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It’s been a long time since I wrote any actual content. Mostly I’ve been waiting as patiently as I can for news of a start date and funding. In good news, both of those things might actually (touch wood) be approaching. I don’t have an official start date from the uni yet, but should have some money coming in soon, so at that stage I hope to start my bioassays.

Yes, it is very unusual to start your bioassays as soon as you start your research. The normal procedure is to spend some time getting background on the topic and writing a formal literature review. In my case, the timeline for my Master’s is very tight, so I need to charge on in there. Unlike most postgrads, though, I have more or less known my topic for nearly 8 months, so I’m more familiar with it than a lot of people would be just starting out.

My main task at the moment is to put together an experimental design. I’ll need to plan out what we will vary, and what we will measure, and how many times. I’m not sure if I should incorporate any Bayesian experimental design principles or not, because I’m worried that doing so correctly will take more time than I’m willing to give. I also keep forgetting that I’m supposed to be doing frequentist statistical analysis of these data at some stage too (to the point where when someone said that I should write down my null hypothesis I said “nulls? Where we’re going, we don’t need nulls!”). In any case, I’ve emailed one of my university’s resident Bayesian experts, and hopefully she can point me in the direction of some experimental design information that doesn’t require me to first spend two months learning extra maths to understand (the papers I’ve looked at so far go heavily into information theory, which I’ve never learnt).

My practical work will require many new skills. I’ve started helping the lab’s research assistant with some of the insect-rearing work, so that I don’t kill them before I mean to. I’m also reading At the Bench by Kathy Barker, which covers everything from lab etiquette to growth media for bacterial strains. It’s principally aimed at medical scientists, but there is a lot of information in it for any kind of lab. I’ve had my first introduction to my own personal spore applicator, and I’m confident that at some stage I will learn how not to spray myself in the eye.

So everything is ticking along. It feels like everything came together quite quickly in the end, and I’m not quite prepared. There are also a lot of personal things that will change when I start – the big one will be that I’m hoping to move closer to the uni, but house hunting and moving bring with them their own set of problems. I’m also going to have to cut down my hours at my beloved casual job, and that is really going to hurt.

Fingers crossed for the next few weeks!

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