Monday, 15 June 2015

World Meat Free Day

Today is World Meat Free Day. That's meat free, not free meat as some people on twitter have been lead to believe. Having been a vegetarian for eight years, I am strongly in favour of World Meat Free Day and the idea of supporting vegetarianism. The whole idea behind today is to promote awareness of the benefits to your health, the environment and agriculture. Some consequences of 10 million people worldwide going meat free for a day are:

  1. 85 million calories will be saved
  2. along with 48 tonnes of saturated fats (eeewwww) 
  3. 5700 acres or land will be saved 
  4. water usage will be reduced by 13 million tonnes
  5. and of course millions of animals will be saved

I honestly believe there is no valid reason to eat meat. - "It tastes good" is not valid. It is wrong on every level. I can guarantee that every time I say I'm a vegetarian, I get something like this in response:

'We're meant to eat meat!'
'We have incisors for a reason!'
'Where do you get your protein from? Aren't you ill?'

Bullshit. The people who say these things to me are the same people who complain about animal cruelty whilst tucking into a burger. I honestly believe that if you are not capable of killing the animal yourself then you shouldn't eat meat. If the idea of harming an animal disgusts you, then how can you carry on eating them?  You can't claim to be an animal lover whilst consuming animals. Right now it would be really easy for me to call all these meat-eaters who own pets and who 'love animals' hypocrites, but then I would be a major hypocrite. You see, I am still part of the problem. I may not eat meat but I still buy and eat animal products, so even though I hate to say it, I am contributing to the exploitation and maltreatment of not just animals in this country but all over the world.

So this World Meat Free Day, instead of berating all the meat eaters, I'm going to do my bit and try to go that extra bit further. I'm going to try and go vegan. I'm not promising to go fully vegan straight away, however I am going to try and gradually cut down on the number of animal products I consume. It's all for the greater good!

You can follow the hashtag on #WorldMeatFreeDay

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Process of Recovery


I haven't blogged in ages and I feel kinda bad about it because I enjoy it, so why haven't I been doing it?

Well, the reason is, lately I've been a little ill. My depression and anxiety came back with a vengeance in January (not fun) which means that I had to postpone my January exams after having a panic attack in my Organic Chemistry exam (definitely not fun). So you could say the last couple of months haven't been too great, but I think I'm starting to move forward a little and come up with more effective ways of coping, ie. wine does not work, however good it tastes. I think I'll write a blog post soon on how I've come up with these ideas and basically my experience in recovery and what works for me and what doesn't.

It's currently the Easter holidays, (or vacation as my Uni calls it - eugh) and so I have a little more time to start writing again and share more science-y things. I've also realised since I stopped blogging for a while, just how useful and beneficial it is to me and to my health. Having a little rant about something and distracting yourself from your own mind is a good thing sometimes. :)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Exciting things to come!

I haven't written a blog post in almost a month which is very unlike me, so I thought I would update you on what is happening in my bubble.

I've got some really exciting events coming up, thanks to Fran at Social Sheffield. - We're going to TedX Sheffield where there are going to be some amazing speakers (I've already been researching and googling them), then the week after I'm attending an event here in Sheffield called 'Celebrating Modern Feminism' hosted by Laura Bates, who is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project. Fingers crossed that because we have press passes, we may get to do a quick interview with her. (It's a feminists dream!).

Also coming up is the Stemettes Hackathon this weekend, which I am volunteering at. I got a press pass for the event, but the Stemettes kindly Dm'ed me on Twitter and asked me if I want to volunteer as well, which is lovely of them. I'm excited to throw myself into the world of code, it'll be fun to learn something new!

Uni wise, revision has begun.


It's that time already. I feel as if I've been back for five minutes but it's only 2 months until exams and this year I'm determined to ace them. I can do it! :-)

Saturday, 11 October 2014

ScienceGrrl: Science is for Everyone

On the 8th October, I went along to the Arts Tower at the University of Sheffield to attend the first inaugural lecture titled 'Science is for Everyone' by ScienceGrrl's Sheffield branch. 

The lecture began with Jen Lewis (founder of ScienceGrrl Sheffield) asking people to picture a typical scientist and engineer, something I have written about before here. Jen then showed a picture of Ada Lovelace and asked the audience if anyone knew who she was. It's safe to say that not many people did (or they were being extremely shy!). The lecture itself was arranged to coincide with Ada Lovelace day on 14th October, which is a celebration of the achievements of women in science. Ada is often associated with being the worlds first computer programmer after sketching out programs and plans for something called the 'Analytical Engine', which was essentially an early version of the modern computer.

Ada Lovelace Day - 14th October
Next up was the main speaker of the evening, Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, a Mechanical Engineer and Enterprise Educator at the University of Sheffield. She told us her story and how she became involved in the field of engineering. Elena is originally from Mexico, where she studied. There she met a new friend who had a disabled brother. Elena was astounded at the way his family had made a hand-brace for him. This was engineering. She was determined to help disabled people complete day to day activities and she discovered she could do this through engineering. 'Everything is enabled by science and engineering' and so these pathways make just as much difference to people's lives as medicine can. 

Professor Rodriguez-Falcon has spent her career dedicated to helping those with a disability through her knowledge of engineering. Someone with a 'disability' may not just be someone who was born with a physical/mental disability, as she explained that we all become disabled in one way or another as we age. She showed that the number of elderly people with a physical disability will be 50% of the population by 2020. As our strength and dexterity deteriorate as we get older, it becomes harder to do day to day chores and clever engineering solutions are the way to overcome this. Elena's talk was incredibly inspiring and it was extremely helpful of her to give an insight into what you can do with engineering and how helpful it can actually be to people. When you say the word 'engineering' people often think of cars or aeroplanes and vehicles, but actually it is so much more than that and the career possibilities you can get from engineering are endless. 

We then heard from some PhD students from the University, all ScienceGrrls and hence involved in STEM subjects. They were kind enough to talk us through their research and all four of them were involved in entirely different fields:

  • Firstly we heard about the subject of Bone Regeneration and the engineering behind aiding the recovery of broken bones through inserting a material between the gaps in the broken bone to speed up recovery. 
  • The second short talk was on Additive Manufacturing, or 3D printing as we all know it. The technology behind 3D printing is extremely cool, not only because you can make a 3D replica of your own face (really!), but really thin slices of material in any shape needed can be produced by the printer. This is very useful for the Medical, Automotive and Consumer Industries. 
  • We then heard from Priya, a member of Sheffield's NeuroGirls, who was researching Vasomotion and the dilation and constriction of arteries in the body. She told us that vasomotion is extremely useful in medicine as it can help predict whether a patient is developing a disease, before the disease is actually apparent. 
  • Lastly, we heard from another ScienceGrrl, Steph, who began as a chemist who was interested in environmental chemistry and is now an environmental engineer studying groundwater and the microbiology to clean up groundwater after petrol leaks. I found her talk most interesting as I think I could relate to it most, however all of the girls were absolutely amazing and so passionate about their fields and projects. 
At the end of the lecture, there was time for questions:

The first question asked Professor Rodriguez how she decided what kind of engineering she wanted to study. Elena replied that she didn't actually know what career she wanted, so she chose mechanical engineering as it is a very broad field and she decided it would be best for her as she could specialise later if she wanted to. Some of the other ScienceGrrls also said this and some said they 'fell' in to engineering; it wasn't their initital career plan but they discovered that they really enjoyed finding practical solutions to problems faced in the world. 

Following questions discussed the gender imbalance in engineering subjects at University and in Industry. Elena was quick to reassure people that she had never experienced discrimination even whilst working at a company where she was the only woman amongst 200 men. She said that the actual problem is not the vast number of boys in STEM, but the number of girls not taking STEM subjects. 

'That's not to say we're not awesome.
 We are brilliant!' 
- Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon on the lack of women in engineering

I had the most enjoyable evening at the lecture and I hope it inspired all of the younger people in there to study STEM at University. It was really good to see people of different ages and there were more boys there than I expected there to be, which was amazing to see. I really hope ScienceGrrl Sheffield hold more events like this at the Uni. I'd like to thank them all for giving up their time to share their knowledge and passion with us. You're an inspiration. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Difficult Decisions

When I first applied for University, I wanted to do a year in Industry as I thought this would help improve my employability prospects and make me stand out. I'm now in my second year and have been preparing to send applications to companies etc. However, no matter hard I try, I can't quite find it in me to send them. It has been overwhelming (and not in a good way).

In the last few days, something has dawned on me. I'm not cut out for this and it's just not for me. This has knocked me sideways as I've always been the kind of student who has 'succeeded' at everything and given things a try even if I didn't really want to because I knew it would be good for me in the long run. Now this has come along and a multitude of factors is making me dread my year in Industry. Recently my mental health hasn't been tip-top so I'm really worried about spending a year alone in a random place with no one to go home to cry to (really). Also, I've realised that I actually kind of don't want to do this. It's an entire year of my life that I will be spending doing research and development or some other activity. A year is a long time and seeing as I'm unsure whether I want to do it right now, what happens if I have to spend an entire year there and I hate it? 

I'm still really confused as to whether I should move 'down' on to the straight MChem course and so I've written some lists of pros and cons:

Pros of staying on the Industry course

  • Return to Uni in fourth year with more lab experience
  • Be more employable
  • A year free of exams 
  • It looks good on my CV
Cons of staying on the Industry course
  • I don't really want to do it
  • My mental health isn't that great at the moment
  • The stress of actually applying
  • Having to complete uni modules whilst working 9-5 at a company
Looking at these lists it's almost clear to me what decision to make, however being told I can 'move down' to the straight MChem course is something that I don't like to hear. People treat it like I would be taking a step backwards and be less of a successful scientist and I don't know if I can take that idea, as I've always been the kind of student who has been good. I've always been the best, and I don't quite know how to cope with not being the best and not succeeding at something. I can't quite grasp the idea that maybe this course is not for me, because I've never experienced that before and I suppose I'd feel a bit like a failure.

Any advice is appreciated, as I'm sure you'll guess, I'm a little clueless.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Having the Passion to Succeed

I've discovered in the last year that to truly be successful at what you do, exam grades and tests are not the most important thing. Sure, they may have an effect on what courses you can apply for, but there is something way more powerful than exam scores.

At the end of my first year of University, I had to achieve a 60% average in my core modules. I scraped through with 62.5%, not my proudest moment, especially as I didn't actually achieve anything higher than a 2:2 in any of my summer exams. I was actually surprised by my own reaction to this. If it had been a couple of years ago at A-level, I probably would have had a meltdown and cried. Instead, I simply planned how to improve and how to win over companies that I would be applying to the following year. At this moment in time, I don't have the greatest exam record at Uni, my results are nothing special, but I intend to make them so. I have passion.

My passion for my subject is what drives me to do well and succeed. I'm not the kind of student who gets by by doing the bare minimum and although my results aren't the greatest, my love for my subject extends beyond the boundaries of the syllabus. I go out and meet people, network and share my excitement with other people and in a way, I think that makes me more of a scientists than amazing grades do. I love attending events where I get to meet fellow scientists, learn something new and be part of it all. Learning is my favourite thing. I spend hours in the library, not because I have to but because I want to and one day I will be where I want to be.

I may not be the most intelligent person on my course, but I am the most passionate and I will never give up. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Standing Out

As part of my degree course, I spend a year out in Industry doing research and completing my own projects. After this, I return to Uni for a year where I have to give a presentation and write a report on my experience. Obviously part of the terrifying preparation for this, apart from attending multiple meetings and careers events, is writing a CV.

CVs are difficult to write, especially today because there are less jobs available and hence less work experience for you to actually put on your CV. It's a vicious cycle. I spent my first year trying to compile a list of things that I could put on my CV and make me stand out from the crowd and help convey my passion for my subject. Here are my tips for students on how to write an awesome CV:
(This is kind of focussed around my CV as a science student, however you can tweak it accordingly to fit your subject if needed)

  1. An Amazing Introduction - This really needs to grab the reader's attention and show them why you want the job and why you're passionate. Simply stating that you need and job and you have good people skills isn't going to make you look amazing. You want to be remembered. Make sure your personal statement isn't too long, you need to leave room for the bulk of your CV. To write this section, I basically pretended I was writing my UCAS personal statement again and then shortened it and made it more specific to the job market rather than University. 
  2. Work Experience - If you don't have any work experience, try volunteering as it's really good to put on your CV as it shows you've taken time out of your own life to help someone else. Where relevant, try and link your work experience to skills that you may need in the position you're applying for or to the job itself. e.g. I worked at a hair salon for two years and I linked this to working with chemicals when writing my own CV.
  3. Education - When writing my CV in preparation of applying for placements, I didn't list all my GCSEs (as they sometimes tell you to at school). It wastes space and after all, they know I passed my GCSEs, I'm at Uni. Simply saying that you have grades in Maths, English and Science is enough. I did however list my A-level grades as they're a bit more recent. You can also put in Uni module grades if you have them. 
  4. Interests - I think this is quite a hard one as you don't want to make it the bulk of your CV, however you shouldn't really just put that you like 'reading' or 'going out with friends'. Try and expand on it and say what you are truly interested in. This part doesn't have to link back to the job role as it's an extension of your personality and should reflect the type of person you are.Try and make it personal (but not too personal y'know) e.g. My CV contains my own interests which I have listed as drawing, particularly hyperrealism and portraits. I also mention that I am interested in SciComm and therefore have joined ScienceGrrl, I am a STEM ambassador and I write a blog to discuss topics that interest me. 
Last-minute tips
  • Try to make your CV a representation of you and your passion, don't try to make it like everyone else's. 
  • Don't base your CV on ones you find on the internet. It's fine to look at layout, but you might be tempted to copy parts of it that maybe don't really apply to you or the kind of work you want
  • Spell check it. Otherwise it's probably a little embarrassing.
  • Keep it updated. If you do something interesting related to your subject write it down and remember it. You'll probably find that you have a lot more to write on your CV than you initially thought. 
  • Keep a good relationship with your referees and ask them before putting their details on your CV, it's a bit rude if you don't. 

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