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Something for our ESRs from the Poundplace blog as we enter a busy period for them all. Hat tip to Naturejobs.                                                                                                                                                                                   This image was republished from Pound Place; under a CC-BY-SA licence

A done list

A beautiful illustration from Yi, based at the University of Copenhagen, of the frustrations and joys of being a PhD student:
As-chip primer
1 Dilute the 99 arrived As-primers;
2 Use Primer-Blast to check the specificity of 99 As-primers;
3 Use AlleleID to check the parameters of 99 As-primers;
4 ARGs HT-qPCR of the CCA samples;
5 ARGs HT-qPCR of the Tellus archived soil samples;
6 Order the oligo of 99 targeted fragment;
7 Regular PCR with 99 As-primers;
8 Sequencing of PCR-product of 99 As-primers;
9 Pig manure manuscript.

That’s a recent to-do list. I like to start every day with writing and checking my list, because it’s one way for me to clear the fog so I don’t miss anything important and can quickly move into “working” status.

However, there was a lot on my plate: faced with this long list of tasks, even imagining how I should manage my time to shorten it to a more refined list made me feel tired. “One by one, one by one, just pick one and focus on it first”, I told myself, and dragged my body into the lab with my tired “soul”.

Chip system

Days passed. One day I found, not for the first time, that I couldn’t fall asleep, and I was staring at my to-do list. I suddenly realized the to-do list is not only helping during work time but also “helping” me after work! I couldn’t help wonder if there is a so-called work and life balance, especially for a fallen leaf who is far away from its root.

By talking to friends and colleagues, I realised I am not the only one who has this problem, and I found a solution. “There are always more things waiting for you to do, you should think about what you have done instead of what you haven’t done.” That day, I made a done list after I finished work:

1 Ordered the primers;
2 Centrifuged and diluted the primers;
3 Parameter check;
4 ARG HT-qPCR of CCA samples (1/2);
5 Conference registration;
6 Targeted fragment collection.

After this, I had a very good sleep…

Chip system2

To-do lists and done lists are like yin and yang. A to-do list can direct you to focus on the tasks, and a done list can motivate you in a happier and more positive way, and can be used to review the day and give you a chance to celebrate accomplishments. PhD life can be fulfilling and challenging. Balanced self-management provides comfort for fallen leaves waving and dancing in the wind. From that day on, every time I feel overwhelmed, I ask myself before I finish work, “What is on your done list?”

Conference report

Sabrina Cipullo (a REMEDIATE Early Stage Researcher) went to a conference in Galway, Ireland:

REMEDIATE students and supervisors from the REMEDIATE project went to the first joint international conference of ISEH 2016, ISEG 2016 and Geoinformatics 2016 at National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway, Ireland during August 14–20, 2016. This conference was a great experience for all of us, listening to great talks and world-class speakers. It was a good opportunity to showcase our research, and meet people working in related areas of environmental science, geochemistry, geoscience, and other disciplines.

Tatiana, Diogo, Neha, and myself, in addition to Dr Siobhan Cox presented our work at the parallel session on “Contaminated land with IBN” chaired by Dr Rory Doherty.  Peter and Coren presented a poster, and Coren was awarded best student presentation cash prize! Well done!

This was a good moment to share within the ESR REMEDIATE group but also to add a few more friendly faces to our network and to share conference moments, the sunny day and few drinks with Maria Nevin, Aisling Cunningham, Alessandro Singlitico, Emanuela Pignotti, and Ellen R. McGrory.

We also had the chance to explore NUI Galway with beautiful historical buildings and enjoy traditional Irish music performances during the welcome reception, and a contemporary Irish show with traditional dance. The ESR and friends tried some Irish step dancing, showing notable rapid leg and foot movements.

Thanks a lot to Dr Chaosheng Zhang for your wonderful organization of this international conference. The meeting was truly exciting and inspiring for me, we are very glad and honoured we had the opportunity to participate and we are all looking forward to coming to the next one!

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Summer School!

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Remediate and ATBEST Fellows bask in the sunshine outside the Lanyon Building at QUB
Our ESR at the University of Turin, Neha, sent us a brilliant summary of the first Remediate Summer School, held at QUB in June 2016:
Summer School: Training and learning outside Laboratory
Recently we had summer school in Belfast organized by the Remediate project team. Although the summer school agenda was a conglomerate of multifaceted segments ranging from history of industrial activities, soft skill sessions, risk assessment studies, 3 minute thesis presentations, site visits etc, still I felt a bit reluctant to travel from Torino to Belfast in the summer. To attend I took a taxi at 2:00 am, waited four hours for a flight from Brussels to Belfast, and roamed around the city centre to find a travel adaptor. After all this, when I reached the University Residence at around 6:00 in evening the only thought that came to my mind was ‘Why?? What’s the use of this?? I could have taken courses in my university for developing scientific skills and taken some memberships at Social Clubs for brushing up social skills and here I am doing everything to attend Summer School.’ And then the activities related to summer school started just after one hour. No!! It was not a lecture but an informal dinner at a Mexican Restaurant where our group could meet another Researchers group who were working on biogas facilities and was on the final stage. There I realized that even the students who are going to defend their thesis in just some months also have smiling faces and can talk about things other than their PhD topics. The reason that summer school was worth all the efforts is not limited to only meeting new people but goes beyond this which I found in the four days of fun and learning in the city of Belfast. 
Learning science is easy if history is appreciated:
There were some lectures about history of Belfast, the course of industrial development, the spread of Gasworks in Europe which actually made it simple to understand how contamination is linked to source. It was much easier to conceive the mutations in contamination process after the development of activities was unclouded.To make it more understandable there was a bus city tour organized in evening and a site visit at one of the gasworks site and a landfill site where we got chance to see the Belfast and to understand the pathways of pollution. 
Helps to know other researchers and inculcates the feeling of team player:
The conventional routine of a researcher’s life seldom leaves space for thinking about making friends and knowing each other. Even most of us end up doing desktop dining when the deadlines are at close quarters.During our five days stay at Belfast most of us ate together. Waiting for each other, walking together in a herd, dragging someone to reach destination earlier, playing weird games in the evening, talking in night and watching movie in the kitchen until everyone sleeps were some of the pleasures that made us lively again. The time spent together turned the professional welding into close friendships easily. 
Gives time for brushing up networking skills:
While reading articles and scientific journals every one of us dreams about publications incessantly. Looking at profiles in ResearchGate and thinking ‘How will I feel if I have that many citations?’ consumes our mind to a level where ResearchGate becomes the most adopted social platform along with Facebook. We think about networking skills only when we see our Professors exchanging their views with other professors.The sessions on Tweets about our research, networking opportunities, way to approach another researcher during a conference, use of blogs told us about the plethora of opportunities available to us for discussing about our research apart from ResearchGate. 
Allows the leisure to see bigger pictures of one’s own research:
Most of us work on things which have depth and solve a particular challenge of a wider picture. Working everyday on the same precise area makes it easy to forget the colossal effect it has on the broader scale.The sessions that were closely linked to our own areas, the basic conceptual model development lessons, 3 minute video presentations reinvigorated the process of appreciating the bigger pictures of the research. It also made it easier to view the different areas in which our own research can proceed or other ideas that can be included in our projects too. 
Lots of opportunities for future collaborations:
Discussing and sharing ideas on the widespread areas, meeting the scientists from different specializations, viewing the industrial use of the research, listening to workshops from career mentors not only gave chance for further collaborations but also reminded us not just to think about our careers after completing the PhD but also to plan it wisely and work towards it from an early stage.
All in all sharing ideas outside the laboratory turned out to be super fun.