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”

How to Navigate an Online Conference

Kish Adoni, PhD student in the School of Biosciences, recently attended a two-week online conference hosted by The American Society of Mass Spectrometry (ASMS).  He shares his experience in this post.

What do you think about online scientific conferences?

ASMS 2020 Conference logo
Logo for the ‘Rebooted’ edition of the 68th ASMS Conference on Mass Spectrometry and Allied Topics

It’s weird! That’s the first thing I’d say. No more loitering around the confectionary section of a big hall, waiting to speak to a professor from another university whose papers sprawl across your office desk. There is also no chance of having one too many pints of Guinness and spilling your latest confidential scientific idea to another academic in your field. I suppose whether those things are a positive or a negative depends on personal preference, but one thing is for sure: online conferences are going to become more normal and the chances are that you will attend one.

So how do online conferences work?

Take away the need for expensive flights, food, hotels and transport and you are basically left with the bare essence of what a conference is for: exchanging knowledge with experts that work in the same spheres as you. Continue reading “How to Navigate an Online Conference”

Defending my PhD via Skype

In this post, April-Louise Pennant, a PGR from CoSS, describes her recent experience of having her viva conducted online.  Congratulations to April-Louise for passing with minor corrections!

April-Louise outside Westmere with her thesisA viva is one of the biggest days of your life, a day you will remember for the rest of your life and the day you defend years of your hard work. If like me, you had to wait 6 months for this day (instead of the usual 2), the prospect of it being cancelled or even postponed – despite a surreal global health pandemic like the Coronavirus – is going to irk your soul.

When it looked likely that a national lockdown was imminent and everything began to move online, I waited with bated breath to hear news about what was going to happen to my viva. Scheduled ages ago for Wednesday 25 March, it was firmly marked in my diary and my mind, and for the last 6 months I had been preparing vehemently. Eight days before my viva, I was informed that it would still go ahead but that it would take place online via Skype. Continue reading “Defending my PhD via Skype”

In a post-submission “lull”?

The Research Student Administration team find they are at their busiest for thesis hand-ins at this time of year. This post explores some options for what to do next.

Woman on peak of mountain
Travel photo created by bedneyimages – http://www.freepik.com

Congratulations!  At long last you have submitted your completed thesis to Research Student Administration (RSA), perhaps after attending a Thesis submission event.  What happens now?  Patter describes this period of time as “hand-in limbo”.

First of all, take a break.  Away from your thesis, and away from your research.  This well-earned holiday is both a chance to reconnect with yourself as more than just the author of your thesis, and to reconnect with family and friends that you may have been neglecting recently.   Importantly, this also gives you a new perspective on your thesis  for when you return to it to prepare for the next milestone in your journey, namely your viva. 

After your break, here are some practical tips on how you can fill the post-submission lull productively.  Continue reading “In a post-submission “lull”?”

Sending your research out into the world

On Wednesday 19 June 2019, there is a deadline for PGRs hoping to graduate in July to complete all the requirements for the award of their research degree.  Among a few other things, this includes submitting an electronic copy of your thesis to the University of Birmingham eTheses repository.

deposit etheses screenshot

Continue reading “Sending your research out into the world”

Making the “e” in e-mail stand for “effective”

www.maxpixel.net-At-Mail-E-Mail-Characters-Envelope-Post-Email-3413133How 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 Thesis Whisperer has discussed this a couple of times, with excellent posts on a supervisor’s perspective on the “tyranny of tiny tasks” that often result from e-mail, and inter-cultural e-mail communication.  Here are some additional strategies that I use when communicating with colleagues (including academic colleagues) by e-mail. Continue reading “Making the “e” in e-mail stand for “effective””

Abstracts: art or science?

With calls for abstracts currently open for the 9th BEAR Postgraduate Researcher Conference and the Research Poster Conference 2019, now seems like a good time for a post on writing good abstracts.

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Research Poster Conference 2018

One way to think about conference abstracts is that they are a sales pitch for your presentation/poster.  You are trying to sell your presentation first of all to the conference organisers, and then if accepted, to the conference attendees who will be using the abstracts to decide which presentations to attend and which posters to seek out.  Continue reading “Abstracts: art or science?”

Viva la examination

When deciding whether to award a research degree or not, the examiners have two things at their disposal:  the thesis and the viva.

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You may feel anxious about the latter because you have never experienced an examination of this type before, and you are uncertain about exactly what you expect.  You may also feel that the viva requires skills that you don’t use regularly – but in this you would be wrong.

Continue reading “Viva la examination”