In this post, Antonin Ficatier, a PGR from the Department of Theology and Religion, shares his advice on sustaining an academic network from his experience as a distance learning PGR. A version of this post appears on Antonin’s personal blog.
With COVID-19, what was once the fate of a few students has now become the new norm. Everyone is studying from home these days. But being an effective remote student doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a while to adjust to this new way of studying. I have been a distance-learning PhD student at the University of Birmingham for the past two years and, trust me, I am still learning a lot on how to effectively study remotely! Today I would like to share with you a few tips on how to build and sustain your academic network while studying remotely. Continue reading “In isolation but not alone: sustaining academic networks”
In this post, Yaru Chen, a new UoB PGR in Corpus Linguistics, tells us about an event on “Building a Supportive Network” she attended in the College of Arts and Law on Wednesday 15 January 2020.
What was “Building a Supportive Network” about?
This event, organised by the Postgraduate Student Experience Officer (a recently graduated PhD from CAL, also a trustworthy person from whom I always seek advice) in the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, was designed to help us improve our networking skills and develop our supportive networks. These supportive networks are not only beneficial in offering us emotional and academic support during our PhD study, but are also helpful for giving us career support once we have graduated.
In July, Leanne Campbell, a current PGR in the College of Social Sciences, went to the Lake District for a course on team building. Here, she tells us what she did and what she learnt.
Earlier this summer I took part in the Coniston PGR trip as part of the PGCARMS programme. This is an advanced transferable skills module which focuses on team skills and collaborative working. This may seem a strange choice given that my doctorate in Education is essentially a solo endeavour, but that’s exactly why it appealed to me; doctoral research can be isolating and pretty lonely at times, so I jumped at the chance to do something interactive, learn new skills and to meet new people, and of course spending a week in the beautiful Lake District was also a bonus!
At Coniston we were split into two teams and each day brought new challenges, from paddle boarding to rock climbing to navigating our way back from the village pub in the pitch black at night which definitely tested our skills as a team! Each activity had a collaborative element and at the end of each day we were asked to reflect on what we had learned about being part of a team. We also had a session on the different Belbin team roles and reflected on our own Belbin profile and how it fitted in with the others in our team. Continue reading “There’s no ‘I’ in Team – but there is in Coniston!”
How many e-mails do you receive in a day? How many e-mails do you think your supervisor receives in a day? A typical supervisor might receive well over 100 e-mails every day. What can you do to help make e-mail an effective communication tool between you and your supervisor when your supervisor has so many messages to deal with?
The relationship between a PGR and their supervisor is unlike any other relationship that you might encounter in professional or personal life (although it has been compared to that between a physician and patient).
A successful relationship can benefit both parties, and nurture a PGR towards a brilliant thesis and blossoming into a highly effective researcher with all the skills and behaviours (both research and transferable) that entails. What can you do, as a PGR, to increase the chances of building a super relationship with your supervisor? Continue reading “SUPER-visory relationships”
This week James Walker, a postgraduate researcher in the Centre for Doctoral Training in Fuel Cells and their Fuels in the School of Chemical Engineering, shares his public engagement experience with us…
Ever been at a party and killed a conversation in ten seconds flat when asked “so, what do you do?” If so, you’re probably also a postgraduate researcher (PGR) – or perhaps a town planner. My heart goes out to my peers who are both! I used to get as far as “oh I’m doing a PhD in Chemical Enginee-,“ before I’d notice the glazing over of the eyes of what had been my audience. “You must be very smart,” they all say, before suddenly needing to nip to the loo. Now I lead with “well I make really tiny renewable energy catalysts and look at atoms using fancy, expensive microscopes that look like weapons in a Bond villain’s arsenal!” Suffice to say, the second response engenders significantly more discussion. The subtle difference is in knowing your audience and tailoring your delivery, I’d say. These are among a crop of new skills that I’ve picked up since becoming heavily involved in public engagement with research and I’m writing this to tell you how you too can revolutionise your personal development simply by talking about the thing that you spend most of your time doing. Convenient eh? Continue reading “Public Engagement with Research: The Personal Development Holy Grail”
The term ‘transferable skills’ often elicits either:
A flashback from a cringe-worthy team-building day
So let’s think about it in another way.
Imagine your postgraduate research degree wasn’t just about writing a however-many-thousand-word thesis. Imagine that, at the same time, you were also becoming a proficient project manager, an expert in conveying complex information in an accessible way, and a skilled diplomat capable of managing a whole host of potentially tricky professional situations and working relationships.
Call it selling yourself, call it ‘spin,’ call it whatever you like… but there’s no imagination required. As a PGR, you are already ALL OF THESE THINGS. And, chances are, much more besides. When it comes to considering potential careers and applying for jobs then, the trick is being able to reflect not just on what we know as PGRs, but what we can do. Continue reading “Your PGR skills: from feeding bees to being the bees-knees…”
Presenting your research in a poster format might seem like a daunting task, but there are many reasons that this is an essential task for PGRs. Jenna Clake, from the College of Arts and Law, shared her experience of participating in the Conference with us…
I presented my research at the Research Poster Conference last year, with a poster entitled ‘Do You Think I’m Crazy?: Feminine and Feminist Humour in the Absurd’. As a Creative Writing PhD researcher, sometimes it is difficult to gain the opportunity to disseminate my research to a wide audience. My research focuses on two main areas: my ‘creative’ work (poetry) and my ‘critical’ work (researching literary theories and trends). I rarely have the chance to talk about the latter, especially to academics and researchers outside my specialism, so the Research Poster Conference offered the chance to receive some much-needed peer review.
Participants will work together in small teams to solve a real life strategy challenge being faced by an influential local organisation.
PESS is designed to develop PGRs’ enterprise and transferable skills, and in particular to give PGRs the invaluable opportunity to develop team working skills. You will often be required to work in teams in careers both in and outside academia.
Teams are formed when a group of people get together with a shared goal. One feature of effective teams is each member of the group/team understanding their own strengths and weaknesses, and appreciating the strengths and weaknesses of other members of the team. One of the most common models used for this is the Belbin Team Roles. Belbin’s original research demonstrated that successful teams had a balance between eight (later nine) “team roles” (or clusters of behaviour in a team). Continue reading “There’s no “I” in TEAM”