About the author

This Blog is written by a 22 year old EngD student in Mirco- and Nanomaterials Engineering.
The Blog initially will be following the schedule set by 23 Things course as part of the University of Surrey Researcher Development Programme. 23 Things is a self-directed course, that aims to expose the participant to a range of digital tools that could help in their personal and professional development as a researcher.

Monday, 27 February 2017

RDP Thing 23: Reflections

I have really enjoyed blogging as part of the 23 Things programme. Blogging is something that I have wanted to start for some time now and I am glad that this programme was here to give me that little motivational shove which I needed. As I have a very mathematics based doctorate, I really enjoy the chance to write creatively and share my own thoughts. It is something that I definitely plan on continuing well into my academic career.
The exploration of the various sharing tools available to researchers has been interesting, I will continue to make use of referencing tool such as Mendeley, and continue to utilise professional networking sites such a LinkedIN and Research Gate. New tools that have been introduced include; screen casts, which will be very useful for sharing guides to using software or programming, *Research professional, a online database of funding opportunities, and Wikipedia, which I now realise can be a exciting way of sharing the new developments in my field to a repository that the public love to use. These new tools and new ways of considering sharing my research are one of the great things about the 23 Things programme, as it encourages you to explore creative ways to share your knowledge to the public. Finally I think a further benefit has been simply offering a weekly writing task and as I mentioned earlier, creative writing is something I don't often get to do throughout my doctorate. I hope as I continue my blogging journey my abilities will improve even further.

Friday, 24 February 2017

RDP Thing 21 and 22: *Research and EURAXESS

Two topics to cover in today's blog post.
Firstly *Research Professional:
This is a fantastic database for funding opportunities. If you are already part of a well funded doctoral training centre and hence don't require project/travel funding, there is further opportunities such as awards and prizes for presentations and progress in research.

Secondly, a website for the future:
Beyond '23 Things' I would definitely like to continue a professional blog of my research throughout my academic career. I personally am a big fan of many of the University of Surrey's academic's blogs: https://blogs.surrey.ac.uk/ I enjoy reading of their professional travels and their opinion on current affairs. I think sometime in the future this research blog could be integrated with a full self-titled website (although nathancassidy.com is already taken) that also included lists of my publications, my contact details and various outreach ventures that I may undertake.
I would also like to begin a more personal blog offering media reviews and various opinion pieces on culture and politics, however I think it would be wise to not integrate this with my professional bog and website.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

RDP Things 17-20: Crowdsourcing, Webinars and Hangouts, Doodle and Cloud Storag

Write about your first impressions of any or all of these tools and/or their potential uses for your work. If you are already using one or more of them, you could write about the kinds of projects for which they have been useful. 

As it can't really be utilised during my EngD project (My project is delivering a functioning manufacturing tool) I can't really say too much about crowd sourcing. I have been part of https://www.galaxyzoo.org which uses crowdsourcing to understand how galaxies formed by employing a large user pool to classify galaxies according to their shapes. There is far too much data here for one person to sort through, but with a large group of amateur analysts the large scale task becomes easy.

On to Webinar tools, my main experience previous to my EngD was always Skype meetings which work very well, especially as we collaborate with many other research groups across the globe. The main tool I will be making use of is screen/desktop/application sharing. I will be using the SIMPLE tool in Surrey, which has been manufactured by Ionoptika in Southampton and as much as I will think I know the system completely when its my time to operate it, it will likely be the case that I required an Ionoptika engineer's help when something goes wrong. In that case the best way to demonstrate how to fix something on the computer is to show them on the computer. Desktop sharing is the best way to do that.

Finally, I made good use of google drive last week; firstly using the service to store files when I was using a lab computer and did not have a usb storage device, secondly to share the SEM images immediately with my colleagues by sharing the link to them to access the files. One is pictured below:

Above: SEM image of the etched and filed tip of a 150 micron diameter tungsten wire filament 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

RDP Thing 15 & 16: Surrey Research Insight and Research Impact

"Traditionally, research is written up into articles, which are submitted to a publisher, peer reviewed, and then published in an academic journal. Institutions must pay both to submit the article, and to buy the access to the article (called a journal subscription).
This limits the availability of academic papers to subscribing institutions, journal members, and one-off fee-payers.
Open Access (OA) is about making research papers freely available to anyone who is interested. There are no password or subscription barriers so your research is free to be downloaded and read by a global audience."
So far in my academic career I have contributed and gained co-authorship to 3 published scientific journal articles. One of which I will like here (UK Higher Education students should have access).
Unfortunately as I am no the lead author and as this work was done during my placement year, at the National Physical Laboratory, it is not affiliated with Surrey and I do not have right the to submit to The University of Surrey's OA portal Surrey Research Insight (SRI).
My current EngD project is funded through EPSRC and I will actually be required to have my work available on an open access server. The work is funded by the public therefore it should be open to the public.

I decided to use the Altmetrics Bookmarklet tool to measure the impact that my previously shared publication might have had, as was disappointed to receive the following statistics:

So according to Altmetric, my published work has had absolutely no impact and has actually had no readers, which whilst disappointing is most definitely not true. Looking at Research Gate I can see I have had 20 reads, which whilst isn't a lot, it's better than zero!

Whilst I like many other scientists like the idea of our work being read the world over, I am not a fan of altmetrics and impact scores in general. I personally see them as a distraction from the real purpose of science which is to advance knowledge and not to gain 'clicks'. I do think it is important that science is made accessible and shared to the relevant audience. During my time at NPL though some of the work we did improving the accuracy of ambient NO2 sampling tubes will be read by very few people, but it's low impact scores has absolutely no relation to the importance of the work and he quality of research involved. Also whilst this work will probably have a very low 'impact' in terms of article reads and shares, the actual improvements that were developed will be implemented by councils across the UK, which is surely a massive impact, just not one measured by altmetrics.

RDP Thing 12, 13 and 14: Sharing Media, Sharing Research and Making Information Beautiful

If you have used them [the media sharing tools], let us know what you thought and how they enhanced your research, teaching or other work. Do you think they can help you find new audiences for your work? If you haven’t, explore them and let us know how you think you could use them. Please do upload samples of your videos, screen captures, beautiful data or podcasts – real examples are always welcome!

As suggested by '23 Things' I played around with some of the creative and sharing tools that are free for researchers. Screen-casts are an extremely useful tool for demonstrating, providing as excellent framework for tutorials in programming and IT. Academic video tutoring services such as Khan Academy use such screen capture services and I admit that Saif Khan's videos probably gave me a significant boost in marks for maths modules in both A-Levels and University.
Here is my own test in screen casting: Using the tool SIMION to simulate the path of secondary electrons emitted from a sample and attracted to several high voltage dynodes.


Another tool suggested was Google Public Data Explorer, a tool  that makes large public data sets easy to explore, visualise and understand. An example below shows a comparison of the various levels of minimum wage across Europe. Unfortunately there is not much scientific data currently available on Google's database however hopefully this will change in the future.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

RDP Thing 9, 10 and 11: Wikipedia, Online Images, Presentations and Podcasts

Feel free to talk about all of this week’s Things in one post, as they lend themselves to comparison and discussion. How do you foresee yourself using (any, or) all of this week’s Things as a researcher? Are some of the Things more relevant than others? Relevant to what? Perhaps it was a Wikipedia page, a podcast, or a MOOC. If you already use these tools or similar ones, let us know how they work for you.
As we’ve talked about CC licenses, we’d like you to find an appropriately licensed image from Flickr (or another media site) that you can include in your post. Make sure it allows sharing! 

I don't think that there is much I can say about Wikipedia that hasn't already been said. I use Wikipedia to research engineering physics concepts and laws far more than I would like to admit, but it has always served me well. Normally because the articles on the subject of physics are written by scholars who are experts in the field and are also incredibly well sourced (just look at this article on Ion Source with 83 references).  I would definitely like to contribute to some articles in the future, especially as my field quantum technologies grows and there will be more new subjects, concepts and devices to create articles about. Right now though I do not feel confident enough in my knowledge to contribute just yet.
Now onto podcasts, of which I am a massive fan. I listen daily to all genres including comedy, science, drama, history and others (I will include a list of my favourites at the bottom). I have been listening to scientific podcasts such as Jim Al-Khalili's 'Life Scientific', 'Discovery' from the BBC's World Service, and certain episodes of Melvyn Bragg's 'In our time' for many years. I admit they definitely have had an influence on me wanting to continue my academic career into research. 'Life Scientific' especially does a fantastic job of giving researchers a platform to discuss their research without dumbing it down to levels where it's no longer interesting. It's a dream of mine to be brought onto any of these shows as an expert guest, maybe one day discussing quantum technologies. I wouldn't necessarily say that podcasts have ever helped me learn a subject to the level I require, but they have definitely peaked an interest in many areas for me.

My Top 5 Podcasts:
'In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg' - BBC Radio 4.
Fascinating discussions with academics in subjects of history, science and philosophy. A recent episode on the life of Johannes Kepler was very interesting, revealing how the man whose work provided some of the foundations Newton's theory of universal gravitation, had to also suffer his own mother being accused of witchcraft.

'Life Scientific with Jim Al-Khalili' - BBC Radio 4
Half an hour dedicated to the biography and work of one living scientist. Jim is an attentive interviewer, interested not only in peoples work, but also how and why they got into science

'Planet Money' - NPR
This show tackles subjects economics, but relates concepts easily to news stories and everyday phenomena. Recently there was a fantastic 5 part series where they buy crude oil from an oil field in the USA and go through the complete refining process all the way to the petrol pump, a must listen series to understand the way in which the modern economy functions.

'No Such Thing as a Fish' - QI Elves
A comedy fact presenting podcast hosted by four of the researchers for the BBC show 'QI'. Amazing facts, jokes and discussion from a well read and hilarious panel. There is even an episode which features Corey Taylor the vocalist of Slipknot as a guest! He is actually a seemingly big fan of UK radio and is an adept amateur historian.

'The Infinite Monkey Cage' BBC Radio 4
Presented by Brian Cox and Robin Ince, this podcast is a much more scientific and comedy focused version of 'In Our Time'. It tackles various scientific concepts from the Origins of Life to Cosmology, but also adds some philosophical concepts such as 'What is reality' and 'Irrationality'. All this is tackled with great knowledge and wit by Robin, Brian and a mixed panel of academics and comedians.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

RDP Thing 7 and 8: Referencing, Creative Commons and Copyright

As part of 23 Things I was tasked with talking about the reference management softwre whih I chose to use, and also to make use of copyright features such as the creative commons service.

Since my dissertation last summer and throughout my EngD so far I have been using the reference management tool Mendeley. I must say that I wouldn't be able to progress throughout my doctorate without some form of reference management software and Mendeley works perfectly.
The service works by creating a Mendeley account which all your source material will be saved to, there is then the option to download a plug-in/app for your desktop web browser, which places a small red button the the right of the web address which you can click on when viewing a journal article to have it directly saved as a source on your Mendeley account. Either online or using the desktop Mendeley library program one can then view the library of all sources that they have saved which performing a literature search. There are many features within the library such as the ability to assort your sources into separate folders, depending on which project they are relevant to. One can also [if the pdf is available] view the article within the program, with the ability to highlight sections of the text an dd notes to the article which will be saved within your library. Finally there is also a Microsoft Word plug-in available which allows you to insert references from your library with few clicks, as opposed to the hassle of carefully hand typing a reference.

I would say to setup an account and download and understand how to use everything will take around half an hour, and having this or any reference management tool at your disposal will save you hours of time that you may have spent meticulously typing references and checking them against the Oxford Referencing style guide. There are many other benefits too, such as the fact that you no longer risk losing a reference and searching for it last minute as you rush to complete your bibliography hours before a deadline. To all naive undergraduates, trust me when I say that it is so much better to reference as you write than to try remember and fit them in at the end of a document.