Why I’m doing a PhD in cardiovascular disease…

What is a PhD?
A PhD (doctorate of philosophy) is a postgraduate doctoral degree, which is awarded to students who complete an original thesis offering a significant new contribution to the knowledge of their field. In the UK, a PhD project is typically 3-4 years full time and 5-7 years part-time. A PhD project is quite a commitment and it’s definitely not easy, but it’s also not as bad as people say, or at least it isn’t in my experience.

Why am I doing a PhD?
If you told me when I was younger that’d I’d be doing a PhD now I certainly wouldn’t have believed you! A 16-year-old me probably would have laughed and said something like “why would I want to stay in education that long” or “only really smart people do PhDs”. Which, while yes you do have to be academically able to embark on a PhD, I do believe that if you’re passionate and interested enough in your desired subject, anyone can do it if they put their mind to it (that’s just my opinion).

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty much interested in all things science with a leaning towards biology. I find humans and our cells pretty fascinating. During my time at school, I loved the sciences, I even took triple science for one of my GCSE chosen subjects. I never really knew what I wanted to do, I just loved science. I toyed with all sorts, marine biology, conservation, crime scene investigation and medical research. 

Medical research stuck.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

My grandad passed away when I was young from a major heart attack, he himself was only 57 at the time and was a pretty active person. This always stuck with me, particularly when I was learning more about biology and our cells in school. Why would our bodies fail when we seem healthy? Why do some people die from heart attacks and others don’t? I guess this fascination with our bodies and our cells lead me to take A-level biology, a degree in biochemistry and ultimately study for a PhD. Even when I got to university for my undergrad I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do exactly, I initially wanted to work for a pharmaceutical company to create drugs that would be used to treat cardiovascular disease, but then I wasn’t sure about working in industry. I guess this is the trouble when you’re not sure but are super interested in biochemistry in general. Luckily, in my degree we were encouraged to take a placement year, this was my opportunity to find out what I wanted to do. 

I applied to so many placements, all across the country in a variety of different fields. Out of all the applications (I had so many I lost count), I managed to get interviews for 3 of them and was accepted for drug discovery project placement at the University of Leeds in an academic research lab. The drug discovery project was related to thrombosis, the aim was to test compounds that could potentially treat thrombosis. This was my first real taste of medical and academic research, it was only during my placement year where I thought “yes I want to do a PhD” and “yes I can do a PhD”. I was really fortunate on my placement that I was able to get involved in other projects outside the main project, this gave me a real taste of academic research and I knew it was for me!
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

After my placement year, I came back to uni for my final year spurred on ready as ever and then BOOM, my Dad suffers a major heart attack. Uni was not the priority, my family was. Thankfully my Dad made a full recovery (over time) but it was a difficult time for everyone. I missed some of my January exams and had to take them with  my summer finals, it’s safe to say it was pretty stressful but my friends and family really helped me through. This being so close to home really made me want to pursue a PhD in cardiovascular disease even more. They always say that don’t research something to close to home in case you break yourself in the process trying to find a cure, but for me having it be so personal spurs me on. It gives me a reason and a driving force to keep going. PhDs are HARD, you have to be motivated, passionate and committed to your subject if you don’t have that you’re not going to get very far. I also think having the shock of my Dads heart attack has really given me perspective and made me a better PhD candidate, I love what I do but it will never take over, which I think is a healthy attitude towards a PhD.

Today I am now a second-year BHF funded PhD student working on a project about platelets and cardiovascular disease. I’m really proud of how far I’ve come and sticking to my guns in order to pursue a PhD in a field so close to my heart (pun intended). It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to something. My advice if you’re applying for PhDs, show that you’re passionate about your field and don’t give up!! 

I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know why you chose your PhD project, or if you’re applying for PhDs, what projects are you going for? What drives you and why do you want to do a PhD?

Thank you for reading.

Stay safe.

Beth x

Acing that journal club presentation

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If my Instagram post has led you here then you’re probably looking for advice on how to ace that journal club presentation. Everyone has a different way of working so what might work for me may not work for you but it’s great that you’ve found yourself here and want to learn, and hopefully this helps you in some way!

Journal clubs are quite common in academia. The main purpose is to review the current literature and present it to your peers. As a PhD student, this will be something you have to do and if you haven’t done one before it can be pretty daunting. I know when I first presented a journal, I felt like I didn’t know enough and I struggled to convey the work and make my own interpretations. That’s totally normal, it’s a learning process and in time, the more you do it you become better and more comfortable with it. Reviewing the literature is vital during PhD study, you need to be able to pick out the useful and relevant information and make your own interpretations of the work and that’s where journal clubs come in. 

The first step to journal club is finding a paper to present, I’m going to do an entire blog post about finding papers and find “the one” to present for your journal club, watch this space. So my workflow I’m showing you is on the basis that you’ve already found your paper or you’ve been assigned a paper to present (this is quite common in the early days of being part of a journal club).

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Here’s how I get ready for a journal club presentation (preparation is key):

  1. Print your paper. I really struggle to read from a computer screen, I feel like I can’t take anything in and I need to annotate!
  2. Read your chosen paper, making notes as you go along. Try to refrain from googling whilst you’re reading as it will take so much longer, it will distract you and every time you switch tasks it takes about 25 mins to get back into the original task. Keep note of what you’re unsure of and don’t understand – you can always go back and check later. Sometimes I find the further you read, that thing that you’re unsure of may get answered in the text. The notes I tend to make are:
    • Further information for my own understanding
    • What are the limitations?
    • What’s missing?
    • What would I do differently?
    • Key figure/info/methods that are relevant to me
  3. When reading, try to make your own interpretations of the data. To do this I tend to avoid reading the in-text results section and go straight to the figures to allow myself to make my own interpretations. This is hard, particularly if you’re new to this, but keep going!
  4. After the first read, research anything you’re unsure of. For me, it’s usually any methods or data formatting that I’m not familiar with. I’ll spend some time trying to understand areas that I’m unfamiliar with and make notes (common theme here).
  5. Read AGAIN with a better understanding. Add more notes as you go along, if necessary (you’ll find something new the more you read it).
  6. After this second read, consolidate your notes. I type up my notes onto OneNote – I use this for any paper summaries, journal club reviews and a listing papers to read (never-ending).
  7. Read it AGAIN! You’re probably thinking this is quite excessive but this works for me. Sadly I’m not one of these people that can read something once and retain the information (#cry).
  8. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the paper. You want to be sure that your notes, what you want to say to guide everyone through the paper are clear and that you have a clear understanding of the paper. This is almost like practising for a presentation, practice does make perfect.

In the research group I’m in, we don’t tend to make PowerPoint presentation as such, everyone brings their own copy of the paper, having read it and we go through the paper giving the background info, discussion about the methods then going through figure by figure but every group will do this differently. The same principles apply.

If you need to do a PowerPoint presentation, here’s how I’d approach it:

  • I’d typically start this as I go along, most likely after the first read.
  • Start by summarising the background info, why this paper is relevant, where it fits in the current literature and how it is relevant to your project.
  • Next summarise the methods, giving more detail to the methods that are relevant to you and your group.
  • Then make sure you have a slide for each figure. You can break this down however you like it really is personal preference. For me, I like to go through it figure by figure, I wouldn’t have a slide per graph/data per se.
  • In the presentation, after each figure, I will summarise what the data has told me and then introduce the next figure (I try to link the two figures because the authors are trying to tell a story so it’s important to identify the links).

I’m going to do a blog post on acing presentations in general, whether that’s departmental seminars, conferences or just presenting your work to your peers.

In the meantime, here are some tips for presenting your journal in your journal club:

  • Speak clearly and try not to speak too quickly (this is hard if you’re nervous but just take it slow and remember to breathe)
  • If you’re unsure of something – don’t blag it just say, it’s always better to be honest. You’re learning and this is all part of the experience 
  • Depending on the format, if your journal club is anything like mine it might be interactive where your peers ask questions and comment as we go through the paper. This can throw you off course a little bit but don’t worry, the paper or your presentation will prompt you to get back on track. I used to hate this in the early days but I kinda like it now and if you think about it, the point of the journal club is to discuss the paper.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found it somewhat useful. Everyone learns and does things differently, so if this method doesn’t work for you, then no sweat. Keep going until you find one that works for you. I didn’t come up with this overnight, it took me some time to figure out what’s best for me when it comes to journal club presentations. If you’re presenting a journal club soon, then I wish you the best of luck and don’t forget, try to enjoy it!

Thank you for reading.

Stay safe,

Beth x

Tinnitus Tuesdays: Lockdown

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

I don’t know about you but my tinnitus has been much worse since lockdown, and it’s likely a result of the anxiety that has come with lockdown and a global pandemic. While I don’t think lockdown should be lifted just yet here in the UK, I am getting sick of it. I have to remind myself, that’s ok, I’m allowed to feel like this. 

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

I’m one of those people that always think it could always be much worse and I should be grateful for what I have. While I am grateful that I do have a great support system, a roof over my head and that my loved ones are all ok, I am allowed to feel rubbish during lockdown, especially with a condition like tinnitus. Whatever you’re feeling during this time (tinnitus-related or not), it’s all relevant to you – don’t feel guilty about your feelings.

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for me, I’ve definitely experienced A LOT of bad days. And having bad days has meant my tinnitus has been worse, resulting in even more bad days. It’s a vicious cycle! When I say my tinnitus has been worse, I mean that it is my perception of my tinnitus that is worse. It is unlikely that the tinnitus itself has gotten worse, but even so, it’s still been pretty tough! I’m writing about it to address it, to really help me get out of this funk I’m currently in. 

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

I’ve also been experiencing really bad blocked ears, and when that happens I’m pretty much out of action until it’s cleared up (which can sometimes take up to a week). I think it’s likely due to hay fever, which on the one hand I think it’s great that nature is restoring itself but on the other hand I’m suffering really bad. I think living with something like tinnitus comes with the added anxiety of constantly thinking about “is something I do going to make it permanently worse?”. When I get blocked ears I really struggle to be positive and it puts me in a foul mood. I get concerned that it will turn into an ear infection or that it will just get worse. I have accepted my tinnitus which is something I’ve mentioned in a previous post but I do still get concerned about it getting worse. 

I know I’ve spoken about wanting to change the tinnitus narrative to a more positive one, which is the main reason I’m sharing my journey. I must say that I think hiding behind positivity isn’t always the best. I’d be the biggest hypocrite in the world to say that I don’t have bad days and that I’m not struggling at the moment. I want to highlight the highs and lows of living with tinnitus for us all to be able to move forward in a more positive way. We’re allowed to have bad days, particularly during the current situation! A global pandemic is obviously not going to be the most cheery and if you live with an underlying condition (whatever it may be) it’s going to be hard and it can be debilitating. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m sharing this all in the hope that it helps someone during this weird time. Remember you’re not alone!

If you really are struggling at the moment, here is a list of useful links to charities offering their support during the COVID-19 crisis:

British Tinnitus Association

Action on Hearing Loss

Mind

Samaritans

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. I wanted to be real with you about living with tinnitus, let me know how you’re doing during this time? Has your tinnitus gotten worse since lockdown? How are you managing your tinnitus during lockdown? 

Thank you for reading.

Stay safe,

Beth x

Sunday ramblings: digital detox

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

While I know this sounds hypocritical writing about a digital detox on a digital platform. Believe me, the irony isn’t lost on me, but I’m here to talk about why I’m having an Instagram detox during lockdown. 

On the lines of being hypocritical,  I do still have my @_bethology Instagram account up and running in which I am now only posting to promote this blog. I’m talking about mindlessly scrolling, cripplingly comparing myself to others, just uploading photos for the sake of it and shamelessly getting lost in the likes. We’ve all been there! This happens a lot on my personal Instagram account. Having two accounts probably isn’t helping my digital dilemma but I wanted to keep @_bethology separate from my personal account. I have no reason, it’s just something that I personally wanted to do. 

Anyway, since lockdown we’ve been spending more time on our phones and online. While I do believe the internet and social media can be positive there are some downsides, and I think it’s healthy to give yourself a break every now and then. 

Photo by Prateek Katyal from Pexels

Today I deleted Instagram off my phone. I’m only going to promote the blog on @_bethology through the browser facility on my Mac to avoid me endlessly scrolling, comparing and pretty much wasting time. 

Moving forward I’m only going to use the platform with purpose. “Doing it for the ‘gram” is something I think we can all leave in the past. Lockdown has put so many things into perspective and has really made us spend time with ourselves and our thoughts. 

I want to find what I like and what makes me, me. I think there’s a fine line with being inspired by someone and wanting to be them. Being inspired means putting your own stamp on something that you’ve seen whereas wanting to be someone else is really unhealthy. That kind of thing can lead us towards jealousy and low self-esteem, which is something I’ve been feeling as of late. 

I want to be in the now and not on the ‘gram. I have a great boyfriend, family and friends and I need to focus on that and not social media. Social media is not real, it’s just a version of ourselves that we present to the world. The people that love you and know you are real. 

I’m not breaking up with Instagram forever, we’re just going on a break. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Sunday ramblings about having a digital detox and the ‘gram. I think it’s important to have a healthy relationship with social media, we can get lost in it sometimes. Recognising when you need a break is really important, do not get consumed! 

How do you feel about Instagram? Do you compare yourself to others? Have you given yourself a digital detox? If you have, let me know how you found it.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe,

Beth

10 years of tinnitus, 10 things I’ve learnt

Here’s a video about 10 things I’ve learnt in 10 years of living with tinnitus. If you don’t fancy watching the video, here’s everything I talk about below:

  1. That it is annoying, yes, but it’s more annoying when people say to you “oh that must be annoying”. The “annoying’ factor is something that is hard to get over, and maybe you won’t get over it, that’s ok.
  2. Stop apologising for it. People talk and hear very differently, if someone mumbles or the environment is noisy that’s not your fault that you can’t hear them so cut yourself some slack. I know I used to say “sorry could you repeat that” or “I’m so sorry I didn’t catch that” while yes it’s polite but by apologising every time I was making myself the problem in every situation. 
  3. Wear earplugs when in noisy environments. Gigs, theatre shows and sometimes restaurants. This is good practice regardless of any hearing issues, protect what you have! The earplugs I have are the EarDial earplugs from amazon – I highly recommend.
  4. Don’t listen to music too loudly using headphones & limit how long for. I have AirPods and I have some Sony Over-Ear headphones. I tend to use a mixture of the two, I find when I’m at work at my desk and I’m listening to music for a long time during data analysis I’ll opt for the over-ear headphones but for commuting, exercise and train journeys I’ll use my AirPods. 
  5. Know your triggers that aggravate it. For me, it’s anxiety, stress, loud noises, alcohol and coffee (I say coffee as I don’t think it’s the caffeine, I’m a big tea drinker and that doesn’t appear to affect me as much).  
  6. Be kinder to yourself. This is important, it’s not your fault. Don’t get me wrong it can be very hard at times and sometimes you can get into some really low moods but that’s ok. Even if you’re handling it really well, you’re allowed off days but just try to be kinder to yourself. 
  7. Not every streaming service has appropriate subtitles. This infuriates me! Some can be delayed or miss out half the sentence, it can be super frustrating and a lot of companies don’t seem to do anything about it. I have to say that Netflix is the best I’ve experienced but that’s likely due to the fact they’ve been around the longest. I’d be interested to know if there are any companies you think can do better in terms of their accessibility features.
  8. Restaurants are much noisier than they need to be. I’m all for ambience and background music but we really don’t need to be shouting at each other when trying to enjoy a meal. This is a big problem for a lot of companies, I know that Action on Hearing launched the Speak Easy campaign in 2016 to call out restaurants and bars for their noisy environments.
  9. Tell people sooner rather than later and try not to feel weird telling them. Also, so tell people when they’re being weird about it, I’ve had doctors/nurses in the past really over-exaggerate the way they talk to me because they’ve misinterpreted me saying I’m partially deaf. Just tell them, you have the right to own it and make sure that they are on the same page as you. 
  10. Acceptance. This is one of the hardest things to do but it’s really important. You’re going to have good days and bad days but fighting it will likely result in more bad days than good. This isn’t a cure and treatments vary, it’s unlikely that there will be a magic pill that makes it all go away. Acceptance is key to moving forward with your life. 

If you want to know more about my tinnitus please see my post about my tinnitus story, this post outlines what tinnitus is, my story of how I got tinnitus and what helps me. It’s full of useful links and information that will hopefully help you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post & video, let me know how you manage your tinnitus, how long you’ve had it and what you’ve learnt since having tinnitus.

Stay safe,

Beth x

Trying to get used to a ‘new normal’ as a PhD student… 

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It’s been 5 weeks since lockdown here in the UK and 5 weeks since we’ve all had to rapidly change our ways of working. For a lot of people that will be mean working from home and for some that will probably mean working from home for the first time. 

While some people are just cracking on and being super productive, as a PhD student that spends a lot of time in the lab I’m finding it hard, very hard (m. At first, I thought I’d find it ok as I used to work from home during my undergrad degree, but let’s be honest the first couple of weeks have been a total write off… well, it has been for me at least. I miss the lab, my desk and my work colleagues! 

I’m currently trying to work from home along with my boyfriend who is also trying to run his coffee business from our small 1 bed flat. We’re making it work, we’re currently sharing our kitchen table (again, small) as our working space. Sometimes we mix it up and I work in the bedroom, which I know is a massive ‘no no’ but needs must. It seems to work, we know when we each need space for example if we need to make phone calls or Zach needs to grind coffee. It was difficult initially, but I think we’ve got into some sort of a rhythm. Granted we’re not working 9-5 every day, I think that’s pretty much impossible, but we’re trying and that’s all we can do.

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It was only really this week that I actually managed to have some good productive working days, emphasis on the some. I still worry about the future but I’m certainly calmer than I was a few weeks back, I think I’ve come to accept this weird and difficult time. 

So, how can you work from home as a science PhD student?

Well, there’s no lab for a start so it’s mainly reading and writing, and maybe data analysis. Reading and writing are hard if you’re not feeling inspired, I think that’s the same for any subject or profession. They’re definitely tasks that you have to ‘want’ to do. For me, a lot of the lab work dictates what I would typically do next, for example, some experiments might lead me to read certain papers or writing up what I’ve done or an idea of what I’d like to do next. The idea that if you’re not in the lab you should have enough data to churn out papers is ridiculous, the lab work and the results should dictate the story, not the other way around. 

As you may have seen from a previous post of mine (link here), I’m in my second year of my PhD which was supposed to be the critical year for collecting data and planning papers. That’s no longer the case, so what am I doing with this time at home? Well, I’m trying to write a literature review about my project in the hope to publish and I’m also trying to make a start on my thesis. It seems premature to start writing my thesis in great depth but I’ve got to make up for lost lab time in some way. My productivity has definitely been up and down during this lockdown but I’m ok with that, I’m trying to be kinder to myself. I’d like to have finished my literature review and have a chunk of my thesis written for when we’re back up and running but I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself, we have to remember this is a global pandemic.

I’m not here to give you ‘working from home tips’ but here are some things that are helping me get somewhat used to this new normal:

  1. Don’t watch the news constantly. We’re currently in information overload and it can get quite overwhelming at times. We do a quick catch up before or after our tea on youtube.
  2. Create some sort of a routine. Granted, I’m not the best at this. I work well with a routine but I struggle to create one myself.
    – I’ve been using Asana to help me track tasks and group into projects, for example, I have a project for each paper/review I’m working on to help me plan tasks for completion.
    – I also have (virtual) meetings on set mornings so I can do work in the afternoon and I have set days for reading papers.
    – I’ve been trying the Pomodoro method (25 min work, 5 min break etc). I use an app on my mac to prompt me when to work and when to take breaks (Be Focused). I don’t use this all time, I mainly use it when I’m writing and it’s not for everyone, find something that works for you.
  3. Check-in with your friends and family. We do a weekly pub quiz with our friends via Facebook video chat and that’s been super fun and part of our weekly routine. I’ve also found it really helpful chatting to my friends that are PhD students as well so we can help and motivate each other.
  4. Sign up for a virtual writing retreat if you need some extra motivation. This week I signed up for the virtual writing retreat and I found it so useful. It helped me keep track of what I was doing by setting goals and checking in with others. It’s really good to help break up the day a bit by creating a routine.
  5. Take breaks & don’t be so hard on yourself. I know this is hard, it’s something I’m learning to do. If you’re struggling with something, just take a break and come back to it later. We should all be a little kinder to ourselves and others. Just remember it’s ok if you weren’t productive or didn’t achieve much in your day, you’re allowed to have off days. 

I know I’m in a privileged position to be able to work from home while some people have no choice but to be working on the frontline and others have been laid off. I’d like to acknowledge both the privilege and the struggle, both are justified. Everyone who is working from home is in the same boat and we’re all trying to navigate this new normal. Listen to yourself and do what works for you. All we can do is try.

I hope you found this useful. I’d love to hear from you about how you’re navigating this new normal, whether you’re a PhD student or not. What works for you? How are you coping? 

Stay home, stay safe and be kind.

Beth x

My tinnitus story…

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

*LONG POST ALERT*

First of all, what is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is classed as the perception of noise or ringing in one or both ears. Tinnitus has not been recognised as a condition itself, it is typically a symptom of an underlying condition e.g. age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder (Mayo Clinic). Today it affects approximately 6 million people in the UK, that’s roughly 10% of the UK population (tinnitus.org). I am one of those people, I have a constant ringing in my left ear along with hearing loss as a result of tinnitus.

The story…
I started with noticeable tinnitus at the age of 15 (I’m 24 now so I can’t really remember life without tinnitus). I went to my GP several times and was told that I had an ear infection but the ringing in my ears was likely due to listening to my iPod too loudly using headphones and he called it “iPod ear” and it was so-called “common in teenagers these days”. This was really frustrating, I hadn’t been listening to music too loudly through headphones, I mainly listened to my iPod using speakers in the house and my parents can vouch for that. I’d never been told to turn my music down or that it was too loud, so this response perplexed me. 

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I finally went to the ENT (Ear Nose & Throat) clinic in my hometown, which felt like a year later after multiple GP visits and they confirmed that it was tinnitus, the cause was unknown and that there is currently no cure. 

The no cure bit really hit me. At this point, I was 16 just about to start college and I thought the world was ending. I was quite angry, to be honest, I did the whole “why me” thing, which is pretty natural for a 16-year-old, but this anger was something I’d never felt before. I love music, and the thought of my hearing getting worse and worse just made me really sad. I’d realised I’d taken my hearing for granted. 

Photo by Jan Prokes from Pexels

I tried cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) but my head and heart wasn’t in it. I hadn’t had time to process it all so it didn’t really work for me. I was also a moody teenager so I guess nothing would really work as I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.  I was more bothered about getting through my A-levels. I kind of just carried on, it annoyed me and I noticed the more anxious I got, the worse the tinnitus would be and when I had a head cold or ear infection it would temporarily get worse. Overall, I just carried on with a few more “whats” and “pardons”, and in fact, I listened to music more than ever as a distraction from the tinnitus. 

Anyway, a few years later when I was at uni (made it through my A-levels, but that’s a different story), I got another nasty ear infection. I went to my new GP and basically poured out my tinnitus story, they were really sympathetic and referred me to a tinnitus specialist. 

Speaking to a tinnitus specialist was amazing, it’s such a unique and weird thing to have that, you really do need to speak to a specialist about it. He was great, I’ve had more brain scans than I can remember and my brain is ok (thank goodness, eh?) and funnily enough my ear health is absolutely fine. It was found to be a neurological issue rather than my ear itself. In terms of treatment, there were only 3 options that weren’t guaranteed to work. 

  1. Cognitive therapy 
  2. Hearing aid in one ear 
  3. Hearing aids in both ears 

I went for option 2. I tried a hearing aid in my affected ear. That was hard, I really struggled with it. Everything was really tin-sounding and I felt like it was making my tinnitus worse. I didn’t wear it every day because I felt like I needed a break from it. Eventually, I stopped wearing it altogether. I really did try with this one but I was worried about permanently making my tinnitus worse so that’s why I stopped. I know it works for some people but it wasn’t for me, maybe I’ll try again at some point. As for now, I’m just carrying on and I’ve just accepted that this is me now. I think fighting it made it worse. It’s not easy to just accept it, it’s taken many years but I figure why fight it? I’m healthy otherwise, I can still do pretty much everything I want to do and I can still hear, just not as well as others and that’s ok. 

Living with tinnitus:
Everyone who suffers from tinnitus will perceive it differently, no tinnitus story is the same and it can happen as a result of many things. After lots of visits to specialists and doctors, we all agree that my tinnitus started as a result of a nasty ear infection that has somehow affected the neurones carrying the signal to and from my brain. It’s also something that I could have been predisposed to as well, there’s really no way of knowing.

As a result of having tinnitus in my left ear, I have hearing loss but my affected ear is also quite sensitive to loud noises. It seems strange, I know, but that’s what it’s like to live with tinnitus. It’s such a contradiction, trying to explain sounds daft sometimes. Given the fact this is in one ear, I rely heavily on my right ear, this messes up my sound perception a bit. Sometimes when people call my name, I end up looking the wrong direction and I always have to position myself in a way so that I can hear everyone, which involves lots of “dancing” around people to get the right spot. Group situations can be a nightmare sometimes and don’t get me started on noisy restaurants (since when did restaurants feel the need to be as loud as nightclubs). Now that I’ve accepted it, I’m generally quite happy to chat about it, I’m pretty open and would rather let people know than have them think I’m being rude or ignoring them. Although sometimes, it is hard to talk about it. It’s a perception issue, so when I start talking about it I perceive my tinnitus to be louder, even typing all this it seems to be very loud to me. It is a balance and I just take it as it comes really. Acceptance is key!

Things I do that work for me and my tinnitus:

  1. Get some good ear plugs for gigs and shows.
    You should protect what you’ve got and this is good practice anyway. Here’s the link to the earplugs I have: EarDial
  2. Yoga or meditation.
    Granted I don’t do the latter as often as I should but I find yoga (or any other exercise) a good distraction. Focussing on other things makes you subconsciously ignore the tinnitus, or at least it does for me. 
  3. Listening to lyricalness music when working
    I listen to a lot of chill-hop or lowfi when I need to do work, sometimes silence just makes me focus on the tinnitus so I need something else to dampen it slightly. Here’s a link to the playlists I listen to: Chillhop Radio
  4. Use subtitles where possible
    This will probably annoy anyone else you watch telly with but who cares, they and you will get used to it. Sometimes I find that I miss little bits without the subtitles on and my word, some people don’t half mumble. I rely on lip-reading a lot but sometimes it’s nice having subtitles to help (that’s what they’re there for anyway). 
  5. Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake.
    I love tea, so this is hard for me and I like a gin or a glass of vino but I have noticed that my tinnitus gets temporarily worse when I have alcohol or too much caffeine. For me I know this, so I just monitor it as and when. It doesn’t stop me from having either but it’s best not to overdo it. 

For more information regarding tinnitus I’ve added some useful links below:

I hope this has been useful to anyone that is suffering from tinnitus right now. I want to bring some positivity to the tinnitus narrative, it can be very hard and super isolating at times, believe me, I’ve been in that dark place too. So, that’s my story, I hope it helps and obviously, it’s still ongoing. I’d like to write more about tinnitus, I want to bring awareness to those that are suffering from tinnitus. Let me know if you’d like that too. Also, let me know what works for you and your tinnitus.

Thank you.

Beth x

5 things I’m grateful for during this time of uncertainty

  1. My wonderful boyfriend Zach
    Cheeeesssy… I know, but I also don’t care!
  2. My awesome friends and family
    I can’t wait to give you all a big ol’ squeeze when this is over!
  3. A roof over my head
    Our small 1 bed plant-filled flat in Leeds is our little sanctuary
  4. Food in the fridge
    No stockpiling here, we’re not dicks
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  5. WiFi
    Seriously though, where would we be without WiFi??? Has anyone else binge-watched Tiger King on Netflix?

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    Image Credit (Netflix)

Research and COVID-19, what does this all mean for PhD students?

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Across the UK, labs and universities have closed (apart from those working on a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19), leaving many researchers like myself feeling uncertain about the future. 

Some people have suggested that this time could be used as a “writing retreat” to write papers, reviews and grant applications. I think we can all agree that is somewhat optimistic and I don’t know about you but I can barely concentrate!

I’m in my second year of my PhD and typically this is the big year. I’ve got my first year under my belt in which, I made a lot of mistakes and was learning about the background of my project. Your second year is the year where you have a bit more knowledge behind you and you can really get your teeth stuck into the (lab) work. I was really excited for all the lab work I was supposed to do this year but like everything and everyone else, this has drastically come to a halt. 

I don’t know about you but I am struggling to work from home, I didn’t realise how much I loved the lab and the people I work with. The lab seriously makes me manage my time much better and I’m one of those annoying people that like to be busy because it means I can actually prioritise my work accordingly. Not being in the lab has been hard.

I can’t stop thinking. Honestly, I can’t stop thinking about pretty much everything, my family and friends, those that have lost their jobs, the people fighting for their lives, the amazing NHS staff and key workers that are saving lives and keeping us all going and then selfishly, what this all means for my PhD project. It’s a little busy in my brain at the moment so trying to churn out high quality writing for my project, even though I love it has proven very difficult.

I’m concerned, like many others, about how this delay will affect my research, and I know in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world but it’s relative to me and something I’ve worked really hard for. 

A lot of funding bodies are allowing for no-cost extensions and that means the project can be extended but you won’t get any extra funding. That’s pretty much guaranteed for most funding bodies and most projects, but what about if this goes on for much longer than anticipated? What happens then? 

A PhD project in most cases is like an apprenticeship, you get paid to work for your qualification over your course of study and this is either by a university or an external funding body like a charity. 

I’m exceptionally lucky that my stipend is still getting paid, but what’s the knock-on effect of this? If this goes on for let’s say hypothetically, 6 months, and that’s a long time out of the lab, I’ll need to have 6 months extra in the lab at the end to make up for the lost time. What happens then? Well, I could be frugal and try and save as much as I can possibly save and of course, the lack of going on holiday and going out will definitely help with that but then there’s the case of tuition fees, I can’t afford to pay those tuition fees off my own back, this is something I’d have to apply for if necessary. 

I was on a roll with my project and we were getting to a really critical point and now that’s stopped I’m wondering how we’ll recover. I’m sure that we will, I have every faith that we will get over this but it’s just how long that will take and if you’re like me, who likes to stay busy and keep momentum this pause is pretty hard. I hadn’t realised how much of a social being I am and that’s had quite an impact on my mental wellbeing. I think we’re bound to have good days and bad days through this but we’ve got to support each other as best as we can. 

So to cut a long story short, this is NOT a “writing retreat”, this is a global pandemic. It’s ok to not be productive (I have to keep telling myself this, and my amazing boyfriend is constantly telling me this). Thankfully I have a good support system and this includes my supervisor and my colleagues. I know a lot of people don’t have that so I am very fortunate. 

Let me know how you think this will affect your research or how it is affecting your life in general. I’d like to hear other peoples thoughts on this. 

Stay at home and stay safe.

Beth x

First blog post…again!

 

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Hello, I’m Beth. I’m a second-year PhD student in the field of platelet biology, living in Leeds. I love tea, sausage dogs and buying plants I don’t need.

I originally started this last year and as you can see, I didn’t get very far. I’m wanting to use this blog as a  mini-project to become more confident in public speaking and to confidently articulate my work whether that be in written or spoken form. Given the current COVID-19 situation, I thought now was a good a time as any to get this back up and running again. I’d like to talk about science, current events and life in general. It’s going to be a mixed bag of topics and like they say “variety is the spice of life”.


Why ‘Bethology’?
My attempt at combining Beth with Biology resulted in Bethology! I love science and being in the lab, so this is how I identify myself. Science has and always will be a big part of my life and anyone that knows me can vouch for this!


I don’t have too much of a plan at the moment, so we’ll see where this journey takes us. I hope you enjoy the ride with me and let’s have some positive support.
Beth x

 


P.S. I miss the lab, so here’s a pic of me doing some Flow Cytometry!