Pint of Spiders… With Robots

The end of May saw the arrival of the 3-day Pint of Science festival, which I was proud to present at this year! For those of you who don’t know it, each Pint of Science event features a couple of scientists talking about their awesome research, usually in a pub function room, to the general public. Tickets are super cheap and it’s after work so people are keen for a pint while hearing about and seeing some interesting science – making it incredibly accessible to everyone!

This year it was in 21 cities across the UK, and in 12 countries across the globe. I was part of the London events, in the Tech Me Out section. My talk was first up on the first night – and it was sold out, so no pressure…

For me, it was the first time I’d spoken about my research in depth to a completely general public audience – so preparing it was a new challenge! It was also the longest talk I’ve given to date, at around 25 minutes. As I was in the Tech section, I decided to begin with the cool robot stuff! Showing loads of videos of robots running around really calmed my nerves, and the audience seemed to like it too. Videos are always great in a talk!

I then showed lots of robot fail videos to highlight the fact that although today’s robots are great, they’re not always that great…

 

Then that got me into talking about how we can learn from the way animals move, and especially spiders – and onto my work (which is detailed in a previous post).

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Pint of Science. The audience were great, and asked lots of interesting questions at the end, which is always a good sign! There was beer, there was science, there was a super interesting speaker after me talking about using tech to improve athletic performance – what more could you want?!

Lucy Orr of Ars Tecnhica did a nice write-up of my talk (thank you!) and some nice people tweeted some nice stuff:

All in all, it was a brilliant experience, and one I can highly recommend to all researchers and scientists out there. A relaxed atmosphere, a great team of volunteers (big thanks to Agata Nyga, Fabio Tommasini & Francesca Solmi of UCL for organising the event I spoke at!) and science in a pub. Perfect.


Also a big thanks to Mendeley, who sponsored the Tech Me Out event. They gave us some cool free stuff and they featured a summary of my talk on their blog.

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Just a quick post to say the podcast episode that I was a guest on recently is UP! Listen below:

 

Loved doing this! Don’t forget to follow my fellow guest Alex Evans on Twitter and subscribe to his wonderful blog Bird Brained Science.

Mendel’s Finches are also on Twitter and have more episodes available on their Soundcloud.

You can also read my previous blog post all about recording this episode.

Thanks and enjoy!

 

Final Year Fear

So the time has come when I can officially call myself a final year. I am both genuinely excited and abso-bloody-lutely terrified. But I do feel I’ve reached a stage in my PhD where I’ve got a good grasp of all the things I need to do to finish, and like some of them might actually be achievable!

It also turns out (I think?) that I’m the most senior PhD student in my lab, which is hilarious. I remember when I joined my lab as an undergraduate, and looking up at even the first year PhD students – they seemed so calm, so all-knowing, so determined. And the final years, even more so. Now I’ve been in the position of being a first, second, third, and now final year PhD student, I can look back and laugh. I don’t think there’s ever been a calm PhD student!!

Recently I had an appraisal, the last official assessment I have to go through before handing-in and my viva (eeeeeekk!). The preparation for my appraisal was super useful – making a thesis outline of chapters and what I’ll include, and a Gantt chart planning out what things need doing when. All of this seemed acceptable and achievable to my supervisors and appraisers, which was a great confidence boost. Now I just have to go ahead and actually do the stuff…

I also got to show off George, my new spider-robot – don’t worry, he’ll get a post (more likely several) all to himself soon. He’s a dude. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen some sneak previews of him already! Here’s a little pic anyway…

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I am SO excited to write my thesis… genuinely. Not sarcasm, honest! I love writing. I love editing. I love having a story to tell, and figuring out the best way to tell it. I suspect writing it up isn’t going to be quite as wonderful as I make out, but I think (hope) I’ll really enjoy it!

Around writing-up time, I’ll also be job-hunting. And that’s exciting too! At the moment, unless anything really changes my mind, I’m going to be leaving academia and trying to find a job in science communication. All I’ve known for the last 7 years (apart from my amazing internship) is academia, and I’m really looking forward to start something new, especially something I enjoy so much as outreach and science communication. I realised early on into my PhD that actually I just love all of science, and honing in on one little area for years isn’t necessarily what gets me going. But the PhD has given me, and will continue to give me, a ton of skills that will be incredibly useful in whatever job I end up in, and for that I am grateful.

Everyone says the final year of the PhD is the hardest, and I don’t doubt that for one second, but I’m hoping I can make it the most enjoyable year. So I guess it’s time to get my head down, and portray that illusion of calm control I saw when I looked up to the final year students – even if on the inside I just want to run screaming for the hills!