Resilience during a pandemic

In this post, Simona Scanni, a distance learning PGR from the Department of Modern Languages, shares her challenges and the ways in which she has built her resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You will feel alone. Nobody will understand your research work, nobody will ask you about it. So be prepared to feel alone as a part of the journey.

A photograph of Chancellor's Court at the University of Birmingham, showing the entrance to the Aston Webb building.

This was, more or less, the advice we were given by some PGR fellows during the very first residential week in September, on my first year as a PhD student. At the time, I opted for the distance learning programme, so I was already prepared about the idea of being far away from the campus and university services, and somehow isolated from the campus life. My research is about online learning which, ironically, was something existing but still “remote” for many people. The pro was that I could actually conduct my research from home or from any part of the world.

Continue reading “Resilience during a pandemic”

ReproducibiliTea at the University of Birmingham: Embracing Open Science in Lockdown!

In this post, Catherine Laverty, a PGR from the School of Psychology, tells us about her experiences of open research and the ReproducibliTea initiative.

Back in early 2020 I was approaching the midpoint of my PhD (and as it turned out the start of a global pandemic!) and found myself in a place where I was questioning how to make sure my research was as rigorous and open as possible. I had heard of the open science movement and seen various bits of advice on twitter about how to be a better scientist but in all honesty had no idea where to start. I knew the replication crisis was on the horizon and wanted to make sure I was doing my upmost to make positive steps towards good scientific practices but was admittedly a little lost.

Around the same time, I began to speak to two other early career researchers (ECRs) that were in exactly the same position – Mahmoud Elsherif & Sonia Rishi. Together, we decided to navigate the landscape of open science and establish the University of Birmingham’s ReproducibiliTea Journal Club as a place where others could join and learn alongside us.

Continue reading “ReproducibiliTea at the University of Birmingham: Embracing Open Science in Lockdown!”

Putting dark days behind us

And so we are approaching the end of 2020. The days are getting short, and I am prioritising getting out of the house for a walk (however briefly) during daylight hours to help me get through. Only one week left before the winter solstice in the UK, and the longer days start to bring hope of spring and a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.

Stonehenge, photographed at sunset close to the Winter Solstice (2009)
Continue reading “Putting dark days behind us”

Survive and Thrive: Adaptability and Resilience

Continuing her occasional series, “survive and thrive”, Katie Hoare from Careers Network explores a key skill sought after by employers in the post-COVID-19 world.  It’s likely that you are already developing and using these highly transferable skills in your research.

What

A chameleon (decorative)According to The Cambridge Dictionary, adaptability is “an ability or willingness to change in order to suit different conditions”.  The term can be applied to people, businesses, physical spaces and technology.  If something or someone is not adaptable, its use and benefit can be short lived.  Resilience has become a buzz word in recent years.  It can be defined as the “ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” (Merriam-Webster).  In order to be resilient, you need to be adaptable.

Continue reading “Survive and Thrive: Adaptability and Resilience”

Grappling with Fear

Mélina with her soft-bound thesis outside the Aston Webb Buiding
Mélina after submitting her thesis (Dec 19)

In this post, Mélina Delmas (who previously welcomed you to UoB) looks at four common fears most research students face and some tips on how to cope with them.  Congratulations to Mélina on submitting her thesis in December 2019!

“I’m not working enough”

Throughout the course of my PhD, I often found myself grappling with the number of hours I worked. Being an Arts student, I didn’t have to conduct experiments or to come to the lab. Thus, some days, I found myself working five hours maximum, which made me feel like I should be doing more. Continue reading “Grappling with Fear”

Fast away the old year passes…

…and suddenly campus is quiet.  The undergraduates have gone home for the Christmas break and the short days and grey weather discourage lingering in the Green Heart. There’s a feeling of winding down as staff and researchers breathe more easily now that the freneticism of the Autumn Term is over. What will you be doing over the Christmas break?

 

Continue reading “Fast away the old year passes…”

Spotlight on the RDF: “Perseverance”

In one of our occasional series of spotlights, we take a closer look at a specific descriptor from the RDF, in this case one which will be particularly useful 21 days into #AcWriMo!

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.

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren: “Nevertheless, she persisted”

Perseverance is a valuable quality for a research programme, so much so that one of its synonyms is specifically mentioned in the Seven Secrets of Highly Successful Research Students:  “a PhD is 10% intelligence and 90% persistence”.   Perseverance requires self-discipline and motivation in general, but also specifically refers to your response when things go wrong.   Continue reading “Spotlight on the RDF: “Perseverance””

Advice? Take it or leave it.

As a PGR, you are no doubt receiving plenty of advice from many different sources, not least (I hope!) this blog and any development workshops or online courses you are completing.  I’ve recently seen this excellent post by Amber Gwynne on The Thesis Whisperer blog, and it’s got me thinking about giving and receiving advice.

Amber gives a number of really good suggestions for contextualising advice and deciding which pieces of advice you should take or leave.  I would recommend you read her post.

[T]here’s an awful lot of advice out there. And then there’s just awful advice. So, how do you separate the wood from the trees … ?

Her advice (!) can be summarised, in my view, as a two-step process: contextualise the advice from the giver, and be highly self-reflective when considering whether it can usefully apply to you.  It’s this second point that I want to pick up in more detail. Continue reading “Advice? Take it or leave it.”

Welcome to the University of Birmingham!

Recently, Melina Delmas, PGR in Modern Languages, was giving advice to a friend of hers who is starting her PhD this September. Melina shares her helpful tips with all of us as a welcome to our new PGRs.

Are you a new postgraduate researcher at the University of Birmingham? Do you feel a bit daunted at the thought of starting this new adventure? If so, fear not. Lucky for you the University of Birmingham has lots of resources to help you. Here are a few tips to start you off on the right foot! Continue reading “Welcome to the University of Birmingham!”

Give yourself a break

August.  Somewhat surprisingly, the last few weeks have been hot, like summer is “supposed” to be.  Campus is quiet, eerily so, at times.  Lots of colleagues are taking annual leave, and there aren’t as many e-mails flying round as usual.  The days are long.

For some, this is a time of fewer distractions, and an opportunity to focus on their research.  For others, motivation is low as the hot weather induces lethargy and the beaches/mountains/meadows seem so enticing.  For others still, deadlines loom large and all these external things are irrelevant.  How can you ensure that you make the summer work for you? Continue reading “Give yourself a break”