It’s been a busy, challenging, but extremely rewarding year.
Last September I made a blog post about the NGCM Programming Primer week. This week of training held at the start of each new academic year is aimed at giving all new NGCM members (baring in mind not everyone will be from a computing background) a basic level of programming skill that allows them get started with the first years taught modules. Now that my first taught year is coming to a close, I can say that the year in general also provides a great introduction and insight into life as a PhD student. I now feel confident about entering into the first research year of the iPhd course.
To list just a few new skills I have now that I didn’t before joining the NGCM; I can now program confidently in Python, C and R. I am familiar with using super computers, both Southampton University's Iridis cluster and the national super computer ARCHER. I have learnt the basics of parallel computing through ARCHER training courses ran here at the University. I am also now familiar with a wide range of computational techniques from Molecular Dynamics to Finite element methods to Agent based modeling.
Also worth mentioning is the series of seminars from various industries which the NGCM members receive: we have been given talks by representatives from the MARIN group on ship science, RNLIs Search & Rescue Engineering team, and Programme Management with Boeing among many others. There are few jobs or careers that offer the networking opportunities in both industry and academia that being a member of the NGCM provides.
Before the year is up, the NGCM members still have both a summer project and summer academy left. Personally I will be doing some research for AstraZeneca as part of my summer project and I can’t wait to visit their site in Cambridge.
The year has certainly been tough at times but great fun at others; wearing T shirts of our PhD projects whilst trying out some ‘live action’ Agent based modeling comes to mind. Our cohort also became regulars at the weekly pub quiz at The local Stile pub - although we are yet to win, the sporting section always lets us down!
I will also greatly miss the NGCM common room (reserved primarily for the first year members of the NGCM) with its fancy hot and cold water fountain and excellent coffee machine. It has become a home away from home during the year. Whether it be a group effort scribbling on the white boards tackling coursework together with my fellow cohort members or using the projector for movie nights.
I would urge anyone considering starting a PhD to look at what the NGCM offers with its integrated PhD courses, as this first year is ideal for anyone worried they may be out of 'academic shape'. I for instance had taken a year out between my undergraduate degree and joining the NGCM, and other members of my cohort came from careers in industry, not everyone was fresh out of University.
My advice to future cohorts? Work hard, try not to get too stressed out and remember to enjoy yourself - make the most of all the opportunities available to you, the year (and indeed the iPhD) will be over before you know it!