Author Archives: Manuel Marques

Summer’s over… :(

… and I’m trying to address that by heading south, as a migratory bird would do. Writing these lines in Stansted airport while I wait for a flight to take me to sunny Porto for a couple of days.

Since June not a lot has happened… work-wise we were busying ourselves with the usual bunch of research projects, papers, conference submissions – with the little “extra” this year of having to help organising a conference we hosted at Kent, 2CCOCT. My current project has unfortunately experienced a few setbacks, which means that these coming couple of months are going to be quite hectic in order to recover the lost time. Oh well, I do sometimes function better under some (slight) pressure, so I guess I will be fine!

Le Conquet, Brittany (France)

Beautiful views in the little towns on the Brittany coast!

I was fortunate enough to get some mobility funding to head to be able to go to Brest as well to train with Sylvain (as I might be doing some teaching on the foreseeable future). Brittany is a beautiful place, and the OH and I were treated to a fantastic time by Sylvain & his family. The 3-4 days we were away, despite having some work “flavour” to them were a must-needed break! (especially for the OH… 🙂 )

Here's to another successful rowing season next year! :)

Here’s to another successful rowing season next year! 🙂

I guess I could say that the regatta season this year was definitely a lot more successful than last year 🙂 Not only have I moved up to Junior in the sweep category (on the very last regatta of the season, and in Worthing too, where I got my first Novice win!) but there were plenty of other events going on. Got a couple of 2nd places in the Junior coxless pair, which unfortunately didn’t continue afterwards… but our newly-formed Junior 4+ crew did quite well. We would have qualified for the finals at the Junior 4+ open in the SCC had it not been for ending up in the heat with the two fastest crews (that went on to win and come second on the final…). It was a brilliant race, the fastest we have probably ever been in a coastal 4+ (probably doing it in a flat lake in Eton Dorney had something to do with that… 😛 ). All in all… I feel that I have definitely improved, and my recent ergos clearly demonstrate it, managed to smash two PBs on the same week (for 10×1:00/1:00r sprints and 6k at rate 20).

Well, I guess that’s it for now. Over and out! 😉

The last one of the trilogy…

We finally published the last paper on our polarisation-sensitive OCT configurations! It got accepted for publication in Optics Express in late May and got finally published in mid-June.

Here it is, fresh from the presses! https://www.osapublishing.org/oe/abstract.cfm?uri=oe-25-13-14533&origin=search

It was a long hard struggle but we got there in the end. Hopefully they will be of use to the scientific community… (that’s what everyone hopes when they publish a scientific paper, anyway!)

Ha!

So yeah, I ended up not “being better next time”. First post of 2017… in June. Way to go! 😛

Here I am, though — half-way into the year, and things have been reasonably calmer than the same time last year. No more thesis, no more PhD viva to worry about, and the immediate uncertainty regarding my next move has been reasonably quenched after starting a 2 1/2 year post-doc, which slotted in nicely immediately after the previous project I was working in. Still working in OCT, albeit in a different area of application (robots in an endobronchial surgery setting) which requires me to develop new skill-sets and collaborate with an array of different people.

Definitely settled into the post-doc life now – not terribly different from pre-Dr Manuel, with a bit more responsibility and without the overwhelming pressure of the thesis submission deadline lurking in the distance!! (that is *very* welcome, I have to say)

On a personal level, things are going well too – predictably, rowing has taken most of my spare time yet again, and we are now easing into the regatta season, which means a lot of time spent on the beach!! Things are being interesting, though – I’m definitely being pushed beyond my comfort zone, which is great, and always surrounded by great people.

I’m not going to make any promises at the end of this post, because I already know I’ll start with an apologetic tone next time in that case. Either way, I came here to do some updating of the website, and it wouldn’t look good if I didn’t slot a new post in! 🙂

So, see you around, yeah? Whenever that may be. 😀

 

I’ll be better next time, I promise!

So, how much time has passed since my last update? Basically half a year, I think!… This is definitely not going according to plan 🙂 .

Anyway, my last update was immediately after I handed in my thesis (end of April). I started my new job as a post-doc researcher the week after. The new job is still at the same place, with the same people — but with additional responsibilities (and without the pressure of a thesis to write…)!

I had a slight break in between, though – my dad came to visit and we did some sightseeing (Dover Castle in extremely foggy conditions, but we powered it through anyway – I’m becoming too English 🙂 ) and at the end of his stay I had my first coastal regatta (@ Worthing) of the season (well, there had been one in Deal in early April but that didn’t count). Funnily enough, we ended up winning our Nov 4+ category that day (unfortunately that was the _only_ win I had during the whole season – we did get quite a few third places, though!).

IMGP4185

Some of the HBARC squad after prize-giving in Worthing regatta! (photo by M. Marques)

So yes, most of my summer weekends were spent on several different beaches around the Kent and East Sussex coast – with all culminating on the South Coast Championships which took place precisely at Herne Bay! It has definitely been fun, if tiresome at times.

16178860_10154388565615197_5168142267426206075_o

We like the rough water! 🙂 (although in my opinion rough water is fine for sweep rowing, not so much for going out on a single scull! But I guess I just need to get some proper sea legs…) (photo by J Dining)

One other ‘big thing’ that happened over the summer was our house move. We finally moved out of the student digs in Canterbury we were in to a nicer place in Herne Bay. Not only am I now only 10 minutes away from the clubhouse by bike but we now have a proper garage and workshop where I can work on my bikes and other assorted projects! (it also has a nice kitchen, with a 5-burner gas hob and everything! Luxury…)

Oh, and there is also the viva. Yes, that should actually have been the first thing on the list, but I am trying to do it in a chronological fashion (it does make more sense in my head than in the actual text…). So yes, according to my supervisor, when confronted with the size of my thesis (obviously… 😉 ) my external examiner required the whole 3 months to read it. (he did also say that my thesis was probably the heaviest item in his luggage – but I blame the university policies for that, which prevented me from printing on both sides of the paper, making a 250-page book as thick as the Bible!).

2016-08-02 08

Everything ready for the viva! In the UK the PhD viva is only attended by the two examiners (one internal, and one external) and obviously the candidate. Makes it for a more one-to-one conversation; and even though I had prepared a 30-minute presentation, that ended up being an informal conversation about my work. And no, I did not bribe my examiners with Lidl biscuits, although they were quite welcome 🙂

Anyway, I’m digressing… so, my viva. It took place on the 2nd of August, and everything went according to plan – I had booked a nicer room (our group’s meeting room, which has a proper meeting table, AV facilities and also the kettle & coffee maker: these two are very important!), refreshed my memory by reading the thesis and checking relevant papers (and spotted quite a few mistakes in the process – outch!), so everything was properly prepared. The questioning wasn’t that bad, really – I was just surprised to be asked to compute matrix multiplications and simple signal theory concepts – and in the end I got out with minor corrections (could have been just typographical but since I wanted to change some diagrams, they allowed for that a bit more time). I felt quite honored to be told by my external examiner (who is a very big name in the field, and the editor of one of the biggest journals in the field as well!) that he had actually learned something from my thesis. Amazing stuff, especially considering he started his academic career more or less when I was born!

After properly celebrating with my workmates, my supervisor, and Sally of course, August went on, with a couple more regattas, followed by a lot of water sessions in preparation for the South Coast Champs. By then our crew was coming together – there were sessions when the boat felt really, really good, timing- and balance-wise. It was a long time coming but we felt really happy when it finally happened!

12973499_10153633555555197_111558770539897780_o

At the end of a training session with my mate Carlos on the coxless pair. There are few better ways of finishing the day… 🙂 (photo by N Tricks)

Naturally, during all this time my research activities were carried on – we finalised a paper which is now going to be re-submitted soon (issues with reviewers being silly, nothing new there), and I’ve developed new systems, new software, and obtained lots of pretty pictures in the process. Hopefully if I become a bit more committed to updating this thing more images will eventually surface here…

I also bought a new road bike that month. It was a bit of an impulse buy – we had gone to Halfords to buy L-plates for Sally’s car so she could practice and naturally my gaze was diverted to the bike section, where I spotted a big discount on old stock. Ended up getting a low-end Carrera (but with carbon forks and half-decent wheels) for £199 – quite happy with it so far, although I haven’t done any very long rides with it yet (mostly 20 miles-ish each so far). The N+1 rule does not apply here, at least not until we have our own place and not have to worry about moving everything, so I had to get rid of one of my bikes 🙁 . But I wasn’t really riding the hybrid Raleigh that much, especially considering that the bike itself was a bit too small for me! Ended up selling it to one of my co-workers, which was probably the best thing I could have done – it went to a loving home and I still see it from time to time. 😉

2016-10-22 13

My two roadies enjoying the sun. I took this picture after finishing fitting a new fork on the Granada, since the original one had been damaged during a head-on collision with another cyclist earlier in the summer.

In late August I flew to Porto for a mini-holiday with my family, followed by the customary week-long Physics summer school at my old university, where once again I mentored the LEGO robots project (this was probably the last time I’ll be involved in this, though – I think it is time to move on and let new faces take over and create a whole new project!). Away from my crewmates and the training sessions, and with the Championship looming, I ran and I cycled as much as possible, and I was treated to some nice rides with nice people, as the picture below shows!… 🙂

Me and my mate Cris after a long-ish bike ride along the seafront and riverside. Great time!

Me and my mate Cris after a long-ish bike ride along the seafront and riverside. Brilliant time!

September came and went, with a very welcome mini-break with Sally to Portugal – it was her first time there, and we had a very tightly-packed schedule, so things were a bit hectic. Still, we enjoyed the countryside, Porto, the river, and the nice food (not to mention having my family around). And on Easter next year we will return for more!

14543683_10154037716965197_5845461533827470584_o

In the Douro valley with Mum, Dad and Sally!

After returning to the UK, winter slowly started to set in. We fought for a bit, still had our Indian summer for a while, not really wanting to swap the summer with the winter clothes or turn the central heating on but we ended up capitulating on early November (although the  icy weather only really started around here last week!). And with November a few more things appeared in the horizon – I became qualified as a session rowing coach (I have completed a British Rowing course – the first one on the coaching ladder – alongside a few people from HBARC and Spitfire), and I had my graduation ceremony where I finally became a doctor of philosophy in Physics (woo, fancy title! 🙂 ).

Naturally, for this momentous occasion I had to have my family over, so my parents came to visit, and after graduation day we took a couple of days off to show them around. Despite the torrential rain in one of the days (there you go, England!) we still enjoyed ourselves.

15122934_10206650884385175_4297614921010574819_o

Me and my parents at the Cathedral on graduation day. (photo by S Makin)

And now it is finally December, and Christmas decorations are sprouting here and there, there’s Christmas music on the radio, and today I bought my very first Christmas jumper! 🙂 This year I’m actually spending Christmas and New Year in England, for the first time in my life. My brother and sister are actually spending Christmas with us (which is also going to be a first for them), so I’m quite looking forward to the festive season. But there’s so much to finish before that happens… better get on with it, and hope I still have some time to keep this updated. At least let’s hope it won’t be another 6-7 months until the next update… 😉

So much for the monthly updates, then!

When was the last time I posted something here? (other than a video?… Which reminds me that I haven’t linked them all here!! Argh…)

Goodness, that was *before* I went to Photonics West! Quite a lot of things have happened since then, as anyone can imagine.

In early February I was gearing towards my attendance of Photonics West 2016, which is simply the biggest Optics conference in the world. After attending it, I have to say that indeed it is! Even though I spent 5 days straight from morning (0830 starts!) till late I have probably not even seen 1% of the whole event. Even checking the exhibition out was rushed, very rushed!…

WhatsApp-Image-20160217

Giving a talk at Photonics West. (photo by A. Ribeiro)

I was also attending it to give a talk on a system that Sylvain and I developed and got a paper on. It was a fairly simple idea, implemented with old components we sourced around the lab (some of which we had no datasheets of!). The session I was in (on PS-OCT) had some very good speakers from very distinct and established institutions, reporting on work that typically involved a lot more people and spanning across quite a few years. Definitely made me feel a bit small in comparison, but I managed to get that talk out without that much of an issue, in the end. There was actually a fairly humorous point in the whole thing 🙂 – as the chairperson called me in to give my talk, the guy who was presenting after me thought it was his turn (the session was already running late) and headed for the stage at the same time. To which I said “don’t worry, I won’t be long anyway!!” – definitely helped to break the ice a little bit. And since we were running late already the chairperson didn’t allow for that many questions, with one of the two I was asked being something I was already expecting, managing to joke it off a little bit ;).

Of course, attending Photonics West also meant travelling to the US and the sunny state of California, which even in early February was better than some August days here in Kent! San Francisco is definitely quite a sight. Sylvain and I hired bikes on the last day and ended up cycling something like 30 miles up and down the famous SF hills, and we also crossed the Golden Gate – with the mandatory shot in front of it, of course! But trying to cycle up Lombard Street (with a ridiculous grade – I think it must have been over 20%!) on a hire bike which had definitely some issues with its bottom bracket (it kept creaking every time I put some load in it) was interesting (and intense!).

San Francisco is however a city full of contrasts. The hotel I was in (which was actually a youth hostel, but a pretty good one!) sat on the very edge of the Tenderloin neighbourhood, which is unfortunately famed for the large amount of homeless people living in it. Actually, one would see homeless people even down the financial district with all the high-rises and shops – it definitely struck me when I saw a guy sleeping rough no more than 50 yards away from a Ferrari. The US does not have the same social support system as in Europe, that’s for sure. And SF is apparently similar to London (and the south of England, really) in terms of housing affordability – rents are high and property prices skyrocketing, with a progressive gentrification happening, too. All too familiar…

After the conference, Sally and I planned a bit of a mini-holiday through California, involving a roadtrip to Yosemite and a nice scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway. In terms of the mileage, it was nowhere near as crazy as my roadtrip last year through Arizona – we took our time to enjoy the scenery and have lots of lovely Mexican food, too :).

As you’d probably have guessed by now, there has been a big change in my personal life over the last few months – I have a girlfriend! Sally is a very special companion and a pleasure to live with 🙂 definitely these last few intense thesis-writing months wouldn’t have been so relaxing and easy if it hadn’t been for her (and she has been dutifully acknowledged in the thesis, of course!). And yes, I have now realised I have put “intense” and “relaxing” in the same sentence. Oh well…

All printed and ready to go! 🙂

Speaking of thesis, it is done!! (that partly explains my absence from posting things here…) I submitted it today, all 256 pages of it! (actually it is a bit less than that, this figure includes appendices…) Had to take the mandatory picture for everyone to see, of course 🙂

I do feel quite mixed emotions at this stage. Writing it wasn’t particularly painful or difficult (it helped having 4 papers already published ready to turn into chapters!…), and it helped having some other things going on (more on that later…). But at the same time I feel relief for having finished it, and excitement for the things to come (namely the new project I will be working on as a post-doc). Fun times ahead!

First regatta of the season @ Deal. Wasn’t too bad, considering we trained maybe once or twice on the water before the actual race! 🙂 (photo by A. Rodrigo)

Speaking of fun, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts I started getting slightly more serious with my rowing – I mean, I’m still (and will ever be) miles away from “elite” level, but I definitely went up a notch from “casual fair-weather sculler”. Joining HBARC was a pretty good idea, I have to say, and I’m very looking forward towards the summer racing season, when I will finally travel a little bit and get to know some of the towns in the south coast. The gruelling winter training has been paying off, too – we raced already in a pre-season event in Deal and we did not came last! (quite a feat considering we had the grand total of ONE outing with one of the crews I’ve raced on)

Thank you French Air Traffic Controllers! I would have not managed to finish writing this post if it wasn't for you :)

Thank you French Air Traffic Controllers! I would have not managed to finish writing this post if it wasn’t for you 🙂

I will finish this very lengthy post as I have to get going – I’m writing this from an airport café whilst I wait for my dad to arrive in England (he’s coming to visit me for a few days, so some sightseeing and nice food is in order!). Thank you French air traffic controllers for your industrial action and causing my dad’s flight to be delayed, otherwise I would have never managed to finish this post!! 😀

So, over and out. Hopefully next time I’m writing will be not in 3 months’ time! 🙂

Epson runsense SF-810: second run (Scott Creek Beach, California, USA)

And now for something completely different!
In this video, I’m doing some barefoot running in sunny California. I will talk about some usability issues, and also test how waterproof the watch is!

Epson has very kindly sent me this unit to test as part of their 100 Epson runners programme. In exchange for leaving 5 reviews I am allowed to keep the Runsense which I tested without charge.

Monthly updates?…

Judging from the past posts, it is starting to look like that indeed! Anyway, better late than never, isn’t what they say?

So, since New Year’s Eve (and day) a month has passed. New Year’s Eve wasn’t that exciting, I have to say – a combination of not having any plans and the family heading off to the  countryside meant that I did not join the festivities in Porto. New Year’s Day was actually spent with some quality time with the family, while eating obscene amounts of food at my grandparents’ 🙂

I had planned my flights to stay for another week in Porto, thinking that I would be able to combine some thesis writing with nice bike rides in crisp, cool January days (same time the previous year the weather was absolutely gorgeous! I remember even taking some work to a seaside cafe and trying to do some work under a gorgeous blue sky, with the waves crashing in the distance…). Unfortunately, this wasn’t to happen this week, as it rained copiously throughout the week – Rui and I barely had the opportunity to go for a little ride to test his new (for him) road bike (and we got significantly soaked in the process anyway!). Even the river became off-limits as the Port Authority closed it to any vessels, so no rowing either :-(.

In the end I did manage to get some work done, my thesis is chugging along OK, although it is sometimes difficult to find motivation to work on it while other things are happening around me, both work and leisure-wise.

So I flew back home (funny how I consider this “home” now, isn’t it?…) and went straight back to work. Two days after I was off to Ashford to spend the day at the hospital, thankfully that had nothing to do with me or anyone I personally know! No, we were invited to visit (and shadow) a pair of ophthalmologists who have been working with our research group for a while. Sylvain has covered the visit on his blog, and I make his words mine, it was a very fascinating experience! (I did not faint though, too many episodes of Casualty and ER did the trick! 😛 ) Rather good to see exactly what are their real needs, as most of the time we seem to think we know what’s good for them, technology-wise, but it is not until we are actually inside the operating theatre that one realises the constraints the equipment has to respect and what is effectively useful for the eye surgeons during their procedures and also during their clinic work.

Afterwards, life became a continuum of work, thesis and training (perhaps I should find a synonym of “work” which starts with a “T”!). As mentioned in previous posts, I have been training at HBARC since September, and it has been an amazing ride. Hard to believe that I’m now pulling sub 2:00/500m splits for 5-6k at rate 19! And if a few things do go forward there might be a possibility of some racing happening this Summer. But I’m keeping that sort of under wraps for now 😉

It may not look like much, but back in September I would be lucky to finish 5k at this rate in 21 minutes! Training has been paying off, although there is still a lot to do :)

It may not look like much, but back in September I would be lucky to finish 5k at this rate in 21 minutes! Training has been paying off, although there is still a lot to do 🙂

Anyway, it has been really nice and I’ve been meeting some great people. I may be a bit biased but I feel that any rowing-motivated connection or acquaintance has all the potential to go well – due to rowing I have met quite a lot of great people, some of which I consider good friends. I think it may have something to do with this psyche of working really, really hard towards a common goal, and pulling it together all the way till the end. And I had been missing that for these last couple of years, ever since I left Porto. Not only the training together (the psychological effect of erging together is amazing – I would have never dreamed of delivering what I am doing now, with an added increase in endurance and general strength!), but also the social part: we have been having club meals and events at the boathouse which have been great, brilliant sense of community there. 🙂

Right, I’m going to wrap this up here (this is what happens when I start musing about rowing…). A few posts will start popping up over the next couple of months (in addition to these monthly-that-I-wanted-to-post-more-regularly ones), since I have been selected by Epson to review a running watch/HRM, the runsense SF-810. In return for posting a few videos portraying my impressions when using it, they will let me keep it at the end of the programme. I have already started the video reviews, with the mandatory unboxing and a first (muddy) run in Blean Woods last weekend. Stay tuned for the next ones! 🙂

Epson runsense SF-810: review#1, first run (Blean Woods, Canterbury, Kent)

In this episode, I took the watch on my first run which took place in beautiful (albeit muddy) Blean Woods, on the outskirts of Canterbury, Kent.
I delved on usability and the data the watch provides, along with the issues I’ve had with connecting the watch to my Android phone.

Epson has very kindly sent me this unit to test as part of their 100 Epson runners programme. In exchange for leaving 5 reviews I am allowed to keep the Runsense which I tested without charge.

Epson runsense SF-810: review#0, unboxing and first impressions

First video out of a series of 5 I will be making to review the Epson runsense SF-810, as part of the 100 Epson runners testing programme.

In this episode, I unboxed it and briefly played with it after powering on. Stay tuned for the next videos! (and apologies for this very long, monochordic video – it is getting better the more videos I make, I promise!)

Epson has very kindly sent me this unit to test. In exchange for leaving 5 reviews I am allowed to keep the Runsense which I tested without charge.

Wrapping up the year!

And here we are, with less than 1 hour left of 2015! I should have updated this sooner, but I have been busy enjoying my holidays 🙂

So yes, my last update was on the beginning of November! Since then, well, I’ve been busying myself with my routine of work+rowing+sleep+repeat, with the occasional odd event.

I’ve also changed up some gears with regards to the always-present thesis: the deadline is looming ahead, I’ve already submitted the relevant bureaucracy and everything, so the thing needs to be ready for submission before the end of April! But, until then, I still have a paper to submit, a conference to attend (with a presentation to prepare… 😛 ) and hopefully some last results which may still find their way into one of the experimental chapters 🙂 .

With regards to Photonics West, I had some fantastic news back in November! As I was getting ready to head to the boathouse for a nice early sculling session I checked my e-mail and found that SPIE has awarded me a travel scholarship to attend Photonics West! (and the sculling session that followed was also brilliant, great conditions!) Pretty chuffed with all of this, it is, after all, the “holy grail” of Optics conferences! 😀

Just before I headed back to Portugal I participated on a running race at the University, which followed part of the Canterbury parkrun course, the particularity of which was that the runners were encouraged to dress as Santa. They had prizes for the first male and female finishers but also to the best dressed Santa – and, guess what? I won the “best Santa” category! 🙂 (apparently I was considered a “sporty Santa” with my red running shorts… 😛 )

Right, so I returned to Porto thinking I was heading to my second Summer, and I wasn’t too mistaken – some of the days here have been quite similar, weather-wise, to those I had in Kent throughout August! If it wasn’t for the shorter days one could even be mistaken…

With about 1k to go here... still smiling, so I was definitely taking it easy! :)

With about 1k to go here… still smiling, so I was definitely taking it easy! 🙂

And my time in Porto has been spent between catching-up dinners with my mates, training for the 10k Sao Silvestre (the performance in it wasn’t that stellar, well away from my PB, but this year I decided to take it easy and enjoy myself…) and working a bit on my thesis (almost finished a chapter already! 🙂 ) .

Right, and because this is the last post of the year and I want to use all the clichés available, I will look back a bit on what 2015 brought to me: I met some fantastic people in many different places, heard some very inspiring stories, had fun, worked, sculled, rowed, ran, pedalled, photographed, read, etc, etc! (these items are not listed in any particular order!)  I have to thank everyone that made this year special, and I look forward to having more memorable moments in the years to come. (I am already practising the “Acknowledgments” section in my thesis – good thing that does not count towards my thesis page limit, otherwise I’d be in trouble! 🙂 )

OK, over and out! See you in 2016! 🙂