2018: The year that was!

As regular readers know, I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions because I think they just set people up to fail, and put a crazy amount of pressure on January. I am, however, a big fan of end-of-year reviews, where I take stock of what’s happened in the previous 12 months. Usually, my reviews are very career-heavy – unsurprising, given how crap I am at taking time off – but 2018 has been a wee bit different. Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really interesting organisations, but this year has mostly been notable for lovely, exciting changes in my personal life!

But, let’s start with some of the job highlights 🙂

I kicked off 2018 by working with one of my very favourite clients, Brain Research NZ. I was honoured to be asked to write nine stories for their annual report. I got to interview some incredible researchers, including Dr Anne-Marie Jackson, Dr Brigid Ryan, and Prof Peter Thorne. I also got to chat to some of the most erudite PhD students I’ve ever met – for example, Meg Spriggs, who is investigating changes in brain signals that mark the transition from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease, and Chris Henrich, who is developing a system that allows stroke patients undertake therapy via a virtual reality headset. You can read all of the stories here (page 13-14, 18-25, 34-39, 54-57: http://www.brnz.ac.nz/assets/images/annual-reports/Annual_Report_2017.pdf

I also worked with another favourite – the Measurement Standards Lab. They initially got in touch because they were building a new website and wanted some Case Studies to showcase their fantastic work. I ended up writing six for them, some of which you can find here: https://measurement.govt.nz/consultancy/ I’ve also just started working with them again, on a few different activities linked to the SI redefinition – you can read a bit more about that here: https://measurement.govt.nz/news-and-events/international-system-of-units-redefinition-2019/

2018 saw a visit to Rocket Lab, at their facility near Auckland Airport. I also had an impromptu interview with the company’s CEO and founder, Peter Beck. That led to three articles – two for my blog and one FOR THE ECONOMIST (no big deal, eh?!!). You can read my story on the Humanity Star here: http://www.lauriewinkless.com/rocketlab-add-a-temporary-star-to-the-night-sky/ the report of my visit here: http://www.lauriewinkless.com/new-zealand-land-of-rockets-not-hobbits/ and the Economist article here https://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21739949-one-small-private-space-firm-thinks-so-new-zealand-worlds-best

I carried on writing for Materials Today and Forbes this year. You can see most of my MT pieces here on the blog, but I wanted to highlight a new series that I started. Called Materials Down Under, it showcases some of the remarkable materials research that I’ve come across since living in this hemisphere. There are currently five on the site – https://www.materialstoday.com/amorphous/news/special-look-at-materials-down-under/ – but I have a LONG list other people I want to chat to, so I am keen to keep this running! For my Forbes articles, head over to my homepage – https://www.forbes.com/sites/lauriewinkless/ There you’ll find stories on a bizarre range of topics – my behind-the-scenes tour of Wellington Airport, glowing infrastructure, and the surprising origins of contactless payment cards. My most popular article this year was a list of actions that you can take to combat climate change. It might be the most important article I’ve ever written, so I decided to add it to the blog too: http://www.lauriewinkless.com/what-urbanites-can-do-to-slow-down-climate-change/

I’ve worked with a couple of NZ universities this year too – for the University of Canterbury, I did a series of careers talks in Wellington and Auckland. And for Victoria University of Wellington, thanks to the excellent Rebecca Priestley, I did a tutorial with some of her science writing postgrads. In September, I spoke at a brilliant literary festival, WORD Christchurch. I took part in two events – one with a huge group of secondary school children, and the second was a conversation with the awesome Michelle Dickinson. You can listen to a podcast of that chat here.

A major career highlight for me was being featured on scicomm superstar, Cara Santa Maria’s podcast, Talk Nerdy. It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done yet – you can listen here – and I felt so honoured to be included (her guest list is STELLAR). Another cool thing that happened in 2018 was that I was signed by a speaker’s agent – Jane at Johnson & Laird. Thanks to her, I’ve just signed up to do a very exciting project in late January. Can’t wait to tell you more about it!

Towards the end of the year, I started working with the first NZ organisation who ever hired me – the MacDiarmid Institute. MacD researchers are some of the very best materials scientists / nanotechnologists in the antipodes, and are the loveliest people, so I’m always delighted when they employ me  I first wrote for them while I was still living in the UK, for their 2015-16 annual report, and did the same again from NZ the following year. A calendar clash meant that last year was out, but I’m delighted to have written some of this year’s report too!

I was very busy on Twitter throughout 2018. For example, I produced mega-threads of awesome people in STEM in celebration of International Women’s Day (in March) and International Men’s Day (in November). I turned both of them into Twitter Moments, so you can scroll through at your leisure – the IWD one is here: https://twitter.com/i/moments/971850133313744896 and the IMD one: https://twitter.com/i/moments/1064646297389424640

And now onto the exciting personal stuff 🙂

The first one – for which I can take no credit – is that I became a grand-aunt! My eldest nephew Mark and his wife Grace welcomed their daughter Meábh into the world in September. The timing was pretty spectacular because it meant that Rich and I got to meet her when we were back in Europe! She is gorgeous. Already counting down the days until I get to see her again.

Other big news is that in 2018, I was granted my residency visa. It gives me the right to stay in NZ for another two years, and at the end of that, I get permanent residency. We’re not planning on staying in NZ forever, but once I become a permanent resident, I retain that for life, no matter where we live – if we left now, and wanted to come back, I’d have to start the whole visa process again. So, it’s definitely worth getting. My new visa also allowed myself and Richard to do something else – we could start the process of buying a house! NZ recently introduced rules that limit property purchases made by foreigners. There’s a housing shortage here in urban areas, so these rules are an attempt to minimise the number of houses that become overseas investments (rental properties) rather than houses for people to buy and live in. Anyway, after about 7 or 8 months of searching, we recently found a lovely home in Petone (a suburb of Wellington), had the best offer, and managed to move in just a couple of weeks ago. There are a few bits to sort of course, but nothing major. We’re absolutely chuffed to finally have our own place 🙂

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, or we’re friends on Facebook, or connected on LinkedIn, you’ll know that 2018 brought another major life event for us. On 28th September, almost seven years from our first date, Richard and I got married (woohoo!) in the incredible surroundings of the Royal Society of Chemistry. We did so in the company of about 45 of our nearest and dearest – a few of whom, for various medical reasons, joined via Facebook Live. After the ceremony, we hopped on a vintage Routemaster bus (#transportnerd) and headed to The Rose, a lovely pub on the Albert Embankment. There, we ate, drank and were merry until the wee hours. It was so great being back in London – it’s still my favourite city in the world – and I cherished every precious second I got to spend with our friends and family.

The whole day went without a hitch (apart from me nearly choking on some food, but hey) – the venues were fabulous, our celebrant magnificent, and our photographer wonderful. There are honestly too many highlights to pick just one – from our unforgettable readings (which I’ll share in another post) to seeing our parents laugh and smile together, it was a day we’ll remember forever. My heart has never been as full as the moment the doors opened, and I saw Richard waiting for me. The spectacular entrance music that he arranged – comprised of the traditional bridal march, the Throne Room Theme from Star Wars, and ‘Here Comes The Bride’ played in the style of Queen – definitely added a little something special  As well as the ceremony venue, there were other hints of nerdiness scattered throughout the day – from my amazing nebulae nails (by Anouska @WAH Nails) and my star headband, to chemistry beakers and communal LEGO on our reception tables.

I’ve included a few photos – taken by the Camera Hannah – of the day below, but if you’d like to see more, there are approximately 250 of them on my Google Drive – enjoy! https://drive.google.com/open?id=1st-L1ic8CiZGO_RoGVOT0yx6xBCEhoxy

So that was my year! Reading back, it sounds very rosy, but remember these are just the highlights – I also struggled with periods of stress and anxiety, homesickness, impostor syndrome and professional uncertainty. Progress on Sticky has been painfully slow this year – I guess organising a wedding, stepping up my business and buying a house all take up a lot of time-that-would-otherwise-be-spent-writing. But I’m hoping that 2019 will change that, especially because Jim @Blooomsbury is expecting the draft in 12 months! I promise a full update on that in a couple of months.

But, I think that’s probably enough for now, so I’ll finish by saying a BIG thank you to you, my lovely readers, for all of your support this year. You’re all great. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2019.

L xx

With our celebrant, Zena Birch
Our parents
The Fam (mostly mine!)
Rich and his boys
My girls
Our ring bearers
Me and my sibs