What is a Biomedical Engineer? – Prosthetics

I’m often asked the question: “so what is a biomedical engineer?”  And to be honest, it’s a difficult one to answer!  In fact, when I first began my PhD, I still wasn’t sure exactly what it meant.  On my first day, I sat at my desk and typed ‘Biomedical Engineer’ into Google:

Biomedical engineering is a discipline that advances knowledge in engineering, biology and medicine, and improves human health through cross-disciplinary activities that integrate the engineering sciences with the biomedical sciences and clinical practice’.

Clear?  I’m still not sure.. .
find out more here


The dark cloud of academia

A recent study from a research group at Flanders University in Belgium claim that one in three PhD students are at risk of a common psychiatric disorder such as depression or anxiety, a much higher prevalence than any other similarly educated populations.

This is a striking statistic but not an overly surprising one. Being a PhD student is extremely stressful.

The pay isn’t great, the working hours aren’t set and can be long and draining, you’re in a fast moving field and constantly under pressure to deliver novel results to an audience that may have different ideas to your own. You’re never quite sure when you will reach the finish line. And when you do submit and defend your thesis, worry that it will be largely ignored and fast become insignificant.

keep on reading

The PhD Race

Image may contain: 6 people, people standing, shorts and outdoor
Photo credit: Kenny Craig

Last Sunday I ran the Mull of Kintyre Annual Half Marathon. It was a beautiful sunny day and the course was equally as beautiful out of Campbeltown, along the beach where we were met by pipers spurring us on with tunes, and back to the town by country roads. The atmosphere, like at all of these types of events was great, energetic and inclusive. I’ve always loved races because of this, it allows you to forget what’s going on in your day to day life for a few hours and focus purely on the race event. All through the months running up to the day I felt a building anxiety that I had  to train, didn’t have time to train enough, and was I even going to be able to complete it. Particularly in the last few weeks, my PhD work had ramped up as I was gathering data for a conference and paper submission, it felt never ending and all consuming. But of course, the way this is meant to go is that having a separate focus such as running, is good, it’s a coping mechanism, it gives us breathing space… it didn’t feel that way to me, it felt like one more thing I had to get done in a day!

So I got thinking, and it turns out there are a lot of similarities between running a long distance race and doing a PhD. Since I’ve not quite ventured past the 13 miles mark, I’ve based my comparison on this but I think it can be applied to any distance race.

the PhD race low down…

Hey it’s OK….

Here is my own PhD version of the popular Glamour magazine feature, ‘Hey its ok to…’

So I’m now half way through my PhD and have had my fair share of meltdowns, crisis points, highs and lows, moments of Eureka, late night realisations of ‘oh c**p’ – you name it. I wrote this list based on what I wish someone had told me at the start and of the things which I try to remind myself of on the toughest days.

So here goes….


HEY, it’s ok to…..

…Start your daily to-do list with ‘make a cup of coffee and arrange a time for lunch’ so that you 100% know you can score at least something off the list that day.

…Move said lunch time closer and closer to 11am as the week progresses.

…Write that lab report in your pjs from the comfort of your own bed (you’ve got to milk this flexible, no one checking you’re in the office, ‘work from home’ option as much as you can!)

…Similarly – to use ‘I won’t have this student discount card much longer’ as your excuse for a weekly pub/Dominoes/Urban Outfitters/Amazon spree.

…To go ‘urgh, students’ around campus because you’re totally properly adulting and not a ‘real’ student.

….I mean, a ‘real’ student would go out on a weeknight for £1 vodkas and you can’t think of anything worse. Out at 10pm?! No thank you, that’s bed time.

…Find it hard to describe your research to family and friends and when they ask what you’ve been up to just say ‘lab work’ and not even attempt to explain why you’re still in uni to family neighbours/extended family/the guy who works in the grocery store in your home town.

…To change the title of your thesis 41,468 times throughout the course of your PhD.

…Spend an entire day just thinking over a blank page. (pst, guess what nobody tells you, this is the whole point of a PhD!)

…Spend your first year internally screaming “What am I even doing?!?” only to look back in second year and go “ohh, that’s what I was doing”.

…Totally mess up an experiment and scrap all of the results and pretend it didn’t happen. You’ve got time.

…Wonder if maybe you should have pursued that other career path, the monthly bonus and company car. But then remember you are doing something much more worthwhile to you.

…Close the books for a few days and enjoy the sunshine, go on a trip out of the city, visit friends or just lay about doing nothing. Don’t burn out.

…Say no to your supervisor (sometimes… ok, rarely…but still…)

…Ask for help. Ask everyone and anyone you can. Listen to any advice you are given. (Learn to filter that advice). No one ever got to where they were alone, even if they don’t like to admit it.

…Celebrate the minor achievements. Your 3D print worked first time? Yay, go you!

…And the major ones! (Preferably with beer)

…Remind yourself with a sense of perspective that yes you’re doing a PhD, but if you don’t get that statistically significant difference you’re sweating over, the world isn’t going to end.

…Feel modest and humble that you’ve made it to this stage! Even being at the level of a PhD is an achievement in itself, you literally get paid to learn about something you are passionate about.

…And lastly and importantly, to not be too hard on yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to change the world in one thesis. Enjoy the journey.

First blog post

I’ve started this blog as part of an RPD course I took at Strathclyde called ‘Becoming an Engaging Researcher’. I’ve always wanted to have a blogsite to share my random ideas and thoughts on the PhD process so I hope this is a beginning and that you enjoy/can relate!