Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park 2018

This Saturday 8th December, I will shun the comfort on my warm bed and instead sleep outside in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park. No, I haven’t had some sort of break down, there will be lots of other people there with me, including colleagues and friends from work, as we take part in Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park.

Social Bite is a charity that I’ve supported regularly over the last few years; I no longer spend money on Christmas cards, instead choosing to buy Christmas dinner for people that are homeless in various cities across Scotland. That’s an initiative that Social Bite started doing a few years ago in partnership with Itison. It’s a really easy way to donate to charity, and in 2016 over 36,000 meals were donated, more than doubling to 73,000 meals in 2017. I’ll be donating again this Christmas, but I figured that I could do more – hence the sleeping-outside-in-December thing.

Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park started last year in Edinburgh; 8,000 people joined the world’s largest sleep out in Princes St Gardens to raise £4 Million and call for an end to homelessness in Scotland. Now, Social Bite is taking this event across four Scottish cities; Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. They are asking 12,000 people to take their sleeping bags and wrap up for a night on the streets this December. By doing this, we want to raise money to allow Social Bite’s work to end homelessness in Scotland to continue, and accelerate. In their words, “We want to make Scotland an example for the whole world to follow. We’re a small country. A nation of innovators. The statistics of homelessness in Scotland are not insurmountable.”

If you have any spare pennies, we would really appreciate any and all donations to our fundraising efforts. Find out more about Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park here, and send us your spare pennies here.

I Graduated!

Look at me, updating the blog when I said I would…

(L-R): Prof Marion Campbell, Dr Katie Gillies, me (that’s Dr Gardner) and my bear, Tatty, in full PhD robes, and Prof Shaun Treweek.

I graduated yesterday, I did the actual graduating with all the people and everything! That’s it, my PhD is officially over, and I am so, so proud of myself. The last 3 years and a half years haven’t been easy by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve had some pretty huge changes in my personal life (the majority of which I’ll never talk about online), I was diagnosed with depression, and there have been multiple times when it would have been much easier to give up than it was to carry on. I didn’t though, I dug deeper than I thought I ever could, and I learned how to ask for help when I needed it.

I had a really lovely day yesterday. My Mum and Dad flew up to Aberdeen in the morning, so that we could all (my parents and my long-suffering boyfriend) go for lunch before the graduation ceremony in the afternoon, and by the time the ceremony was over it was pitch black. The day went so quickly, but after a few weeks of wishing I’d chosen to graduate in absentia, I was glad to have been encouraged (read: threatened) by my Mum to attend the ceremony.

Thank you to my family, friends, and colleagues at the Health Services Research Unit for supporting me over the last 3 and a half years, but mostly, thank you to Prof Shaun Treweek and Dr Katie Gillies, who have been the best supervisors I could ever have wished for.

All Aberdeen University graduations were streamed live online, and available for free on YouTube. Head to the 1 hour mark of the video below to see me graduate without falling over, accidentally hitting anyone or swearing – a Christmas miracle 🙂


About that Blogtober thing…

Hello again..

When I last did one of these ‘I SWEAR I’m gonna post more’ type posts, I said I was going to do Blogtober – i.e. posting every day in October. I did that, kind of, a little bit, not entirely. I missed 2 days between October 1st and 25th, and I haven’t posted since then.

I very definitely haven’t just been doing nothing in that time. It’s now 9.45pm on Tuesday 20th November and I am doing panicking about how little time I have left before my contract finishes at work. Not because I don’t know what I’m going to do, but because oh my God there is SO MUCH to do.

Since I last blogged, I’ve done a fair amount of stuff, a mix of fun at home stuff, fun at work stuff and at work stuff, including but not limited to:

  • Been flying in my boyfriend’s new aeroplane
  • Seen friends in Glasgow that we haven’t seen for months
  • Continued to learn Mandarin (I know! Exciting! I want to write a blog post on this soon)
  • Done 2 vivas for students (weird, because I was the examiner?)
  • Had some really annoying issues with my depression medication that’s meant that I am genuinely finding it hard to get enough sleep – not that I can’t sleep, but that I can’t stop sleeping. It’s really annoying and my love for the NHS is the only thing stopped me from exploding about the fact that I’m still waiting for a follow up appointment to try and fix things despite this having a massive impact on my day to day life. (If anyone is interested in weird ways depression can impact your life, let me know – happy to talk about it if people are interested or think it might be helpful)
  • Took part in 2 weeks of I’m A Scientist live chats with schools across the UK (again, I’ll write a blog post on this at some point soon)
  • Been home to see my Mum for a weekend (thanks to aforementioned medication issues I slept for about 60% of the time I was there..)
  • Advertised and spoke to students interested in an MSc project that I proposed, so that’s exciting (not sure if any of them have chosen the project yet but fingers crossed!)
  • Given interviews for 2 separate 30 Under 30 things (beyond hilarious)
  • Gave an invited talk at the James Hutton Institute about the importance of academic blogging (the irony of giving said talk having not posted anything here for weeks was not lost on me)
  • Had my first ever full body massage (OMG DO IT, I felt like a new woman for days afterwards)
  • Signed up and started volunteering as a Coordinator for Pint of Science – we are bringing the event to Aberdeen in May 2019 (I’m very excited about this)
  • Designed some last minute Christmas stock for Science On A Postcard (it’s a collab with Wonk! Magazine – coming soooon)
  • Booked all of my accommodation for adventuring end of December to February 2019 (EXCITING! Again, another blog post coming on this soon)
  • Cleared out my wardrobe and furnished Aberdeen’s charity shops with an embarrassing amount of clothes
  • Gave a Cafe Scientifique talk in Tarland, Aberdeenshire, where I talked about clinical trials, research waste, and the work we’re doing at Trial Forge to make trials more efficient
  • Submitted the hard bound copy of my PhD thesis (proof in the form of a photograph below) and ordered robes etc because I AM GRADUATING ON FRIDAY.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m going to sort my inbox out before I go to bed, and do my very best not to sleep through my alarm for the hundredth time this month. Tomorrow is going to be super busy and brilliant because we have a visiting researcher at work, and I have multiple Skype chats to make sure I get everything I want to get done, done, before I leave the Unit at the end of December.

What I really want to do now is say I’m going to do Blogmas – i.e. posting every day in December in the run up to Christmas, but we all know that if I say I’ll do the whole Blogmas thing, I’ll probably get caught up with other things. So, I won’t say I’m doing Blogmas, but I will update soon, probably with graduation photographs after Friday 🙂

Have a lovely week everyone!

I’m on Mighty Casey Quinlan’s Podcast!

Another late post, but I’m super excited for this one.

Today I spoke to the wonderful Mighty Casey Quinlan – she’s a hugely engaging podcaster and comedian who interviewed me in the most warm and enthusiastic way. We talked all things trials, public engagement, and patient involvement.

Listen to our podcast here.

Links to things we discussed from the Healthcare is Hilarious show notes:

Randomized controlled trials explainer (from The Conversation)
Cochrane recruitment guide (link is to full training handbook)
James Lind and the first clinical trial in 1747 (spoiler alert: the scourge of scurvy!)
The “sweetie trial” that Heidi talks about
Heidi’s blog post manifesto on why early career researchers should do public engagement
Trial Forge, the project that Heidi is working on
Heidi on Twitter
Heidi’s profile on the University of Aberdeen’s site