Perks of a PhD life: seeing the world!

A lot has happened since I last wrote. It is now August (…AUGUST!?) and the department is eeriely quiet, now that the undergrads are gone and research group meetings are on hold. As an early PhD student, I am just beginning to understand the monotony of coming in to work, battle with computer code, obtain some weird results, rack my brains over why they look strange, inspect my code, realise there was a bracket or a comma in the wrong place and that all hell broke loose from there on. Programming continues to be a daily challenge, though one I am perpetually fighting with baby punches. I’ll be a pro one day, I promise.

But there are some exciting opportunities lurking behind the everyday monotony. I recently got the incredible chance to travel to Beijing as part of an air pollution-related megaproject between institutions in the UK and developing megacities in the likes of China and India. The project aims to understand the human health risks posed by air pollution, and how to best mitigate them. The global annual death toll due to air pollution is terrifying: millions of people die of poor air quality worldwide. In the UK, nearly 26 pollution-related deaths per 100,000 capita occur annually – mainly due to PM2.5 and PM10, i.e. particulates of diameter > 2.5 or 10 micrometers. I was recently asked to write a blog post about the purpose of my trip for our departmental student blog – go ahead and have a read if you are interested! The trip was funded by NERC and NCAS, for which I am incredibly grateful for.

Although my PhD project doesn’t involve research into the effects of PM on human health, it is a topic closely related and provides an overarching motivation for my own research. (This is also the moment where I realise that I have never really written about what it is I do!). I’ll write about it soon, alongside an experience of presenting some of my initial work at the Royal Meteorological Society’s students & early career reserchers’ conference earlier in July. Possibly the most petrifying thing I have had to do since starting here last September, but only the first of many presentations to come.

Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “Perks of a PhD life: seeing the world!

  1. Peter James Thomas says:

    Hi Kaja,

    Thanks for following my blog – I have returned the complement. Given your background, I thought that you might find the following of interest:

    It’s my unfinished book about Group Theory, loosely based on its application in areas such as Quantum Field Theory (still some work to be done on the later chapters about this), but mostly an excuse to focus on some of the simpler maths.

    Good luck with the PhD, I experienced what you are going through vicariously while my wife was gaining hers in Structural Biology (see


    1. Kaja Milczewska says:

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the follow and the comment! Your book sounds interesting, I will be giving it a go. Glimpses of Symmetry is a great title. Good luck with finishing those later chapters!


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