Reflections on 2018

I’ve come to the end of my little Canadian holiday – Cameron has left Toronto to head back to the UK, and hard work on my WCMT fellowship starts next week. Wahhhhh. Well, it’s hardly the worst thing in the world, but I do miss him already.
Anyway, emotions out of the way… it’s already January 5th and I haven’t spent any time reflecting on how 2018 went, so this what this blog post is going to be. The start of a new year is the perfect time for me to step back and have a look at what I’ve achieved in the previous 12 months, and what I’d like to achieve going forward (that’s coming in another post).

2018 goal: Finish the thesis, become Dr Gardner
How did I do? NAILED IT. To be fair, this goal was a bit of a cheat – my funding ran out at the end of June, so I really had to have my thesis done and handed in before that. I was hugely relieved and happy to have passed my viva with minor corrections, meaning I was able to make those corrections and resubmit in time for the winter graduation ceremonies that take place in November at the University of Aberdeen. It’s still weird when people refer to me as ‘Dr’ – I say people like this has happened a lot; it hasn’t, it’s mainly been my mum.

(L-R) Prof Marion Campbell, Dr Katie Gillies, me (and Tatty, my bear), Prof Shaun Treweek. Three wonderful colleagues who were supportive, enthusiastic and passionate throughout my PhD studies.

2018 goal: Secure funding for after the PhD
How did I do? This was the goal that I was most worried about. When you finish a funded PhD, that funding eventually comes to an end – for me that date was 30th June 2018. During my PhD my tuition fees were paid for by Aberdeen University’s Development Trust, along with a modest stipend; a lump of money that was given to me in monthly installments, tax-free, for me to live on. Whilst I was very lucky to have that funding, it was a small amount of money that enabled me to live, but I wasn’t able to save money during that time so the stress of funding completely stopping was a definite worry of mine in the early part of 2018. I explained this to my supervisors, and made them aware that I wanted to stay in Aberdeen doing research on trials methodology work of some kind.
Being open with those around me meant I had a little team championing my quest for funding and cheering me on – and it worked! I got a 6 month contract as a Research Assistant from June 2018, finishing just before Christmas, I’m now away on Fellowship travels, and when I get back I have a new contract as Research Fellow waiting for me on March 1st. I’ll post more about my new project nearer the time, but I’m really excited to get my teeth into it after having a few months of working on lots of different things at once.

2018 goal: Get involved with some new, innovative science communication and public engagement projects
How did I do? I think this one went pretty well – I did a lot of public engagement in 2018, maybe too much (can you ever do too much? that’s a question for another day, but I do feel like it started to encroach on my research time which wasn’t great).
Anyway, I brought Soapbox Science to Aberdeen for the first time (in 2019 we’ll have 2 events, which reminds me, if you’re based in Aberdeen and would like to take part as a speaker then you can apply now here), I then created another event called ‘Snappy Science’ which followed a similar format to Soapbox, but speakers only had 20 minutes to communicate their science before they were told to get off their soapboxes, I also gave talks about my research to members of the public based in rural communities as well as other academic researchers, I took part in I’m A Scientist which involved online chats with schools across the UK every day for a period of 2 weeks, I contributed to events at Aberdeen’s May Festival and TechFest events, and I continued blogging – though I did have a pretty significant break over the summer whilst I was in a thesis-induced meltdown.

Soapbox Science Aberdeen 2018 speakers.
Collaborative project with Nina Draws Scientists.

As well as public engagement events, I’m really proud of the work that I’ve continued to do with Science On A Postcard, which is a very tiny online business that I run from the office I share with my partner in what should be our spare room. This year I specifically wanted to do more collaborations; I wanted to work with other creative people so that I could create more products that were relevant to

the science community. That went pretty well; Science On A Postcard’s first collaboration was with Nina Chhita from Nina Draws Scientists – we created a set of postcards featuring women in science; they were released in time for International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11th February), and a % of profits went to organisations supporting and advocating for women in science.

Collaborative project with Teddy Perkins.

That little collaboration sparked a few more, in 2018 we’ve worked with Cutie and The Feast, Teddy Perkins (a greetings card business ran by my Mum, who is now looking after the Science On A Postcard shop whilst I’m away), the Scicommunity, the PhDepression, Super Cool Scientists, Designed By Ebony, and Wonk! Science magazine. Writing that all down has made me realise just how much work that Science On A Postcard has taken this year – no wonder I’m so bloody tired!

So I did quite well with the goals that I set myself for 2018 – hoorah!

Professionally, 2018 was a huge year for me, but that doesn’t mean that it was all positive. I’m incredibly proud of myself for what I’ve achieved over the last 12 months, but honestly, it has left me exhausted. Writing this post has really highlighted where I’ve invested my time, and it’s given me some real food for thought for the goals that I’m going to set myself for 2019. Those goals will be up on the blog within the next few days, so keep an eye out if you’re interested to know where I’m hoping 2019 will take me!

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