The wheels fell off


You know that long and frustrating funding cycle I talked about a while back, well the wheels have fallen off mine causing both a horrible mixed metaphor and my contract to runout. When I finished my PhD, the Department of Engineering Photonics very kindly offered to keep me on as a PostDocs. As I mentioned before, there was no specific funding or project for me to work on, but they seemed to want to keep me and they found some money to pay my salary. The idea was that they would fund me until I managed to get a grant Continue reading

“Engineering optics, from bench top to bedside”

Skin patterns

The head of our department organised a talk yesterday by Bruce Tromberg. Bruce Tromberg is professor of Biomedical Engineering; professor (jointly) of the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine; and a Director of the Beckman Laser Institute. Additionally, he is also…. okay, I’m going to stop there as I’ve just found his CV posted on his homepage and it runs to 59 pages and I only wanted to write a 1000 word article. I think you can take it for granted that Professor Tromberg is very much at the bleeding edge of optics and is highly respected Continue reading

Buying things is hard

Buying things feature

As you may have gathered by my not very oblique references and down right obvious twittering, I have been busy working on a new project over the last few weeks. The project is in its early stages and at this point, I am mostly checking that my data is real before trying to persuade my boss to actually run with it as a project. However, one thing I do need to know is : if I wanted to take it further – how much would it cost in various supplies etc. So yesterday, I took to the various suppliers of Continue reading

ImageJ is amazing


A long time ago in a lab about 20 miles away, I was working for a company called Mediwatch to develop a new micro-array platform that was internally named Zero-flow. It was a nifty little device that was excellent at controlling the flow of a sample over a sensor system. The company I worked for at the time was small and not flush with cash. So for a while the only resources allocated to the design and development of this technology was me. With this budget of £0 I needed to produce an assay system that could demonstrate sensitivity significant Continue reading

Good (paper) lab book house keeping

Academic research cartoon

A few weeks back, I asked the community at large for advice on where to go to set up an online open lab book. The response was fantastic and I have a whole list of places to look to for online support. However, before I jump in to the deep end, and for the benefit of those that are either not scientists – or just quite lazy about lab book keeping – I thought I would take a moment to explain why lab books are important and how you should be using them. At its core, a lab book is Continue reading


Sorry about this but there is no proper blog post sorted for this week. My free time this week has been spent dabbing a small child with calamine lotion after he declared on sunday morning that he “feels a bit itchy’. Normally when my free time/personal life is a bit hectic I try to find some room in my work schedule to put a post together however, I decided to pop into the lab on monday to do a quick experiment and have only emerged since to excitably wave results at my colleagues. So no blog post…..but I don’t want Continue reading

Anatomy of a crowdfunding project

Logo Feature image

Last week I had the rather depressing task of announcing the end of our recent attempts to start a crowdfunding project. As I explained, the project essentially ended because the perceived risk of the project was too great. However, despite this failure I am determined to provide as much information as possible so that anyone wanting to try this for themselves can learn from where we went wrong. I have already put up the majority of details on how the crowdfunding project was to be structured here and here (I also made a 4min video asking for money but I’m Continue reading

The hedgehog of inspiration


The idea that innovation in science comes only from a dry study of journal papers and very slow iterative research is just simply not true. I start with this statement because I have lost track of the number of times I see this idea come up in conversations, newspapers and TV shows. Science just as much driven by creativity as it is learning and study. One thing science and art share in common (other than a desire for pretty pictures) is the need for inspiration Discoveries in science require two things, knowledge and inspiration. The first of these two can possibly be Continue reading


I also resolve to use MOAR graphs

It’s a brand new day in a nice shiny new year and like almost every other blog on the internet my first post is a list of semi-ambitious resolutions. I would have been more creative but I’ve only been back in the office about 20 mins and every time I sat down to write anything over the Christmas break, a small child tugged at my arm and demanded I show him more minecraft – parenting is so hard some times… So in no particular order here is my list of things I vaguely promise to do this year. Possibly. If Continue reading

An inside-out snowman

Un-lit Snowman

I made an inside-out snowman from two integrating spheres. Below is a picture and line drawing to show the insides. This is also a personal tribute to the work of Rachel Whiteread, who amongst other things produced an inside-out house, and a library as a memorial to the victims of the holocaust. The snowman’s body is made from two integrating spheres joined at two open ports. The arms are tubes that we use to pass gas into and out of the larger cell. The hat is made of pieces of SpectralonTM (see below) and the scarf is an electrical cable Continue reading