Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Look back on the decade

A lot of people have done these on Twitter, so thought I'd do one too. However, instead of doing it on Twitter, I thought I needed to reawaken my blog after it had a quiet 2019. I'll explain why when we get there...

2010: I finished my degree: MSci in Palaeontology and Evolution from the University of Bristol. I received a 2(1). Slightly disappointing for me as I was always a super high achiever through school, but I didn't do as much as I needed to to achieve a 1st so cannot complain. However, my project on spinosaur snouts and their biomechanics would lead me down my current career path. I also was accepted to do, and started, a PhD at the University of Bristol where I would transition from spinosaurs to ornithomimosaurs.

2010 was also the first time I went on a dig, joining a very experienced crew from the Museum of the Rockies. I helped dig up the skull of "Yoshi's Trike" with the remainder of the skeleton being dug up the next year when I wasn't there.

2011: I spent a large chunk of my year playing with ostrich heads for my PhD research. I submitted my thesis from my masters for the first time, and got major revisions for the first time. I visited Canada to go on my second dig, this time with University of Alberta where we spent a large chunk of the time digging up a Daspletosaurus. Following the trip I got to visit the collections in the Royal Tyrrell Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum which were incredible. I also attended my first conference, SVP in Las Vegas which I thought was a lot of fun, but I know the feeling was not shared by all.

2012: I spent a lot of the year working on CT scans of ornithomimosaurs, including a couple I had seen in Canada. No digs this year. I attended my first ProgPal conference in Cambridge, and was off to China and Mongolia to have a look at the collections there. After the summer I went to SVP in Raleigh, NC. I also resubmitted my spinosaur paper and had the same result, with more major revisions to make. I supervised masters level student projects for the first time.

2013: I started the year with my first SICB conference, in San Francisco. I then spent the year finishing the research and writing up my PhD, with a couple more conferences breaking up the year - ICVM in Barcelona, and my third SVP conference, this time in Los Angeles. I submitted my PhD on Thursday 12 December. I had originally planned to submit on Friday the 13th, because why wouldn't you? As it happened, I finished the day early and used the extra day to tidy and pack because I was moving to London in the new year to start a job at UCL and RVC. I finally published my Masters research!

2014: I started my first postdoc in February having taken a month and a half off work to recuperate from the PhD writeup. It was needed as two people independently said I "looked well". A sign that sometimes a break is good. The postdoc was on the evolution of felids, particularly their vertebral morphology and muscles and how that affected their biomehanics. A lot of the year involved looking at the evolution of body size within the group, but I did start dissecting various felids. I would finish 2014 in India in the field in Tamil Nadu with Anjali and her group. I attended SVP again (Berlin), and competed in the Romer Prize session (I did not win), and started my blog! Across the year I published 2 papers, and had more in review.

2015: I started the year in the field of India. On the return to England it was lots of dissections to try to complete our study of cat muscles. I would go to SVP in Dallas, which turned out to be the last for a while with a new job in 2016. I finally got back into the field, this time to Argentina. I had my best year for publishing to date with 4 accepted.

2016: I spent the first part of the year reconstructing fossil felids, initially with brains (picked up by a summer student and accepted for publication), and then muscles on Panthera atrox. I went on to build SIMM models of modern felids (domestic cat and lion), but sadly these still remain on the long to do list! We had a student from the vet college also get permission to do work with various zoological collections so we measured forces and join angles in several living cat species. I was able to get back to Argentina again with Anjali and co. and I attended my second ICVM, this time in Bethesda (near Washington DC). In August I was expecting to be unemployed but was able to secure a short technician post at RVC which allowed me some time to complete work. I was also lucky enough to be hired on to start my next postdoc on the DawnDinos project. 4 more papers accepted.

2017: The early part of the year was spent working on CT scans of Mussaurus whilst we awaited tinamous and crocodiles for the project. When the crocodiles eventually arrived we carried out the surgical procedures and experimental protocols collecting lots of data. However, 2017 was a year where I first ran into my mental health problems caused through burnout. Whilst I will never be cured, it is at least now managed. I published 2 more papers.

2018: The year started with SICB as it returned San Francisco where I talked about Mussaurus. Experiments continued, and thankfully concluded. I was able to escape back into the field, again to Argentina, but this time down in Patagonia. There was a lot of work analysing the experimental EMG data we collected, and incorporating some from historical data collection. I returned to SVP (in Albuquerque) after a few years away and went on my first field trip at an SVP conference into a fun little quarry. No papers this year...

2019: This year has been an unusual year. After a long publishing hiatus (for me at least), I was able to get a couple of papers out, including the Mussaurus paper which got picked up by some press which was an interesting experience. I was also invited onto the editorial board of PLOS One so now am handling papers! Besides that, there was a lot of data processing as part of the postdoc. I got to go to ICVM in Prague in July, but by the summer it was known by lots that I would be leaving the RVC. I have been looking for permanent jobs for a long time and having interviewed and come close to a couple of jobs, I was offered an anatomy assistant lectureship at the Hull York Medical School (University of York campus). Whilst not permanent, it provides me a 2 year teaching opportunity with a lot of lecturing, particularly to medical students (I'll write more about the job search over the last few years in a blog in the new year). In August I finished at the RVC, and left London (after 5 years), and moved to York. It has been a busy learning curve, but it has been fun and I am enjoying the teaching. Next term will be busier, but after this year I should have completed all the prep to make my second year of teaching much easier.

That's my decade in review. No doubt I have missed lots of things or at least glanced over them, such as having some very good students. My first Masters students having finished their PhDs and I am very proud to have been even a small influence in their careers to date.

I wish everyone a happy 2020, and a fruitful decade whatever it may bring.

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