Tag Archives: research

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!

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...

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.

I couldn't say no when my supervisor asked me if I would present my work to one of the industrial partners of my PhD in Germany on a three-day trip. I actually appreciated the chance to stop and gather my research so far into something coherent. With a lot of presenting experience behind me, I also no longer get nervous at the thought of explaining my research to others. So with a memory-stick containing my slides in my bag, I jetted off to Frankfurt with my supervisor last week to catch the team up on my part of the project.

My first challenge of the trip was to figure out how the sat-nav worked in the rental car. Once I navigated the German system enough to program in our destination and ‘Tim’ (the UK guide voice), we set off from Frankfurt airport with our sights set on Lahnau. We arrived after a short drive and went straight into the meeting.

The presentation went really well, resulting in a lot of work for me to follow up on! Afterwards the team took us out for dinner at an old mill by the river, where I had my first taste of German cider. Although I mixed it with lemonade to try and sweeten it up, I think I will stick to the wine next time!


Before we left Lahnau I had to get a memento of our visit. Taking a photo of a manhole cover may seem strange, but I snap a photo of one in every town I visit as a reminder of where I've been. European covers are a lot more interesting than those in Britain as they are often adorned with the name of the town or district and it's coat of arms. It's a tradition I started back when I used to live in Germany and makes a cheap and easy keepsake.

The river in CochemCochem
The next day we met the Moselle river where it joins the Rhine at Koblenz and took a scenic drive alongside it to Cochem. The town sounds like a cool name for a cobalt chemistry group, but I can assure you that absolutely no inorganic chemistry was discussed over our lunch outside the town hall. We did however sample some of the local wine from the steep slopes of the Mosel vineyards we had passed on our journey.

Sampling the wine in Cochem

Lunch in Cochem
I also have an accidental selfie on my phone from the lady who took this photo!

After a stroll around the town we set off for Worms, along what can be described as my supervisor's worst nightmare - up about 7 steep hairpin bends. I thought that the Sat-nav was sending us the wrong way but Prof was raring to take up the challenge. We met some pretty active mature cyclists at the top, who I think were glad to be cycling down the hill!

Having a fun cycle down the hill.

The trip was rounded off the next day with a walk down memory lane - or more accurately, a walk down Worms high street. I spent my placement year (September 2009-2010) working for Grace Davison there. The company continues to host Surrey university placement students; I accompanied my supervisor on her visit to check on their progress.

The flags in WormsThe drain in Worms

With fond memories of the mocktail 'Kiba'(a mix of banana and cherry juice), I had my heart set on visiting the Wein- und Bierschänke for our final evening. Unfortunately the current placement students instead took us for a meal at (what is referred to by the locals as) 'the chicken place'. As you can imagine, it was not the best place for a plant-based meal. The view of the river, the company and the beer made up for the fact that my salad arrived with ham, despite me specifically ordering it without.

KibaGrace Davison

After a wander through the town buying gifts on the last day, I took the bus to Grace - the same bus I took almost everyday to work four years ago! The ride was a lot smoother than I remember it. Once I arrived I had a quick catch up with some of the technicians and researchers I used to work with before we had to leave to catch our flight home. Frankfurt business lounge was our one last indulgence, although it was slightly tarred with the lingering smell of lukewarm Frankfurters (farewell Germany)!

Road tripping with my Supervisor was a new experience for me and I'm glad it was Germany we had the pleasure of driving together. Germany still feels like a second home to me - I enjoy going back there often. Last year Charles and I took a trip to Dresden over Christmas and I think a weekend trip to Berlin may be on the cards next year. Hopefully see you again soon Germany and until then, viel Spaß!