This year I decided to give myself one word to focus on throughout the year as my mantra. That word, funnily enough, was FOCUS. Let’s see how I’ve been getting on nine months down the line...
FOCUS my belongings:
This year I moved house twice within the space of a month. My friends unknowingly volunteered to help me move the hefty amount of stuff I called ‘my belongings'. I took the look of shock on their friends as a sign for change - it was time for a clear out! Charles and I donated three bin bags full of things we didn’t need and threw away (or recycled) another two while unpacking our new flat. I purged all of the clothes that I had rarely worn, were worn out or I no longer had use for. I donated a quarter of my shoe collection. Chemistry textbooks and folders went back to the office. Drawers were pruned and re-organised. To-do lists for loose ends were made. One of my 25 before 26 things (throw away 25 items) was achieved, several times over! Needless to say, I feel a lot lighter and I’m sure my wardrobe does too! Now I just have to tackle everything I left at my parent’s house...
FOCUS on myself:
I’ve been a bit useless at this part of the mantra so far. I haven’t enjoyed cooking so much this year due to living in shared halls and simply not being at home until late. Regular posts on this blog have been non-existent as my energy has been taken up with work (hello PhD life). I will try harder to do the things I enjoy doing more often! Maybe I can make it up in the last few months of the year.
FOCUS my work:
I laugh at Emily nine months ago. A regular schedule for a PhD student? What was I thinking. I have however tried my hardest to leave the office or lab before 6pm every day. This has been achievable most days, with the help of my fellow researchers reminding me of my goal. There have, however, been several late nights - including one where only a water-cutout forced me to leave the lab. The nature of my research project at the start of the year meant I had to prioritise getting the work completed quickly - meaning early mornings and late nights. Now my work has reached a more steady state and so I’m able to control my time more successfully (phew).
So there you have it - a FOCUS three different ways. I'll update you again at the end of the year.
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!
I make a lot of tea. However, not the kind of tea you might be thinking about - I use tree bark instead of tea leaves and methanol instead of water. I brew my 'tea' for about 24 hours. This extracts as many different compounds from the bark as possible. Then (instead of drinking it), I separate out and analyse the compounds that have dissolved into the liquid. If I am lucky I will discover a compound no one has found in this particular tree, or anywhere else before. If I am really lucky, this compound will be able to treat a particular human or plant disease and will be on the next train to commercialisation. Not bad for an afternoon cuppa.
Tea has played a large part in my career since I graduated with a first class medicinal chemistry degree from the University of Surrey in 2012. The following 16 months after graduation took me on a journey through the Royal Society of Chemistry on their graduate scheme - where I drank a lot of tea with local SMEs, funding strategic partners I secured for the company and businesses that I contracted to work on projects I managed.
I was also fortunate enough to drink tea (while writing news stories) for their magazine, Chemistry World. Only tea could help me meet their tight deadlines to transform complex scientific concepts into interesting stories that the public could understand.
I returned to academia in 2014 to begin my PhD in natural products chemistry, bringing back with me my ability to bridge the communication gap between business and academia - and a box of PG Tips.
This post was my 300 word editorial piece entry for a competition to raise the profile of the University of Surrey’s STEM postgraduate researchers with the business community. Find out why I got through to the final but didn't attend it in my previous blog post.
I recently wrote a 300 word editorial piece for a competition to raise the profile of the University of Surrey’s STEM postgraduate researchers with the business community. It just so happens that as an added promotional bonus, the writing had to be about my transferable skills, attributes and experience.
My piece secured me a place in the final round - a three minute test of presentation skills and personality. With presentation aids forbidden, I had a quirky visual aid prepared to go alongside my talk about problem solving. However my visual aid didn't make its star appearance on the day, and neither did I.
— RDP Uni of Surrey (@RDP_Surrey) September 16, 2014
A combination of moving house and work deadline stress decided to manifest itself in the form of illness. I couldn't sell myself as a great person if I wasn't feeling like one, and so I let the opportunity slide. I made my apologies and missed out on giving my presentation. I may have let some people down (including myself), but I had to say no to keep my health in check.
I hate missing any personal development opportunity - I think it's very valuable to say yes to as many different experiences as you can and so I rarely turn one down. I wasn't interested in the prize money or winning the competition - I just wanted the experience. Although not what I expected, not taking an opportunity was a new sense for me and I learned something from that.
Now I know that I can say no to opportunities and still learn from them. Pushing myself hard to do the best I can shouldn't push me over the edge. Despite what others may say or think, I can say no. I can let myself breathe a little knowing that I am able to prioritise my commitments to look after myself.
Well done to our talented Researcher Showcase finalists Marion Allayioti and Yousif Sadik, and our winner Michael Hodgson! @SurreyChambers
— RDP Uni of Surrey (@RDP_Surrey) September 16, 2014
My congratulations go to the winners and all of the fellow entrants of the competition. I am looking forward to reading their articles online soon. As for mine, well you can read that in my next blog post.
This post completes one of the 25 goals I have set myself to achieve before my 26th birthday.
Glory hunters. That's what some members of the roller derby community call jammers. Audiences love to watch a jammer whizz by, photographers love to snap their speedy action shots and bench coaches love the points they can rack up for their team.
Jammers are easy to spot as they wear a star on their helmet cover, or 'panty' as it's known to those that play. Each team fields one jammer per jam (a two-minute period of play). Jammers start each jam behind the jam-line and all of the blockers from both teams. When the whistle is blown to indicate the start of the jam, they fight their way through the pack. Whoever emerges out of the front of the pack first becomes the lead jammer for that jam. Once out of the pack, jammers then begin to score points - one for every opposing player they pass each lap of the track.
Lead jammers have power. They have the ability to 'call off' or end the jam early. Tactically speaking, your jammer status can make or break a game. Lead jammers can call off a jam when they've scored their team some points but the other jammer hasn't made it out of the pack yet. Lead jammers can call off a jam when the other jammer has been sent the penalty box, giving their team an advantage when starting the next jam (as the only jammer on track they are more likely to secure lead jammer again). Lead jammers can can call off a jam just before the other team's jammer is about to score some points. Basically, lead jammers can call off the jam at any point that gives them a strategic advantage over the other team. This is why lead jammer status is important.
When I was first introduced to roller derby, I had no intention of jamming. My strengths lie as a blocker - with my strength being, well, my main strength. I love taking out an opposing player with a clean hit, forcing jammers off the track and getting in their way to prevent them scoring points. I am neither agile nor speedy when it comes to skating and so I thought I would never be a good jammer - until I discovered that there are in fact two types of jammer: agile and power. Agile jammers juke around blockers, are very light-footed and crafty in finding holes to wriggle their way through the pack. Power jammers use their strength to force these holes open, push people out of their way and deflect incoming hits.
Clearly, I am a power jammer. I realised that it's ok that my agility isn't my greatest skill as I have my strength to back me up. It's ok that I'm not as speedy as other jammers as I have my blockers to back me up. It's ok if I get hit because I can hold my ground. It's ok if I fall over because I can get back up. It's ok if there aren't any obvious ways through the wall of blockers because I can make my own way through. It's ok if I jam.
I started jamming more and more at practices and scrimmages, mostly to improve my blocking. After all, if you can get into the mind-set of your enemy than you can predict what they might try next. Gradually I began to build up my tolerance to jamming and actually started to enjoy it. My jamming goals shifted from wanting to jam more in scrimmages, to during a game, to wanting to get lead jammer in an open game. As I realised each goal, I set myself a harder goal. And so my original 25 before 26 goal became not to just get lead jammer in an open game, but to also score some points!
My team, the Surrey Roller Girls, played the Windsor Crown Duels on Saturday. I was fielded primarily as a blocker but also jammed twice. Those two jams were the highlight of my jamming career so far for me. I secured lead for both jams and scored points. For once, I was actually agile - I avoided getting hit by ducking under a blocker instead of bracing for the hit like I usually do! Progress has been made.
I'm not a glory hunter. I'm a roller derby player - a jammer, a blocker and most importantly, a team member. I'm someone looking to improve their roller derby skills, not look for attention on track. Points may be scored by jammers, but games are won by teams.
Photographs by Rebecca Cornford and John Hesse, taken at Eastbourne Extreme and the SRG vs Crown Duels game