May 2019: MedTech and summer school

May was quite a busy month. I finished a second draft of the paper that I am currently writing, travelled to Med-Tech Innovation Expo in Birmingham, and attended a week-long summer school in UL.

Med-Tech Birmingham 2019

Med-Tech was my first trip as part of the PhD. I travelled with one of my supervisors (Kevin), leaving Limerick at 6am. Our flight was 10:35am from Dublin, and we arrived in Birmingham before 12. The exhibition centre was a 2 minute train journey from the airport, allowing us to return home on the same day. We first had a look through all stands, and then went back to speak to people we were most interested in. My highlights of the event were Tritech, the Create Education project, and Paragon. All of these stands were related to 3D printing, but the applications of each group are quite different.

Tritech sell 3D printers, including the Connex 500 printer that I use for my research. It was interesting to see the capabilities of the new printers, which can hold more cartridges at once, allowing multiple materials to be printed at the same time, whereas the Connex 500 has a limit of two materials (which is still really good). The option to have more cartridges in the printer at once would save material, as a lot of material is wasted during material changeovers.

Photo of the Tritech 3D stand at Med-Tech, mostly anatomical models made from multiple materials in one single print

The Create Education Project is an initiative to allow schools across the UK to borrow 3D printers, to bring 3D printing technology to the classroom, for free. They also provide free lesson plans and project ideas on their website. This is a great initiative to give students the opportunity to learn about 3D printing and make their own parts. I would love to see similar projects set up for schools in Ireland.

Paragon had interesting samples at their stand – there were three/four samples of the same material but completely different mechanical properties due to the structure. Some were hard to compress, others compressed easily. These parts were printed using Digital Light Synthesis (DLS), and show how diverse 3D printed parts can be, even if only using one material. Each structure could be used for an entirely different application.

Photo of the range of structures printed by Paragon

Summer School 2019

I also attended summer school last month. As I am doing a structured PhD, I am required to undertake 30 taught modules (which would usually be studied in the first two years of a PhD) plus my PhD thesis. 12/30 of these credits are earned by doing specialist modules (closely linked with my PhD topic) and 18/30 credits are earned by doing Generic & Transferrable Research Skills (modules that would benefit all PhD students as they can apply the skills to their own specific research). As part of the summer school, I took 6 x 3 credit modules, which will add up to the total amount of credits for the GTRS portion of my structured PhD.

The modules I studied for summer school were as follows:

  1. Research Networking
  2. Developing Ideas & Arguments: Writing into Academic Communities
  3. Planning Research and Publication
  4. Digital Research Management
  5. Research Ethics
  6. Research Integrity

To be honest, I signed up for the summer school to get the credits I need to graduate, however, I was pleasantly surprised with everything that I learned during the week. The module I found most interesting was Research Integrity. We were introduced to a range of case studies, which showed examples of fraud, misconduct, plagiarism and data falsification in research. It is interesting to see how far some researchers have gone to increase their amount of publications, at any cause. Most researchers blamed the ‘publish or perish’ attitude in academia and the pressure to produce good results.

Another module that I enjoyed was research networking. In the past, some of the most successful academics were the people best at making connections and collaborations in interdisciplinary areas. Now, there is a huge focus on teaching up-and-coming academics how to network effectively, from the very beginning of their career.

I know I will make use of (at least parts of) all six modules during my PhD and even later on in my career. The summer school was definitely worth doing, and I would recommend it to non-structured PhD students also.

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