Research update: experiments ongoing

This project is progressing well since the last blog post. The experimental work should be finished in a few months. I hope to publish two papers on the work that has already been done and two more on the remaining lab work. I have 11 months of funding remaining for this project, and it looks like I should be finished within that time frame.

Experimental work update

As mentioned in the last blog post, this stage of the research is to finish testing the materials. With the UV curing and settling experiments finished and data analysed, the next experiment to complete is the microbiology work.

The first method that was trialled to test the anti-microbial properties of the additives was loading the powder onto filter paper disks and testing bacterial growth on an agar plate. This method showed that only one additive was killing bacteria, so a second method was trialled to check if the same result was produced.

Microtiter well plate (top 6×6 region is being used)

The method I am testing at the moment is a microtiter well plate method. This test is automated to measure the cloudiness of the growth medium hourly over two days. The cloudier the medium, the more bacteria in that well. Since I am using powders in the medium, the liquid is already cloudy before the bacteria starts to grow so it is nearly impossible to detect any growth. I will keep trying with lower concentrations of powder, but I may have to look at other test methods. An example of such could be testing whether the bacteria are alive after being in contact with the cured anti-microbial resins, rather than testing the additive on its own.

Thesis in three

Earlier in the month I entered a competition called ‘thesis in three’. The goal of this competition is to describe your thesis to a non-specialist audience in three minutes using three slides. The slides transition automatically so timing is crucial.

I usually do quite well in presentations but this time I chose to learn a script word for word. I had plenty of practice in the days leading up to the heat of the competition. On the day, I lost my place for a few seconds. I recovered and finished what I had to say but it threw off my timing and I went over time slightly. I did not get through but was happy with the judges’ feedback and have some pointers to work on for any similar presentations in the future.

Conferences

I hope to apply for two conferences over the summer – one material-related one and one 3D printing one. It is great to see these events going back to normal with in-person conferences and meet-ups allowed to resume. If I have learnt anything from the thesis in three competition, I will practice key points relating to the message I want to get across rather than learning any text word for word.

This week I have been drafting a poster for the HRI Research Day as part of University of Limerick’s Research Week 2022. Making presentations is a skill that I have developed since starting the PhD. As I am doing the PhD with the school of design, there is always emphasis to do a very clear poster with a visual poster rather than walls of text.

Supervision

This semester I have been supervising a Masters student in the lab. Their research goal is to create a radiopaque spine phantom for patient-specific surgical training.

This is my first opportunity to supervise a student and it is a task I am enjoying. This semester we have been meeting three times a week. I am managing my time well and it is not negatively affecting my own tasks.

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