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QSF Handover Meal

QSF Handover Meal was held at Mambo Jambo Norwich as a thanks to the leaving committee for all their hard work and welcoming the new committee members.
The highlights included Nachos, Enchiladas and flowing conversation.

QSF Handover Meal was held at Mambo Jambo Norwich as a thanks to the leaving committee for all their hard work and welcoming the new committee members.
The highlights included Nachos, Enchiladas and flowing conversation.

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Minutes from QSF Monthly Meetings

ISF meeting minutes 14/12/16

Present: Samuel Ellis (SE), Andrew Bell (AB), Chris Pyatt (CP), Aleena Mushtaq (AM)

Apologies: Oliver Charity (OC), Tom Wight (TW)

Handover update

a. Chair: No budget files, OC should have information from Sophie Prosolek, these files will be obtained by SE before the next meeting
b. Vice-chair: absent. AB reported TW has had problems with the ISF E-mail, which has been reported to computing
c. Secretary: nothing to report
d. Events Officer: nothing to report
e. Training Officer: absent
f. Engagement Officer: no meeting with previous engagement officer yet but this will be done soon

Budget and treasurer

a. Update on current budget plan: see above; OC should have budgets but is not present. SE: the available funds (£3,000?) have been budgeted for this committee cycle to October/November ’17 by the previous committee. CP noted that the cost of the last knowledge exchange trip was £4,000 alone but a contribution to this was made from the Roger Fenwick fund and from Paul Kroon’s budget. The budget will be re-planned at the January meeting when all information is available
b. Student Seminars: can cost upwards of £150 for catering and costs could total £1,800 for the year. It was agreed that this is a significant proportion of the budget and savings could be made (if needed) by changing to coffee and cake instead of lunch or looking at other catering options. Potential changes to the seminar structure will be discussed with the training officer at the next meeting
c. Assign treasurer: Decision to be made as to whether we have an assigned treasurer, or jointly manage the budget. AB volunteered if we choose to assign a treasurer. To be discussed with the budget planning in January

ISF computing access and use of ISF notice boards

a. Computing access: AM has been away so has not had chance to set up access to the ISF e-mail account or shared folder yet, SE to send appropriate links and information. TW E-mail connectivity problems reported to computing
b. Noticeboard: We have a noticeboard! It is underused. Meeting minutes will normally be printed and placed on the board and there is a poster of the committee. Suggestions and ideas about what to use the noticeboard for are welcomed.

Relevant information from GSE meeting attended by SE

a. Supervisor prize: other NBI student committees are considering introducing a ‘best’ supervisor prize to be awarded at their ASM, IFR is not directly involved but we could introduce something similar at the student showcase.
i. CP; relating to the JIC ASM: IFR students can submit posters to the JIC ASM, however typically only 1 or 2 are submitted. AB suggested that 1st and 2nd year students will have to prepare posters for the student showcase and should be encouraged to take them to the ASM.
b. Probation: GSO are happy with pass/fail rate being similar to that of systems at UEA, they are however aware of issues raised by students from the last round of probation reviews. Improved mandatory training and intranet guidance for assessors and students will give more clear information on what is required as well as encourage an attitude of constructive feedback rather than a pass/fail attitude which can be unnerving for students.
c. Other:
i. Student committees will be informed directly of new starters by GSO to allow events to be organised in advance (particularly relevant for students who do not start in October)
ii. GSO will encourage greater consideration for student welfare if supervisors wish to leave the institute
iii. Buddy systems will now be organised by GSO and will be set up prior to new student arrivals to help with information on moving to the area etc.
iv. David Evans has been appointed as the new DTP director and will start in May. David received high praise from students involved in the appointment process
v. Non-UK (and non-EU after Brexit) external assessors for vivas will now need to get work permits to be able to assess vivas of UEA students
vi. Scrapping of PPD points is being considered at UEA as the system does not work well across all schools (particularly humanities). However, it works well for science and PPD or a similar system is likely to be kept at NBI

Any concerns or comments about information coming from the GSE can be reported to the ISF

January

a. DTP interviews: to take place at the beginning of January with 12 DTP and 1 iCASE project available at IFR. Tours are usual provided by current students but no request has been made to the ISF at the moment. Students have been asked by Kelly Gibbons to give a short presentations to students and to go to talk to applicants waiting for interviews
b. New starters: No new IFR students in January, possibly 1 in March
c. Meetings requiring ISF attendance: SE has a list and will delegate accordingly
d. Handover meal: will be planned in January

Regular meeting date/time

a. It was agreed that meetings should take place monthly at lunchtime. AB will organise regular meetings beginning in January

New name for Quadram move

a. The ISF will be re-branded to coincide with the IFR formally changing to the Quadram Institute. The new name and logo will likely need to follow guidelines, SE will get conformation of what these guidelines are before the next meeting. These will be discussed by the committee in January and most likely we will ask for student suggestions followed by a vote with a prize for the winner!

AOB

a. Action points: SE requested that agreed actions points be confirmed at meetings and reviewed at the beginning of the following meeting. These will be summarised in an E-mail by AB and sent to the committee, they will also be included in the minutes
b. Website: Like the Noticeboard the ISF website is underused. The committee feel that the rebranding would be a good time to redesign the website and suggestions for how it should be used are welcomed. Current suggestions include: blogs from students (does not have to be science related) and uploading meeting agendas and minutes. To encourage greater usage, the website can be linked in E-mail signatures of ISF members once it has been updated.

Agreed actions points

Sam
– get budget files and information from Oli
– Confirm requirements for new ISF name and logo with Andy Chapple so we can start designs in the new year

Aleena
– Obtain login details for relevant ISF webpages (Facebook, twitter etc…)

Andy
– Set up regular meeting date from January

All
– Check ISF E-mail and shared folder access, report any problems to Sam/computing.

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ISF meeting minutes 10/01/17

Present: Samuel Ellis (SE), Andrew Bell (AB), Aleena Mushtaq (AM), Oliver Charity (OC), Tom Wight (TW)

Apologies: Chris Pyatt (CP),

Updates on agreed action points

Sam
– Get budget files and information from Oli. AB and SE spoke to Paul Kroon (budget holder) and got necessary information (see budget section below)
– Confirm requirements for new ISF name and logo with Andy Chapple so we can start designs in the New Year. Guidelines should now be available, SE to follow up with Andy Chapple
Aleena
– Obtain login details for relevant ISF webpages (Facebook, twitter etc…) Website and twitter updated with the new ISF members, login details to be circulated to ISF members
Andy
– Set up regular meeting date from January. Regular meeting date of the first Tuesday of each month agreed
All
– Check ISF E-mail and shared folder access, report any problems to Sam/computing. No further issues

Budget and treasurer

a. Update on current budget plan: Following AB/SE’s meeting with Paul Kroon it was established that a budget of £6,000 is available running from April-April each year. £4,000 of the budget remains for this year, however, the trip to Ireland has not yet been taken out. Once this happens there should still be enough remaining in the budget to continue with the current spending plan until April as only student seminars need to be paid for from the budget. Once the new budget becomes available we will plan the spending and AB will become the treasurer.
 Student Seminars: Student seminars can be continued in current format until April. In April, when the new budget is discussed, the format of student seminars will be discussed. Previously the seminars were funded by IFR and not the ISF, at a cost of up to £1,800 a year, the current format may not fit into the budget. Cheaper alternatives include coffee and cake seminars instead of lunch or finding alternative catering arrangements

Careers training for postgraduates

OC will attend a meeting to discuss the current training available for postgraduates. The main issue to be raised from the IFS is raising awareness of all courses available to IFR/NRP students, particularly courses run at UEA. One option is to reinstate ISF training bulletins which would be sent to students on a monthly basis to highlight useful and relevant training opportunities. Outcomes from the meeting will be reported and discussed at the next ISF meeting

New name and logo for Quadram move

Guidelines for the design of a new name and logo for the ISF should now be available from Andy Chapple. The new name will be agreed by ISF members within a week, and once cleared by comms the new name will be revealed along with a competition to design a new logo. The competition prize will be a £20 amazon voucher and deadline for entries will be before the February meeting. At the meeting the winning entry will be selected (with input from Andy Chapple).
With the new name and branding in place we can begin work on re-designing the website (see AOB)

AOB

a. Website: The website is currently underused and in need of a makeover, it is also difficult to access. The communications team are happy to help with re-designing the website and making it more easily accessible from the main IFR/quadram page. Ideas for the website currently include: Blogs about publications/projects/public engagement, addition of anonymous feedback facility
b. Wednesday Seminars: Some of the institute seminars may be moved to Wednesday afternoon, OC will confirm this, if this occurs there is currently no time set aside for students meeting with speaker. Afternoon Tea could be an option
c. Attendance at student events: Attendance at student lunches has been decreasing. Usually very few students attend unless the seminar is directly related to a group who actively encourage their students to attend. We could encourage and record attendance, and where it’s clear people aren’t making an effort to engage we can pass the information on to supervisors or GSO
d. Handover meal: Handover meal to be organised in the next week by AM

Agreed actions points

Oli
 Find out more information about Wednesday afternoon seminar slots (frequency and whether a student lunch / afternoon tea can be organised for them)
Sam
 Branding guidelines for name and logo
All
 Suggest new names for the ISF moving to quadram
 Set up competition for the design of the new logo

Aleena / Tom
 Doodle poll, organisation and booking of the handover meal
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ISF meeting minutes 14/02/17

Present: Samuel Ellis (SE), Andrew Bell (AB), Aleena Mushtaq (AM), Oliver Charity (OC), Tom Wight (TW)

Apologies: Chris Pyatt (CP),

Updates on agreed action points

Oli
 Find out more information about Wednesday afternoon seminar slots (frequency and whether a student lunch / afternoon tea can be organised for them) Most Seminars will remain on Thursdays
Sam
 Branding guidelines for name and logo Sam has them now
All
 Suggest new names for the ISF moving to quadram QSF chosen
 Set up competition for the design of the new logo competition was set up

Aleena / Tom
 Doodle poll, organisation and booking of the handover meal done

Chair

a. Logo completion judging: 2 entries have been submitted so far we can push for more entries before meeting next week to judge the competition. Sam will find out ~Andy Chapple’s availability and arrange a meeting. Sam will also discuss getting the prize money signed off from the budget by Paul Kroon
b. PGSU NBI rep: This position was previously held by Sophie due to her previous links and experiences with UEA. She is happy to continue or to be partly involved in the role if we think this role should stay within an NBI student committee. Tom and Aleena volunteered to take over the role and Tom will contact Sophie to discuss how the work will be divided
c. GSE suggestions: Sam to make GSE aware of the upcoming Student Showcase event at IFR to encourage students from across NBI to attend.

AOB

a. Training bulletin: To be reinstated to keep students aware of upcoming training events, particularly those at UEA which can easily be missed. Awareness of any events should be communicated to Oli so they can be placed in the next bulletin.
b. Blog / website: Sam is speaking to Andy Chapple about the website redesign at which time blogs can be restarted and actively promoted.

Agreed action points

Sam
 Talk to Paul to sort logo comp prize
All
 Judging of logo competition
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ISF meeting minutes 14/03/17

Present: Samuel Ellis (SE), Andrew Bell (AB), Aleena Mushtaq (AM), Oliver Charity (OC), Tom Wight (TW)

Apologies: Chris Pyatt (CP),

Updates on agreed action points

Sam
 Talk to Paul to sort logo comp prize done
All
 Judging logo competition done and professional logo paid for

Chair

a. GSE feedback: GSO to be more involved with student mentors, there is a preference for instates to match new students with current (preferably first year) students. It is hoped that these can be set up much earlier moving forward so that mentors can help with issues prior to arrival such as housing and life in Norwich. The ISF comitee agreed with this, Sam to feedback to next GSO meeting.
Thesis writing: papers cannot be used as a chapter. If it is a first author paper it can be included if re-written or as an appendix.
GSO are working on new guidelines for self plagiarism
Probation training: feedback has been good, however, in future it will be brought forward to before the first interim meeting.
So far IFR have 9 confirmed new PhD starters for October.
b. All student meeting: This is an NBI wide student meeting taking place quarterly. IFR is due to host the next meeting at the beginning of April. Everyone on the committee should aim to attend and think of discussion points.

Knowledge exchange trip

Planning for the annual trip should begin shortly, an E-mail will be sent to ask for people to volunteer to form an organising committee

Website

The committee agree that the move to the QI is an ideal time to re-purpose and re-design the ISF website. Andy Walker is responsible and keen to begin interactions. Everything should be re-branded to QSF. Hopefully the ISF website can be made more accessible from the main institute web pages.

AOB

There is poor attendance at student lunches for seminar speakers. Oli wil send an information E-mail to encourage greater attendance.
Now that student seminars come out of our budget it was agreed that it is too expensive to continue the current full lunch seminars. An afternoon coffee/tea/cake style will be trialled. All due to the increasing size of each year it may be worth starting to do 2 speakers per session, the current year is filled so this will be implemented from next year.

Agreed action points

 Organise all student meeting
 Knowledge exchange sub-committee
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QSF meeting minutes 11/04/17

Present: Samuel Ellis (SE), Andrew Bell (AB), Chris Pyatt (CP), Oliver Charity (OC), Tom Wight (TW)

Apologies: Aleena Mushtaq (AM)

Updates on agreed action points

 Organise all student meeting
 Knowledge exchange sub-committee

Chair

a. GSE agenda item: Think of items that need to be taken to GSE forward suggestion to Sam
b. Agenda items for all-student meeting: Forward any suggestions to Sam, the other student committees have also been asked.
c. Terms of reference: Has been updated, committee members to check and approve.

Knowledge exchange trip

Raymond and Jess have volunteered along with Chris (as events officer). A meeting with Britt who organised lasts year’s event will be made to go over the requirements. Initially we need to decide where to go and how many people we can afford to take.

Easter Social

The event was well received. The total cost of the event was £380 with £300 funded by UEA. The remaining £80 will be split between the student committees. The IFR share will be ~ £25.

Student seminar format

The lunch for the next seminar has been ordered already so the following seminar (AB) will be the first trial of Tea/Coffee/Cake style seminar. To evaluate numbers etc… This change would dramatically cut costs which can be put towards other events eg. Away day, Knowledge exchange trip.

AOB

Tom is leaving IFR. And will therefore need to be replaced on the committee. Sam to send E-mail for nominations.
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ISF meeting minutes 09/05/17

Present: Samuel Ellis (SE), Andrew Bell (AB), Chris Pyatt (CP), Oliver Charity (OC), Jessica Garnett (JG)
Aleena Mushtaq (AM)

Updates on agreed action points

 E-mail for QSF vacancy E-mail was sent, JG applied (see below)
 Knowledge exchange sub-committee meeting meeting was held with 2 of 3 organisers (see below)
 Easter social payments Tom was reimbursed

Chair

a. GSE meeting: Student mentors are to be assigned by QSF committee, SE waiting for a list of students. Students will be paired with the newest students.
A summer graduation event will be held at NBI following the UEA graduation of PhD students
GSE are still welcoming probation feedback to implement next year
JIC have held a wellbeing event for JIC students only (due to funding). This has gone down well and a formalised institute wide event is being planned.
b. Minutes reporting: Minutes are not currently circulated amongst all students, options include E-mailing all students or placing the minutes on the website once fully set up.

QSF website and Social media

– Most references to ISF have been updated to QSF, if any are found please report SE.
– Still difficult to find, AM to E-mail Andy Chapple to improve this
– Social media accounts have also been updated

Knowledge exchange trip

Meeting was held between CP and Raymond (RK). JG was absent. Options of destinations were discussed including Rohit institute in Aberdeen, Berlin and Munich. A meeting with all three committee members will be arranged by CP to agree upon a destination and being planning.

Committee Vacancy

JG will take over as social secretary with CP becoming Vice-chair. SE to get JG access to QSF E-mail accounts etc…
AM will make a new committee slide

AOB

Coffee and cake will be trialled for the next student seminar.
———————————————————————————————————
QSF meeting minutes – 13th June 2017
Attending: SE, CP, OC, AM
Apologies: JG, AB

1. Previous Actions
– KET Sub-meetings – CP reports meeting was held in last month with JG, CP and Raymond Kiu attending, details to be discussed in section 3
– Update social media to QSF – AM reports all social media updated to QSF, and link to student forum websites made more prominent on QI website
– Provide JG with student forum access – completed as far as attendees are aware

2. Update from Chair
– Buddy System – SE reports still no word from GSE regarding when we will be given details of new starters to match up with buddies. Will be checked at next GSE meeting

3. Events
– KET update – CP reports good progress in initial enquiries for KET, with contact being made with University of Potsdam, via Dr Michael Blaut (German Institute of Human Nutrition). Also, will attempt to engage with any student representation / committees there. Working plan is for trip around 11th September, approximately 10 students. Additional sites around Berlin considered, with Aberdeen also a backup option
– Additional Events – SE suggested thinking about ideas for summer BBQ and away day prior to next meeting

4. Training
– Microbiology Society – SE raised idea of collaborating with Microbiology Society to hold careers or training event. OC approved of possibility, both will consider ideas
– Fellowship training – SE and CP discussed whether more fellowship training could be suggested for NBI training and development. SE to raise at GSE meeting, OC also to look into options

5. Engagement
– Blogs – SE suggested a new push for student blogs now that student forum website is updated to QSF. AM to promote opportunity to students

6. AOB
– Quadram Working Environment Group – OC raised that QWEG were looking for student representatives. All agreed that a QSF member in the group would be useful, AM volunteered for position

Actions

• KET sub-committee to hold more meetings and continue work on KET organisation
• AM to promote blog submission and join QWEG
• SE and OC to look at opportunities for Microbiology Society event and fellowship training

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QSF meeting minutes 18/07/17

Present: Samuel Ellis (SE), Andrew Bell (AB), Chris Pyatt (CP), Jessica Garnett (JG), Aleena Mushtaq (AM)

Apologies: Oliver Charity (OC)

Updates on agreed action points

 JG QSF access done
 Knowledge exchange trip progress (see below)
 AM blog and QWEG next meeting

Chair

a. Minutes sharing: Minutes from QSF meeting will be uploaded to the website. Any errors should be reported to AB ASAP so a corrected version can be uploaded
GSE are still welcoming probation feedback to implement next year
JIC have held a wellbeing event for JIC students only (due to funding). This has gone down well and a formalised institute wide event is being planned.
b. GSE notes: Terms of reference sent to the new UEA student committee as a guideline of what we do.
The student buddy system for new PhD students has been delayed due to confidentiality concerns following the recent breach at UEA. GSO will either have to get consent from each new starter for information to be shared or partner buddies themselves without QSF input.
New plagiarism guidelines have been published by GSO, and sent to final year students. SE to send to all students for information.
There were no probation failures this year across NBI. Feedback has also been positive. AB reported that some QIB students have had problems when UEA staff were used as probation assessors due to slightly different system at UEA. SE to report back to GSO.
UEA student support drop in sessions are likely to happen in the near future.
BREXIT: students starting in 2016-2017 have guaranteed fees. Moving forward it is unclear whether students from EU countries will be required to pay ‘home fees’ or ‘foreign fees’.
Official leave recording for NBI students is likely to be brought in. This will probably use the e-vision system. GSO and QSF think that this will not only ensure students don’t take too much holiday, but may also make students realise that occasionally they do need to take time off.

Knowledge exchange trip

6 people have been confirmed as attending the trip to Berlin. With another 2 at least likely to confirm shortly.
JG to E-mail all students to say places are available.
Hannah Wooley will help JG with booking travel and accommodation.
Paul Kroon will help with any late drop outs.
The KET committee will meet this week to discuss inclusion of a second institute.

BBQ and away day ideas

QSF summer BBQ event will be advertised shortly for the 24th August by JG.
NBI summer party will be an under the sea theme. Traditionally not many QI students attend so the contribution QSF has made has been based on the number attendees. JG will find out a per person price at the next organiser meeting for the NBI party.

AOB

New committee photo will be uploaded to the website. AM to take official photos from QI website.

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Students descend on Dublin for the ISF Knowledge exchange 2016!

Here at the IFR, the student forum realizes that internationalism is an important part of each students’ personal and professional development. For this reason the ISF funds a yearly student knowledge exchange during which students are given the opportunity to present their work at an international location; this year, that location was Dublin, Ireland.

IFR students visited University College Dublin as part of the Student Knowledge Exchange

IFR students visited University College Dublin as part of the Student Knowledge Exchange. 

The exchange ran over the course of two full days and was split between three of Ireland’s most renowned academic establishments; Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and the pub.

On the first day, students were welcomed by Professor of Translational Immunology, Padraic Fallon of Trinity College.  Professor Fallon introduced the students to all the members of his team, including the parasitic helminth larvae which are the focus of much of his work – it’s safe to say no-one got too close!

On the second day, the students visited University College Dublin where they met with Professor of nutrigenomics Helen Roche, Professor of food safety Seamus Fanning, Professor of food science Niamh Harbourne and Professor or metabolomics, Lorraine Brennan. All groups were extremely welcoming, with presentations delivered from their respective PhD students and post-docs over coffee and a catered lunch. “It went really well; it was like a small conference” reports ISF Events Officer and knowledge exchange attendee Britt Blokker, who was principle organiser of the trip.

As well as learning about the research interests of the host groups, each IFR student gave an oral presentation at one of the two locations depending on their field of research. “Everyone gave really good talks and I think some nice collaboration will come out of the trip” says ISF Chair and trip attendee Sophie Prosolek “some students have already been invited back to Ireland with their research group to set the wheels in motion!”

Temple bar, located in Dublin's cultural quarter is a hotspot for tourist attractions

Temple bar, located in Dublin’s cultural quarter is a hotspot for tourist attractions

After a long and tiring day of presentations, the students experienced part of the Irish culture first-hand by participating in a ‘Musical Pub Tour’. Over a pint (or two) of Guinness, the students learned about Irish culture from folk artists who taught their audience about the country’s history through traditional Irish music and dance.

The knowledge exchange drew to its conclusion and the students returned to Norwich feeling exhausted, but with a non-the –less invigorated enthusiasm for their research and a strengthened sense of student community. The ISF hope that a similar knowledge exchange will be run in 2017.

 

The academic profiles of all groups the knowledge exchange visited can be found by following the links below:

https://www.tcd.ie/research/profiles/?profile=pfallon

http://www.ucd.ie/infectbio/infectionbiologyresearchers/profseamusfanning/

http://www.ucd.ie/conway/research/researchers/conwayfellowsa-z/professorhelenroche/home/

http://www.ucd.ie/research/people/agriculturefoodscience/drniamhharbourne/

http://www.ucd.ie/conway/research/researchers/conwayfellowsa-z/drlorrainebrennan/

 

 

Written by Sophie Prosolek, 2nd year PhD student studying in the Mithen group

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ISF Summer BBQ Cooks Up a Storm!

Sunshine and sausages were enjoyed by all as the Great British weather finally pulled through for the ISF summer BBQ!

The event got off to a soggy start a heavy rain forced the ISF to postpone in the hope of fairer weather. Hedging their bets against a forecast thunderstorm, the organizers’ risky wager paid off as over 20 IFR staff and students congregated under the shade of a marquee (kindly lent by Dan Lock) by the BBQ overlooking the UEA lake.

Bruce Pearson taught the grateful organisers a thing or two about hosting good BBQ!

Bruce Pearson taught the grateful organisers a thing or two about hosting good BBQ!

Preparing the food was a joint effort with everyone helping out where they could; this meant that everyone had a chance to show off their BBQ skills and everyone had a chance to socialize.

“There was a good mix of staff and students” reports principle organizer and ISF events officer, Britt Blokker “at events like this you get to meet new people that you wouldn’t otherwise get to talk to”.

PhD students mingled with post-docs, and some brought their family to join in the fun too. It was Dr Beraza’s son who first embarked upon a daring experiment, investigating that age old research question that many of us here at the IFR have been dying to answer: how much do the ducks of the UEA lake like turkey sausages? (Beraza et al, manuscript in progress). I asked the Beraza group about their recent dietary intervention study, however due to ongoing matters of intellectual property and the potential commercialization of novel food products, their findings can’t be discussed no further.

As the sun set over the Ziggurats, the event drew to a close

As the sun set over the Ziggurats, the event drew to a close

 

As the sun set over the Ziggurats, the event drew to a close. “It was a great success” Says ISF Chair Sophie Prosolek “We have to thank the UEA PGSU for providing us with funding for the food, but it’s the hard work of the organisers and everyone who joined in who really made the event”.

The ISF hopes that next year’s committee will build upon their success and host the event again in 2017; safe in the knowledge that good research is fueled by good friends and good food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Sophie Prosolek, 1st year PhD student studying in the Mithen group

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I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!

UntitledWhen I first heard about I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here! I thought it just sounded like a fun and easy way of engaging in some student outreach whilst never having to leave my desk.. But it turned out to be both challenging and rewarding in equal measure!

For those of you who haven’t come across IAS!, it is a 2 week competition partly modelled on TV talent shows and mainly supported by the Wellcome Trust. It is split up into zones of 5 scientists working on a broadly similar theme, who then fight it out answering questions submitted on the website and taking part in live chat sessions with whole classrooms of school children. In the second week a scientist is voted off by the students every day until a champion is decided, who is then rewarded with £500 to spend on further outreach work.

As a lowly first year PhD student I wasn’t sure I’d even be selected, but sure enough I soon found myself assigned to the ‘Sustaining Health’ zone, alongside opponents including an experienced professor and a post-doc at JIC (set up perfectly for a local rivalry!). The first task was setting up a social media style profile page for the students to read about my research. As anyone who has attempted science outreach with children can confirm, it is surprisingly hard to describe your work without using technical language or presumed knowledge.. In the end I just made sure to include lots of interesting pictures of microscopy and impressive equipment (and even some fancy dress from the Christmas party!).

As the event started the first few questions started to be posted online, which soon became a steady stream each day. Fortunately most were either easy to answer or interesting to research, although as many of them were asked to the whole zone there was an added incentive to reply first and earn extra brownie points with the students. The real fun started with the live chats however.

These had been booked by the teachers in advance, and although I could not do all of them due to lab commitments I still took part in one or two every day over the fortnight. The 30 minute chats were fast and frantic (especially on a few occasions when I was the only scientist available!), and varied massively depending on how much the teacher and moderators paced the session. Often I found myself typing away faster than I have since my days as a teenager on MSN messenger! I was surprised by how much I could actually answer easily, although I’ll admit that google was my friend when it came to looking up half-remembered facts and figures.

The questions were often thought-provoking, or simply hilarious, but a few topics cropped up again and again. Due to my research area I was often asked what the deadliest bacteria is (I usually went with TB); but the kids also seemed extremely interested in areas such as space and possible missions to Mars, when the world might end (a little macabre), the future of cloning, and the existence of alien life. They were also very curious about our scientific background, such as what subjects we enjoyed at school and when we decided to become scientists. Of course not all the questions were so cerebral, with some of my favourite random queries including:

  • What are the disadvantages of the world being flat?
  • Where would you put the carrot in terms of importance for sustaining the growing population?
  • Do you like cows?
  • Is your profile picture actually your real face?
  • What does Lizard DNA look like?
  • What’s your favourite cheese?

And that is only a selection of the best I can remember!

When I started the competition I was primarily hoping that I simply wouldn’t be the first scientist evicted. So it was a pleasant surprise to survive to the final day, up against a PhD student studying UV-light purification of drinking water. He had developed an ingenious strategy of pre-preparing interesting science facts to produce in any lulls in questions during the live chats (which I of course immediately bemoaned as cheating to the rest of my office but secretly wished I’d come up with first), which seemed to impress the students immensely. So it came as quite a shock to find out at the end of the final day that I had been voted the winner of the zone!

It is quite gratifying to find that my science communication skills seemingly appealed to the students, but to be honest the fun was really in the taking part (pardon the cliché). I plan to donate the prize money to some science education charities working in developing countries, as I am sure they will find better uses for it than any scheme I concoct myself.

As Duncan Gaskin was victorious in a Food Science zone a few years ago, IFR now has a strong track record in IAS!. I highly recommend anyone who is considering options for interesting communications work to consider giving the competition a shot. It was hectic and challenging but the most fun outreach I have done by far, and I immediately missed it when I returned to my normal work schedule!

The next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here event will run from the 15th to 26th June 2015, and applications to take part are already open, with a deadline on the 3rd May. The zones have not been announced yet, but there will almost certainly be at least one relevant to IFR science plus a number of general science zones. Visit http://imascientist.org.uk/ to find out more!

By Samuel Ellis, a 1st year PhD student in Stephanie Schuller’s lab.

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ISF away day 2014

In October 2014, the ISF celebrated a successful first year as a committee, and welcomed our newest PhD students by donning the Segway helmets for the first ever IFR student team-building day.

away day 1Our first, and unanticipated, team-building exercise was to find our way to ‘The High Lodge’ in Thetford forest, something which our carload were not so successful at, even with a map and the initiative of 4 PhD students. Despite this and the buckets of rain that fell on our journey, our spirits were high as we excitably piled out of the car and headed for base camp. On arrival, we were greeted with a lovely spread of tea, coffee and pastries, which slipped down very well and prepared us for an action packed day.

The fun began with the initial (actual) team-building exercise: ‘Would I lie to you’. The aim was to conceal one extravagant, but true fact about yourself with some even more outrageous lies- definitely a useful skill in the world of science! I was quite chuffed with myself when my co-team believed my lie that I once went to clown school!

Following the initial ‘get to know you’ session was the main event. We strapped ourselves into the helmets, picked up the Segway’s and tentatively stepped up- this could go one of two ways. Luckily, after the first few baby steps, we were zooming around the practice area. Looking very fetching in our safety gear we headed out into the forest, surrounded by beautiful scenery. Although the route included some hairy off-roading, we managed not to break anyone this time around, and only had one (minor) crash, quite a triumph!

away day 2After a bite to eat and some much needed warming up, we headed back to base camp where the remainder of the day was filled with some more team-building exercises. Our initiative was really tested when we were asked to build a basket sturdy enough to catch a golf ball using only a few straws and some tape!

 

The day was rounded off with an awards ceremony and presentation of our (unofficial) Segway licenses. Mine still stands proud on my desk to this day. After all the excitement, it was time for some sleepy students to return back to actual work…but on a serious note, the day was a great success and enjoyed by all. I think all would agree that it helped to tighten the bond of the student community at IFR.

By Elizabeth Thursby, a 3rd year PhD student in Nathalie Juge’s lab.

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Application open for 22 new PhD studentships at the IFR!

Applications are now open for 4 year PhD studentships at the Institute of Food Research to start in October 2015.
 

The PhD studentships, funded through the Norwich Research Park Doctoral Training Partnership, form an integral part of our research that addresses the fundamental relationships between food and health, food and the gut and the sustainability of the food chain in order to further the production of safe, healthy foods.

Projects being offered cover the whole range of IFR’s current research, from delivering a better understanding of gut bacteria through finding ways of tackling obesity. There are opportunities that involve tackling foodborne pathogens, making food and diets healthier, improving sustainability in the food chain and understanding what makes a healthy gut.

The full list of all advertised studentships and additional information on each can found here.

Doing a PhD at the IFR is an amazing opportunity and here are just some reasons for it:

  • You will join one of our small, dedicated research teams that are managed by supervisors with international reputations in their fields
  • You will be part of the enthusiastic, self-supporting student community at IFR
  • You will become part of a community of over 2,500 scientists working on the Norwich Research Park, a leading centre for research in food, health and the environment.
  • You will benefit from high standards of supervisory practice and mentoring for graduate students, which include IFR’s close links and proximity to the University of East Anglia (UEA)
  • You can enjoy full access to joint courses at UEA designed to develop generic professional skills
  • You will be working and studying in a great environment. The Norwich Research Park boasts 230 hectares of open parkland on the outskirts of the city of Norwich. Norwich itself is a vibrant city, with a superb quality of life, great entertainment, a unique mix of ancient and modern architecture, a top 10 UK shopping centre and good links to London and internationally, via the Norwich International Airport.
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The first ISF annual BBQ

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Barney Shaw and Dan Lock discussing meat in the shadows of the UEA Ziggurat buildings

With the recent weather being unlike that majority of the British summer and the tan lines appearing from lunchtimes sat in the sunshine the IFR Student Forum decided it was time for a BBQ, hopefully starting the tradition of an annual summer celebration! So, with a spot at next to the UEA broad booked, a large ice box ready to cool whichever tipple took your fancy, and a tentative look skyward to check the dark clouds weren’t rolling in (luckily as you can see from the photos it was a beautiful evening!) we headed off in the direction of the university. By 6pm a great mix of IFR staff, post-docs and students both new and current were enjoying the sunshine and prodding the flames of the freshly lit BBQ.

 

After having our fill of the delights from the grill the games were begun. The rounders (or ‘pretty much baseball’ as the Canadians among us noted) match was going very successfully until Bruce took a tumble, the result of which was a pretty spectacular break of his collar bone and some scary looking x-rays. Fortunately he’s now on the mend and is already scheduling the re-match.

The lessons learned from the day? A BBQ with the IFR staff and students is great fun, and a brilliant way to relax after a hard week of PhDing…..but perhaps we’ll leave the rounders bat at home next time!

 

 

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