Category Archives: Inspiration

2000 downloads – the wonders of open access!

I avoid publishing our research work in open access journals purely due the cost involved. I was wrong as the letter to my coauthor and top collaborator below demonstrates – open access could well be the future if you want your work read and cited.

What are the important factors when deciding where to publish? Here is a list of 5 factors to consider.

1. Open access or standard pay for access to download and read.
2. The reputation of the publisher. Is it well known, large and in international markets?
3. Impact factor of the journal.
4. The number of readers the journal has or circulation.
5. Does it have wide scope or limited to a small specialist audience

What else do you need to consider if you want your work to be read and cited?


On 18 Sep 2013, at 06:17, Mark Jackson wrote:

Dear Dr. Jackson,

We are pleased to inform you that your paper “Finite Element Analysis of Desktop Machine Tools for Micromachining Applications” has achieved impressive readership results.

The chapter you have published with InTech in the book “Finite Element Analysis – From Biomedical Applications to Industrial Developments” has so far been accessed 2000 times. Congratulations on the significant impact that your work has achieved to date.

The top downloads of your paper are from the following five countries:
USA, India, China, Brazil, Canada’s

More information and statistics regarding your paper can be found on your Author Panel:

If you are interested in additionally disseminating your work, there you will also find the necessary

The book containing your paper can be directly accessed at this link:

We congratulate you once again on your success.
InTech – open science, open minds
Phone: +385 (51) 770 447
Fax: +385 (51) 686 166
Janeza Trdine 9
51000 Rijeka, Croatia


How to accelerate your progress with regular reports?

As a student I did two things everyday that developed my research skills.

I wanted to know as soon as someone did something new in my field. I was curious about new developments in science and technology. Straight after lunch I would go to the library scanning A-Z of latest journals and read anything of interest. Sometimes I would be in the library for 15 minutes but if I found something really interesting then two hours would be too short. I always carried a note book to write down interesting things I was reading. As a result I was the most informed student in my group. This gave me interesting topics to talk about with friends, fellow students and academic staff.

I also spent time in quiet places where I could think about my project and note down any ideas for new experiments and interpret things I had read or analyse graphs and tables. I also freed my imagination and asked questions about what would happen if I did various things that I did not have facilities and capabilities to do in my lab. This habit developed my planning and analytical abilities. It also opened my mind up to search for people who could do what I wanted. My mind was tuned into collaborations and linkages naturally. I would go to a conference or meeting to another university and seek out people and facilities that could help me to do new experiments.

In this blog post I want to emphasise the importance of regular reports.

So, what are the benefits of doing a weekly research report?

1. You will have a written record of what you have done during the week.

2. The report will help you to reflect and analyse your efforts and the things you have done.

3. You will have things to discuss with other research students and supervisors so that you get valuable feedback.

4. Your ability to write will improve and help you towards writing transfer reports and thesis in the future.

5. It will help you to develop focused creativity.

6. The report will help you monitor your own progress and keep you on track.

7. It will highlight your strengths and weaknesses.

8. The report will improve your efficiency and will save you time when you have to do longer reports and write your thesis.

Reading makes a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. Francis Bacon

How to do weekly reports? Here are some ideas

1. Decide a report structure that works best for you and your advisor. Keep the structure simple.

2. When I was working in industry my manager only had few minutes to read reports. My report included
a) what contracts have come in? How much they are worth? Who are the clients?
b) what contracts are you bidding for? How much and with who?
c) what are the chances of securing the contracts?
d) what can you do to increase the value of the business?

3. Write the report in your own words. Polish the grammar and the language. Give it your best effort.

4. Keep your report short and limit it to 2 pages.

5. Have 3 subheadings
a) Work completed
b) What do the results mean?
c) What are you going to do next? Why?

6. Have a fixed deadline for the report eg Friday 12:00. It will give you focus. Always stick to your deadline. Never be late.

7. Send your report to your supervisors for feedback or post on private blog.

8. Always reflect and act on the feedback and advice given.

9. Enjoy writing your weekly report.

The discipline of writing something down is the first step towards making it happen. Lee Iacocca

‘No limits in what you can achieve- the significance of self-image’

Countless times I have wondered how we can be successful in every aspect in life, why some of us are and some aren’t. The truth is those who are; know the essentialness of self-image upgrade and update, as well as, that the power behind change of mind is formula for change of life. Bursting the boundaries of our mental limitations and emancipating ourselves of constricting conservative thoughts paves out the expansion of what we are destined to achieve.

Stop, Think, only for a moment, now, write a figure that you want to accumulate in precisely 12 months from now, no limits, no restrictions.

The exact amount will tell you how much value you attribute to yourself in one year, surprising? No? Ask yourself, why did you put that particular figure? Why not one pound, one dollar, or one penny more? (Remove every external factor that your mind is bound by) By this simple exercise which takes less than a few seconds we can astronomically shift the poles of our self-image and accomplish anything. There are no limits in what you can achieve… 

‘Character equals destiny’- Heraclitus, Greek philosopher


Inspired by- The Secret – Ask and Its Given- The Instat Millionaire

Life after a PhD

That momentum which has kept me going all these months has abruptly come to an end. Whilst most people in my situation would be filled with elation. The lack of mental stimulation and pressure has left me in a dazed haze. For I find myself at a loss as to what to do with my endless time. In many ways, I truly am a person who needs a ‘project’. Thus, my advice to anyone who is nearing the end of their tenure as a PhD student is to maintain their momentum have ‘projects’ and ideas set in motion as they finish. The burning desire to command and conquer will fizzle out in all certainty extremely quickly if not directed at something, this much I know now. Fortunately, I have found an outlet for my unused energy in the form of a new and exciting project which I will reveal in due course.

My Supervisor, my guide, Professor thank you for everything.
Myself and the distinguished Professor Waqar Ahmed

How to master any skill or subject in days not years?

As a species we have always been obsessed with finding hidden treasures in search of wealth, success and happiness. Man has struggled, toiled and risked his life to find the hidden treasures such as gold, silver and companionship.

For as long as I can remember I read books, studied science and technology, practiced martial arts obsessively and watched sports to find the secrets of being a master or a champion. The more I learnt about a subject, skill or sport the essence became more obscure and difficult to find. I was going crazy with all the information. I desperately needed to make things simple.

To get to the heart or the essence you have to strip away the unessentials.  Peel away the outer layers or the skin to get to the juicy fruit. Legendary martial artist Bruce Lee captured the essence.

“It’s not the daily increase but a daily decrease. Hack away at the unessentials to find the truth” Bruce Lee

Strive to make things simple and focus on practice to achieve mastery.

“Things must be made as simple as possible and not any simpler” Albert Einstein

Once you have identified the essentials or the essence of any skill, knowledge or sport  focus intensely on mastering them.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” Bruce Lee.

Let me illustrate with 4 examples

1. Essence of Sports

There are hundreds of moves, forms (kata) and drills to learn a martial art such as karate and perform efficiently and effectively to earn a black belt individually and with an opponent. However, the essence is only a few techniques.

Punches – straight, up and round (from left to right and vice verse). In boxing they are called left jab, right cross, hook and uppercut

Kicks – front, side, roundhouse (front and back)

Attack and evasion — move forward, backwards and sideways

To win in combat you must do these movements faster, stronger and longer than your opponent and at the right time. This is simple but not easy. You much practice daily to develop the speed, power and endurance. The key to mastery is repetition.

“Repetition is the mother of skill”. Tony Robbins

If you notice the top tennis players in the world they will only have one or two shots where they are better than anyone else. They are the best at either at the serve, forehand, backhand, serve and volley with an occasional drop shot. The rest depends on speed, power, endurance and timing.

2) Essence of strength

To develop great strength focus on just 3 exercises. Do 5 repetitions and 5 sets 3 times a week with maximum weight you can manage.

i) Bench press

ii) Squat

iii) Dead lift

Make sure you warm up throughly and concentrate on low repetition with heavy weight. As your muscles get stronger add a little more weight. Eat more protein and vegetables. Get plenty of rest.

3) Essence of doing a PhD

To do an excellent PhD find out what has already been done and do something new. You then have to write it up in a theses. The essence involves doing 3 things daily

i) Read 1 paper, article or page

ii) Plan and do 1 experiment.

iii) Think about your results, compare them with other people and write up the experiment.

These 3 things make up for over 90% of what counts.  The rest is easy and involves training, seminars, meetings, conferences, presentations, viva and discussions.

4) Essence of Learning

To remember new information or learn any subject whether it is science or humanities or languages is simple but requires effort. Follow these 3 steps

i) Associate what you want to learn with something you already know in a ridiculous, exaggerated and weird way.

ii) Picture it in your mind. See it, feel it, smell it, touch it and hear it.

iii) Repeat frequently

You must apply these three steps to the right materials. Choose the material using the Pareto Principle commonly known as the 80/20 rule which dictates that 80% of the results in any endeavour come from 20% of the input, material, or effort. When you apply it to learning a new language then you can understand 95% of a language and hold a good conversation is a few months of focused learning. However to learn 98% of a language may take 10 years. To learn English it will take you a week or two to learn the 100 most common words.

1. the
2. of
3. and
4. a
5. to
6. in
7. is
8. you
9. that
10. it
11. he
12. was
13. for
14. on
15. are
16. as
17. with
18. his
19. they
20. I
21. at
22. be
23. this
24. have
25. from
26. or
27. one
28. had
29. by
30. word
31. but
32. not
33. what
34. all
35. were
36. we
37. when
38. your
39. can
40. said
41. there
42. use
43. an
44. each
45. which
46. she
47. do
48. how
49. their
50. if
51. will
52. up
53. other
54. about
55. out
56. many
57. then
58. them
59. these
60. so
61. some
62. her
63. would
64. make
65. like
66. him
67. into
68. time
69. has
70. look
71. two
72. more
73. write
74. go
75. see
76. number
77. no
78. way
79. could
80. people
81. my
82. than
83. first
84. water
85. been
86. call
87. who
88. oil
89. its
90. now
91. find
92. long
93. down
94. day
95. did
96. get
97. come
98. made
99. may
100. part

About half of all written English involves these 100 words and the first 300 words make up 65% of English Language. This can be applied to other languages such as Hindi and Urdu. To develop vocabulary beyond the most common 300 words focus on reading about subjects that you are most passionate about. Reading news papers or something you have no interest will make you quite after a while. Use the language as a vehicle to learn more about a subject. If you have poor material then you will be rubbish at the language you’re trying to learn.

It is difficult for westerners to learn Indian languages. The words, sounds, structure and pronunciations seem weird. My sister-in-law, a native American, learnt to understand and speak fluent Hindi and Urdu in a few months by watching Bollywood movies everyday. She never attended any classes or used language tapes or books and shocked the whole family with her fluency. Her motivation was to enjoy the movies. She loved the fancy costumes and exotic locations in these films.  By the way the stories are always the same. Once she understood the basic grammar she acquired vocabulary surprisingly quickly just by watching popular Indian dramas daily. She has picked up all the culture and customs along with the languages. She cooks great Indian dishes as well.

If enjoy the material then you will invest the time and get a very return on you investment of effort. Focus on the essence, commit to mastering the fundamentals and in no time I’ll see you at the top or on stage accepting your PhD.

Great tips for interview success

This is a guest post by Mary Tait


To further your aims and get that all important starting letter through your door you must make a good impression at interview. Your personality as well as your abilities will undoubtedly be taken into account. Many employers will use the information gained from your Curriculum Vitae to ask questions and try and relate the tasks and experience as well as your achievements to their needs. So it is important that your talents are focused to fit with what the prospective employer seeks.

Employers can get as anxious at interview as prospective employees, so do keep this in mind and try not to let your nerves take over. To help you and them relax many employers may start their interview process on a friendly note generally beginning with such topics as the weather or your journey. From this he may be able to judge whether or not you chat too much or whether or not you are able to cut to the point of the interview without being unfriendly. Nerves can cause you too chat too much so do try and keep them under control. Try and talk directly to the point.

The company may have set guidelines regarding the questions that they ask at interview so if you have a close friend who is working there, there is no harm in asking them for advice.

Remember too that at interview people who make eye contact are seen as trustworthy. Don’t stare though as this will just alarm the interviewer.

Try and avoid asking the interviewer personal questions that are irrelevant to the position you are seeking, but remember too that interviewers like to feel important. 


To assess a candidate’s skill a recruiter may ask you how you organise things. Think about how you organise your daily workload, your filing system or a project and explain to him how it has maximised the potential of your time management. 

Problem Solving
Some employers may ask you how you solve problems. They may be interested in your
analytical or customer service skills. Have a think about how you have solved problems in the past and what the outcome has been. The recruiter may give you a hypothetical problem and ask you how you would solve it… be ready. 

Communication is key in all manner of positions. Before the interview has even begun the recruiter may be already assessing your communication skills. Be clear! The way you dress will communicate your appearance. The way you sit will communicate whether you are seen as tidy or slovenly. Communication skills can say all manner of things about you before you even open your mouth. However, once the interview has begun the recruiter may further assess your communication skills through the spoken word. Can you talk confidently on the phone? Many people can’t! He will be testing your efficiency in communicating and relating information clearly and confidently. He may also ask if about your writing skills and if you have written reports he may be
interested in seeing some of them. Remember too that listening is an all important part of communication. 

Team Work and Social Standing
The recruiter will need to assess whether or not you will get on with the rest of the taskforce. Superiors, colleagues and subordinates, internal and external agencies. Do you work better as part of a team or on your own initiative? Are you a team leader? How would you lead a team? How would you handle a problem with a colleague who wasn’t pulling his weight? 

Decision Making
Dependent on the position you are seeking this may be a make or break question. How well do you manage difficult decision? How quickly can you implement them? How do you reach a decision?

More help on interviews coming soon……
Phone: 0345 370 9940


Why a research habit is 100x better than a plan?

Do you come up with elaborate plans to accomplish things? Do you have plan to write a research paper?

For the past 20 years I have sat down with dozens of research students and made plans to help them achieve the goals. I took into account their abilities, time commitments, personal life and worked with students to develop excellent plans. Plans if executed well could have achieved spectacular results. Less than 5% of the students followed their plan.

Why did the plans fail most of the time?

Most of the people were convinced that they had a killer plan guaranteed to work. I found that the most important thing was not the plan but the daily habits.

Many incredibly talented students achieved rather average results because they had poor habits. However, I have had below average students who achieved outstanding results.

If you have 10 great plans but don’t follow them then they are useless. The problem is not that people don’t know what to do rather people don’t do what they know. It’s the doing that makes all the difference. Knowing is not enough one must do.

How do you get students to do something rather than just sit and reflect until the cows come home? It’s not that people are not motivated. You can get people to do something for a few days. That is not hard, however to follow through consistently is the trick. How can you get them to stick to it?

When I started reading papers early on in my career, I knew I could do it for a few days but found it hard to stick to it. I decided to go to library straight to library after lunch to relax and read. I started to enjoy and look forward to my daily trip to the library. I read articles to enjoy them. Soon I got addicted and then kept going everyday. I hated weekends because I couldn’t go to the library. I couldn’t wait for monday to come. As my knowledge increased people’s started commented on my breadth of knowledge and I enjoyed the compliments. This made it even more enjoyable to go to the library. This became a daily habit during my PhD and many years after.

I have also recently had dozens of plans and exercise routines and do it for a week or so and then become a coach potato again. Sticking to it long enough to make a difference to my fitness and weight.

You need to find a way of creating a habit of reading papers or exercising to make it a habit you can stick to. Forming a habit that can be a part of your lifestyle then you’ll stick to it and then achievements and success will follow you wherever you go.

Here are the 7 steps to creating a habit.

1. Start small

2. Do it everyday

3. Never go more than two consecutive days without doing the habit

4. Reward yourself straight after doing the habit

5. Be accountable to someone whose opinion you care about.

6. Set incremental goals

7. Enjoy the habit

What is the best way to succeed at research?

Why do you do research? What made you become a teacher, doctor, dentist or a researcher?

For most of my life I set goals in research. In the early days it was to complete a set of experiments in a given week. Write the up results in my laboratory book. Prepare, research and deliver my presentation.

Most of the time I wanted to please my PhD supervisor, who I had total respect for, to make hm happy. He was my idol. Whilst I owe 90% of my success to my supervisor’s guidance and training, he was a tough task master. He demanded high standards. In my 3 years with him he did not praise anything I did or said something was good. I felt like a hopeless failure. I had no hope of passing my PhD. Even though I was married to the most beautiful girl in the world with 2 gorgeous children during my studies I was really married to my PhD. I thought about it 24 hours a day. I dreamt about my experiments and papers I was reading.  I followed a strict army type regime.

Do you try to please people all the time? Do you feel that no matter how hard you try you can’t succeed?

As I progressed my goals become; write 6 papers a year and present at 3 international conferences. Gradually they became more and more demanding such as complete a book in 6 months. I was crazy. I had great determination and drive to achieve the goals that I had set. My friends thought I was successful because I achieved most of my goals. More than 80% of the time however I felt like a terrible failure. Most of the time I did not complete the tasks that I had set myself. I was not disciplined enough to write for 8 hours or finish a chapter in a week or stick to my exact plan.

Do you set tough goals and then beat yourself up when you don’t live up to your expectations?

Luckily for me I did not broadcast my goals, so other people did not scold me or look at me as a failure. In my mind however I was useless and always disappointed myself. The other thing I did was to compare myself with other high flying academics. This is a no win situation. No matter who you are if you compare yourself as scientists to Harold Kroto or George Whitesides or CNR Rao then you will be inferior and feel like a failure. On that scale 99.999% of the scientists are failures.

Do you compare yourself to role models that you can never exceed? Do you play golf and compare your skills to Tiger Woods? Do you play cricket and think you can be better than Sachin Tandulkar?

I got fed up with feeling like a failure since I worked extremely hard and achieved way more than anyone from my family or community could ever accept.

After a major health scare I decided to change my attitude. I decided that I would not change the things that I did everyday. However, everything I do from now on will be for fun. At first this scared the hell out of me. Why? I thought that I would lose my drive and then I would then really be a failure. I constantly asked myself how can I have fun and do this thing well. I let go of expectations. My new motto became how can I have more fun than ever before whilst being focused on the task at hand? When I completed tasks I felt like a success and my energy levels exploded through the sky like a rocket. This attitude split over into other areas of my life such as relationships, social life and health.

I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun – Thomas A. Edison

  • If you go for a run or walk to exercise do you constantly evaluate yourself? Do you get annoyed at yourself for not going at a fast enough pace or completing the distance in a given time? This makes you feel terrible. If you do it purely for fun however you will feel great and successful. You will still get the benefits of exercise.
  • Do start writing a paper but get only half way through it. Is that a failure or success? It’s a failure if you wanted to finish it in one sitting. If it was fun and you had a wonderful time then you’re successful. You can always go back and do the second half later.
  • If you  start a blog and commit to writing something everyday and miss days. Are you are a failure or a success? If you are writing the blog as something that is going to be fun and useful for people to read then you’re a success even if you’re posts are not as frequent as you planned. So the goal is to have fun writing on your blog.  You will write more often if its enjoyable for you.
  • Having fun as a priority shifts everything. It determines whether something is a success or failure. It changes your attitude. Your mood improves and you’ll  smile when you’re doing things instead of frowning.
  • Enjoy life and have fun doing everything. Fun and focus equals success and happiness. Make sure that you focus on the fun first and watch your success soar.

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game – Michael Jordan


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Special Thanks to Andrei for getting us started and for being our blogging guru and great inspiration

What is the key to success as a researcher?

To succeed as a researcher you need to do certain things regularly. You need to keep your lab book up to date, write things down as you are doing them so that all the essential details are correct and you don’t forget. You want to write up your results at the end of the day,  summarise your research papers. Fill in you’re training log regularly. Write down your research tasks daily in your planner.

What you need to do to be a good researcher is not rocket science. Ask your supervisor or someone who is an excellent student in the year above you. But knowing is not enough you must do to succeed. Knowledge is potential power but its regular action gives you results.

The biggest reason people fail is that they don’t stick to what they know they should do. And they don’t keep doing it. Lifting weights or exercising once in while won’t make you strong and fit. You must make it a routine to have the strength and fitness that you can be proud of. This is obvious, isn’t it. So why don’t people do it.

How do you find the way to keep doing it?

If your goal is to write a 1,000 words or write up your experiment in the evening. The vital key to forming a habit is not how many words you write or how much exercise you do but whether you do it at all.

The key is to start. That’s the hardest part for me. I have so many distractions that starting is the hardest part. However once I get going then I know I’ll finish. My momentum just carries me over the finishing line.

The most powerful key to forming a habit is to start each day. 

If you want to write a 1,000 words just get your notebook and pen and start writing. Don’t wait until you feel like wriitng. If you want to walk for exercise just get your trainers on and step out of the front door and go.

Just start and you’ll get good at doing what  needs to be done.

Sometimes you know that you must do something but don’t feel like doing it. You face resistance. You don’t feel like writing. You don’t want to exercise. What do you do?

Why don’t you start? 

You may be watching TV and its nice and comfortable. Forcing yourself to write in your lab book is painful. We all seek pleasure and comfort and avoid pain and discomfort. It is human nature.

It’s harder to start than keep doing what you are currently doing. To exercise you need to get your kit on, get in the car, drive 3 miles, get out of the car, get changed, warm up, exercise, have a shower, get changed and drive all the way home. It’s too hard and takes too long. I’m busy and have loads of urgent and important things to do now. I’ll do it later. If you think like that you’ll never exercise.

How do you get started?

Make it really, really easy to start. It should be easier that what you’re doing now. How do you make it easy?

Focus on the first smallest thing you have to do. To exercise just step out of the house. To write just get a pen and write anything. Even if its crap just write. When things are easy then you won’t have any barriers to starting. Do it wherever you are. Start with the easiest most simplest step. Make it easy to start and hard not to start. To exercise, get your shoes on and get out of the door. Once you are outside it’s easy to keep walking.

Learn to enjoy it. Once you love it you’ll want to keep doing it. Don’t miss a day. Do it everyday.