Category: Experience

The Great Balancing Act

Hey all,

I haven’t blogged for quite a while and simply it’s because I have so many other commitments at the moment, which have been very fun but equally as tiring.

Over the summer period, I have been doing many outreach events in and around Bristol such as Pint of Science, @Bristol events and aiding my supervisor in her radio interviews. I really enjoy the engagement, as you have probably gathered, with many individuals which can be both challenging and keeps you think on your feet.

Another commitment I have taken up is the management of an SLA (sterolithography) 3D printer, Formlabs Form 2 printer. The 3D printer is fantastic for microfluidic but owning a 3D printer means accepting odd and interesting 3D printing jobs, many jobs aimed at props for outreach. However, having a printer that can print all sorts of things doesn’t necessarily mean it should due to the costs involved using resins where the cheaper FDM (Fused deposition modeling) would be more appropriate. Additionally the failed prints can eat up a lot of time which could be better spent on research. Please check my twitter for some of the 3D prints I have done!

Also, we had a big lab move from Engineering and Physics labs to the new Synbio lab, Biocompute Lab in the Life Science Building. This is currently in progress but hopefully will be ready by the beginning of October which I am very excited about! Also, the 3D printer is already located in the lab so it’ll be fantastic to have everything under one roof which saves me from running around between all the departments I work in.

Finally, I have my research still ongoing (last but not least!). Unfortunately it is not progressing as fast as I would like and sometimes feels over-shadowed by all the other commitments lately. However, I have the methodology in place and a systematic plan of different reagents to attempt which is now a tick-box list until I have the desired test environment in my diffusive microfluidic device.

As always, thanks for reading!

PhD Update – 23 Months

Funded by EPSRC at the University of Bristol; Associated with Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England.


Pulling everything together

Finally reaching a point with my research where everything I have designed and experimenting in my PhD has worked separately and now it is time to pull it altogether and produce the results I need which is far easier said than done. I am finding every small innovation leads to more problems but the result is within sight and I am just adjusting small parameters which can have dramatic effects on the dynamics within my microfluidic device.

Currently I am having an issue translating from previous ingredient for a hydrogel to a like-for-like ingredient which in theory should be biological similar, if not the same, but appear to have very different behaviors. I feel I am over confident to think by resolving this issue I can jump ahead to the big experiments so I am attempting to look for additional like-for-like ingredients and planning for other issues I anticipate to occur.

It is very frustrating knowing that your work appears to be fundamentally there but in practice falls apart and I am finding with great patience comes great rewards. Sooner than later I hope!

As always, thanks for reading!

PhD Update – 19 Months

Funded by EPSRC at the University of Bristol; Associated with Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England.

Michael Levitt – Nobel Prize Laureate lecture

On Wednesday 6th of April, the University of Bristol was fortunate enough to host a presentation by Michael Levitt, a 2013 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry.

If you are unaware of Professors Levitt’s work, it is in the fields of biochemistry, physical chemistry, and theoretical chemistry looking into the computation modelling of proteins where his work was awarded 1/3 of the Nobel prize. The presentation was broken down into two parts, his work towards the Nobel prize as well as the state of scientific community towards funding and enhancing research towards new frontiers.

Professor Levitt talked about being inspired by Scientific America magazines from an early age and taking a particular interest in the structure of proteins. He followed his passion towards modelling interactions of proteins to understand the structure and function. As well as the work, he stressed the importance of independent work and the persistence he showed to follow his passion entering the scientific community.

This lead the talk towards early career scientists. In recent decades a shift towards funding established researchers has overtaken funding for early career researchers which raises concerns for early career and future scientists entering the community. Professor Levitt offered some suggestions towards funding but without a change in funding bodies, there appears to be a decrease in early career scientists entering the field which could result in a future bottle-neck within the field of science.

The take home message of the event were these four points:

  • Be nice and kind
  • Persistent
  • Independent
  • Original

Very simple and important points but equally easy to forget and overlook from day to day. Especially in research where scientists are faced with failure quite often and it can be difficult to be nice and kind, as well as persistent.

As always, thanks for reading!

PhD Update – 18 Months

Funded by EPSRC at the University of Bristol; Associated with Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England.

Results – Bristol Science Film Festival

The award ceremony  for the Bristol Science Film Festival was tonight, I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted for the local category which was a great honour. There was many fantastic videos, from all areas of Science such as biology, chemistry, maths and engineering.

Unfortunately I did not win but I had fantastic time watching the other entries and learning so much about the other disciplines. I urge everyone to watch the entries which were all fantastic. I will update when the shortlisted videos are made available on the BSA (British Science Association) website.

Thanks to everyone as watched my video, I am hoping to make more very soon. Stay tuned!

In other news my research has started to come together and I am very excited for the potential future!! Again, I will update with more when I have the time. To reference back to my previous blog post almost 4 months ago, it’s the last 5% which can take the same time or longer than the other 95% of the project.

As always, thanks for reading!

PhD Update – 17 Months

Funded by EPSRC at the University of Bristol; Associated with Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England.

Bristol Science Film Festival

A few weeks ago I made an entry into the Bristol Science Film Festival (BSFF), “What is Nanomedicine?”.

What surprised me is the amount of work required to produce a video or a film. The amount of work can be split into three different categories:

  • Story – What is your film about?
  • Film – The type of genre (audience) & filming (animation &/or  real-life filmatography)
  • Audio – Clear and precise

The story is very important to what you want to tell and gives you the layout for the rest of the film. This makes it easier to plan and design sections saving time in the long run when attempting to link sections together. Also, the story is dependent on the audience as well, making the story short and sweet but keeping all the important you want to convey.

The film genre can effect the type of content you want to show. For example, a romance film would not have a horror scene. This is similar to science where you need to keep the content at a level one can understand, but not going into Sci-Fi just to attact the audiences. Additionally, the choice between animation or real-life is as important. I prefer a mix between both where the audience feels as though they know the speaker but uses animations for visual examples. I remember when I was animating one section of the film, it took round 10 hours to edit 1 minute of animation primarily due to the learning curve associated using film making packages.

This brings me onto an important concept, choosing the correct software for you to use. This is down to the film markers perspective which could be based on money and learning curve. For myself, I am fortunate enough to have access to the Adobe Creative Cloud, specifically Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Photoshop and Illustrator. This did not take too long to understand and learn given the amount of videos available with basic tutorials.

One of the most overlooked sections of a film is the audio. Without clear and precise audio, the user may lose interest fast. This is comparable to a TV show cutting the audio half way through a showing, the audience may zone out and lose attention as audio and visual stimuli are very important in our day to day lives.

All in all, video is editing is a fantastic tool for communication and one I want to follow up with more videos as it is an ever growing outreach platform.

What is Nanomedicine? from Matthew Hockley on Vimeo.


PhD Update – 17 Months

Funded by EPSRC at the University of Bristol; Associated with Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England.


Currently I’ve been very busy with various tasks and my research but over the past few weeks I have participated in a few outreach events.

One thing which many researchers overlook is outreach and communication of their own research. It is very important to explain your research to a wide range of different audiences. Over the past few weeks I have presented kilobots at a future science event in Bristol, to potential engineering maths undergraduate students as well as Thymios to a primary school.

Each event brought different challenges and questions. For example, I would not be talking the same to knowledgeable researchers, as I talk to children in a primary school. This really practises your skills to explain a concept in simpler language as well as more complex language without diluting the meaning of a concept. Also, I really enjoy the questions and ideas generated by talking to the public as it gives a new perspective and ideas for my project and helps me try something new.

I know when I was younger, one of my fondest memories was designing electronic devices as well as understanding how different things work and interacted. I do feel it is a shame that science is not more main stream compared to some of the day time and evening entertainment on TV.

At least, as a researcher, I am attempting to inspire the public. Here are some images from my school outreach!

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PhD Update – 16 months.

Funded by EPSRC at the University of Bristol; Associated with Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England.

Christmas Time

Merry Christmas!

It’s been a while since I have posted and that is due to the full time research I have been involved with starting with new members to the team, new projects and still working towards fixing my microfluidic device. I understand now what researchers mean by the last 5% of the project taking the longest to achieve compared to the previous 95% of work.

So the last 5% generally is the polishing touches to the setup and the method which is almost there as well as getting the device to a point where it is repeatable which is becoming ever more important in research as a whole. It is frustrating and I would like to move onto the next part but I am determined to do this project well and without a solid base to build upon, all the following work will dilute my time to possibly many incomplete projects. Currently I have some interesting results so hopefully *soon* I can move onto the next phases.

Also, I have said it in previous blog posts, time has passed very fast, where I have been working on my PhD for a year and a half now and thinking back to this year from presenting at the science museum, all the different people I have met at various conferences (NanoMED, Advances in Nanotechnology. etc) and all the new techniques from microfluidics to robotics, it feels far longer than one year worth of experience.

I’m very excited to look forward to next year, if it’s anything like this year then it will be very busy, stressful but very fun and rewarding.

Hope you have a good holiday and thanks for reading!


PhD Update – 14 months.

Funded by EPSRC at the University of Bristol; Associated with Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England.