Overview of Cakeman

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Anyone else not sure how well they are doing?

Hi Dafydd

You have highlighted a massive problem with postgraduate research, you have absolutely no sound way to figure out how well you are doing, whether you need to work more or less etc.

It's probably made particularly difficult by being a part timer working predominantly on your own, but having done a FT PhD I had no idea how I was doing untill 3rd year, when I had to pull my finger out big time. Now I'm a post-doc, and the immortal question still remains, I'm 8 months in, I've learned a few handy techniques and have got some decent data, I may appear on two papers but the main body of my work will probably count for nothing due to problems with the reproducibility (with the comercially available proes i'm using). My boss seems ok with me, but he's quite easy going anyway.

Best thing for the first half of your PhD is probably to try and make progress as much as possible, but keep something in reserve, as you may have to go all out in the final year to get the job done.

I hope this is of at least some use to you

Pre viva

Hi Pineapple

Try and look on the bright side, at least the hard work is mostly over. As far as Viva preparation goes I would'nt try and do too much, especially this early, Just try and relax and enjoy life for a bit........... or spend time looking for work. Remember that you wrote your thesis, so when you open it up to read in a month or so's time it will all come flooding back to you.

Regarding the outcome, it seems there are some problems with the thesis, so expect more than a few minors, but the examiners may view this as a positive as it could be seen as a sign of effort and hard work. Try not to worry too much, you can't change any of it now, so worrying will not get you anywhere.

The C Word .....Christmas

the thing i most want for Christmas is a rest

I started the year grafting to try and get thesis in, finshed thesis a month into my new job with no holiday. Had four days off at easter, a day off for my viva, one day off to go to the cricket, and a week off in August, it's now nearly November and i'm knackered and looking forward to having all that time off to do nothing but sleep, eat and watch old movies

Journal help

Just done so, star coming your way

Fork in the road. Any advice?


From my job searching days it looked as if most of the best industry jobs were for people with a bit of post-doc experience. I would recommend, after finishing your PhD, take what is available be it post-doc or industry, but probably try to err on the post-doc side. I appreciate what you've just said, but not all academia is quite like that, then when you have done a post-doc, say 3 years.........look for a well paid industry position. Entry level industry and post-doc positions are approximately as well paid as each other these days, so it's probably worth a go in the short term, then make your move to industry when it suits you.

Remember the vast majority of post-docs do not become lecturers, just because you take one 3 year position does not mean you should be in it for life.

Journal help

Hi Folks, does anyone have access to methods in enzymology? if so it would be massively appreciated if you could send me the PDF for "analysis of single nucleic acid molecules with protein nanopores" Maglia, G, Heron, AJ, Stodart, D, Japrung, D and Bayley H 2010 475:591-623. Although it is indeed a review, it would help my research enormously

Many thanks, Cakeman

Any scientists tempted to join the brain drain?

Hi Flack

Personally I am extremely tempted to join the brain drain. I am a post-doc and I have about 2 years left on my current deal. Given the general economic situation and the fact that mega tuition fees are being introduced, and that oppurtunities in science research are becoming less available in the UK, i'm extremely tempted to move abroad.

Throw in servicing the national debt that was none of my own making, (i did not vote for the govt responsible, nor did I work for any of the big banks, nor have i ever done so.), generally outrageous property prices, generally awful people (try riding a bike where I live, I am sworn at once every journey at least, by drivers who have often wound down their windows especially to do so), a conservative government that is ideologically attempting to destroy British public services, and bad weather I am even more tempted to move abroad.

The one thing getting in my way.................. my gf does not want to.

Jobseeker's Allowance


A similar thing happened to me, I was writing up around this time last year, was going ok as it turned out, but not particularly quickly............ and I very nearly ran out of money, I never used JSA, although people I know did, as well as housing benefit. It's also fairly normal to wonder if your ever going to get the PhD, in reality, stuff that is'nt even very good often passes as a PhD, I suspect you can get away with doing a much worse job than maybe you are doing (not that you should, of course), so once you've satisfied yourself that it's good enough, chances are it really is good enough. You are a lot closer to completion than it probably feels like at the moment.

I assume you are also applying for jobs in academia, it may be an idea to cast your net a bit wider given the current climate. Make sure you use your universiy careers service, mine was really handy for tidying up my CV etc.

The only advice I can really dispense here is to give yourself some time off where possible, and hang on in there, eventually you will finish it off, and it may all happen faster than expected.

paper help please

Are we not overlooking the fact that as researchers we are attempting to further the field of human knowledge, therefore information to that extent is nobody's intellectual property as long as it is used for no commercial gain by the individual?

Maybe if we were drug companies or something we should have to pay for this information, but otherwise it should be free, and any attempts to make money from this should be largely circumvented as is currently the case where people give each other journals. Ethically it all makes perfect sense to me.

Sxxt in a bubble bath - You can't do that!

Depressing times indeed

I'm not really sure I want to work for a UK university anymore if this stuff happens

One thing I can't help thinking is that life is becoming considerably harder on the nation's young people. I sort of get the feeling that politicians may be looking to make savings on this demographic perhaps because they tend not to vote. I'm 26 and I've never voted in elections, not because i'm disinterested or don't understand, but because I think the politicians are all pathetic and out of touch.

Perhaps this is their way of taking advantage of the fact that young people are much less likely to vote than the older members of society, not to mention the fact that you can't vote untill the age of 18 anyway. What do other people feel about this idea, is it time that young people became a bit more political? or do we just have to accept that things just aren't how they used to be?

When to use 'Doctor'


My understanding is once you have the letter from the university ie written proof of passing, you can use the title.

Its's crazy having no Vvia though isn't it?. My boss is an aussie, and he never had one either. He reckons that it's something to do with the problems of flying in experts from elsewhere because the academic community within Australia is not sufficiently large for an expert to be found within the country for many subjects. Although he also thought that in borderline cases, they have a viva and fly somebody in especially, so I guess not needing that you passed pretty well.

Congratulations again.

BTW, my boss actually says he would have liked to have had a viva on his thesis, his was a very fine thesis though.

Am I getting old?


I certainly feel a lot older ie i get stiffer after exercise, generally more tired, slightly more conservative tastes etc, and definitely cannot handle half as much drink as I used to.

The weird thing at the moment for me is people when they guess my age now, say I look about 25, which I am, however they have been saying this since I was 16 and I don't appear to be looking any older, although my hair is a bit thinner it was very thick before, so no problems yet. Long may this state of affairs continue, not that i'm vain or anything

Really I think it is all relative to what you are doing, who you are around etc. At present I'm not really in a position to do half the stuff I used to because of work, and becuase i now have money, I save some for harder times etc, so have essentially been forced to grow up, and I think this happens to everyone eventually.

The weird thing I find is people who seem to WANT to grow up, like my girlfriend who is 23 and already talks about having children & buying a house etc etc............. this I find a little strange. Does anybody else?

People say the most annoying things

There is some truth in the first one, for a bit after you've been to the pub and slept, you probably won't know what to do with your free time for a bit after you've done, although that will pass after a few months.

As for the rest, i'm coming to think that the only people who really understand PhDs are thos who have done them or are doing them, but you should remember that they do at least mean well. Having said that I do empathise with you in that it's so annoying when someone asks me what I do now as I have to go through the whole process................ and nobody ever seems to quite understand.

As well as that people attach massive importance to the title, which I don't do at all, and I don't think many PhD people do.

If possible, it's probably best just to try and humour these people, they do mean well after all.

When Natassia met Phdbug!

I'm definitely up for meeting up.

I'm currently based in the West Midlands, but London is only one hour away on the train, so not a problem really.

Don't know if anyone has a given weekend in mind, or just mention it when one happens to be heading to London. I've got a trip to London planned sometime this autum, but think my missus wants to go to a musical with a friend of hers, so this would be my ticket out of having to sit through that.

Publishing papers, and reference questions

Hi Folks

I have a few questions to raise here.

I am currently attempting to write a paper from my recently completed PhD work. Basically it's not the best bits of the PhD (that's all going into collaborative papers which i'm not first author on, and have distanced myself from entirely, a long story but not the basis of this thread). So anyway, I'm trying to write this paper, when I asked my boss for a suggested target journal, she came out with the best one in my field, which isn't particularly high (impact factor: about 3 or 4). Although the paper is coming along quite well, the results are only half positive, and I suspect it will get rejected from this journal and go into one of the lesser journals in the field.

My first question is, at what point is it not worth publishing this stuff?, I don't particularly want to publish in something really obscure with a very low impact factor, I think it looks a bit bad in a way if you know what I mean. What impact factor would you guys consider to be basically pointless?.

A second question I have regards references. Obviously I am very familiar with how to do text references, but I wish to reference one website. This is an official website (for those who are interested it's a single nucleotide polymorphism database, part of the pubmed website) where I have got comprehensive information that adds to the level of detail in the paper, therefore I want to reference this website. At the moment i have the website adress that showed me the info posted into the paper, does this suffice, or is there another way I should do this.

All opinions welcome, as I think this is something most academic fields can contribute to