Tuesday, 24 June 2014

That love-hate supervisor relationship

What? I've not even started this blog post yet and you've already got a problem.


A mentor, a role model, a leader, a helping hand. These are all terms that could describe that voice of reason encouraging your next step. But when it came to reports and manuscripts, my supervisor always made me see red. Red pen that is.

Just wait a minute I'll get on to it soon.

No, I'm saying what you did. That's the point.

My PhD supervisor kept a certain red pen that he saved especially for colouring in my reports. Don't get me wrong, I was very grateful for all the feedback and insightful comments. Only it was sometimes quite hard to pick out the wise words amongst all the scribbles that appeared in the margins, on the figures and generally in any part of the paper with the smallest bit of blank space available. I spent hours writing up my work and of course felt some pride when presenting good results. All I ever wanted was just the smallest sign of approval, a pat on the back, a simple 'well done'.

Thanks! Finally some approval.

Ok I'll move on.


Thanks to comments from my supervisor, I have learnt the proper use of a semicolon and when it is wise to avoid 74 word sentences. I'm sure (I'm almost sure) that he always wanted the best for me, but the criticism sometimes gets hard to take. Yes, he has years more experience than me, but come on, when was the last time he did a real experiment? There's no way he could still actually get in the lab and create the data that I was producing, right?

What! But I think you actually mean "your data are crap"?

 Are you sure? It looks correct to me.

Ok, ok. Maybe I'll scrap it all. I should never have started this blog post in the first place.

I actually had a very good working relationship with my supervisor and he tells me it was only for this reason that he felt able to fully unleash when it came to marking my work. Likewise, I was comfortable taking the criticism, knowing (hoping) that it would only make my writing better in the end.

I wanted to end by pointing out your obvious superiority and how indebted I am for all your help...

Thanks, thought I would just give it a stab and see where it went.


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Nature Chemistry Blogroll: Real Chemistry

I penned the latest edition of the Blogroll column in Nature Chemisty . Have a read and discover some other great blogs about "real chemistry".

What does it take to be a real scientist?

We read about the end results and look at the pretty graphs. But what was it actually like in the lab? The journey behind the data is often lost and the formal tone of a journal article cannot come close to conveying the love, suffering and fun that went into producing those results. However, bloggers and Twitter users are gradually breaking down that barrier and revealing a behind-the-scenes view of real chemistry.

A very open and engaging story of the work behind a Nature Materials article (£) was blogged by Sylvain Deville. ‘The Making of a Paper‘ takes us from the initial grant proposal, to the excitement of preliminary results and the pain of getting scooped. The Baran Lab also shares the stories behind their publications. Honestly stating “we had no idea we’d turn to electrochemistry” shows the success of an unexpected direction.

Elsewhere, the @RealScientists rotation-curation Twitter account continues to regale us with the daily activities of different scientists. Someone new is brought in each week to run the feed and showcase their own small slice of science. Previous curators include analytical and physical chemists and, at the time of writing, an evolutionary biologist has been delighting us all with the wonders of sex chromosomes.

It’s impossible to mention real science without talking about the Twitter phenomenon that is #RealTimeChem. This banner brings together chemists from all over the world and its creator, Dr Jay, is organizing the second annual RealTimeChem week. Your fellow chemists will be sharing more of their experiences and lab frivolity through blogs and tweets, and everyone can join in.