Specialization and overspecialization through your research: the forest and the trees

In this post, Alex Feldman, a recently completed PGR in the School of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, shares his thoughts on specialisation.

It’s a jungle out there, as the old cliche goes. Although we prefer the seemingly protective ivory walls of academia, we still live by the same law of the jungle. Whether we say “publish or perish” or “eat or be eaten,” some truths endure whether we’d admit them or not. You want to advance in your field, but you don’t want to be disposed when your field’s fashions change; such is the academic’s conundrum.

I’m no expert on academic fashions, but it depends on your circumstantial approach. Whereas conventional wisdom once advised planting your flag in some underpopulated area and holding on tight, you’re also aware we now have newer standards to follow: inter-disciplinary research, cross-field inquiry, discourse analysis, etc.

You need to specialize in something to be taken seriously in that field. Continue reading “Specialization and overspecialization through your research: the forest and the trees”

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The thesis is not enough… (part 2)

In the second and final part of her post, Shana Gander-Zaucker, a current PGR in Psychology, shares her experience of being involved in wider non-research-related aspects of University life.

Representing the University as a Postgraduate Ambassador

One role I have had is that of Postgraduate Ambassador. You might think that as a Postgraduate Ambassador during open days you mostly stand outside holding an umbrella when it is windy and rainy waiting to provide directions to potential students. Although this might be part of the role it is also a great opportunity to meet new people. As a Postgraduate Ambassador you get the chance to meet and advise prospective students from a variety of disciplines on open days and other University events, which can be very rewarding. Continue reading “The thesis is not enough… (part 2)”

The thesis is not enough… (part 1)

The pressure of submitting a thesis might be overwhelming and some PGRs might feel guilty about spending time on social or other activities. In this two-part post, Shana Gander-Zaucker, a current PGR in Psychology, explores these matters in greater detail and shares her experience of being involved in other aspects of University life.

When starting my PhD at the University of Birmingham I remember going to a Careers Network event during which one of the attendees stated: “try to gain as much experience as you can in different fields at the University while doing your PhD as it will help you obtain a job afterwards”.

Shana Gander-Zaucker RPC 2016
Shana presenting her poster at the RPC 2016

My first reaction to this was a feeling of slight anxiousness as I felt a little overwhelmed by just beginning a PhD and I didn’t want to add more to my so-called ‘to-do list’. However, since then I have obtained some work experience in different capacities and have been involved in a variety of social activities. They have greatly helped me in my development as a researcher. In this post I will talk about how focusing on more than only your thesis could help you not only while you are doing your PhD, but also afterwards. So what types of roles have I been involved in? Well, they have been varied. However, while reading this you should recognize that this is not a comprehensive list and that each PhD journey will be different with its own valuable and unique opportunities.   Continue reading “The thesis is not enough… (part 1)”

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!”

Rewards from Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

In this post, Walaipun Puengpipattrakul, a PGR in CAL, shares some of her academic and personal development experiences during her PhD study, both part-time/distant learning and full-time on-campus.

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Faculty of Arts Buildings, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok.  Photo credit: Peerawat.b

Change is inevitable in life and often perceived unfavourably, since it frequently takes our lives out of our comfort zones.  I used to perceive change as previously mentioned. However, I started to alter my perception of change to be rewarding, particularly when it takes me out of my comfort zone, after a decision to pursue my PhD study here, at the University of Birmingham.  I have had a good opportunity of being back to the University campus again after my first Master’s degree from here, but this time, as both an alumnus and a PhD candidate.

I must admit that studying a PhD together with working as a full-time lecturer is a decision which took me out of my comfort zone indeed. Continue reading “Rewards from Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone”

Feedback’s coming home!

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Our helpful and honest panel of PGRs at the PGR Writing Summer School 2018. L-R: Martine, Sian, Anna, Farhan, Frankie, Tom

This week, we’ve had the annual PGR Writing Summer School, with a range of insightful workshops on various aspects of academic and thesis writing.  And, of course, we’ve had national excitement around England’s place in the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.  I’d been wondering how to tie these together for this blog, when this article on football psychology caught my eye, and chimed with a couple of comments made during the Writing Summer School.  How can we build our resilience to tackle a fear of failure and deal with difficult feedback constructively? Continue reading “Feedback’s coming home!”

Learning to teach (or teaching to learn?)

There was a time when teaching in Higher Education (HE) was treated as a bit of a necessary evil, and no doubt all of us have sat through some execrable lectures and seminars in our time.  That time is (thankfully!) behind us, and there is currently a strong focus on professionalism in teaching that fosters an excellent learning experience for students.  The Higher Education Academy (HEA) have developed a UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) and professional recognition for teaching in HE, widely used in the sector.

PGRs are an extremely important part of learning and teaching at the University of Birmingham, and many of you get involved in teaching activities across the institution.  As well as being a very rewarding activity and providing much-needed cash, those PGRs hoping to follow an academic career path will find teaching experience essential for their CV.

Continue reading “Learning to teach (or teaching to learn?)”