Tips for First-Year PhD students

In this post, Chris Featherstone, a final year PhD student in the Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS), shares his advice for new PGRs. For more, see Chris’s personal blog about being a PGR.

Historical Map of Cornwall (decorative)Everyone who starts a PhD comes into it with expectations; as is the way with expectations, some are correct, and some are way off. This post gives a few tips for people in their first year of the PhD, helping with work, and surviving the process. I am two weeks from submitting my own thesis, and so I thought this was a good point to pass on tips that I have picked up in the process.

Continue reading “Tips for First-Year PhD students”

Discovering the unknown unknowns

Black cat hiding among red tulipsWhenever you start something new, whether that’s a new job or joining a membership society for the first time, there’s a lot of learning to do. What are the requirements? What are the expectations? Do I have the equipment and/or the skills that I need? Where can I find out all this stuff? Much of this learning is set out for you through formal channels, but often we learn some of the most valuable information informally, stumbling upon it while looking for something else, or while gossiping with a peer.

A research programme is no different (you probably saw where I was going with that!). And in 2020, there are new ways of working for us all.

Continue reading “Discovering the unknown unknowns”

Ten tips for organising an online conference

We are all learning to do more online, including conferences. In this post, Sharon Smith, a PGR in the School of Education, shares her experience of organising an online conference. For more detail, see Sharon’s full post on her personal blog.

Laptop screen showing faces attending an online conferenceAt the beginning of September, a friend and I ran an online postgraduate conference for students studying philosophy of education. We initially started thinking about the conference late Spring, but decided not to rush into hosting it, choosing a September date for the event to ensure we had sufficient time to plan for it. This meant that we could attend other online webinars and conferences to see what the common issues were, and to understand the experience from the perspective of the attendee.

Here are ten tips for anyone wanting to organise an online conference:

Continue reading “Ten tips for organising an online conference”

Survive and thrive: skills for a post-COVID-19 world

In this post, Katie Hoare from Careers Network introduces her new occasional series, “survive and thrive”, looking at the skills most sought after by employers.  It’s likely that you are already developing and using these highly transferable skills in your research.

The world has changed.  COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of society and both people and businesses need to adapt and learn in order to survive.

An image from the University of Birmingham Graduate School and Careers Network.  The text in the image says PG Skills: skills to survive and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world.

As a postgraduate researcher you are accustomed to learning new things and you are already developing an excellent set of transferable skills such as research, independence, project management and communication.  Now all you need to do is augment this with the top skills employers are looking for and when the time comes for you to seek employment, be it during or after your degree, you will be a very attractive candidate for roles both within and beyond academia.

Continue reading “Survive and thrive: skills for a post-COVID-19 world”

Back on campus: quiet but productive

In this post, Caitlin Thornton, a PGR researching thyroid cancer in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, describes her return to campus and her laboratory-based research.

On the first day back after lockdown I arrived half an hour earlier, presuming there would be a queue to collect our lanyards and lab coats. Queuing on stickers places two meters apart was part of the “new normal”.  Instead, I walked straight into the Institute of Biomedical Research, helped myself to a squirt of hand sanitizer, collected two lab coats and went up to our lab on level 2. I thought this was weird at the time – maybe I had got the return day wrong? – but really it was a hint of what labs are like after COVID. Quiet.

Caitlin and two colleagues, wearing masks and socially distanced, in their lab
Caitlin and colleagues in their lab

There aren’t more than around 10 people on our floor at any time. Sometimes we will grab 10-minute chats in the corridors holding thermos flasks of coffee because there’s no access to fridges to keep milk to make drinks at work. A lot of our friends and colleagues are still redeployed in the hospitals. Our large communal office which is usually buzzing with people and activity is a graveyard, sometimes if you are drinking a coffee at your desk all the lights go out because no one is walking around to activate the sensors.

Continue reading “Back on campus: quiet but productive”

Job hunting is a research project

Following her post back in May, PGR Careers Adviser Dr Holly Prescott updates us on how to keep track of the employment landscape for 2020 job hunting.

A "help!" mug on a pile of careers-related books

Last time I spoke to you on this blog, toilet roll was just making its return to supermarket shelves. Since then, I’ve spoken to many of you who have had job offers rescinded, or have even had to rethink your entire PhD projects. However, I’ve also seen some of you get jobs. So what can you do uncover the opportunities that are still out there?

Continue reading “Job hunting is a research project”

#PROWSS2020 in pyjamas: this year’s writing summer school

Two weeks ago today, the Postgraduate Researcher Online Writing Summer School 2020 (#PROWSS2020) began.  Find out what went on from Kathryn Twigg, a PGR from the Shakespeare Institute.

PGR Writing Summer School logo
To access the links in this post, self-enrol on the #PROWSS2020 Canvas module

#PROWSS2020 was an invaluable research experience. It comprised a week of workshops targeting different areas of postgraduate writing and was accompanied each day by a 2-hour Shut Up and Work. After hearing wonderful things about previous Writing Summer Schools (and attending last year’s myself), I was an eager participant in the 2020 sessions.

COVID-19 has affected us all (for better and for worse) and university life has not escaped the dramatic changes the pandemic has triggered. With libraries and study spaces closed and opportunities to work from home being sporadic at best, #PROWSS2020 provided a much-needed opportunity for focused work. Continue reading “#PROWSS2020 in pyjamas: this year’s writing summer school”

Spotlight on the RDF: “Responsiveness to change”

In one of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF.

In this series of “Spotlight on…” posts, we’ll be delving into the detail of the descriptors in Vitae‘s Researcher Development Framework (RDF).  Each one of the sixty-three descriptors is a characteristic of an excellent researcher, and we’ll be looking at how UoB PGRs can develop these characteristics.

Embed from Getty Images

In 2020 so far, we have all been responding to changing circumstances as the global pandemic unfolds and lockdowns are imposed and eased in different locations around the world.  Over the last 17 weeks or so, this blog has featured a number of posts from PGRs responding to this change so this feels like a good moment to take a look at the RDF descriptor responsiveness to change.  Rather than thinking about further development in this area, I want to recognise how far we have all come. Continue reading “Spotlight on the RDF: “Responsiveness to change””

How to organise an online conference and live to tell the tale

Continuing our recent mini-theme of online conferences, Lluís Jerez i Bertolín, a PGR from the School of History and Cultures, shares with us his experience of organising one.

Lluís Jerez i Bertolín
Lluís Jerez i Bertolín

In late April of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc around the world, which was not good. I stepped from assisting the organisation of the Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology Colloquium (CAHA Colloquium) to being its sole organiser, which was also not good. As the Colloquium could not be postponed to the next academic year, it had to take place online, which at the time I saw as a complete disaster.

In this post I want to share three guiding principles that allowed me to navigate this situation and turn a perfect storm into an enjoyable conference. These principles are: communication, decision-making tempo, and accessibility. Continue reading “How to organise an online conference and live to tell the tale”

Presenting virtually

We’ve recently heard about attending virtual conferences, but what about presenting your research online?  Ciara Harris has recent experience of this, for the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition and her Annual Progress Review (APR).  Here, she shares her experiences.

First things first, presenting virtually might have some additional challenges compared to ‘traditional’ presentations, but it has advantages too – there’s no travel time, so you can go straight from another project into your presentation (maybe grabbing a cup of tea in between), you can practice your presentation in the exact environment you plan to present in, and you can have chocolate on your desk ready for as soon as you turn your camera off after presenting!

 

Ciara’s 3MT – see all the finalists and vote for your favourite!

There are, however, some additional challenges. Continue reading “Presenting virtually”