Last December Charles and I took a month out of our PhD's to road trip around New Zealand (and pop over to Sydney for New Year). We blogged our way across the country, taking over 3000 photos and days of video footage, which we condensed into a three minute video.

New Zealand is simply the most stunning country I've had the pleasure of visiting. The landscape is so beautiful, even if you do nearly lose a couple of your fingers to frostbite to enjoy it (I need to buy more insulating gloves).
tongario crossing rainspaceship campervan orange

We stayed in a camper van - or rather, a bright orange Spaceship. I hadn't driven a car for about five years before I got behind the steering wheel bright and early after our first night in the van. Fortunately I didn't need to worry about a thing - changing gear was easy as the ship was an automatic, New Zealanders drive on the same side of the road as 'us Brits' and in the end, I actually quite enjoyed driving!

I couldn't possibly decide what my favourite part of the trip was for me, each day had its own quirk (whether good or bad). Some of my highlights included: walking the Tongario Crossing, Rafting over the highest commercially-raftable waterfall, swimming in a secret hot spring, taking a helicopter ride to climb on a glacier and seeing a rare yellow-eyed penguin waddling out to sea.

For the full low-down on our adventure take a look at our travel blog. Looking at the photos makes me want to go back already. See you again soon New Zealand!

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

23_things_surrey_researchI am an award winning documentary producer and character on Waterloo Road. Perhaps more importantly (and true) however, I'm a girl on Twitter that tweets about her PhD and pops up as the second hit when she Google's her name (how awesome is that?!). We were asked to discover our online presence this week for 23 Things. On my quest to find myself online I also found two flattering photographs, a rather crude definition of my name on Urban Dictionary (NSFW - citation definitely needed!) and some of my old Royal Society of Chemistry blog posts.

Thing five is all about personal profile; I've been building my personal profile for a long time now. My 'Emily Reacts' brand is consistent through all of my social media accounts, making this blog and I easy to find (I've pretty much screwed up my chances of becoming a spy). I am happy with the way I am portrayed online, it's a true reflection of who I am. I think that maintaining a professional presence online is important, but having a personality should not be a negative thing. After all, that is partially what this blog is about - showing the public that scientists are real people too!

lately_lab_bubbleThis month I have:

  • Kicked off the new year in Sydney (blogpost to follow)
  • Quizzed my way to third place in the Postgrad Pubquiz
  • Visited my friends in Cambridge (and eaten amazing vegan tofu-spinach dumplings)
  • Cooked a three-course meal in good company
  • Celebrated Burns night with vegan haggis!
  • Started running again by β€˜easing' myself back into a 5k run at 9am on a Saturday morning (not recommended)
  • Had my confirmation viva! (blogpost to follow)
  • I have been multitasking revising for my viva with some lab work, so I still have some photos to show you from the lab this month!

    23_things_surrey_researchI've signed up for another 'things' project (just to confuse you all further), however this time it's being run by the Researcher Development Programme at the University of Surrey. The '23 Things' project aims to equip us with all of the digital knowledge we need to become online social media wizards, so we can cast our magical research far and wide. We might also unintentionally work on our personal and professional development in the quest to get into the party at the end of the 10 weeks (I heard there would be free biscuits).

    With the other 23 Things participants' blogs stashed safely in my Feedly, I've already managed to complete 3 of the things (already having a blog saved me some time). My final thing to catch up on is to share with you my experiences of social media, so here goes...

    If I had to pick one professional online tool, I would currently choose Twitter. I love Twitter - it's great for finding out about interesting things relevant to you that you might otherwise miss, following only the people you want to hear about, networking (seriously, if you're not engaging in conversation on Twitter you are missing out), sharing snippets of your day or thoughts, feeling part of a community and so much more. Perhaps best of all, you get all of this in ONLY 144 characters! It trains you to think concisely, which as PhD students I think we all need to learn. There is also a handy hashtag for PhD students (#PhDchat) and my #TweetmyPhD hashtag, in which I share my PhD life with the world. I could wax lyrical about Twitter for the rest of this post but I will spare you...apart from one last thing - to use Twitter at it's best you should really use Tweetdeck, it's incredible for managing posts from the people you follow.

    tree_hug_about_meMoving on from Twitter, my about.me profile (currently undergoing some kind of unexplained regression - the picture should be the one above and the bio more up-to-date) was recently featured as a staff pick, which completely threw me off kilter as I had forgotten about it and suddenly my inbox became clogged with notification emails from people liking my page. I didn't think about.me was that popular, but my profile gained several thousand hits per day. On top of 30,655 hits last month, I'm currently getting about 120 hits per day, which just shows the power of being highlighted on the site.

    The other handful of social media sites I can be found on include Instagram (I rarely post on there anymore, but I do use it frequently to look at everyone else's pictures), Facebook (for private use only) and Tumblr (My first blogging platform that I created to post pictures of cool things I find while browsing the web).

    I'm hoping that the Surrey 23 Things project will enlighten me to the more academic social media platforms, will get me talking more about my actual research (within the limits of my confidentiality agreement), allow me to meet other researchers at the University and, perhaps most importantly, offer chocolate bourbons at the completion party...

    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.