If you can do it…

…by Greg / from the United Kingdom / PhD Precision Medicine / 4th Year

Current status. Location: Edinburgh, UK. Weather: snow. Beverage: Breakfast Tea. Currently reading: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

I’m Greg, and I have been a scientist for the last nine years. I’m studying for my PhD in Physiology. I’m currently teaching and writing, but this blog is only about teaching.

The new year brought a return of the Covid-19 restrictions, 100,000 UK deaths related to Covid 19 but the hope of new vaccines. While less commented on upon than the vaccine, the UK’s sequencing capacity is impressive and our ability to identify coronavirus variants has informed global health initiatives. The investment can hopefully be repurposed post-covid-19. No doubt new avenues to treat diseases will be opened, particularly those with a strong genetic element such as cancer. The UK’s ability to produce a biomedical response to Covid-19 is in no small part down to the continued investment in scientific resources, infrastructure and people by successive governments of both colours. Long may it continue. The threat of pandemics will not end with Covid-19. We must remain vigilant and ready.

I had hoped that teaching the next generation of scientists could be in person this year (always an optimist), but it wasn’t to be, so I have another term of online meetings. This year my teaching has been group discussion and online practicals. As a teacher, I enjoy both! Teaching is often paradoxical for me. I never enjoyed learning and studying before university, and I was never sure that I would enjoy teaching at university. I was lucky in my undergraduate studies to have professors I found highly motivating. I can still remember my microbiology lectures to this day despite me never using that knowledge ever again. I guess that says a lot about how well the material was structured to make sure I didn’t forget anything!

As part of my teaching-learning, I have been completing my Edinburgh Teaching Award as a route to obtaining an Associate Fellowship with the Higher Education Authority. The process has opened me up to new ways to think about teaching. What is the effect of the platform? How to best give feedback and how much feedback to give at once? How do I best support group learning? I need to complete two more reflective blogs on that. One will certainly be on feedback. That’s something I hope to carry over into my personal life and into benchside research. In the lab, we are always learning. Rarely are we definitively correct. How we respond is what matters.

Job hunting occupies my free time at the moment. As with everyone, it is a difficult time to be coming to the end of my contract. I am looking forward to a different project because a PhD really is only a long slog. I had never considered it before, but I enjoy teaching and would consider a teaching fellowship as a way forward in academia.

Last month, a comment piece on a clinical trial for ulcerative colitis was released. I wrote a small part of the article which you can find here.

You can find out more about my life in Edinburgh and science on my Twitter @endothelin1 and about my career on LinkedIn.

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