Overview of Elsie

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Approach to postdoc

Hi DRot, I'm not sure about your specific field, but in my experience (non-medical biological sciences) usually the main issue in getting any research position is funding. The thing is that most labs you approach will not co-incidentally have funding available for a new postdoc. So the question is, are you looking for a pre-funded position, or are you going to apply for your own funding?

If pre-funded, you probably need to check advertised job listings, and ask around through contacts etc to find out about openings, and apply specifically for those. In this case you will have less control over the project and lab you can work with, as normally the project is already specified and linked with the funding.

To apply for funding, do some research into fellowship schemes you could be eligible to apply for. Most universities will help you with this, check with your postgrad office, research office, etc. Then once you have an idea of the schemes, their criteria and deadlines you can contact prospective labs with a more concrete plan, and ask if they would be willing to work with you in putting together your project proposal and funding application. This way you will probably get a better response rate.

However, I would ask your supervisors and other academics in your field for advice on this, as they will know the specifics related to your field, and the places you are looking at applying to. Hope this helps- good luck!

Funding pulled - what now?

Hi Genette, I think you need to seriously consider whether you want to/can continue with this project in any case, given the problems with your supervisor. If they are not supportive of you, this is only going to get worse. Are there at least any remediation steps in place, to try to repair your relationship?

There's no harm in looking into a hardship loan from your uni, but I have no experience in that so not sure what the outcome would be. Personally I would start looking for a job immediately, even some casual work to keep you going until you know what is happening. You could also look into unemployment benefits, you may be entitled to something there, but again, I'm not sure.

It's an awful situation to find yourself in. Do consider carefully what you think you can get out of this, whether it is worth persevering with this PhD, or if you might be better off moving on to something else.

Funding pulled - what now?

Hi Genette, sorry to hear that you’re having such a rough time.

First of all, while I understand that you’re concerned about the funding, it sounds like the situation with your supervisor might actually be the more pressing issue. Why do they not want you to continue? If they don’t want to supervise you, you really need to get a different supervisor, otherwise your chances of completing are not good at all. I’d think in your situation, you’d be entitled to help with this from your University. Is there someone else you can think of who could supervise you?

On the issue of the funding- I think the answers to your questions will depend on how exactly your funding was set up. So you'll need to read the confirmation letter or other paperwork you should have received at the start of your PhD, or get hold of a copy. Were you offered 3 years funding, or was it to be reassessed on a year by year basis? All this kind of thing should be in writing somewhere.

The situation does sound quite odd, as I think the usual situation is for the external funding body to transfer all the allocated money to the University at the start of the project, precisely so that things like this can’t happen, but maybe there are exceptions to this. Were you being paid via your University, or directly by the charity? How were you informed about the funding being cancelled? If the funding was tied to your supervisor and/or project, and you change your supervisor, you would probably lose access to that funding. But if your funding really is cancelled anyway, you might as well try to change supervisors and apply for new funding and/or scholarship from another source.

Good luck!

Should PhD Students Be Grateful For Their Funding?

I don't think a PhD is quite in the same category as a bachelors or taught masters. In some ways I think it is more like a job. In a phd you are doing research, and generating publications, which is what the university gets paid to do. In fact PhD students are often the ones doing most of this "work". Yes we are getting training, but in many graduate entry jobs you would get similar amounts of training, and be paid for it. There might be a case for some restructuring of the academic system, so that there is less funding for phd places, and more funding available for post docs and higher levels, rather than spending all the money training vast numbers of phds.

I do feel that it's a privilege to be paid to do research, at all levels of the hierarchy, student to professor. I might put it in the same category as being an artist, or a musician. You don't really do it for the money, more for love. But some people can make a living out of it, and some people hit the big time. You could argue that pure research has a similar value to society as music or art, it's not a basic need as such, but it has a value that can't easily be quantified. For this reason I feel quite uneasy about the idea of cutting back the "low-demand" areas of research. I definitely think there should be funding for a wide range of research.

So I do feel grateful to have the funding, because not everybody gets to do this. But at the same time I think my work is valuable to the university and beyond, so I also think I'm paid a fair amount. How's that for an answer?

Author inquiry-do I put down my sup for peer reviewed article?

Do make sure your supervisor has a chance to look at it before you submit, if their name is on it as an author. I think it's fine to say something like "I'm going to submit it on [date] and if I don't hear from you I'll assume you're ok with it", but I'd try to confirm somehow that they've received your email at least. *Never* submit anything to a journal with someone else's name on it without their knowledge, it could get both you and them into sticky situations.
Good luck with your submission :-).

The Dangers of Sitting

Good idea, I'm going to try your 3x60 min idea to see if I can get more writing done that way as well!

The sitting kills thing seems a bit OTT, most of those stats are just correlations, surely?

Stats question

Hi 4matt,
I'm not all that great with stats myself, but I think the issue is this: If you conduct repeated measurements on the same individuals, then you can't really analyse each time point independently, because they are *not* independent. If you had sampled each timepoint on a different set of individuals, then they might be independent. But in your case, your values for 3h will be correlated with your values for 24h, simply because they were done on the same individuals.

Plus you're not supposed to do lots of individual tests on one dataset, because then the chance of type 1 error is higher. If you're using significance level of 0.05, that means 5% of your tests will come out as significant just by chance, even though they are not "actually" significant.

I think you're on the right track with repeated measures ANOVA, since that adjusts for this kind of correlated covariance structure. But you don't want to do it for each timepoint separately, you want to do it for the whole dataset at once, with time as a factor. Then you can test the significance of drug, time and drug*time interaction. So I'd think you'd have to do it all rank, or all non-rank.

If you have any access to advice from qualified statisticians I'd definitely go for that- check with your uni, they might have something available for postgrads. They'll be able to give you advice specifically for your dataset. You'll almost certainly be able to use whatever you learn there in projects later on! There are also a number of online groups that seem to offer free stats advice to researchers out of the goodness of their hearts... I've never tried them, but might be worth a shot if you get stuck (?)

How much you need to worry depends on how obvious your differences between treatments are. If you draw a graph with error bars and it looks pretty clear cut, you can just do a repeat measures ANOVA and no one's likely to argue with your findings. However if it's not that clear cut, and you are making conclusions based on your stats, you need to be more careful about your statistical design.

Good luck! BTW- I'm no expert, and could be wrong on any this!

Random question- how much sleep do you need?!

KB, have you told him how you feel? I think you need to have a (calm, non-shouty) conversation about the whole give and take issue with him. Maybe he thinks he is making sacrifices, or contributing to your relationship in ways that you haven't even thought about. Just as he might not have thought about what your sacrifices and contributions are- in which case you should point them out to him.

I know the situation has changed now, but didn't he say he would make a "special exception" to his usual bedtime for when you visit? And wasn't that exactly what you were doing as well, going to bed later than usual on visiting nights? Ok, his way of putting it might be rather inept, but maybe that was his way of saying that even though he was working full time, he was still making a special effort for you.

Anyway, there's a lot of maybes in this post, as obviously I'm only speculating! Just some thoughts that jumped out at me.

In relation to sleep, needs do seem to vary a lot, I find the "typical" 7-8 hours is ok for a while, but is not really enough for me, I need more like 9. I need a bit more sleep than my husband, and sometimes struggle to get enough, as when I finally find time to catch up on sleep he sometimes wakes me up/keeps me awake etc! I can end up getting very tired, grumpy with him, and finding it difficult to cope with life in general until I can get more sleep. We all have slightly different needs and priorities, communicating them to your partner is the only hope of your lives fitting together harmoniously :p
E xx

To the laboratory based PhDs

Hi Doctor Soul, I feel your pain on, I spent many, many months trying to get something to work in my PhD, and I'd had 5 years lab experience before I even started! But it was super satisfying when it finally worked.

If it's not working because you're making mistakes, then no problem, you just have to keep doing it until you get it right- you will get there with practise, like anything, the finicky techniques take everyone some time to master. You could try asking more experienced lab members for tips- maybe there are other ways of doing things that you might prefer.

If its not working because of your specific samples/materials, particular to your project, then as cleverclogs says, you probably need to adjust your protocols or even change method completely. If you can document that you're working methodically through, optimising procedures or systematically trying various options, that's a perfect thing to show when you get to your PhD transfer. Adjusting methods to suit your specific needs is a legitimate part of the work, and can sometimes end up as a publication in its own right.

If you don't know why it's not working, or you don't know if you're doing it correctly, the best thing is to just ask someone experienced in the method. If no one in your lab group is using the method you need, you might be able to arrange a visit to another lab- ask your supervisor about this option. This is quite common- some techniques are very hard to get started on without any help! Also if you find a paper using a method you want to use, email the authors and ask them about it.

Basically- don't be afraid to ask people for advice on lab techniques. It's very normal to have problems in the lab at the start. And all the time actually :p. It's extremely unlikely that you would have to leave (!!), provided you tell your supervisor about your problems, and work methodically to find ways of solving them.

Good luck, I'm sure you'll get it to work in the end :-)

what do people exactly write down on their labbooks?

I think photocopying your lab book and mailing it to yourself to keep in the sealed envelope should definitely count as an extreme sport :-). Very impressive tactic, I would never have thought of it. Oh yes, I fully agree on writing everything down, and the usefulness later on!

what do people exactly write down on their labbooks?

Jeepers Dunni, that's some extreme lab booking. I assume in your case it's necessary if your supervisor suggested it, but I feel the need to point out to others that most people don't need to go to that kind of extent!

Yes the books are ultimately proof that you did the work, but in most cases its highly unlikely to come down to that. If you're working in industry there will be strict regulations on keeping lab books, but in my experience in universities it's mostly for your own record, and for others to refer to later on if they're taking over a project, for example.

I find keeping a good record is very important though, it's worth taking a bit of time to write down everything you did and the results, especially the "failed" experiments. Can be a very valuable reference later on. And people following on from your work will thank you too, and maybe add your name to their papers if they were able to follow your work enough to use it in theirs ;-)

Deadline is this summer - let's do it together!

Hey, this is a good idea!
I've got to be done by October, but am aiming for August. "Me too" on the still got data analysis to do front. I've written two chapters, got 3 more results chapters to write (which the data has to be analysed for), plus the general intro and discussion to write. I've lost count of the number of my "AAAAAARGH I'm never going to finish" moments, and I'm sure there's many more to go.
Good luck everyone.

Food question!

I'd recommend looking for some stock cubes or powders that don't contain additives, you can get some good ones that are "all natural" and are not too expensive. Dissolve some in hot water then add to that base all the kinds of things you suggested yourself. I find that without that stock base it can taste a bit watery or something. How did your soup turn out anyway?


Journal Question

Hi Ubu,
I'm fairly certain "peer-reviewed" and "refereed" are the same thing, at least they are in my field. The papers submitted have to be "reviewed/refereed" and approved by other academics working in that field, before the journal will publish them, Doodles already gave a good explanation. So yes, congratulations, that's a great opportunity! (up)

paper from Journal of nervous & mental disease

Hi Satchi,
I can get that. PM me your email and I'll send it to you :-)