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POST Fellow blog 2014-15 #1

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I’m now into my tenth week at POST and its a few days until the Christmas holidays, so now is as good a time as any to take a look back at what I’ve been up to.

Firstly a little bit about me, I am a third year PhD student at The Institute of Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast, and my research concerns developing analytical techniques to detect food fraud in edible oils. The POSTnote title of “sugar and health” was given to me a few months before I started work. This made me feel slightly apprehensive, as this would involve adopting a new style of writing and a topic I knew little about. My fears were soon eased when I met my other colleagues and found that my academic background need not match my POSTnote title. The reason for this is that POSTnotes are informed by a range of experts from academia and industry, and our main job is collecting and distilling their information into a concise and unbiased form. My first few weeks consisted of teaching myself the basics of sugar and nutrition and reading journals to understand what the research currently says on the matter. I also drew up a list of people and organisations I wanted to interview, trying to make sure every opinion on the topic was accounted for.

Interviewing experts for this POSTnote has been a great experience and I can’t imagine another situation where I would get such access to people who have achieved so much in their field. For example I had to ask the question “how do you address someone in an email who has a Knighthood and is a Professor? (Answer: Professor Sir)” I was able to interview many people who have worked extensively on sugar including professors, medical doctors, food industry figureheads and my local MP. As the interviews progressed I started to draft my POSTnote and over the weeks it was re-drafted many times between my supervisor and I. This week it was internally reviewed by the senior staff here, who do this for every POSTnote and I hope to send it to be externally reviewed by various experts within the next few days. You can see that the writing of a POSTnote is very much a collaborative process and one which has greatly improved my skills in scientific writing and editing. 

I should say that my time here has not been stuck in an office, I’ve been able to take advantage of having access to the Palace of Westminster, where I’ve been free to roam. Being staff also means I can attend events such as Prime Minister Questions, which I have tickets for in January. My time here at Westminster coincided with the IFST Jubilee lecture which took place at the Royal Society. I was kindly invited to this and thought the CEO of Waitrose Mark Price gave a really interesting talk. I would highly recommend this fellowship, I’ve learnt huge amounts and it’s been a nice change from PhD work!


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