Tagged: Matthew

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.

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.

One Uni Year Later

I have found it very strange coming to the realisation that it has almost been one university year and it makes me think about to my experiences of undergraduate study with all the modules and hard work and how it now compares to doing full-time research.

At first glance it does not seem that I have accomplished much during what feels like a short time since I have graduated. Although, looking at all of the experiences and skills I have learnt in these past few months I can’t help but be amazed that I now have skills using and preparing microfluidic devices, MatLab for several image analysis techniques, coding Kilobots as well as the use of simulation software for these various techniques.

A lot of these skills I wouldn’t have imagined learning or using such a wide variety of programs since a lot of the data I had previous collected is displayed in chronological data points with varying values. With these values, a lot of the data can be displayed in a graph using Excel. Given what the data I am trying to display requires density/intensity histogram maps, using excel to run these tasks may be out of reach or difficult to achieve so learning how to use MatLab has saved time and increased my productivity.

Although learning skills and improving methodology is important, I feel a greater skill I have learnt over this time is the people who you meet, teach and collaborate with to reach a shared goal. With greater communications now more than ever, I feel these connections where ever and who ever can only be a great benefit and this PhD has given me the best opportunity to meet these researchers and to talk at the same level, the same language. As well as learning these different skills, I feel I can communicate across engineering to biomedical sciences understanding the benefits and limitations of each process such as the simulation compared to the In Vitro and In Vivo studies.


PhD Update – 10 months.

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

Communication of positive results to avoid the negative

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.