My Academic Diary: Salma Patel

Image: Bernard Tuck on Unsplash

Tuesday 26th June, 2018

7:00 – My body awakes naturally around 7am. I usually wake up earlier (especially in the summer) but I recently invested in blackout blinds as well as blackout curtains, which means I can sleep past 6am, which is great. Like many I suspect, my hand goes straight for my phone. In an attempt to fully awake (or that’s my excuse anyway) I quickly check through personal messages and have a quick look at Twitter. I shower, get dressed and head downstairs to make my lunch. Today my lunch is a mixed salad, avocados dressed with lemon and chilli, and two poached eggs.

8:00 – I head over to the station, park my car, and catch the train into Salford. I am very fortunate that my local station has a free car park. There are only two trains to Salford per hour so I ensure I’m at least 5-10 min early. I buy a ticket (£8 for my 15 min journey) and wait for the train. My commute routine is pretty fixed: in the morning I read a chapter of Quran. If there are train delays and hence time to spare (which sadly happen often due to the mishaps of the Northern train service), I’ll probably go on my phone to reply to messages. This morning I have a few minutes spare, so I check to see if the handbag I wanted to purchase is still in stock.

9:00 – I reach my office and load up my work emails. One of the people I share an office with had to visit A&E over the weekend sadly so she updates me on how she is doing. A student who is trying to locate where her placement is pops her head in and asks for help, so I try to help her using Google maps. I then check my emails. There are a couple of queries from members of the research team that I reply to. There is also an email from the developer of our website and app.

We are in the data collection phase of our research, which means each participant receives a package every 2 weeks whilst they are enrolled onto our 8-week study. We have a research team email address that I manage alongside another colleague. I check that and have a couple of email confirmations of deliveries to participants. I put those in the correct folder and update the system to confirm deliveries have been made.

I then have a look at my diary to double check the locations of the meetings today (sometimes going across campus can take up to 15-20 minutes and I need to factor that in). I also check my colleagues’ diaries to see if they have any consent meetings booked for today at homes – as they will be checking in and checking out with me (to ensure their safety). I then have a look at my To-Do List (sits in a Word document) and the highest priority task is to create a quality assurance document to document the quality assurance steps we are taking to ensure that each participant in our research study receives the correct package from the 9 possible packages that a local courier service is storing for us. I crack on with that task and complete it.

10:15 – Two of my colleagues requested some training on how to run a WordPress website. So I spend the next two hours or so delivering that.

12 noon – I have a two minute catch up with my line manager, as she is on her way to another meeting. I was meant to be joining an advanced excel online course for an hour but receive a message from one of our colleagues recruiting in hospitals that one of the participants has received the wrong package and is querying what to do. Oh dear! That means that from the 11 participants who received deliveries last night, any or most of them could have received the wrong one. I pull up a list of all those deliveries, and give each of them a call to check which package they received, what it contained and what code was on the box. I manage to get through to half of them, and email the rest. From their responses, it seems they have been sent the wrong package by the courier. I pass that information onto my colleague, who decides to drop into the courier’s office this afternoon. Whilst doing this, I quickly have lunch at my desk (I can’t remember the last time I took a lunch break – in fact I think it was when we had a team lunch many months ago).

13:15 – I head over to the other side of the campus to take part in a PGR supervisor training course. I am also on the internal assessment exam panel next week for a 1st year PhD student, so this has come at a good time. I learn about the highs and lows of supervising PGR students, as well as rules and guidelines specific to Salford. The course also has an integral and longer follow up online component, which I’m told will be sent within a week.

15:30 - I return back to the office, check my emails and some urgent work has come in to complete a service definition agreement for the IT department, which is due tomorrow noon. This is because they are hosting the website and an Android and iOS app developed for our research project, which is collecting data from participants daily for two months post-birth. The document is full of acronyms and technical language, and I can see why it has been passed on to me to fill in.

16:15 - My colleague returns from the courier company and informs me that all participants who received packages yesterday have now been sent the correct package, and it seems there was a problem because the member of staff who was in charge was on leave. I then email each of the participants individually and let them know that a mistake has been made and the correct package will be delivered this evening.

16:45 - I look at my diary for tomorrow and see we have a team meeting. I send a few things to the printer (which I can pick up on my way in in the morning, as that saves time going back and forth to the printer), including the Good Practice in Authorship of Research Publications User Guide which I quickly discuss with my colleague, and ask to put on the agenda for the team meeting. I want to ensure we are all on the same page with regards to publication and co-authorship guidelines. I also send the interim assessment student’s application as well as the examiner’s form to the printer.

17:05 - I leave the office and head to the train station. On the way, I bump into one of my favourite people at Salford, Mary, who works in professional services in the school. She is one of the most helpful, kind and resourceful people in our school! We have a nice chat about her recent holiday to Dubai. It is also one of the hottest days of the year today, and we marvel at the heat and wish we were on the beach.

I also lecture (very) part-time for Open University (OU), so on the train back, I always first check my OU emails to see if there are any student emails (and I am not expecting any as term is over). I usually reply or star them to reply to later in the evening. I then check personal emails, followed by Twitter. Today, I order that handbag I looked at in the morning (I promise ordering handbags is a very rare occurrence!).

18:00 - I reach home no thanks to the Northern train delays (that is another long story). It is a very hot day today, so it is dinner followed by an ice cream treat.

19:30 - Once dinner and chores are over, I spend an hour or more in the evenings (except when I have fitness classes) working on activities that are not directly related to my job but help me develop as an academic and a researcher. Tonight, it’s writing this reflective post (which feels rather cathartic), but more recently it has been working on getting my final journal paper from my PhD research published (due to be published in the next few weeks), reviewing journal articles, reading the BMJ and journal papers on my research interests, working my way through an EdX Harvard Course on Healthcare Improvement, reading books (and taking notes) on systematic reviews and critical appraisal skills etc.

Dr Salma Patel is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Salford and an Associate Lecturer at The Open University. She completed her PhD in the area of digital health at the University of Warwick. You read more about her work on her website www.salmapatel.co.uk or follow her on Twitter: @DrSalmaPatel

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