Back to Work: The New Normal

Working on campus

In my last blog post, I gave an update on the realities of working from home. I am glad to be able to say that I have been working on campus again for the past few weeks, but life has definitely not returned to normal.

Every morning I must sign in at the Main Building then walk across a tunnel to the Foundation Building where my desk and lab are. Our office has moved downstairs temporarily so that all staff that are back to work are on the same level (the basement). We must walk back to the main building to use the toilets as the toilets in our building are closed. Our building is basically closed apart from a few members of our research group. Every evening we have to fill out a contact tracing form, listing anybody we have been in contact with for 15 minutes or more within a distance of 2m. There is also a one-way system in place and plenty of hand sanitisers as in most buildings at the moment. UL students are due to return at the end of September which will change our current set up. Hopefully the Foundation Building will be opened and toilets back up and running.

I really have missed the lab over the past few months and I am delighted to be back. The social aspect is another advantage of being physically ‘back to work’. I am delighted to have a regular routine back. I tried my best to continue working Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm while working from home but this was rarely the case. I often felt guilty for not getting enough done during the day, due to all the distractions at home, and ended up working later than 5pm and a few hours over the weekend. I am glad to get out of this habit now that I am physically back at work.

PhD update

At the time of writing my previous blog, I had just submitted an abstract for a 3D printing conference. I was accepted to talk at this conference and presented remotely in July. This was my first time presenting at a conference. I was happy with my presentation but disappointed that there were no comments or feedback from the others that had tuned in. As the topics I am working on are all medical-based it might be best to stick to 3D printing in medicine conferences only in future as I believe people attending these conferences would have more interest in my work.

Nanotexnology tweeted this during my presentation

Before returning to work, I completed the paper that I had been working on during the summer months. This paper was submitted to a journal but unfortunately it was rejected (I received the rejection email this morning). There was less scientific data in this paper than the first one we submitted and this was the primary reason for rejection. This paper is a material selection paper on how we chose the additive for radiopaque 3D printing. This is the second paper submitted as part of my PhD, the first paper was accepted for publication but has not yet been published.

The next step in my research is choosing a single additive for antimicrobial 3D printing. I have now narrowed down the search to 10-20 additives based on a list of criteria. I am currently working on a lab work plan for the PhD and mapping out what experiments need to be done. Each round of testing should eliminate additives so that we are left with the best candidate for antimicrobial 3D printing. I reckon that I will have approximately one year of lab work, a few months of clinical work (this is highly dependent on the covid-19 situation in 12 months time), and a year to write up subsequent papers and my thesis.

During the first research project (radiopaque 3D printing) I made lots of mistakes, which is probably fair for the first project that I have led myself. The biggest mistake was not taking good enough notes and not documenting some experimental conditions. This meant that a lot of work had to be repeated, wasting time and materials. I have learnt from what went wrong with the first project and I am writing short reports for each experiment with a method section to avoid any repetition at a later stage. This will hopefully make writing papers and my thesis easier when the time comes.

Overall, I am definitely excited to be back to work and I am quite happy with the research plan for the remainder of the PhD. I reckon that I am well on track to finish within the four years (currently half way through year 2).

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