A few months have passed since my last update and a lot of stuff has started happening with the beginning of lab work.
Lately I have been busy with work involving the production of some initial nanoparticles for testing. This process has allowed me to relearn old skills as well as learn new skills for the first time such as synthesising nanoparticles such as freeze drying, rotavap and reflux. So far everything has gone very well but I am expecting everything to get tougher very soon as we try adapting these nanoparticles with different functionalities such as fluorescent coatings. To analyse these particles, I am apply current methods of imaging such as dynamic light scattering (visualise size and zeta potential (charge)), TEM (transition electron microscope – surface characterisation and size) and potentially more to fully characterise these particles. The importance of these tests is to know precisely what we have made as this solution of nanoparticles, with unknown characteristics, may produce the exact behaviours (little toxicology, very specific to cancer cells) but we are not able to reproduce the results as we are unsure what the particles were.
A lot of the lab work has been challenging where I can easily spend a day in the lab from 8am to 8pm working on the synthesis of nanoparticles as well as researching. I feel planning is very important in these situations, where you plan to work one long day and make sure to use the best of the time available. The best part of a PhD is the flexibility, although there are long days, you have some choice when these days occur and you develop skills of organising and time management based on when peers or equipment is available. Given that there is going to be a time soon when everything will not go to plan and will not work, I feel time management is going to be fundamental to how I approach every problem as to not overwork and to take time to think about the problem from various angles.
Due to how well connected everyone is online now, we have the ability to message researchers all over the world, using ResearchGate, and have access to huge achieves such as Scopus so you are almost guaranteed not to be the first with a particular problem. Firstly, this can save time by amending a protocol to get a desired result than trying to synthesis from scratch. Secondly, it allows researchers to pull information from many different fields for one project such as a specific method of imaging, a novel way of coating a nanoparticle and looking into different proteins to coat to give a desired effect. Thirdly, looking at different papers may give information on how different procedures were attempted by the research group and adapted for their specific interests can help avoid similar mistakes. I think the importance is to make sure to use all the resources available and learn as much from journals and other researchers to avoid wasting time making mistakes which have already been documented but equally it can be hard to judge the difference between being novel or attempting something which has been tried and failed many times before.
PhD Update – 5 months.
Funded by EPSRC at the University of Bristol; Associated with Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England.