance that is often bombarded at us from all corners of modern life – Health and Safety.

Picture this, it’s an idle Tuesday, my work hasn’t been going according to plan and the sluggish morning has paved the way for a dull afternoon. I thought I’d leave work early. I say that, I left work at 5:30 – so sue me.

From Imperial, the South Kensington and Gloucester Road London Underground stations provide the westbound and eastbound Picaddilly and Circle/District Lines. My trip back home to Wembley involves the underground Picaddilly and Jubilee Line. The benefits of being underground is that eerie half-hour isolation from global and local telecommunications – we are shut from the noisy world of internet, phonecalls, family and friends.

However, it was only when I was overground that I got the phonecall – my Father had fell from thr loft, dislocated and broken his foot and ankle, and there was no blood circulating to his foot. Commence Hollywood-style rush-home. To the remaining story is a tale of pain, perserverance, depression, love,  family and friendship. All that’s missing to make a Hollywood blockbuster is a twenty mile 18-wheeler car chase scene and Mila Kunis.


For those that have been affected by the issues raised by this blog…

He’s recovering now, but what have I learnt in these past few weeks – other than trying to climb into the loft on a “reasonably-steady” ladder with no one around to help you out is a bad bad idea?  I’ve learnt that any risk is indeed a risk – analyse the situation and be patient. I’ve noticed so many common actions people make that really do not make sense:

1. STAND BEHIND THE FREAKING YELLOW LINE PEOPLE.

It’s there for a reason. If you want to be a daredevil, join the circus. I don’t want to live in a city populated by people who have an utter disregard for the importance of their life and the people that share it. Do you not have family? Do you not have friends? Were you born a hidden trapeze artist and feel the need to show off your skills every Wednesday morning before my weekly lab meeting?  With the ease at which I have seen people get startled by simply hearing me talk to someone on the Underground – I fear for your composure.

Take a few steps back – literally – and assess the situation. God help you if you fall down and I am late to work. If the electrified train track don’t kill you – I just might.

2. TAKE CARE OF YOUR KIDS

The photograph you see before is a ledge – specifically the Science Museum ledge near to the Exhibition Road entrance to Imperial. I have on countless occasions seen children ‘trapeze’-walk up and down this ledge again and again, in front of their parents. Don’t get me wrong, I love a ‘trapeze’-walk as a kid, I still do (when nobody’s watching) – but my parents knew that when there’s a plunge involved, leave it the professionals.

I can’t help but be reminded of this kid – remember him? The kid in Superman II who honestly must be the most retarded guy in the history of the planet. This kid would still have a lower IQ than a Jordan and Karl Pilkington lovechild. For those who don’t remember, this vacant and futile individual thought it reasonable to play with the Niagra Falls railings from the other side. Count his blessings the Man of Steel was around to save the day.

3. YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE LEWIS HAMILTON. AND YOU CAN’T DRIVE LIKE HIM EITHER.

This one bothers me the most – Aggressive Drivers. I’ll put my hand up and say that two years or so ago, I had a few months of driving like Schumacher in his prime. However, this taught me one thing – how exactly do arses drive.

There are indicators to the left of your steering wheel. They’re not there so you can outsmart Dolph, Jimbo Jones, Kearny and Nelson (the Simpsons’ high school bullies) using the classic Bart Simpson technique. No, they’re there so I can know whether I can cross or not.

As always you can always click the link below and get a gentle reminder for when I bother to write another one of these blog entries…

Keep it safe ;-)

So what exactly is like to be a PhD student at Imperial College? Frankly, I can’t say. I can tell you how it’s like to be an Arsenal-loving, Wikipedia-editing, Abdul Patel-supporting, 1st Year Biochemistry and Applied Microbiology student based in Imperial South Kensington.

Today’s topic for discussion? Supervisors. Before I started my PhD, colleagues at labs that I’ve worked in before had described a student’s perception of their supervisor much like Marmite. You either love them, or hate them. This can be true, but it depends on one major factor: What you are looking for in a Supervisor.
I’ll be brutally honest, this is a list of what I want in a Supervisor:
MR. MIYAGI

How AWESOME would it be if there was a WAX ON, WAX OFF equivalent to science. PIPETTE UP, PIPETTE DOWN. CLONE IN, CLONE OUT.

YODA


Imagine that you don’t just have any supervisor? Nope, you have the oldest and most wisest of supervisors. There is the problem though that you’d need to spend an hour trying to understand WHAT THE HELL HE IS TALKING ABOUT.
 

APOLLO CREED

Only because I wish I was ROCKY. And it would be insanely funny to see my supervisor in a massive stars and stripes top hat and boxer shorts.

LIAM NEESAN

This one’s easy. Coolest training video EVER. Easily the best scene in Batman Begins, and I wish I could be trained like that.

 

So if you are looking to start a PhD, heres a little spectrum where you really want to be bang in the middle, or either side, depending on what you want…

 

Now I’ve analysed my relationship with my Supervisor…and there’s one movie relationship that fits the closest…

DARTH VADER AND THE EMPEROR

OK, I don’t go into his office, kneel down on one knee and go “What is your bidding, my Master?”. I have four years for that to become a reality. My supervisor doesn’t have the wrinkles of the Emperor, but does occasionally seem to spark electricity from his fingertips when there’s no cake and cookies left. We haven’t enslaved the universe, but that’s a work in progress. But hear me out.

Let’s analyse things, Darth Vader is his own man. Yep. He’s doing his project, the Death Star. The Mother Teresa of all PhDs is the Death Star.

1. However, he’s not being hassled every step of the way by Emperor Palpatine. He’s allowed to do his own thing. CHECK.

2. If he ever needs the help of the Emperor, he can always just hologram-call (which is just iPhone Facetime really) or knock on his door, and start a discussion on the blueprints of the Death Star, which planet they’re going to blow up with it, and the occasional shoulder to cry on over him losing his wife. ERM…CHECK. I can always just pop in next door to see my Supervisor when I want to.

3. You frequently see Vader having the fortnightly chat with the Emperor on how things are going crushing the Rebel Alliance. CHECK.
4. If Darth Vader messes up, like for instance leaving a small hole in the Death Star where a young blonde kid can just throw a torpedo down there and blow the whole Death Star into smithereens, the Emperor finds out, and either throws a barrel of insults Vader’s way or gives him that look of disappointment in his apprentices abilities. CHECK, but my supervisor has perfected the ‘raised eyebrow’ look, so I’m sure that’d be fired my way.

5. Darth Vader’s walking into the Death Star. Big Boss Imperial Guy finds out the Emperor is coming down to the Death Star to oversee Darth’s project. The Imperial guy is crapping his pants…”We shall double our efforts”. Sometimes I wish I could tell my work that my supervisor is coming over to oversee it. “We shall double our efforts”? Damn straight! David’s “not as forgiving as I am”.

All in all, I’m still in my early months with my supervisor and there is still time for things to develop…

I shall leave you with an inspiring piece of advice seen in the American ‘The Office’ [Click for 14 sec video]:
Michael (Boss): What was the most inspiring thing I’ve ever said to you?
Dwight (Worker): “Don’t be an idiot.” Changed my life.

Dwight (Worker): Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, “Would an idiot do that?” And if they would, I do not do that thing.

As always you can always click the link below and get a gentle reminder for when I bother to write another one of these blog entries… ;)

“I am better than this”: the realisation when I wake up on a warm (yet winter?) Monday morning to go to work in the 6th month of my PhD.
It’s true, I am better than this. Commitments have never been a problem much in the past (don’t take any judgements girls), but recently the extracurricular activities have really been put on the backburner due to my PhD work. This blog is testament to that analysis, I’ve blogged 4 times in 4 months, thats once a month when I set myself of blogging once a week. But no more, every week you will be getting more of me, and more of the every day goings on at Imperial College.

But I thought I’d give you a little recap of the past two months, summarised in one word: Memes.
Oh yes, Memes were made, modified, secreted, liked and commented on quicker than a celebrities baby. Speaking of celebrities babies, congrats Jay Z. I say congrats Jay Z…Beyonces new song is particularly annoying and overplayed on the lab radio…so she’ll have to wait till the bitterness goes.

Back to Memes…I thought I’d set you a few of my favourites…all credit to the makers…rarely do I truly ‘lol’.

and my personal favourite….

Why do I like Memes? They have been the pure cause of an increased patriotism in everything people find dear to them. Patriotism has been scarce these past years…Inter-university banter has been at an all time low…but its BACK!
I’ve had more Imperial-UCL-King’s banter in four weeks since the Memes began than the previous four years of my undergraduate. However, I suppose it’s easy for me to enjoy Memes. I’m not a UCL graduate. I have career prospects…*wink wink*

As Napoleon Bonaparte said:
“A man will fight harder for his interests than for his rights”

I’ll take this opportunity to offer a very cool and sexy link that you’ve probably already had a glimpse of below…its my RSS feed. If you fancy being told when I’ve written you a little jewel of a post…that handsome link down there is what you need to be clicking.

Plus, I don’t post as much as the others, so you won’t get AMBUSHED with notifications, like what seemed to be happening to me with stupid Tagged® and Bebo® requests a couple of years back.

So it’s the new year. Fireworks flying everywhere. Drunkards gallivanting around the city. Innocent souls braving Embankment in the bitter cold (well, it was a bit hotter than sual this year, but let a man exaggerate a little -.- )

Truth is the new year has over the past decade been witness to a new tradition: The New Year Texts. Spare a thought for the servers, having to chug millions of repetitive texts across the nation, clogging up its crap filter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the messages we send each other are full of meaning and thought…I’m sure Friend X does wish I have a great year of success and Relative Y does hope I get all desire this year. However, am I sure that the text I’ve received isn’t just victim to an annual mass text dissemination?

From this psychosocial phenomenon, I decided to try things a little different this year. What can I say, I couldn’t shy away from an experiment. And it took 5 minutes of data analysis on a mundane 3rd January.

I divided each friendship group (King’s College friends, Imperial College friends, Hometown friends, KEEN Volunteering friends, and friends from my old part time job) into two groups: one group being sent the usual generic Happy New Year message, and another group of equal size being sent the usual generic Happy New Year message followed by a personalised on-the-spot message from myself with their name. Then a simple measurement of efficacy is the number of replies recieved from each group. A negative control of one or two friends involved not sending any text (Sorry!) and seeing if I get a text back.

The results speak for themselves. Be a bit more personal and you get a lot more love back. I particularly love the fact that the Imperial College friend who I chose as a negative control texted me anyway…but then again they might’ve been sending that text anyway. Still, brownie points to them.

Don’t ask about error bars. I mean how on earth do you do a repeat of this experiment? I’m not travelling back or forward in time for this. Time travel remains limited to going back to the golden years of playing Goldeneye N64 and watching WCW wresting with my mates, with not a care in the world. Yes, WCW, not WWF.

I shall leave you with a note on the other New Year tradition…the broken Resolution(s).
I love New Year Resolutions. My personal belief is that everyday should involve time for self-reflection and personal-optimisation, and New Years an annual opportunity to start off new and install a good habit or delete a bad one.

I have a few, but I’ll share you one resolution that I picked up off a friend. Stopping swearing. The number of times I have sworn and, after review, realised the pointlessness and depravity of it. Good riddance.

I shall leave with one last sentiment from Bill Vaughan: “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.

First, things first…Apologies for the lateness of my second post. Whether you’re a new PhD student, a well-established (and probably well-exhausted) PhD student, or anyone else who has a clue what I’m going through; you’ll know how much of a rollercoaster the first months have been.

In fact, take a look at the peer-reviewed data of busyness in relation to the stage of an academic career:

…..science never lies….
Firstly, here’s a message to all the Prospective Students, Undergrads, Postgrads, Doctors, Profs, Café people…TAKE PART IN CHARITY WEEK NEXT YEAR. You missed out big time
Whether it was the day Imperial students flocked the streets of Ealing, or the Battle of the Societies event 

And the result? Imperial came 2nd out of 70 universities nationwide by raising a staggering £32,464.79 in a week! It was a bittersweet victory, since my previous university King’s College London got first prize….but in the spirit of charity, I simply took out the classic schoolground saying: First the worst….Second the best ;)

And if Charity Week isn’t enough, what about all the year-round societies that have all sorts of charity and volunteering opportunities.
Prime example: Save the Children Society. There’s already been two Krispy Kreme doughnut sales, a Cheese and Wine event, a christmas carol event, comedy club bucket collections…but my favourite? Imperial Save the Children society students got the opportunity to collect at Arsenal FC’s Emirates stadium and even got to see the match!
It was an amazing day, and hopefully more and more days like that will happen :)

Charity not enough for you? What about KEEN London? Thanks to the efforts of the Activities for Children with Disabilities society at Imperial College London, students have the opportunity to help out at weekly sports and recreation sessions for children (aged five and up) and young adults with learning, behavioural and physical disabilities. I had my fifth volunteering session on Sunday…I can’t stress enough how fun it is and how much a little play time and chill time can benefit kids who usually feel isolated by their disabilities.

I’ll be sure to post more often, and more about the science stuff…but be patient. There’s more Ali to come :)

So…here I am at Imperial for the next 4 years of my life. A university I’ve always had a connection throughout my academic life, from my tender years at school to my life as an undergraduate, and now embarking on a postgraduate degree right in the heart of central London.

First day. Big Day. I exit South Kensington station, pumped up, read to write that first paragraph in the new page of my life; manoeuvring my way through the seemingly ever-present road works on Exhibition Road, and entering the campus with a stable grin –I was ready. Then there it was, the Queen’s tower, looming over the campus with 287 feet of poise, and taunting me with memories of failure. For it was only 8 years ago that I had been at that very tower for a secondary school master class, with an egg-protecting parachute we had to make out of paper, pins, string, egg-boxes and other household objects. My group came second-place. I vow to that tower – at my time here, second place is not enough.

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It is symbols like these that embody what I am getting from life at Imperial. The Queen’s tower, once the central tower of the Imperial Institute, now the central rendezvous for all things social around campus. The SAF building, named after the pioneer who made evidently one of the most important discoveries in modern medicine, now hosting his protégé’s efforts to push modern medicine forward. Certainly the Royal Albert Hall on our very footstep; an arena of music, art, drama, and even science – having fielded exhibitions from the likes of Nikola Tesla and others. I continue walking, thinking to myself…”no other university could have provided me this wealth of culture and ambition”.

Suddenly it hits me. No, not the realisation that I’d been completely dramatic during my first moments at Imperial. No, what hits me is all 5’6” of a young, nervous-looking undergraduate fresher. Little did I know this would become the defining aspect of my first two weeks at Imperial. Fresher dodging – the art of reaching the Sherfield Building for lunch without bumping into, tripping over, or getting knocked by one of the thousands of fresh, bright, yet seemingly disorientated new freshers. It’s an art I’ve yet to master.

Fresher’s fair. I’d been to 3 of them at my time at my previous university, I already knew the game. Quick, sharp glances at each table riddled with treasures, surveying the room like one would envision Arnold Schwarzzenger would in Terminator. Eye on the prize. It’s true, I did come out with a plethora of pen’s, a surplus of sweets, and a stash of stationery, but what I surely came out with was a fortune of friends. Whether it be the fellow countrymen I met at a Fresher’s Dinner, the team of budding fundraisers I met at a Friday lunch, or the group of energetic volunteers I met at a union meet-and-greet. University became Home in days.

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It’s true, this university is more renowned for intellectual discussions over lunch and perhaps a ‘geeky’ focus towards science, engineering and medicine. However, what seems to be one of the key foundations of this university is not the previously mentioned attributes, of which this university should be proud of, but rather the range of interests and activities that so many of its students live and breathe into its societies. This is the factor that has made it so enjoyable and satisfying to be a postgraduate at Imperial. This is the reason why I can get up everyday and smile on the underground on my way to South Kensington. Oh – this and free gym of course.