It’s a beautiful Saturday morning here and I’m in the library writing my latest, that’s dedication for ya!
So last week was filled with a host of different thoughts and emotions and I didn’t know if I was coming or going. A week on and I’m still here, more excited and with a bit more direction. And as for all those stupid questions I had about getting settled? Well they seem to have all answered themselves during the course of the week. Own desk, new comp, ect ect.
Turns out I’m not on a classical PhD but one of those centres for doctoral training (CDT) that seem to be cropping up all over now. Certainly when I was applying for PhD’s it was almost exclusively for the CDT style of programme. So what is a CDT and how does it differ? Well CDT’s are basically 4 funded years instead of 3 and they give you the chance to have broad subject knowledge before specialising. Like an integrated masters I suppose. Yikes! Imagine doing a masters just to find out you’ve another one essentially covering the same material as that time you paid 10K to do it. In addition, they also teach you how to write posters, grant applications, present at conferences and a host of other vital skills that are required in science.
My CDT however is more like a Tesco own brand CDT. The uni has realised that everyone wants CDT students instead now and so have re-branded their approach of a PhD. It’s still only 3 years but gives me a few supported lectures as well as the how to write workshops.
After speaking with a friend of mine of mine who is also just started completing a PhD at a different uni (and yes I know a study of one is hardly concrete) it seems that the days of starting a PhD and being shown a desk and a COSHH form to complete and getting on with it are drawing to an end. 2 weeks of health and safety lectures before I can even begin my own work in the lab, a 2 hour talk on how to use a library and ethics and diversity training (2 hours of spastic bender talk- don’t get me started). Even demonstrating labs to the undergrads is different these days. Before it was simple, you were told when you had to go demonstrate undergrad lab practical’s and so at those times you went and got on with it. Now I have to do some 10-week training course on it and have to deliver lab briefings and be taught how to mark the work after. Marking is paid separately so I suppose it’s not all bad. By the end of autumn I will be (hopefully) signed off and able to start some demonstrating in the spring term. At least I get to pick what I want to do and how much/little. I feel bad for the guys on the graduate teaching studentship stuff or whatever they’re called, 70 hours min before they get paid any extra… poor bastards.
Not being able to get on and start some chemistry is frustrating…. It’s actually worse than that, its soul destroying! I’m trying to look at it as a way to read around my project and get a feel for the research currently done as well as plan a tasty little synthesis of some indole derivative for another PhD lad here. Best case scenario, he uses it and it gets my name somewhere on a paper, worst case scenario it doesn’t work but it’ll make a cute little chapter in my end thesis.
My supervisor seems confident as it’s “reported in the literature…”. If only chemistry always worked this way :(. I’ve also been pushing to get some of my own approaches to the project through and after reading a lovely paper by T Rovis in RSC Chem Sci which came out last week (asymmetric organocat and organometallic monster chemist), showing some good work. The trouble for me is knowing what’s good research and what isn’t impactful. Also having ideas and planning experiments are 2 very different things. I have a lot more theory to get to grips with first I feel.
And how did I find this paper one might wonder? “Lewis wtf are doing scrolling through RSC chem Sci?” Well it was flagged up by one of my new favourite pieces of software ever. It has revolutionised my life. I never thought a piece of software could make so damn happy. Citation software is all well and good but I don’t half find it a faff. Software in general winds me up and I’m not much good with it. But now it’s different boys’ n girls… the games changed.
Even the name makes me happy. “How do we make Lewis like a piece of software? I know ill make it the tits and put the word demon in it”.
So feed demon (<3) is what is technically called an “RSS reader”. What it does is allow me to have all the journals I like to browse in one place in a stream or “feed” for me to flick through at leisure. Gone are the days of jumping from JACS to JOC to Org Lett to Angewandte websites and scrolling eternally for interesting papers. It gets better. I can set up a “watch list”. Here I plug in key words and it will drag up every paper that is on my feed containing those key words. Let me give you an example. Outside of my project I’m a sucker for total synthesis papers. I love them. I know it’s just organic chemist willy waving to show off how big their dicks are and yes I know almost exclusively the products are useless with un-scalable steps, crappy yields and have no biological importance… but still I find them brill. So I set up a watch titled “total Synthesis” and I have that term plugged in as a key word and bingo… any total synth paper that comes out goes straight to my watch folder, simple and easy. I also have set watches for authors whom work I like a lot, Phil Baran has his own watch list, as does Christina White (anyone catch her Fe cat C-H oxidation paper in Nature last month? Simply awesome ❤) and a few others are on there too.
Feed Demon is an essential for anyone in research. Even the name just oozes sex appeal. “Feed Demon” Calibri font doesn’t do it justice…
Almost makes you want to go out and have the word “Demon” tattooed somewhere onto your chest.. oh wait doesn’t matter, been there, done that ( Pantera).
To sum up this week its been reading and lectures and little by the way of research. Hopefully I can push on some of my own ideas with a little guidance from the others and I will continue to shout about the joy that is feed demon. Endnote is also a thing but I can’t use it properly yet.
The uni is lovely and I think I threw some photos up on facebook, definitely put some on twitter @LewisMGooch.
Thank you for all the feed back from last weeks post and hopefully going forward I will be able to get these things a little more polished. I was hoping to have more insightful topics to discuss but as stated i’m not allowed in lab until I have sat through a billion safety lectures. Maybe next week I can address a few of the questions I have received if im struggling for ideas. Who knows
take care and until the next time,