First, recruit your team

When you’re at the very beginning of a research programme, it can feel like there’s an overwhelming amount of stuff that you are encouraged to engage with (including induction and Welcome) on top of getting started on your research.

Image credit: Montclair Film

My advice? Prioritise the activities that will help you build relationships with people. Yes, sometimes even over your research activity. It’s the people around you who can make all the difference to your PGR experience.

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PhD Chats: (re)connecting with the PGR community

Faith Van Horne, a PGR in the Department of Theology and Religion and Diana Cruz de Oliveira, a PGR in Mechanical Engineering introduce PhD Chats, informal, guided conversations reconnecting PGRs.

When Faith started her PhD program, one of the first events she attended was a PhD Chat, an informal guided conversation to discuss some of the challenges associated with the often-lonely PGR journey. As Westmere Scholars, Diana and Faith are part of the team leading the current PhD Chat series. All of the sessions fit the theme of (Re)Connection. As pandemic restrictions lift, many of us are curious about how we will connect again with the PGR community (or for the first time, if we’ve had trouble establishing those connections already). Last week was the initial chat in the series. This was a very informal check-in, just to see how PGRs were doing, and their hopes and fears about (re)connecting with the larger community.

Diana (left) and Faith (right), Westmere Scholars
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Caring for PGR carers

This week, 7-13 June 2021, is Carers Week. Carers look after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness or who needs extra help as they grow older. Carers make a significant contribution to their families, communities and society, so it’s important to recognise the valuable work they do, and to make sure they receive the support they need. This is particularly true for PGRs who are carers and are juggling the dual challenges of research and caring.

Carers Week logo

I cannot claim to have first-hand experience of the challenges of caring, but here are some of my thoughts on the ways in which we, as members of the UoB PGR community, can support our PGR colleagues who are also carers. Although Carers Week focusses on caring for those with a disability, mental or physical illness, many of the suggested actions here apply equally to parents or guardians of young children.

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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.

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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.

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Building a Supportive Network

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.

Yaru's Supportive Network, showing her supervisors in the centre and others (including family, friends and UoB staff) offering different types of social support
Yaru’s Supportive Network

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There’s no ‘I’ in Team – but there is in Coniston!

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!

paddleboardingAt 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!”