From the beginning…
Hi everyone! I am Lucie, a PhD student in Bioengineering (synthetic biology and metabolic engineering specialisation) at Imperial. As this is a new blog, I thought my first post should tell you something about me, my career decisions and reasons for coming here. I would also like to share how my search for PhD courses and applying to Imperial looked like in case you found that useful. I think my way of getting here might be quite typical in the fact it’s atypical. There is no one way or recipe to get to a certain career or a PhD degree and often it’s lots of trial and error.
I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I participated in the Three Minute Thesis competition. According to tradition, the winner judges the contestants in the following year, so on Wednesday I had the honour to sit next to prominent science communicators and watch excellent young scientists explaining their research in… three minutes.
This year the Graduate School replaced the Three Minute Thesis competition by the 4Cs Science Communication Competition. Although the idea is similar, there are some differences:
- Not only PhD, but also MRes students could participate.
- While Three Minute Thesis contestants could use only one static slides, this year almost everything was allowed: Power Point presentations, props and whatever else they were able to carry on stage.
You picked Imperial to become a scientist, engineer or a medical doctor. What do these careers have in common? You’ll need to write a lot: scientific papers, grant applications, lecture notes, popular science articles. Unfortunately, university curricula lack writing courses, so we end up with thousands of unreadable scientific papers. In my research I’ve chosen some mathematical methods just because the authors made them easy to understand; nobody has time or energy to look for interesting science hiding behind word clutter.
I’m a mathematician, not a writer, and my writing is far from perfect. Let me share five tips to improve your writing so that you can learn from my mistakes.
Years of research squeezed into three minutes? That was the task I and eighteen other participants of Imperial College Three Minute Thesis competition had to face on Tuesday 24th April 2018.
The rules are very simple. Contestants get exactly three minutes to describe their research to general audience, using only one static slide. Sounds easy, but trust me, it’s extremely difficult. How do you introduce your narrow topic, explain what your research involves and persuade the audience that they should care in the first place?
All nineteen of us managed to do that. I learned a lot about a variety of research areas, from planting forests in Brazil, to optimal mixing of coffee and milk, to gravitational waves.
Let’s face it: doing a PhD isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. The process can be painful and annoying, and at some point you’re probably going to get completely stuck. If you’ve ever done any research, you definitely know what I’m talking about.
There’s something you need to do, usually some task that was supposed to be easy – a toy example, an almost standard code, a “quick” experiment to check your hypothesis. And here you are, spending long hours, days, weeks, even months, not even closer to solving your problem. You’ve tried everything, used all possible sources you could find, but this devil isn’t giving up.