Yesterday I brought a delicious Victoria sponge loaded with strawberries and cream to college. Needless to say it didn't last long, us sciencey folks need cake to keep the research going...
I found the recipe in the Ballymalloe Cookery Course (big book by Darina Allen, great for the basics). Ideally you need an electric whisk for this recipe.
So I'm finishing up my masters programme out in DCU. It's a taught MSc. that culminates in a 12 week research project.
Semesters one and two were (to me anyway) not too hard going. The modules were interesting, some of the topics I had covered before, and most of the workshops and assignments were also ... emmm interesting (for want of a thesaurus, and it's actually the exact right word I want). The taught portion was sort of like doing final year again, except with more modules that interested you.
The research project takes place over the summer, so the masters doesnt finish up till the beginning of September. I was assigned a very interesting and challenging project that should have me doing the proof of concept of an assay my supervisor had conceived (really, not enough words in English/my head for things). The people in the lab I work with are great and really helpful, but the assay itself didn't want to comply. With a number of hurdles including being sick a lot, contamination, and reagents that suddenly didnt want to work, I haven't completed all the work I intended doing on the project. On top of which, again due to being unwell a lot, I haven't got as much writing done in advance as I'd have liked. The deadline is in two weeks (probably shouldnt be writing this post) and a fair assessment might be "I'm bolloxed". The project component of the masters is designed to give you a good taste of research and an understanding of techniques in the laboratory, it is fair to say I have gotten a good dose of both.
That said, I really enjoyed the masters programme (DC727), and would happilly recommend it to anyone interested in diagnostics. Just get started on writing up your research project earlier than I did....
So further to my IRCSET application, I was turned down. Which was pretty crushing at the time, given how much effort I had poured into it. I'm still waiting to get feedback on my application, so that should be pretty interesting. When that arrives, the IRCSET chapter should be closed (until I need to look for more funding in the future).
So I'm currently enjoying the struggle that is getting a PhD application together. Every year IRCSET run a programme for funding shiny fresh-faced wannabe PhD students (it's called the EMBARK initiative, you can find it here). Like many other funding bodies, it has reduced the number of places available, going from two calls in a year to one. However, it's certainly still worth having a go off, the stipend is quite reasonable (althought it only covers three years) and the grant also throws eight grand towards fees and supplies.
The toughest part is the personal statement. You have 1200 words in which to say how awesome you are, why you have the relevant skills, and what you want to do with your life (there's actually a bunch of questions in the guidelines, but that's broadly it). So at the beginning it's hard, you throw together some lines about your skills and experiences, and you don't oversell yourself. Then your supervisor points out that you really do have a bunch of strenghts, so you have another stab at it, it's easier and you spill out loads of awesome words on to the page. Then it gets hard again, you have to stay under the word count, the webform just won't accept the superfluous words. After you've been reminded how great you are, cutting out the words of awesome is difficult, but eventaully you succeed.