Skip to Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map

Author Archives: Mel Adams

A Word to our Sponsors: the True Cost of PhD Research

Today we hear from PhD candidate, P. H. D. Candy-D’Ate* who gives us the lowdown on the True Cost of PhD Research.   This is essential reading for anyone about to prepare a grant application! 

Dear Funders,

When I applied for my doctoral funding you asked me to submit a detailed proposal setting out the costs involved in undertaking my research. It recorded line items such as “paper” and “travel”. In retrospect, this proposal was naïve and reflected my inexperience as a researcher. I am now writing to update my proposal and ask for additional funds for expenses that have arisen and that I will need to meet to complete my research. The items are set out below. This budget is for the 30 weeks remaining in my candidature.

Item Purpose Number Cost per item Total
Coffee Upper – required for functioning during day 30 bags of high strength beans $7 $210
Wine Downer – to offset effects of coffee, required for sleep 40 bottles $18 (I’m a graduate student, I can’t drink the really cheap stuff) $720
Physiotherapy Repair arm damaged by transcribing interviews 2 sessions $60 $120
Massage Recommended by physiotherapist and enthusiastically accepted by researcher 20 sessions $40 $800
Yoga Maintenance of mental and physical well being 20 sessions $15 $300
Chocolate Maintenance of mental well being 30 blocks $3 $90
Running shoes Reduce negative effects of chocolate to physical well being 1 $150 $150
Hairdressing Disguise rapidly multiplying grey hairs 5 $150 $750
Brian Johnston Practical strategies for slowing the rate of grey hair accumulation 6 $15 $90
Fancy keyboard My productivity will definitely increase if I have a very expensive keyboard that sounds like a typewriter 1 $250 $250
Mouse Previous mouse wore out from too much clicking (yes, seriously) 1 $60 $60
Electricity For clothes dryer because I don’t have time for housework but I still need clothes 100 $1 $100
Total       $3640.00


I trust you understand how essential these items are and look forward to your positive response.


Yours faithfully,

P. H. D. Candy-D’Ate

*Still not her real name

The Chaplaincy and You

CHaplainThere are a number of services and people around campus who are there to help make your postgrad experience easier. In what I hope will become a series for the blog, I thought it would be a good idea to hunt out some of these folks and learn a bit more about what they do and how it can help you with your postgrad study. First up, Mike Wright, one of the University Chaplains, and EdD candidate, so in short a busy lad.

Mel: Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by for a bit of a chat about your role as a University Chaplain. Do you want to tell us a bit about your role?

Mike:  Hey Mel. Yes for sure! As Chaplains we seek to provide pastoral care and spiritual support to all students studying at the University of Otago, and to do so in a respectful, confidential, inclusive, and non-judgemental way. What does pastoral care and spiritual support include, I hear you say …

For me, pastoral care includes anything and everything that impacts on your life as a student e.g. study pressures, finances, homesickness, relationships, grief and loss, etc.

Spiritual support involves supporting the spiritual dimension of students’ lives. That includes those things that give your life meaning & purpose, or the search for those things. It’s about the source of your creativity; and your relationships and the sense of connectedness you have with yourself, with others, with the planet, and with God/Higher Power/Other…. Spirituality also includes your beliefs & values, it drives your ethical behaviours, and is your source of resilience in times of challenge.

As chaplains, we’re involved in many other things on campus, but pastoral care & spiritual support are the main aspects of what we do.

Mel: Why do you think it is important to have on campus Chaplains?

Mike: We come to University as whole people – and that includes the spiritual. While there are many spiritual people on campus – both religious and not religious, the University chaplains have an official role with respect to spirituality; to support and encourage philosophies and practices of life that lead to wholeness and well-being (hauora). We’re able to engage with and accompany students (and staff) either in one-off conversations, or in more regular on-going support for example University’s new Healthy Campus website.

Greg Hughson and I have a full-time presence on campus (here in Dunedin) and are also available by email, phone, skype, etc., to distance students and students at Otago’s satellite campuses in Invercargill, Christchurch and Wellington.

Mel: Do you think it is important for postgrad students to acknowledge their spiritual side and how can it be of benefit to their studies?

Mike:  Yes I do. Socrates (among others) once said “Know thyself”, and “The unexamined life is not worth living” – that includes the spiritual aspects of our lives.

Being a postgrad student is not just about research outputs, thesis writing, and publications. It’s also about becoming a person more fully aware, more fully alive in the midst of the challenging process of postgrad study. Spiritual exploration (either religious or secular) is an essential part of that. As chaplains we’re here to help you with that exploration.

Mel: You are currently undertaking your EdD – how do you balance your study and role as Chaplain?

Mike:  With some difficulty! Maintaining continuity of thought and focus is very challenging. At times it’s actually impossible due to the unpredictable demands of my full-time chaplaincy role. I diary ahead blocks of time for writing but these are often consumed by work issues before I can get to them. I do keep trying though, and occasionally succeed!

Remembering that there’s more to life than both work and study is important. Down time to spend with family & friends, to read an occasional novel, and to watch movies is essential. So is regular exercise. I get to the gym as often as I can. It helps to clear my head as much as anything else.

Most important, however, I have an endlessly supportive team of supervisors, and a wonderful support crew made up of family, friends, and colleagues. They keep me going with words of encouragement and remind me of how much progress I’ve already made. They’re all vitally important!

Being a doctoral student for 5 years now has enabled me to connect experientially with other postgrad students in ways I couldn’t have before. Only by going through it yourself can you really understand what it’s like for others.

Mel: Finally, Would you like to fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

Mike: I’d go for one hundred duck-sized horses. Horses are pack animals. I’d turn the leader then have an army at my disposal.

When Mel Leaves the Bubble with Donald’s Help

The awesome Scholarships Administrator, Mel Adams has been out and about again. This time she visited the Library’s Special Collections and spread her cray-cray pixie-dust around Central Library and came back with a spring in her step and a desire to cross-stitch a picture of the Dean for the office.

4How long has it been since I have been in here?  A year or two?  Can I remember where it is?  Up the first flight of stairs, ah, things are looking familiar.  It’s round the corner. Is it?  Not sure, just wander round there, ignore the studying students, pretend you know where you are going.  Yes, there it is, I made it.

So where I am?  I have decided to take a break from the shuffling of paper and pay a visit to the wonderful Special Collections at Central University Library and have a chat with the equally delightful and informative Donald Kerr.

So what is Special Collections? Why do we have this collection?  Why is there a My Little Pony staring at me with those eyes?  I was keen to learn more.

When I arrived, Donald was rather excited, they had just planned the schedule for exhibitions for 2016 which he very kindly shared with me.  It looks fantastic.  This prompted me to ask how he comes up with exhibitions ideas.   It turns out a lot of the ideas come from folk round campus as well as a bit of daydreaming of ideas around material that is in the collection.  This job sounds awesome – I love the idea of paid day dreaming <don’t even think about it, get back to your paper shuffling, Claire>.

2The collection is made up of numerous collections (de Beer, Charles Brasch, to name a few), either donated to or purchased by the library.  Items are catalogued and stored in from what I understand is a cosy space  and covers a vast range of topic areas from 16-18th century European history, literature and architecture to pulp fiction.  Donald generously shares some of the titles that are held, many of which I have never heard of which highlights that I have indeed been working in a bubble over in the Clocktower and I really should get out more.

The current exhibition, Aliens, Androids & Unicorns, is made up largely of the personal collection of Hal Salive, which his wife kindly donated to special collections.  For Donald,  the call for props for the exhibition proved interesting with a wealth of items generously provided from some surprising corners of the University.  For a collection such as this to end up at Special Collections is rather rare and for Hal’s wife Rachel it was important to her that the collection stayed together.  Donald was more than happy to help.  When I asked what was the weirdest thing in the collection, there was a stunned silence, highlighting that all the treasures in special collections are equally loved by Donald.  However, after I applied some journalistic pressure to get an answer he suggested the Princess Diana Tapestry which was designed on a Commodore 64 before being hand sewn by it’s creator.


As I said goodbye to Donald I walked away from my visit  feeling somewhat brighter and inspired.  After all it was a fairly grey Dunedin day and I must say the current exhibition is an explosion of colour.  I was keen to learn if visiting Special Collections did indeed improve your day and mood and generally made you feel more inspired about life so I caught up with Dr Mike King who confirmed the urban rumour that he had visited the display.  In his words (well there were more words but Mike talked faster than I can type so I have summarised):

” It certainly made me feel uplifted”


So go forth and visit Special Collections, upstairs, first floor of Central Library.  It doesn’t cost you a penny and you can go as a group if you want (why not organise an department field trip? Donald loves having visitors).  Equally if you can not be bothered getting out of your chair you can view past collections online.  The current display ends 29 May with new exhibition “Black + White + Grey – the lives + Works of Eric Gill + Robert GIbbings’ starting 5 June 2015.  Special Collections is open from 8.30 to 5pm Mon to Fri.

 Mel Adams, GRS

Mama PhD

PhD Mama

Since it is Mother’s Day tomorrow (don’t forget to give your dear old Mum a call) we thought it would be interesting to ask one of our PhD Candidates (Penelope Harriet Doris Candy-D’Ate*) what life is like for someone who is raising both small children and a PhD. Penelope could have just answered “busy” but instead she took time out of her hectic schedule to share some insight into the lives of those of us juggling thesis writing with carer responsibilities.

*Yep, you guessed it; not her real name.

Many people look horrified when I tell them I’m mothering two pre-schoolers and doing a PhD. My GP even seemed to think it was equivalent to concussion. When I went to see him after a car accident he wrote in my notes: “Hit glass with her head. Has felt dazed and tired, but also has 2 little children and is doing a PhD.”

While the decision to start a PhD with an 18 month old in tow and another bun in the oven, may look like the symptom of a head injury to some, to me it seemed like a great time to undertake a task I’d long hoped to do. The benefits of unlimited sick leave, elastic deadlines and the opportunity to work in pyjamas, should not be underestimated. There is also the fact that I was awake for about 20 hours every day during the first two years of my candidature, so I had plenty of time to contemplate my research. Admittedly somewhat deranged contemplation at times, but plenty of middle of the night thinking time. It is also cute watching the kids try and figure out what I do. My four year is drawing her own thesis (publication forthcoming), and has concluded from her survey of two grown-ups that boys go to work and girls go to noon-a-versity.

Fieldwork and attending conferences is complicated with a family’s needs to think of and that has presented some challenges but none of them insurmountable. The biggest challenge has been adjusting from my previous style of working non-stop when deadlines approach. I find it tough having to stop work when the childcare hours run out, when in my previous life I would have just kept going until I was finished. That may of course have resulted in total insanity given, as everyone says, the PhD is a marathon, not a race, so it is quite possible this is actually a plus. It just doesn’t feel like that sometimes. With the help of Brian Johnston, Otago’s coach extraordinaire, I’ve adjusted to this new way of working and learned much healthier work habits. (I’d still love to be able to hunker down in the library for hours on end though – old habits die-hard).

What has been key for me is that when I started my PhD my mother was in need of a job, and with my scholarship funding, I was in a position to give her a job looking after my babies. This has been a win-win-win and has enabled me to get through the PhD at a pace that would not have been possible without her. I’m very, very lucky to have that support and I know a lot of mothers who have it much tougher doing daycare runs, and having no childcare when the kids are sick. So happy Mother’s day to all the mum’s out there doing the Mama PhD juggle, and a special thank you this mother’s day to my mother for making it a lot easier for me.

P. H. D. Candy-D’Ate

Ted, The Governor General and Jon

TGIFI have been in the job a few years now, some say too many. One of the best things about the job is working with awesome folk. What started as odd emails, then a strange phone call or two, a lunch followed by a flappy presentation has become a unique work friendship developed over mutual frustrations over incomplete applications and the magical phrase TGIF!. Let me introduction Jon Winnall, Scholarships Manager at Universities New Zealand.

Mel: Hi Jon, Welcome to the GRS blog, we are super happy to be talking to you. I guess to get the ball rolling do you want to tell us a bit about what Universities NZ is and why Otago Postgrad students should know about it?

Jon: Righto! Delighted to be here with you.  What is Universities NZ? Universities NZ is the easy to use name of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee – an organisation which works on behalf of all eight universities in New Zealand. We have number of focus areas for the universities – for example advocacy with the public sector, policy, research, international links and students, academic programmes and… Scholarships.  Otago postgrads may see some of the effects and outcomes of what we do as an organisation – a new Masters programme here, a new research policy or initiative there, etc. But it is the scholarships work that we do that is probably closer to home.

Mel: Can you tell us a bit about the role you play in the awarding of scholarships and what the best bit about the job is?

Jon: Now that is the that most difficult of questions – What do I do?  The scholarships team at Universities NZ manages nationally contestable scholarships – those scholarships that are open to applications from postgrads at any of the NZ universities. We manage the application process, convene selection committees, manage the committee process and (try to) keep applicants fully informed about the status of their application. This is becoming easier using our spiffing new on-line application system And the best bit about the job is making those ‘good news’ phone calls. All our scholarships are good, are notable and signify a real achievement for the winners, some scholarships are quite literally life changing. It is always a privilege to make those congratulations phone calls.

(The second best bit about the job is visiting Otago). (of course  – Mel)

(The third best bit is having lunch at Government House twice a year )

Mel: You would have looked at a number of applications over your time at UNZ (that is scholarship talk for Universities New Zealand). What is the most common mistake you see applicant’s making?


Oh – where do I start …………….

Most common is not reading and understanding the Regulations for a scholarship and checking their eligibility. This is closely followed by leaving it to the last minute to submit an application. And this is closely followed by not understanding that they, the applicant, have to chase and hassle their referees to make sure that the references are in on time.

OK – I’ll stop there…..

Mel: We have a stellar record with the Rhodes scholarship and I was wondering is there anything you notice that sets Otago applicants apart from applicants?

Jon: Preparation. A Rhodes application is not something that should be gone into lightly. Otago applicants have been advised and guided throughout the process and for The three outstanding candidates that are nominated by Otago each year all are outstanding on paper. Those who reach the interview stage always prove their worth.

Mel: Finally, Would you like to fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

Jon: I’m going to let Teddy answer that…………….


Unfortunately when Ted was questioned about horse -sized duck or duck sized horses he  refused to comment.

If you think what you have takes to be the next Otago Rhodes scholar then contact the scholarship office about our upcoming information evening.  Equally visit the UNZ website for more details about the excellent scholarships opportunities that are available.

Musing on the purpose and practice of doing a PhD

Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith is the Dean of the Graduate Research School.  When she is not running the School, delivering support to thesis candidates or rolling around in the $21 million Scholarships’ budget, she is supervising students and researching about higher education.  <Phew, I’m exhausted just listing her tasks!>  Rachel has untold wisdom about the thesis experience and we nabbed her from her busy role to share some of that with you.  

musing from the deanWhy are you doing a PhD? An easy question – right? It is one that could be answered in a variety of ways. For some it is an opportunity to investigate something they are passionate about – to further knowledge and develop intellectual thinking. Other candidates might see a PhD in terms of credentialism, opening up better jobs and higher salaries. Some may wish to become an academic and of course the PhD is the entry level qualification for most academic jobs.

So take a few minutes to think – why are you doing this?

Once you have identified your main motivation, my next question for you is – how can you make the most of your doctoral study? Your answer will likely depend on your motivation for doing a PhD. For example, if your PhD is seen as purely an intellectual pursuit, you may be content to focus solely on your research. However, it would be wise to stretch that intellect by engaging in departmental and university seminars and lectures. If you are seeking a particular career beyond your PhD, then what is that career? What are the skills you will need? How can you foster these skills during doctoral study? If, for example, you think you would like to be an academic, then during your doctoral study you should be seeking opportunities to learn about:

  • Teaching and also practice teaching – seek professional development opportunities on lecturing and course planning for example, and offer to do guest lectures or become a tutor or demonstrator during your doctoral study
  • Publishing – try publishing some of your doctoral research and perhaps consider writing a publication-based thesis that includes publications as chapters or as appendices
  • Writing research grants – offer to assist academics or shadow one through the process
  • Administration – volunteer to be a student representative on departmental or university committees.

But academia is not for everyone, and indeed the job market is very tight. RAchjelFortunately doctoral graduates are in demand in a range of careers including government, non-governmental organisations, and business. Depending on your interests you may need to seek professional development opportunities to help secure such jobs. For example, if interested in business, then look for internship opportunities and professional development courses on entrepreneurship, project management and financial skills. For government positions, you are likely going to need excellent communication skills and the ability to write in a range of genres. So again, be proactive and seek opportunities to develop your communication skills. Some skills – such as networking – are important no matter what career choice you make, and you should ensure you try to develop this skill and attend events where you can practice (remembering that most people are not born networkers and feel very uncomfortable at such events).

I worry when I see PhD candidates buried in their offices or labs and not taking the time to engage in the opportunities offered by their universities. Doing a PhD is a privileged time, but I do understand that candidates are often under a great deal of financial pressure to complete in a timely manner. Thus I think there is a risk is that you can focus too much on your study and ignore the activities being provided to support your journey and your professional development. So my plea to you is to think about why you are doing a PhD and what you hope to do once you graduate. As you focus on this endpoint, consider how you might develop the skills to best equip you on this future path and then be proactive and seek opportunities to develop these skills.

Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith, Dean, Graduate Research School



There are a number of scholarship programmes which help students and academic staff from Otago head over the big pond too far off countries to study. One of these programmes is the DAAD scheme. DAAD stands for German Academic Exchange Service and they offer a number of excellent scholarships to help students and staff at any point in their academic career study abroad. Anna Bauer is the NZ rep for DAAD and is coming to visit us at Otago shortly. Before she arrives I thought it would be good to learn more about DAAD so that if you attend the information session you have excellent questions to ask Anna.

Mel Adams, Graduate Research School

Mel: Hi Anna, thanks for taking part in the GRS Blog. My first question is can you tell us more about the DAAD scholarship scheme and what it offers Otago students, particularly those who are studying at post grad level?

Anna: Hi Mel, thank you for hosting me again this year, it’s always a pleasure to come to U Otago, you’ve got a wonderful town here and very well organised university. For postgrads, the DAAD are offering several different things. Students embarking on a 2 year master’s degree can apply for support to spend either one year of their master’s in Germany, or do the entire degree in Germany and receive EUR 750 per month for the duration of their stay as well as a travel grant. Doctoral students enrolled in a PhD programme here at Otago can apply to spend a portion of their research time in Germany in order to gather data or collaborate and learn from researchers over there for anything between 1 and 10 months, receiving a monthly stipend of EUR 750-1,000 as well as a travel grant. The doctoral support is also open to people who’ve just entered their postdoctoral phase, a time when many don’t have a job yet, but are keen to continue research, which will often lead to a job for them.

Mel: How did you get involved with the DAAD scholarship scheme?

Anna: I’d known about the DAAD from early on during my undergrad days. The Service is very well known at German tertiary institutions, and actually, it’s the largest of its kind in the world, giving out well over a 100,000 scholarships per year at present. When I neared the end of my PhD phase, there was a call for applications, and I applied for the DAAD liaison position in New Zealand.

Mel: How do students apply for a DAAD scholarship?

Anna: Nearly all applications are handled online these days, of course. Prospective applicants should go to DAAD scholarship website and take it from there. It’s always good to check things out early to make sure you know your way around the DAAD application portal, and to be able to submit your application ahead of the deadline, so you don’t get stressed. In order to make sure no application is lost, it’s still required at present to send in two print-outs of your application by post. For most programmes, the print-outs are sent to the German Embassy in Wellington.

Mel: Why do you think it is a good idea to spend time at another institute while doing postgrad study?

Anna: It sounds a bit clichéd probably, but it’s basically about broadening your mind. Being educated in one place means that you’re exposed to the ideas there, but even if it’s a vibrant place research-wise, it’s sometimes difficult to think outside the box that is particular to that place. Going to a different place means you’re entering a different box, and that opens up new paths, new ways of going about things, and you’re then able to use these for your research. I studied at three different universities and then worked at a fourth during my time as a student, and I think it’s taught me as much about thinking in different ways as my studies themselves.

Mel: You are a lecturer at the Uni of Auckland, what do you think is the main difference between studying in New Zealand and Germany?

Anna: The main difference at this point, I’d say is that students in Germany don’t have to worry about tuition fees, because there are none at the over 100 public universities, no matter whether you’re a national or an international student. Apart from that, experiences are pretty similar on the whole, I’ve found. A sizeable number of unis are in located in smaller towns and dominate that town much like U Otago features hugely in Dunedin as a town. On top of that, many unis are also quite international, and you meet people from all over the world, something that is made very easy also by the fact that most students in Germany flat with other students, it’s a bit of a rite-of-passage really.

Mel: Finally, Would you like to fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

Anna: Hahah! I think I’d go with the duck-sized horses. Being nearly 1.80m tall, I’m fairly sure I’d be able to outrun them if our fighting goes pear-shaped at my end of the arena.

Anna is visiting us on Wednesday the 20th of May from 12 to 1pm in Quad 2 if you want to learn more about the DAAD Scholarship programme.

When Mel went for a wander and came up with a theory

Autum and flowers

It’s March folks, and officially autumn and after such a spectacular summer I have started to notice that it is getting a bit cooler. Recently on a wander home from work the other day I started thinking how the different seasons of the year are similar to different seasons one experiences when undertaking a PhD or Master’s. I wanted to explore this idea further so I caught up with Brian Johnston our Personal Performance Coach to see if there was any truth to a wandering admin staff member’s theory.

Mel Adams, Graduate Research School

Mel: So the reason for this interview was I was wondering if the seasons in the year reflect the different seasons one may experience when doing a PhD or Master’s? Is it the case that there is a summer period when things are going really well, winter season you find it is hard and you are less productive? Do you think there is any truth to this wandering admin staff member’s theory or as an admin staff member I should stick to pushing paper around my desk? <Never! Says Claire>

Brian: I think you should stick to pushing paper around your desk! No, only kidding J. I think there is a lot to be said about your theory but I’ll try and keep it brief. In many ways the season’s parallel the PhD and the Master’s candidates experience. There are periods when the sun shines, it not only rains, but it pours and there’s calm before the storm!

Four seasons of BrianMel: As there is merit to a wandering admin staff member’s theory, how would you describe the different seasons of a PhD? For example what would summer be in the PhD/Master’s journey?

Brian: The summer can be an exciting time. When the sun is shining, we have blue skies and all is calm, we may feel a sense of optimism and all is well with the world. We smile more, feel more energised and more open to others and opportunities. When all’s going well with our postgraduate studies, we can experience a similar sense of optimism and excitement and be open to new learning and new ideas.

Spring can be a time for new beginnings. The doom and gloom of winter is gone and we can emerge into lighter days and nights. We have a “spring in our step” (pun intended), the buds are appearing on the trees and bushes and there’s new growth. This is the time of new born lambs (aw!) and for many a time for change and creativity. Again this mirror’s some postgraduates’ study experience.

There can be “dark” times during the Master’s/PhD experience and it seems there will never be “light at the end of the tunnel”. But then things begin to change and there can be a sense and experiencing of “new growth”. Progress may be slow but a new spring dawn brings lighter days and a feeling of renewal or reconnection with their thesis.

Mel: Do you think it is important to have a ‘winter’ period?

Brian: I don’t know if I think it’s important but I think it is almost inescapable. It has been said that in order to experience the light we need to experience the dark. In order to experience joy, we need to experience despair. I am not sure I agree with that.

In my work with postgraduates we consider the academic rigour and stamina each student needs to run the marathon of the PhD. It cannot be a sprint to the end. To succeed and “cross the finish line” requires perseverance and the ability to push through even when the “path of least resistance” would be to give up. Undertaking postgraduate study challenges many students’ resilience and tests their character strengths. Winter can have a similar affect for many of us. Often it would be easier to stay in bed, conserve our energy and avoid facing the day ahead. It requires effort, energy and determination to motivate ourselves during the cold, harsh Dunedin winters, but remember spring will arrive and we can embrace the day with new energy.

Winter ght

Mel: Do you have advice for students on how to capitalise on each season? For example, should you you acknowledge that you are in a winter period but develop means of making the most of it?

Brian: I’ve probably answered this question in part above. However I would add that I truly believe that the seasons can affect our moods, energy levels and our abilities to work at our optimal best. And yet many employers expect their employees (and that includes postgraduate students) to work to their capacity all year round! My advice is to do the best we can, when we can. Develop a holistic approach to our life ensuring we listen to our body – eat well, sleep well and pace ourselves throughout the year.

Mel: What happens if things are going well personally (summer) but not academically (it’s winter) or vice versa? How do you cope with this? (wear a raincoat with sunnies???)

Brian: This has been a great summer in Dunedin. Lots of days for the sunnies! Oh if only this were the norm! Again I think it’s all about getting the right balance. Hopefully each of us can make the most of our “summers” (believe it or not, some people work best in the winter!), springs, autumns AND winters.

Build up the academic and personal “stamina” needed to run the postgraduate marathon. Keep your eye on the finishing line and visualise the enormous sense of satisfaction and achievement you will feel once you cross the finishing line.


Mel: How can you deal with worries about winter periods in your PhD/Master’s during summer periods?

Brian: Accept that “worries”, winter and summer days are a natural process of postgraduate study. We all have down days and we all have up days. Hopefully the ‘summer” days well outweigh the winter days. Once again, pay attention to creating a life/study balance. Develop the strategies you need to keep healthy, positive and don’t overdo it. Take regular breaks, eat well, exercise – even in the cold winter days and build up your resilience to “weather all storms”. Seek support from family, friends and fellow students – “A problem shared is a problem halved.

If you are keen to catch up with Brian for a one to one session to help with motivation and your studies you can book an appointment.  Contact details on his webpage.

Brenda Shore Award – The Person Behind the Name

A number of scholarships are named after folk  who have very generously donated money to help students fulfill their academic dreams.  I always find it interesting to learn more about people who do this and in what I hope will be a regular feature here on the blog, this post looks at the person behind the named scholarship.  To learn more about the Brenda Shore Award  I caught up with Lorraine Issacs who helps with the selection process for the  Award and we also hear from students who have benefited from her generous bequeath.

brenda shoreMel:  Hi Lorraine, thank you for taking the time to provide us with some background to the Brenda Shore Award.  I guess the first question I have is, who was Brenda Shore?

Lorraine: Brenda Faulkner Shore, nee Slade, (1922-1993) earned a BSC from Otago University in 1944-45, majoring in Botany.  She was awarded an MSc and PhD, also in Botany, at Cambridge University in the early 1950’s and taught Botany at Otago until 1983, reaching the position of Associate Professor.  She was enthusiastic and enterprising, and over the course of 35 years became a prominent figure in the Botany Department  as a researcher and teacher.  In later life she added the ability to paint botanically accurate plants to her many accomplishments, and always championed higher education for women.

Mel:  The Brenda Shore Award is administered by the Otago Branch of the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women.  Can you tell me a bit about the NZFGW and the connection to Brenda Shore?

Lorraine: NZFGW is an organisation of women graduates which aims to improve the status of women and girls, promote lifelong education and enable graduate women to use their expertise effectively.  It awards educational scholarships to deserving women:  Brenda Shore was the second holder of an NZFGW Fellowship which helped her attend Cambridge University.  She showed her gratitude to NZFGW by setting up the Brenda Shore Post-Graduate Research Trust to assist Masters’ and Doctoral research by Otago University women, the recipients to be chosen annually by a panel of NZFGW members.

Mel:  When you are assessing scholarship applications, who in your mind is the ideal applicant that you like to support through the Brenda Shore Award?

Lorraine:  Because of Brenda Shore’s own preferences and interest, we like to choose postgraduate applicants studying one of the natural sciences (eg. Botany, Zoology, Marine Science, Geography, Environment of Science, Ecology) and carrying out research in the Otago, Southland or Antarctic areas.  They also, of course, need to be passionate about their work, have the potential to add value to their society and be doing research to a very high standard.

Mel:  I know you have reviewed a number of applications over the years, what is one tip you would give someone who is applying for a scholarship?

Lorraine:  We ask applicants to tell us in 100 words about their life experience:  women who use those 100 words wisely to tell us about their experiences, skill and potential to be successful in their future endeavours will have more chance of winning a Brenda Shore Award.

Mel:  What is your favourite thing about being involved in the process of selecting a candidate for the Brenda Shore Award?

Lorraine:  It is wonderful to give away money to serving women scholars and know that the faith we have in them will spur them on in their higher education.  Since 2004 we have given 34 awards worth a total of $184, 000 – who wouldn’t be pleased about that!

Mel:  Last year the Brenda Shore Award was awarded to Kirsten Ward-Hartstonge and Natalie Howes.  I caught up with Kirsten and Natalie and asked them to explain what winning the Brenda Shore Award meant to them

Kirsten Ward-Hartstonge, PhD candidate,  Biochemistry: One of the aims of my Master’s project was to determine the phenotype of effector regulatory T cells in colorectal cancer. To do this I had to design a new flow cytometry panel using a large range of new antibodies. The Brenda Shore award allowed me to purchase a variety of antibodies I would not have been able to purchase otherwise, and I would not have been able to get such a thorough phenotype of my cells of interest.  This greatly benefited my project as I was able to get a more detailed insight into the cells of interest that I was looking at and to complete my research to the highest possible standard.

Natalie Howes, PhD, Food Science:  My PhD has a large component of field work that requires me to travel extensively. At the time of receiving the Brenda Shore Award I was travelling 400km per week to collect samples from a farm in Southland for a period of four months. The Brenda Shore Award assisted with the significant cost of this travel which would have otherwise been financially burdening. The scholarship also enabled me to purchase sampling equipment on a need-to-use basis. This was especially beneficial for my farm trials due to their relatively unpredictable nature.

The Brenda Shore Award closed on 28th of February.  For more details about this scholarship including application information please visit the Brenda Shore Award page on the University of Otago Scholarships website.

Happy New Year

We at the GRS Blog are quietly easing into 2015 and will be back on deck next week with an awesome post.

In the meantime if you want something to read,  check out the BBC 100 Things we didn’t know last year.  My personal favorite – Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are know as Curly Fu and Peanut in China.