Saturday, 5 November 2016

Life Update: PhD progression, Academic Travels, and Celebrations.

Long time no write! My presence on my beloved blog has truly subsided these last few months but I am very happy to be back. PhD workload and commitments have truly dictated how I have been living my days; spending spare time recuperating has been more of a priority than writing. For that reason, it is probably why my appetite for writing declined. I have been so busy focusing on my PhD progress that I had gradually let slip my leisure in actually documenting my life progress - which when put that way sounds absolutely ridiculous. Nevertheless, here I am typing away at my 'viral diary' and now ready to impart what on earth has happened to me over the last couple of months.

1. 9 Month Viva Vlog Series
In the beginning of the summer, all the way back in June/July I had just moved into my new flat and getting ready to prepare for my first of three PhD vivas! 9 months of my research had been used up and it was time to show academics in my University what I had discovered, achieved, and what I want to do next to progress my research. I only had a week to prepare for my 9 month viva. Given the fact that I love to do things in advance and I take pride in my ability to be very efficient and organised, I found that week extremely demanding. Reasons why I only had a week are alluded in the video series that I created; that shared my revision and preparation process for my 9 month PhD Viva. Despite the stresses, there were great things in that week. I did get to attend the last ever 4th of July party hosted by US Ambassador Matthew Barzum in London with one of my best friends. That was a once in a lifetime amazing experience and featured in video 3 of the series. Also, I found that I got another paper publication meaning that I would go abroad in the Autumn! More on this can be learned through the video series:

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Video 5

Music was supplied by my friend Danny, who featured in my 'Days of My Life' vlog series when he was an Aerospace Engineering Masters Student. He is also doing a PhD but now in London!

2. Trip to The Netherlands
After my 9 month viva, I traveled by myself - for the first time! - to The Netherlands to visit my friend Samiksha who has accustomed to a new life there. Samiksha has been featured in my blog and on my YouTube channel before. She is someone in my University journey who has been there as I was contemplating doing a PhD. Now, she is a Space Systems Engineering graduate and a junior lecturer at a University in The Netherlands! My trip to Delft and Amsterdam was spent catching-up with her and with that resulted with this video I made documenting my travels and getting life advice:

2 Questions: Samiksha in The Netherlands

3. Publications
These last couple of months have been super successful in terms of my research publications! I had a paper about distinguishing Smart and Intelligent Electronic Textiles accepted at UbiComp (Ubiquitous Computing) and ISWC (International Symposium of Wearable Computing) 2016 conferences, a poster accepted on the same topic at the 2016 WomENcourage Computer Science conference, and lastly I published a BOOK CHAPTER (eek!) related to Security Considerations, Artificial Intelligence, and Applications of Wireless Smart Textiles in society. I have already given myself a pat on the back but I still need a pinch to realise that these have actually happened - I am super proud of myself.

I am going to pursue even more publication opportunities so I can create a name for myself in the Smart Textiles/Wearable Technology/Electronic Textiles area of Electronic Engineering. Therefore, more writings and technological breakthroughs to come!

4. Settled into Flat Living

Never have I lived in a property that has alleviated my well-being so much. I am living with one of my best friends, I have nature around me, my neighbours are lovely and just happen to both be Doctorate Graduates so I get free PhD advice (both a couple, one is a Biological Anthropologist and the other a Professor of Medicine from the University of Cambridge). Additionally, I have had my social circle broadened, learnt new skills - apparently I am good at poker - and have gotten back into postcard sending! All those years watching Location, Location, Location actually paid off when I found this property with my flatmate and it has been a beautiful setting to live in whilst I strive to attain my PhD.

5. Silicon Roundabout Friends
This was the first summer I was researching doing my PhD! No summer holiday for me, as in no existence of a summer break when University term ends to have a siesta and students come back in Autumn. I was working throughout! It was a bit odd. Usually, I would be interning so this was the first summer where I actually felt like I was an adult and I imagine what having a graduate job for the first time would be like. Still, here and there I had time to go to London and to visit old friends and make new ones. In the technology scene in London there is so much diversity and bright minds to learn from, befriend, and to know about. I was fortunate this summer to widen my social circle and start to 'define and find my tribe'. A video I made that documented some of the Silicon Roundabout start-up events that I attended in London this summer is in this blogpost.

6. Old Friends New Regions
I had the pleasure to also catch-up with friends of mine who I had not seen for years, and in one case had not chatted to in person yet!

Isle of Wight x Liz

Liz and I met at University Open Days when we were around 17/18 years old! We were both attending Electronic Engineering Open Days at what turned out to be our respective Universities and we soon realised that were the only females in our touring group. We started to chat and realised that we got along, we stayed in touch, have been wanting to visit each other for years but we were in different parts of the country far away from each other, we both played University sports, and did Electronic Engineering degrees - meaning lack of free time haha! This summer, we finally met up in person again after not hanging out since those University Open Days and it was as if the years passed was a fragment of our imaginations. We still knew each other's humours and sense of adventure. Such that, with my suggestion to head to the Isle of Wight  at short notice Liz knew I was not joking and she wanted to check the region out too. The kind of spontaneous decision turned out to be a worthwhile trip! Turns our Liz is doing a PhD too, interesting how our lives are so similar now...

Our Wimbeldon.

Another friend I saw this summer was Hannah. Hannah and I go WAY BACK WHEN I used to attend further mathematics and physics lessons after secondary school with my older brother. After bonding over music festivals, Made in Chelsea, and how long and tiring the extra examinations were that we had to take we became friends. We just so happened to study Engineering degrees at different Universities and we kept in touch. Once you are bonded by Fairlight there is no turning back. We just so happen now to be doing PhDs - whereas I am full-time, Hannah very smartly does a part-time PhD whilst having a Graduate job. So, we rightly had to catch-up in London and have a good natter. On the day of meeting up, it was during the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament season and Hannah invited me to join her Graduate job colleagues and friends to watch Andy Murray play his final match. Our setting? Not the Wimbledon arena, but Canary Wharf. Turns out is an atmospheric spot to watch Wimbledon on the big screen for free. You can follow Hannah's PhD, growing expertise on Crowdfunding, and Graduate job adventures on her blog here.

A New Notting Hill.

Dena is one of the people who you cannot help but question how someone can be such an enigma, career-driven, humble, warm, and wise person all at the same time. Dena and I met through social media years ago and have been keep in touch with each other as we went through are respective careers - mine, Engineering. Hers, journalism and media. We had not planned to meet up but by chance we happened to be at Matthew Barzum's 4th of July party in the summer and we recognised each other from our social media photos. After hysteric noises of surprise, bewilderment, and happiness whilst meeting each other in person for the first time we set some time aside during the summer to meet up in Notting Hill at the Electric Diner (a place where me and my current flatmate went to years ago when we first became friends) and had a delicious dinner. Dena has an appetite for a fulfilling life that can never make me forget that despite the hardship we may face there is always a brighter side to reach for. The conversation flowed and danced over a number of topics; from travel, career, morals, hobbies, and futures. Going to Notting Hill that day was short, sweet, and surpassed any expectations I would have had of befriending someone purely online. Dena is also a co-founder of NUIT Magazine and worth checking out for Millennial opinion pieces, lifestyle, style, and a snapshot into an interpretation of modern times I think.

7. New Designers

My trip to this year's New Designers Show resulted from having dinner with one of my University friend's, Beckie. She asked whether I wanted to come with her to Angel, London and see a design exhibition. It sounded like a fantastic idea for a day out and I also thought it would give me inspiration and contacts for my PhD research. This place was inspiration overload. I met furniture designers, carpenters, textile print designers, ceramic designers, illustrators, and walked away with a wedge of business cards. There were also architects, engineers, and coders showcasing their work. After the event, Beckie and I stumbled on a some antique and vintage stalls and we soon gravitated to a French lady selling clothing and we picked up some amazing pieces. Beckie needed baggy clothing in preparation for heading to India for a group volunteering trip to assist business owners and I just like a bargain. Though, I did find this silk slip dress which is itching for the right formal occasion to wear it to!

8. Trip to Austria

In mid-September I traveled to Linz and Vienna in Austria to attend the WomENcourage 2016 conference! This time, I was presenting a poster related on the idea of Intelligent Electronic Textiles - aforementioned earlier in this blogpost. I am currently working on a filming project that documented my time in Austria, using music from a musician/producer that I really appreciate - I am so happy he gave his permission for me to use his beats - more on this soon!

9. Mayfair Birthday

Exploring New Bond Street and Beyond.

Celebrating my Birthday was extra special this year as I got to unite friends of mine, who had not known each other before in some cases, together in one of my favourite places in London - Mayfair Pizza Company. Food and service were great, and to accommodate for many different dietary requirements really showcased how amazing Mayfair Pizza Co. is. Following the food and drinks, my original plan was replaced with an equally great outcome to take my friends to a free art gallery just on Saville Row. I went to Hauser & Wirth years back and was pleasantly surprised that it was nearby Mayfair Pizza Co. and was open for us to visit it. Sharing 'my London' with friends of mine was a special element of the day which I will always remember fondly. 

10. Cake and Bake

Now and again, I swap a weekend usually spent in bed with going into London and helping my Mum with her baking mix business. We are at a stage now where are products are sold in Holland & Barrett, a national health food store in the UK, and we showcase our allergy-friendly baking mixes at food shows in the country. The latest show was the Cake and Bake show at Excel London. I think the last time I was in Excel London was at the Student Radio Awards and the time before that was in 2013 when I went to Campus London - one of my first ever blogposts!

In addition to seeing famous faces such as Nadiya Hussain and Eric Lanlard, highlights of the 2 days were hearing the stories of those who bought from us. Actually, whenever I was ill due to food allergies and had to stay home from school, I watched Eric Lanlard's TV show at the time 'Baking Mad' and Cake Boy at Battersea is one of my favourite places in London. So, it was a fantastic moment for me being at an event enabling those with allergies to rediscover or find their knack for baking using our baking mixes - at the same event where Eric Lanlard was working. Stories from children, parents, teenagers, adults, all united in their previous struggle of baking with allergies or eating sweet and flavourful baked good without the threat of allergy cross-contamination. In many cases, my stories overlapped with theirs due to or similarities. With every purchase that was made there was also a new bond -  we understood each other need for these products and how they could experience the baking I have had through my Mum;s recipes for so long. Those were very special moments.

11. PhD Progress
I am almost half-way into my PhD now! Since my 9 month viva, I have been designing and constructing my 2nd circuit prototype for my PhD. This means learning fabrication equipment and being in laboratory environments most of the time. It is funny, that watching a fellow PhD YouTuber's video on PhD life recently, it made me come to terms with something about my own research. In a PhD, most of the time you are trying to justify a reasoning or a methodology that has no formal basis or confidence that is it correct. It is almost like trying to dig for gold in an unfamiliar area, where there are rumours of a gold mine but whether you know it truly exists or not is another story entirely. All you have is your own reasoning of where the gold lies, your hypothesis on how to reach it in the most effective and quickest way, and the hope that you reach as little 'roadblocks' to get to it as possible.

You just have to trust the process that you have devised and literature has pointed you towards and make something out of nothing. This process can reveal that you are on track, that the simplest things takes longer than  you expected, and you end up being frustrated over things you had not anticipated. Now, I think I am on track but I have certainly experienced the latter points recently. Still, I am staying optimistic as I want to succeed. Yet, there are times when I really question whether I am doing the right thing. Though, I have also learnt that when things do not go well you should be thankful. You gradually become aware that an issue you once overlooked is an area of positive development if you view it as chance of improvement and can actually become the solution to the issue once addressed. I guess that can be expanded to life too.

I am super happy that I have updated my blog! Now, back to my duvet day and watching the November 5th fireworks tonight. More events to document and to read back on soon. :)

Take Courage,


All photos are mine and taken by me. Click to enlarge but do not use without my permission. Thanks!

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