This beast occupied most of my time last October. You probably couldn't call a 44 page report (excluding the five introductory pages of contents and standard boring stuff) a beast, but it sure felt like one.

The confirmation report, in its simplest form, is a collection of your first year PhD research. You and the report are subsequently examined in a viva-voca to test your competency and capability to complete your PhD within the time frame you have been given (the University allows 4 years but I only have funding for 3 and I sure am not self-funding any longer).

I handed in my report a month early, just before I left for New Zealand at the start of December last year. Taking a month-long holiday has wiped some of the details of my project from my brain - fortunately I have a handy report to refresh my memory before my viva next week! I’ve been trying not to think about the viva too much and undertaken some ‘positive procrastination’ by doing more experimental work this week (the results are looking pretty good). I will however be revising some of the theory before the big day! Wish me luck...

This post completes one of the 25 goals I have set myself to achieve before my 26th birthday.

veg_garden_2526In May I went along to a meeting to learn about a new garden I had heard about on campus. Little did I know that this was a ratification for a new garden society and that I would walk away as the vice president. I had next-to-no experience of growing my own veg or looking after a garden but it's something I had always wanted the chance to learn and I do love a challenge! I could only hope that I could really push the society to grow into something that would attract members that knew what they were doing... Fortunately Charles and Tom were also cast into the committee as president and treasurer and so I was in good company to start things off.

Before any planting we had to layout the ground:

The committee deciding the garden layout earlier this week

A photo posted by Uni of Surrey Garden Soc (@gardensoc) on

The next step was to erect the polytunnel. We had a fun weekend in the mud trying to get this thing to stand upright and look presentable - the first challenge was to correct the ground poles as the builders had concreted them into the ground one foot too far apart, adding an extra couple of hours to our build time.

Garden Soc Polytunnel Timelapse from Garden Soc on Vimeo. The Garden Society is one of the fastest growing societies on campus, with 87 active members on our mailing list that we managed to retain from over 300 that we signed up at Fresher's Fayre in October. (I put this down to the garden jokes in my emails.) You can read about us on our blog, on Twitter and see our pictures on Instagram. We've also been featured twice in the University's student newspaper, 'The Stag' and mentioned several times on Stag Radio thanks to our media guru Tiff.

I take pride in heading up events for our members outside of the garden - so far we've run a Halloween pumpkin carving event with Surrey Marrow society and a plant pot painting session with CRAFTSoc (the craft society). I am really excited for next year's plans to hold a big pot-luck in one of the restaurants on campus - preparations are already underway!

You can't really avoid the Garden society on campus - we seem to pop up everywhere! In November I helped prepare 60L of vegetable soup to sell on our stall at the Wellbeing Fair and the committee spent the (same) evening thanking the University's Annual Fund donors for their generous contribution to help us get the garden off the ground.

I may have slightly lead you the wrong way down the garden path with this post - I have to say I have been so busy on the committee that I haven't actually had any time to plant anything! I have however failed to grow some grapes from a free kit I received (I think it's too cold in my office) and planted some chili seeds at home (growing strong!).

This post completes one of the 25 goals I have set myself to achieve before my 26th birthday.

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Last year was rather frantic - I moved house twice, began my PhD and took on a lot of responsibility with my roller derby team and university societies. Although I felt organised, time ran away with me - I didn't feel like I had the time to do some of the things that I wanted to keep up with, such as my art and science writing.

January is a universal month for new starts. New beginnings, new ideas and unrealistic goals people set themselves every year (oh hi, 2014's idea to keep up my running). I have been following Elise's blog for the past year now and I have been inspired by her practice of the One Little Word® project. This year I have decided to give myself one word to focus on throughout the year, my mantra if you will. That word, funnily enough, is FOCUS.

FOCUS my belongings:
Moving twice in one year has made me realise just how much stuff I actually own. I had a huge purge of my clothes the second time I moved and it made me think more about my style. I want to do this again to really focus on the things I actually wear frequently and to make more room in my wardrobe. I also want to clear out the rest of the clutter in my room and some of the things I left at my parents house, which they will be very happy about I'm sure!

FOCUS on myself:
Not through vanity, but self-expression. I want to spend more time focusing on my passions outside of work (weaving, creating, eating vegan things) and looking after myself. A focus on personal projects, solo-dates (sorry Charles) and perhaps this blog as well (more posts - hurrah) will be the aim for this year.

FOCUS my work:
A better work schedule to (hopefully) produce more positive results. Last year I started to arrive at work before anyone else in the office, at 8am. It was wonderful to have an hour to myself in tranquility before everyone else arrived (if not a bit creepy that all the lights are still switched off in the department when I turn up). This year I want to continue getting to work early and aim to leave the office by 5pm everyday. No more leaving after 6pm.

So there you have it, my FOCUS for 2015. I'm really excited about what this year may bring (or indeed, eliminate) - I'll keep you updated with my progress!

This month I have:
  • Surrounded myself with owls
  • Taken off my Surrey Rollergirls head coach hat and put on a director's one
  • Won a roller derby game against Big Bucks High Rollers!!
  • Presented my work to the EU consortium
  • Attended a natural products conference
  • Eaten two Christmas dinners
  • Bought a ticket to Rollercon
  • Made a vat of minestrone soup to sell at the wellbeing fair for GardenSoc
  • Orchestrated a CRAFTsoc and GardenSoc social event where we painted plant pots!
  • Finished writing (Bourbon spread below is a key part of my writing process) and HANDED IN MY CONFIRMATION VIVA!!
No 'Lately in the Lab' for December as I did not step foot in the lab - my feet were in New Zealand!


Lately the the lab October 2014This month I have:

  • Recruited new members to the University of Surrey's Garden Society at Freshers' Fayre
  • Helped build a polytunnel in the garden
  • Planned a very successful pumpkin carving event for GardenSoc
  • Attended the Postgrad pub Quizzes at Wates
  • Worked an open day for the chemistry department
  • Organised and run Surrey Roller Girls' new Autumn skater intake 'Freshmeat Fridays'
  • Fouled out of my first roller derby game (SRG vs Coventry)
  • Danced at a wedding
  • Fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Paris
  • Neglected my blog (sorry)

In the lab I've been photographing bark samples that have been sent to me from all over Europe. I have 34 so far. It's my job now to work out which ones have the highest concentration of a certain compound in them.

Out of the lab I've been getting very cosy with TopSpin (chemistry pun for those chemists out there) and writing, writing, writing. I have a big report to write for my project partners, as well as my confirmation report to write! A lot of coffee has been consumed and the secret stash of biscuits in my drawer needs re-stocking.