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Category Archives: Events

Your Workspace in the World

To celebrate the 2015 Graduate Research Festival, the Graduate Research School launched an Instagram account. We wanted to know where your ‘Workspace in the World’ was – where does your research brilliance ‘happen’? Claire recounts her experience as a Masters candidate…

“I wrote my entire Master’s thesis in bed.  It was the old days and I had an early Apple Mac that I’d prop on my knees like a laptop (I was an innovator).  I liked writing in bed because when I got tired I could have a wee nap and when I woke up I could start writing again immediately.  I believe one of the reasons I don’t get enough done on my PhD thesis is because my boss won’t let me set up a bed in my office.”

We can imagine it looking a little something like this…Panda1

 

So we asked… are you a J. K. Rowlingesque café goer?  Do you compete for Library space with the undergraduates?  Have you got the perfect balance of proximity between access to coffee and a source of warmth? And your pictures said it all! The five lucky winners are announced at the conclusion of your following worldly workspaces… enjoy 🙂

 

Anne Shave – PhD, Department of Theology
Anne Shave - PhD, Theology

Ali Rogers – Masters, Department of Science CommunicationAli Rogers - Masters, Science Communication

Tyler Northern – Masters, Department of Marine ScienceTyler Northern - Masters, Marine Science

Tracy Rogers – PhD, Higher Education Development CentreTracy Rogers - PhD, HEDC

Rebecca Babcock – Masters, Bioethics and Health LawRebecca Babcock - Masters, Bioethics and Health Law

Rachel Tan – PhD, Higher Education Development CentreRachel Tan - PhD, HEDC

Pramit Patel – Masters, Department of MicrobiologyPramit Patel - Masters, Microbiology

Mike Maze  PhD, Department of Preventive and Social MedicineMike Maze - PhD, Preventive and Social Medicine

Marieke Jasperse – PhD, Department of Psychological MedicineMarieke Jasperse - PhD, Psychological Medicine

Lindsay Robertson – PhD, Department of Preventive and Social MedicineLindsay Robertson - PhD, Preventive and Social Medicine

Liesel Mitchell – PhD, National Centre for Peace and Conflict StudiesLiesel Mitchell - PhD, Peace and Conflict

Li Kee Chee  Masters, Dietetics ProgrammeLi Kee Chee - Masters, Dietetics

Georgia Bell  Masters, Department of Marine ScienceGeorgia Bell - Masters, Marine Science

Francesca Allen – Masters, Department of Anthropology and ArchaeologyFrancesca Allen - Masters, Archaeology

Esther Dale – PhD, Department of BotanyEsther Dale - PhD, Botany

Erika Szymanski – PhD, Department of Science CommunicationErika Szymanski - PhD, Science Communication

Chelsea Slobbe – Masters, Dietetics ProgrammeChelsea Slobbe - Masters, Dietetics

Ben Riordan – PhD, Department of PsychologyBen Riordan - PhD, Psychology

Rebecca Ahmadi – Masters, Public HealthRebecca Ahmadi

The winners have been drawn from the very official hat! Congratulations to…

Georgia Bell, Tyler Northern, Rebecca AhmadiMike Maze, and Esther Dale

Your $50 prezzy cards will be available for you to collect from the GRS Reception (Ground floor of Clocktower Building, north end) from Monday afternoon onward (7 September). Or contact phd@otago.ac.nz for any alternative arrangements.

Thanks again to all of you who shared your photos: your second homes, that spot in the library, your kitchen, the lab; whether love it or hate it, hang on to your little workspace in the world!

2015 3MT Final

The Three Minute Thesis Competition is always a highlight of the Graduate Research Festival and this year was no exception.

3MT blog

From over 115 initial entrants came 10 finalists competing for the honour of representing Otago at the Trans-Tasman competition in Queensland and the Inter-University Challenge in Auckland.

This year we saw the most entrants for the competition and the standard of the heats was fantastic. I was lucky enough to hear everyone’s presentations from Auckland to Dunedin. Research at Otago is certainly in safe hands and it was very difficult to choose just 10 finalists from the contestants.  (“Can I have 20 finalists??” “No, Claire!” “15 finalists??” “NO, Claire!” “12?” “I’m walking away from you, Claire!!”)

Congratulations to all the contestants for their hard work and their excellent presentations. A special “you’re awesome” goes out to the finalists, some of whom were reluctant public speakers despite their obvious skill in the area.

3MT Emma Wadw Slide

Emma Wade’s Slide, The Genetic Mechanism of Skeletal Development

Our finalists were: Emma Wade, Women and Children’s Health; Gilles Marciniak, Geography; Chris LarsenChemistry; Jenny McDowellSir John Walsh Institute;  Nicola Beatson, Accounting and Finance; Mayouri Sukhapure, Psychological Medicine; Emanuel KoflerManagement; John GrayPeace and Conflict Studies; Hana CadzowGeography; and Leon MabireSchool of Physiotherapy.

3MT Judges

Judges, Professor Rachel “Snow Ball” Spronken-Smith, Mark “Candy Crush” Brunton and Professor Richard “Twitter Troll” Blaikie, after being spoken to firmly by MC, Claire “Dominic Bowden” Gallop

3MT Sarah

The lovely time-keeper and Claire-Wrangler, Sarah McGregor

The judges had a difficult time choosing between the excellent finalists but after some vigorous debate and an arm wrestle or two, Jenny McDowell was named PhD Winner and Nicola Beatson was named Master’s winner. The winner of the Crowd Favourite Prize went to Gilles Marciniak from Geography for his moving presentation on landscape values.

3MT Jenny McDowell

Jenny McDowell has the audience in the palm of her hand with her CSI research involving lasers, the sea, and pig bones!

3MT Nicola

Nicola Beatson doing something no one thought possible: making accounting fascinating!

Gilles presenting blog

Gilles Marciniak painting a beautiful picture  of foraging in a French forest.

A huge thanks to everyone who helped make this competition happen.  Particular thanks are owed to the Graduate Research School and Marketing and Communications for sponsoring the prizes.  And an even huger thanks goes to all the students who do the great work that makes a competition like this possible.

I dare you to enter it next year. Go on. You know you want to…

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

3MT: Fame, Fortune, Fun, and FAQs! Part II

Last week in the Blog with No Name we heard from two awesome entrants from the 2013 3MT (see the 2013 final here) and a dodgy one from the 3MT from years gone past.  This week I made it my mission to explore the rules and to give you a few tips so that you can make the most out this cool opportunity.

3MT-FoundedByUQ-WEB

Who is eligible to enter?

Master’s Candidates currently enrolled in a thesis worth 90 points and Doctoral Candidates currently enrolled in a doctoral thesis.  Candidates whose theses are under examination are eligible

How many entrants do we need to make this an awesome contest?

The 3MT is a great event but it’s also an expensive event.  To make it viable we need real engagement from the thesis community.  So, please join in; it’s totally worth it!

At a minimum we need 100 entrants in the heats to have a superb final and to give the Aussies and the rest of New Zealand a run for their money

For the Christchurch, and Wellington heats, we need at least ten contestants in the heats to make the Dunedinites quake in their boots.  For the Auckland (Distance) heats we’d be happy with less; but come on North-Islanders; this is your chance to engage with the thesis community IRL and to score a free trip to Dunners!

Daniel

Daniel Wee, 2013 3MT Winner

What could I win?

We know that it can be hard to find grants to travel to conferences, support fieldwork or fund experiments.  So as well as spot prizes in the heats there is some serious pay-off in this contest to help support your research.

The Divisions provide a $500 research grant for the winner of the heats (thanks, Divisions!).

The Graduate Research School and Marketing and Communications will provide a $1000 research grant to both the winner of the Master’s and the winner of the Doctoral sections in the 3MT final in Dunedin.  GRS will provide a $500 research grant to the winner of the crowd favourite.  (Thanks GRS and M & C!).

But wait, there’s more!

Winners of the out-of-Dunedin heats will get flown free of charge to the Dunedin final.

Courtesy of the Graduate Research School, the winner of the Master’s section will receive a trip to compete in the Inaugural Masters 3MT Inter-University Challenge in Auckland and the winner of the Doctoral section wins a trip to Queensland to compete in the Trans-Tasman Competition.

When is the Dunedin Final?

Wednesday 26 August.

When are the national/international competitions?

Inaugural Masters 3MT Inter-University Challenge: Auckland 10 September 2015

2015 Trans-Tasman 3MT: Queensland 2 October 2015

Are there any specific rules for the presentation format?

  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration.
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (eg. no poems, raps or songs).
  • Presentations are to commence from the stage.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

 What are the judging criteria?

Communication style; was the thesis topic communicated well to an intelligent lay audience?

Comprehension; did the presentation help the audience understand the topic?

Engagement; was the audience left wanting to know more?

What do past judges say make a great 3MT presentation?

  • Explain your research clearly
  • Bribery
  • Avoid unnecessary jargon and complicated or fancy-schmancy terms
  • A really eye-catching slide
  • Passion and enthusiasm
  • Don’t just rely on the fact that your research will save lives!
  • Treat the presentation as though it were a musical performance; consider tempo, pauses, and crescendos
  • Three minutes is over fast so less is definitely more here
  • Use real life examples and analogies to show why your research is significant
  • Bamboo
  • Remember this is supposed to be fun so most of all, enjoy the ride!

What are you waiting for? 

Click below to enter the appropriate heat:

Auckland, 25 July

Dunedin, 27- 31 July

Wellington, 18 August

Christchurch, 20 August

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

3MT: Fame, Fortune and Fun! Part I

 

Panda 3MT

Panda B. Ear delivers his 3MT on Eudaimonia: A Philosophical Treatise on the Nature of the Good Life for Ailuropoda melanoleuca

I have entered the 3MT twice in my long and varied career as a PhD candidate.  The first time I simply wanted to see what this thing was all about. The second time was because the then Doctoral and Scholarships Manager, Chris Stoddart sent me a charming but slightly <hugely> guilt-inducing email asking <pressuring> me to consider entering again.  Charm and guilt have always worked on me, so I gave it another go.

In what can best be described as the most heinous miscarriages of justice in the history of miscarriages of justice, I totally lost. Both times!  What the?

Despite this dreadful oversight by the judges*, I’m not here to tell you to flag the 3MT!

The 3MT has a bunch of positive spin-offs in terms of raising your research profile, distilling and clarifying your thinking, and fostering communication skills.  But even more importantly it is a chance to have fun!

But don’t take my word for it, after all I’m selling this gig nowadays.  We asked Daniel Wee (PhD Candidate, Philosophy) and Shobhit Eusebius, (PhD Candidate, Marketing) the hard questions about what it was like to participate in the 3MT.

How many times have you entered the 3MT competition?

Shobhit: Once in 2013.

Daniel: 2013 was the first time I entered the 3MT competition. I was quite fortunate to go as far as I did that year! <such modesty; he won, he won!!>

What (or who!) sparked your interest in entering?

Shobhit: A YouTube video of the finals of a previous 3 MT competition was my introduction to the Post-Graduate culture at Otago. This was in 2011 when I was still in the early stage of trying to decide which University I wanted to study at. While searching for information about the University of Otago I came across this video by chance. I was immensely impressed by the talent on display, and also the variety of graduate research that was showcased. I have always been interested in public speaking so I was inspired by what I saw, and aspired to be able to compete at that level .  Once I moved to Dunedin I met, and became friends with Dr. Andrew Filmer a previous 3MT champion, and Otago graduate. I found his personality, and success inspirational, and this further reinforced my ambition to compete in the 3MT.

Daniel: Before the competition I had family and friends regularly asking me what my thesis was about, and I never had a satisfying explanation to give them. They either thought that my thesis had something to do with particular languages, or that it involved conducting experiments on whether children raised away from society could speak! So I thought entering the 3MT would be a motivation to come up with a decent explanation in case I was asked again. I can say it definitely helped!

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

Shobhit: The thrill of competing with some of the most talented Post-Graduates from all across the University delivers an adrenaline rush that is unmatched. The level of competition is so high that even though I didn’t end up winning in the finals I learned a lot from the experience of participating. It is also a marquee event for Post-Graduates at the university so it is an immense confidence booster to feature in it.

The fact that you have only 3 minutes also made me think about my research in a whole new way. Turning lengthy theoretical arguments into succinct single line sentences is an intellectually exhilarating exercise, and also helps you highlight new research ideas or even loopholes in your own work.

Daniel: It was just enjoyable to know that people could understand and appreciate what my research is about. Some people have the misconception that philosophy is inherently inaccessible to the lay person and I like to think that I helped a bit to dispel that idea.

What pearls of wisdom would you provide to anyone interested in entering?

Shobhit: Prepare and practice as much as you can. At the same time remember to have fun; nobody wants to listen to a speaker who is stressed out. Keep it simple, and remember to focus on the “Wow!” factor of your research. Yes, your research does have a “Wow!” factor otherwise you won’t be here at the University of Otago . You just need to look for it, and participating in the 3MT is an excellent way of doing that.

Daniel: My advice would be to practice your speech with people outside your field who can give you honest feedback. I have the benefit of living in a postgraduate community at Abbey College and those of us who were competing in the 3MT that year organised a night when we delivered our speeches to about twenty other postgraduates from various disciplines. The feedback we got was invaluable and made us more confident on competition day.

re we going to be able to persuade you to enter again?  (I really hope so, you were so good last time!)

Shobhit: I’ll be back! 😀

Last, but certainly not least, would you prefer to fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

Shobhit: Mmmm, Peking Duck on rice…. Nom nom nom 😛

Daniel:  From my experience at the Dunedin botanical garden, ducks are easily distracted by breadcrumbs so I think I would prefer fighting a horse sized duck as long as I have some bread at hand!

Anything further you’d like to add?

Shobhit: BAZINGA !!

Daniel: Good luck to this year’s competitors!

Thanks, Daniel and Shobhit!

So, if you’re not here to communicate your research to a wider audience, make sure you stay inside your offices and labs and ignore this opportunity to meet fellow students and learn key skills that will set you in good stead for the rest of your careers.

If you believe fun is the enemy of graduate research then please avoid this opportunity to have a massive amount of fun.  After all, you could use that three minutes to drastically improve your H-index, to seal that post-doc or to impress your examiner into offering you your own personal chair.

However, if you aren’t three minutes away from securing a Nobel Prize, then take the opportunity to think creatively about your research and have a blast doing it!

The entries are now open for the 3MT for Master’s thesis and Doctoral Candidates.  Stay tuned for next week’s post outlining the details on our workshop on Communicating Clearly: the 3MT and Beyond as well as tips from previous judges and more information about the rules and the way the Heats and Finals work and how to nobble your competitors.

I want to enter the 3MT and compete in:

AUCKLAND
WELLINGTON
CHRISTCHURCH
DUNEDIN

* To be fair, this was no oversight; I sucked both times.  But I had a load of fun doing it!

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School 

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.

1

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”

3

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

The Wonderful World of Workshops

Workshops

In case you didn’t know it yet, the Graduate Research School offers a whole host of glorious workshops and events for graduate research candidates to utilise and enjoy throughout their time here. These are varied in topic and presented by a number of experienced academics and Otago staff, who aim to engage with and inspire with their wealth of knowledge and genuine interest in helping you along the way. Among the heap of sessions run by GRS, the Student Learning Centre and HEDC; here are just a few snippets!

Presented by our pretty great GRS Dean, Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith, Doctoral candidates are treated to stage-based workshops:  for those in the early stages of their study (Embarking on your Doctoral Journey), for those mid-way through their study (Keep Calm and Carry on), and for those hitting crunch time in the final stages of writing up (Hitting the Home Stretch).

Our very own GRS Manager, Claire Gallop, runs the ‘Insider’s Guide to Doctoral Domination’, which is a series of 6 x 1 hour workshops (next round starting in May!) aimed at helping you successfully negotiate your way through doctoral study. Claire also gleefully presents the ‘Mastering Your Thesis’ workshop, designed to offer Masters candidates some handy tips and advice on conquering their theses.

I asked a couple of our current students their thoughts on any workshops they’ve attended so far and received awesome responses!  One PhD candidate gave us an insightful rundown of her experiences:

“Both workshops [The Insider’s Guide to Doctoral Domination and Keep Calm and Carry On] were well run, jam-packed with useful bits of information and a friendly environment to raise questions and talk to others experiencing similar research challenges/successes!

… The Insider’s Guide ran over the course of a couple of weeks, and this was a great amount of time for getting to know the other people in the workshop, which helped me feel like I was not ‘alone’ in this research adventure. It also gave me space to ask some of those broader questions (“where is the best coffee shop on campus?”) that you feel like your supervisor wouldn’t have time to answer, or you might feel stupid asking!

The Keep Calm workshop also creates a comfortable space for asking questions, breaking into smaller groups and offering really helpful advice. One of the nice things about attending the Keep Calm workshop at the thesis halfway mark, was actually recognising and reconnecting with some of the students who had attended Insider’s Guide a year or so earlier! I also thought both workshops were really helpful for helping you make the transition from Masters to PhD research. Both Claire and Rachel were great at putting things in perspective and providing practical solutions to counter all fears! The very blunt statement that this is “just a PhD”, was probably the most constructive, practical, keep-your-feet-on-the-ground-and-stop-the-panic advice I took away from these workshops.

My personal recommendation would be to attend both of these workshops. They help make connections with other PhD students, across a variety of disciplines and allow you to see, not only is there life beyond the four walls of your office, but your experience is not unique, and sharing this with others is quite therapeutic!”.

Ashraf Alam, a recently inducted PhD candidate echoed this response:  “I believe all those workshops were useful. As a Masters student, I was mostly benefited from the ‘Mastering Your Thesis’ workshop. I’d be happy if I could really tell Claire Gallop, how grateful to her I am! I’d suggest all Masters thesis students to attend this particular workshop within the first month of beginning their research”. He indicated that the most important pieces of advice he received was to publish, and to get in touch with the subject librarian, stating that this was “… an invaluable asset that Otago has”.

Networking

When it comes to networking, Ashraf said that he appreciated receiving “… advice about managing the relationship among different stakeholders (supervisors, librarians, departmental faculties, peers, etc). It is not easy in a multicultural environment where general expectations are very diverse (much more than what you can imagine) among individuals”.

Current PhD candidate, Keely Blanch, shared her thoughts on the ‘Networking’ workshop run by Rachel: “Networking is one of those things you know you ‘should’ do, a necessity even if it seems at times to be a painful stilted way to meet people at conferences. Being half way through my PhD I gamely signed up and dragged myself off to Rachel’s seminar. Rachel offers some good reasons on why networking is good for your career – finding mentors, creating a network of people who can help you find out about job opportunities, creating new friendships and so on. Many opportunities to network can evolve naturally from chance meetings and so interactions are less ‘forced’. Other meetings, such as those at conferences where you know no one, are more difficult. Rachel took us through a series of exercises designed to let us practice meeting and chatting with complete strangers. Sure the conversations can seem a bit awkward when you first start, but once that ‘commonality’ is identified things seem to truck along more smoothly. You may ask what a short seminar on your own campus can offer, but in one afternoon I met postgrads from other departments (which means familiar faces to chat to at other functions), and I connected with someone who also blogs about their postgrad journey. I may have headed there with trepidation, but the afternoon was enjoyable and worthwhile”.

Feeling motivated to attend?! (Heck, even I am!) Head to the website and sign up!

http://www.otago.ac.nz/research/graduate/otago041922.html

Thanks for tuning in 🙂

The Dean Cooks a Sausage!!

What:  Dean’s Sausage Sizzle

When: Thursday the 26th February

Where:  Abbey Common

Why:  Fun!

It was a beautiful day for a real kiwi bbq.  The smell of charred snarlers and the sounds of some dodgy tunes filled the air.

 

Rachel “Break-Your-BBQ” Sproken-Smith, Susan “Onion-Empress” Craig, Sarah “Monster-Sausage-Wrangler” McGregor, and Claire “I’ll-Falafel-You” Gallop put their spatulas on the line for the Graduate Research Community.

the chefs

As a manager, I look to develop my team wherever I can.  Witness the enjoyment on Tina’s face as I teach her how to flip a falafel on the BBQ.*

TIna and Claire

The top ten per cent of theses at Otago are classified as exceptional.  It is a little known fact that in the world of charcuterie there are special classifications for exceptional sausages.  1 in 14 sausages are Monster Sausages and GRS are awestruck in their presence.

salad and an exceptional long sausage

Rachel “Smasher” Spronken-Smith destroys the BBQ with a brutal prod of the tongs. Some gentle probing uncovers the fact that she doesn’t want her husband to know that she can actually barbeque and is prepared to destroy Abbey College’s equipment to avoid the grill at home.

Dean and broken bbq

The queue for food before the riot broke out.  Rachel “Destroyer” Spronken-Smith waggled her tongs at the marauding attendees and soon got them back in line.

queue

It was a lovely event and it was great to see so many people come along.  Thanks to the team at GRS for organising it and for Abbey College for hosting it.

*<As a staff member I pretend to put up with Claire’s nonsense but actually I am thinking about Panda’s handsome and broad shoulders> Tina.

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

A Normal Decibel Conversation with the Thesis Whisperer

If you’re like me,* every so often you come across people in your line of work who you really feel like you should despise.  Not because they are rotters, but because they are just so thoroughly excellent at their job and in your wildest dreams you could never reach that level of excellence.  Not only are these rare beasts professionally stellar, they are hilarious and lovely to boot.  Ptchaw! 

Dr Inger Mewburn, aka the Thesis Whisperer, is one such person and it was my absolute pleasure to catch up with her when she visited Dunedin last year.  Inger presented a number or workshops for us and candidates who attended were gifted wisdom, realistic and helpful advice, and a bunch of laughs. 

Inger has an online presence that you should really check out and emulate; this is one time when it is most definitely a good idea to ‘use your eyes and plagiarise’**. Inger is innovative, insightful, engaged and helps thousands of thesis candidates across the world. 

Inger’s Blog, The Thesis Whisperer, is known as the go-to resource for research candidates and academics interested in research training.  Her work on Twitter is highly regarded and she provides many a moment of sanity for those being swept along by the crazy ride that is the thesis journey.  Not so shabby for someone living in the pornography capital of Australia***. 

I asked Inger the tough questions and here is a completely unauthorised, mostly true rendition of that conversation.

*Horrible    

**Style-wise I mean; for Pete’s sake, do not claim that you are the Director of Research Training at ANU. 

*** To be fair, she also lives in the actual capital of Australia and happens to work at an institution that is ranked 25th top University in the world.

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

 

Dr Inger Mewburn, Thesis Whisperer and thoroughly good-egg

Dr Inger Mewburn, Thesis Whisperer and thoroughly good-egg

What brought you to Dunedin?

The Graduate Research School!  I connected with Claire through Twitter and was invited to come to Dunedin.  I’ve been eating, running and working with interesting students. The workshops I’ve been running have been on exams, avoiding research mistakes and employability.

What’s the funniest story you have about an Airedale terrier?

It was a long time ago, let’s move on.

What do you think the main differences between NZ and Australian PhD candidates are?

New Zealanders are very reserved in a workshop situation; you think your jokes fall flat.  <Mine do!>  It is a little bit more difficult as an educator because the feedback is so much more reserved than in Australia. New Zealand students are also very modest.  I was running a writing bootcamp at Victoria and every 5000 words you get a squeezy Lego block to celebrate.  In Australia there is a lot of celebration when the students they reached these milestones but in New Zealand the students would mention it quietly and not want any fuss made about it. Being more reserved doesn’t change the fact that they are just as smart and interesting though.

Are there standard hurdles for all/most PhD candidates and if so, what can they do to minimise them?

People don’t recognize where they are up to or that ways of writing a thesis are different to what they did as an undergraduate.  You write multiple drafts, not one draft.  You make a mess and clean it up. It’s not a good idea to minimise these hurdles; it’s how you become an academic researcher.  We learn by doing but we think it’s wrong because it’s different and because it’s not talked about.

If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what support would you like to provide for thesis candidates?

Bootcamp.  This weekend we ran one at Victoria.  It is a 28 hour weekend programme that I call the Mother-in Law Treatment. When I was writing my thesis I went and stayed with my mother-in-law.  I handed her the child, locked myself in a room and she fed me.  This is what we do on Bootcamp.  We take away all the distractions and care for the students while they write. At this Bootcamp there were 22 people and they wrote 249,000 words between them.  The challenge is to write 20,000 words each and we teach a different approach to writing.  You learn to make a mess and clean it up. We have academic skills advisors, a yoga coach – we take a very holistic approach.  We also change the conversation from bonding over how awful writing is to celebrating our achievements. It is targeted at people who will not finish any other way; people who are over-time and are desperate.  <Hey, that’s me!>  It works, we’ve had 5 completions that we wouldn’t have otherwise had so it pays for itself several times over. It was developed at Melbourne University by Liam Connell and Peta Freestone and there’s a blogpost about it at the Thesis Whisperer.

What is the one thing you think PhD candidates need but don’t realise they need? Only one?? Most common problem is that they think they are a student still.  They are called candidate for a reason. There is lots of baggage that comes with being a student, particularly in their attitude to writing.  You need to write multiple drafts.  The student attitude to their supervisor is just to trust them but you need to realise they are a colleague and also a competitor – coopertition.

Would you like to fight one horse sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

Hmmm, that’s a tough question.  Which poop smells worse, because I’m going to kick the s**t out of them?  Duck poop smells worse than horse poop, so I’m going with 100 duck-sized horses.

What’s your favourite sandwich?

The Bánh mì.  Mmm, the carrot, chicken, coriander.  Crunchy, sweet and sour- so tasty.

Australians like to steal our stuff (Split Enz, Phar Lap, Pavlova) –  would you like to take Whaleoil?

Only if you take Andrew Bolt.  Perhaps we could put them on an island and they could fight each other?

Bravo for Bra-Vo

Each year GRS staff unleash their crafty talents (and believe me there is a fair bit of it about the place) and take part in the Bra-Vo competition.  I caught up with Katherine van der Vliet the GRS Bra-Vo wrangler to learn more about the event. – Mel Adams

2012

Mel:  First up what is Bra-Vo?

Katherine:  Bra-Vo is a fund raising event to raise money for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.  It is organized by Fran Cockerell from Women’s and Children’s Health at the University of Otago.

Mel: Why do you take part?

Katherine: 1 in 5 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime in NZ, so it is important to help raise money towards research and awareness.

Andy

Mel: So what is it you actually do when you take part in Bra-Vo?

Katherine: You decorate a “Nana’ bra in the chosen theme and model your creation over your clothes with the other participants at the a morning tea held at Women’s and Children’s Health.

Mel: Over the years there have been many different themes what would be your favorite? (This years was ‘Bling it on’.)

Katherine: Kiwiana was the theme two years ago.  There were a lot of ideas to choose from, each bra was quite different.  They were all extremely funny and very creative.

Sam

Mel:  Where do you get your inspiration from for your Bra – Talk us through the process of creating an Awesome Bra-Vo Bra?

Katherine:  I look on the internet and look around me and think about it for a bit, then something usually just pops into my head.

Mel:  I have heard rumors that you have granny bras stashed in the bottom of your desk draw- is this true?

Katherine:  No comment!

Susan

Mel:  Do you think people are more likely  to take part in charity event if they events involves some form of creativity instead of just making a donation?

Katherine: I think people get quite enthusiastic about an event that is different, but because it takes a lot of time and effort in the end they find it easier just to make a donation, which is fine because we are all different.

Mel: I have also heard rumors that there should be a GRS Bra-Vo hall of fame established or perhaps an official history of the GRS Bra-Vo experience, do you think this something that should happen?

Katherine:  It would be nice to keep all the bras that have been made and have them on display somewhere.  A lot of time and effort has been put in to them as it’s a shame if they are just discarded or hidden away.

Mel:  Finally if you could have your pick of themes what would be your ideal theme?

Katherine:  Country:  pick a country and decorate the bra to represent the country.  The other participants have to guess what the country is.

GroupThanks Katherine for sharing with us her Bra-Vo experience – I can’t wait until next year’s theme is announced – Bling it on!!!

 

2014 Graduate Research Festival Round Up

Congratulations to all the participants of the inaugural Thesis in Three (Pictures!).  This competition was an exploration of the thesis journey through images.

We had 14 participants who turned their thesis into art using tools as diverse as powerpoint and watercolours.  This competition was the brainchild of PhD candidate, Ann Cronin and all those who participated in it, thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  This event rounded off the two week Graduate Research School Graduate Festival.


Bridgette Toy-Cronin’s Thesis Journey (Self-Represented Litigants in the NZ Civil Courts)Cronin 3

Joanne Choi’s How I Feel About My Thesis (Continuous and Simultaneous measurement of Intraoral pH and Temperature)

Joanne Choi 3

Susan Wardell’s Thesis Journey (Living in the Tension; a comparative study of mental health, spirituality and care labour among two communities of youth workers)

Susan Wardell 3

Man, the Otago thesis candidates are talented!

The festival started out with the OUSA Supervisor of the Year awards.  There were around 200 votes for favourite supervisors and Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald took out the overall prize.  You can read more about this in the Bulletin.

The next highlight of the festival was the visit from the absolutely fabulous Dr Inger (Thesis Whisperer) Mewburn.  Inger works at ANU and if she does not know something about doctoral education, then it’s not worth knowing.

Inger ran workshops on tragic research mistakes, examinations, and building an online profile.  After working her hard I asked her the even harder questions in a tell-all interview.  Look out for a future post where we will find out if Inger would rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses amongst other things.

We held a networking event where we played networking bingo.  Finding who has a Lego village in their office was particularly vexing for the participants (it was me, it was me!).

GRS put on some extra workshops and the new support group for staff writing a thesis, Occupatus, met for the first time.  It was great to meet some folk who are in the same boat I am – juggling work at the University, family, and a thesis can be an exciting ask, to say the least.  Note to self though, staff-students don’t eat nearly as much as student-students!

It is always lovely to celebrate the wonderful work that graduate research candidates are doing and this year was no exception.  It’s important to venture out beyond our own offices and labs and to meet with other thesis candidates, to share war-stories and forge new alliances.

All I ask for when we run the next festival is that my teeth don’t go feral again and my whole fortnight isn’t dominated by mouthageddon!

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School