This week I attended the funeral of my colleague Gregory Scott.
There was lots of shared laughter about some of Gregory’s strange, strange ways. There was lots of giggling about his love of really terrible dad-jokes. There was lots of nodding about Gregory’s kindness and helpfulness. There was lots of affirmation about Gregory’s integrity and the importance of his faith to him. There was a table of dodgy ties and we were allowed to take one to remember Gregory by.
It was a really good send off.
But it was way too soon to say goodbye.
Gregory worked for the Research Division at Otago for 15 years. He worked mainly in the Graduate Research area and he was pivotal in developing smooth administration through his database Achievers.
Otago was the envy of other New Zealand universities. We knew how many PhD candidates we had at any one time, who was deferred, who was under exam, who had changed supervisor 17 times (me!). It may seem obvious that we should know this stuff, but obvious and the real world don’t always go hand-in-hand. Gregory made what should happen actually happen.
Gregory was happy to poke fun at himself. He reveled in corny jokes and the day he showed up for our Christmas-do dressed up as a nerd (or more of a nerd, as he would have it) summed up his spirit of fun.
Gregory and I would have long conversations about new technology, big data, disastrous IT projects as well as excellent ones. He would tolerate my deviations into discussions about diplomacy and different communication styles when all he really wanted to talk about was systems solutions.
Gregory died after a four year battle with bowel cancer. He fought hard against this ghastly disease and he never seemed to waiver in his optimism about his prognosis.
The day Gregory told me his cancer had returned I got upset. He gave me a hug to comfort me. You could see it pained him to have to do it but he manned-up and did it anyway.
In all the time he was sick I never heard him complain about his health. One hears this being said of people and one tends to think it’s an exaggeration. With Gregory it was utterly true. He stoically put up with invasive nasty treatments, with the side-effects of chemo, with the tiredness, and the discomfort.
Gregory was dedicated to his work, dedicated to his family, dedicated to helping people and dedicated to God.
Gregory, you will be missed.
Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School
When you’ve been a graduate research student as longs as I have, you’ve got a few war stories to tell and if you are anything like me you are happy to tell them.
There’s the story about me writing my entire Master’s thesis in bed using a laptop of my own devising (thanks Steve Jobs for the Apple Mac Classic). I liked the way I could just have a nap if it all got too much for me and when I woke up I could get straight into writing (how I escaped Deep Vein Thrombosis is anyone’s guess).
There was the time I ran away from my supervisor and he spotted me and ran the other way, crept up on me from behind and yelled BOO! in my ear. There was also the way he used to toy with me by making cryptic comments on my work just for the sport of it. Oh those were good times!
There are also the stories I could regale you with about being a supervisor. I’ve got some good ‘uns but professionalism requires I keep those to myself.
But let’s be frank, you’ve heard most of these stories already.You don’t want to hear my shtick all the time. You all have your own stories and I know some of them are goodies. So in the interest of getting better Blog With No Name Stories, we want you!
If you have an idea for a story, let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All you have to do is provide us with some original text and or pictures and we can do the rest.
Remember, connecting with your community is key to positive graduate research outcomes and we are happy to help unlock that connection.
Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School
Sleep. It is a wonderful thing and so important to being productive the next day. Sometimes with one thing and another a good night’s rest just doesn’t happen. Brian, our awesome personal performance coach, has some tips to help with getting a good nights sleep. Atlas, when not sleeping on the job, also provided some dog inspired comments.
Eat sleep-inducing foods – A night time snack of Greek yoghurt drizzled with honey may just help you get a better night’s rest: both honey and dairy contain compounds that may induce sleep. (Food before bed, man, I am in. I eat any time, anywhere and I never have problems sleeping – Atlas)
Stretch before bed – Stretching your limbs relieves aches, but it can also calm you and prep you for sleep. (I love a good stretch, and a walk, and playing fetch, and chasing cats, and chasing my tail – Atlas)
Wake up at the same time every day – Sleeping in on the weekends can make it that much harder to feel well-rested during the week, so stop the Sunday morning lie-ins and stick to your normal wake-up time. You’ll have an easier time getting to sleep and won’t feel as groggy the next morning. (I agree this is very important. I do my best to wake at the same time everyday regardless of what day of the week it is. For some reason my humans don’t appreciate this on a Sunday morning. I see nothing wrong at waking at 6.30 on a Sunday – Atlas).
Put away the electronics –The blue light from tech devices tricks your mind into thinking it’s day, so have a cut-off time for watching movies and catching up on email that’s at least 20 to 30 minutes before you need to get to sleep. (I am old school – This dog is techno free – Atlas)
Don’t nap – Even if restless sleep makes you want to nap during the day, don’t. That nap may be just what’s keeping you from catching nightly Zs. Instead, take a walk or get some fresh air to reenergise until it’s bedtime. (I am sorry but I disagree with you Brian, I love a nap, especially when my humans are being boring. A quick nap passes the time until something more exciting happens – Atlas)
Read a book – Set aside a few minutes each night to meander your way through a favourite book to help power down from a hectic day. (Reading is for humans, blah – Atlas)
Don’t drink – Alcohol in your system can lead to a disruptive night of sleep, so if you usually enjoy a glass of wine every night, go without and see if it helps your slumber. (Water is the best. Always drink lots of water – Atlas)
Take a warm bath or shower – A warm bath or shower can further soothe your muscles; it’s also great if you’re suffering from a cold or allergies, since the hot steam can help open up your sinuses to help you breathe better while you sleep. (Hate baths and showers, I prefer to go dig a hole in the garden- Atlas)
Go dark – Electronics, alarm clocks, street lamps – all of these can prevent deep sleep. Turn off your TV before you drift off to sleep, get blackout curtains to keep outside light away, and cover anything else that’s contributing to light pollution in your bedroom. (ohhh, I need to talk my humans about the laptop lights, the clock on the oven, – man they have no consideration for a dog and his sleep – Atlas)
Change your pillow – Your pillow may be hindering, not helping, your sleep, so make sure you’re sleeping on the right one for you. (Love me a good pillow, especially if it is someone elses, night, night – Atlas)
If none of these points, or pictures of cute sleeping dogs don’t help you, then do not fear, this was part one of two. Part two with photos of sleeping cats to follow – I wonder whose tips will work best!
Brian Johnston, Graduate Research School and Atlas, King of the World
We were all lined up to celebrate our first birthday, yes, we have made it! One whole year of blog posts. Sadly, Panda E Bear is out with the flu so celebrations will need to wait for another day. In the meantime, let us introduce Master Panda. A slightly smaller (and less troublesome) panda, Master Panda normally hangs out in the Dean’s office at GRS, helping the Dean out with important day to day matters (namely keeping the door open). Anyway, after a week of rather terrible weather we took Master Panda out for a stroll around campus, snapping signs of spring and enjoying the sunshine*.
Every man and his dog (quiet literally I took some pics while walking the dog the other day) have taken a pic of the magnolia this year. Not sure if it has been the grey weather or the threat of snow but this year the magnolia looks amazing. Master Panda had to get in on the action and of course be the main focus of the picture (he doesn’t get a lot of air time)!
Master Panda was super keen to find some daffodils. Amazingly we managed to locate some outside the Richardson building but despite much coaxing they refused to play ball and be photographed with Master Panda. They were rather shy and hid their sweet wee faces away from the camera. This is the best we could get. Maybe they are a bit nervous with all the building work going on around them.
A Dunedin Icon. The Rhodie. Master Panda very gallantly climbed up the tree to get this pic (it took ages by the way – Master Panda is only 15cm tall and takes little teeny steps). Despite the windchill factor, he then fell asleep for an hour in the sun (some of us are lucky enough to have a big furry coat!).
We had to bribe Master Panda with a chocolate fish to get this one, and we promise that is in fact blossom! What you can’t see in the background is the team of stunt people assisting Master Panda in this shot. He is leaping off a trampoline, superman style**.
So as we wander back to the Clocktower, feeling refreshed from seeing the sun (we even managed to soak up some vitamin D, albeit through the limited amounts of hand and face surfaces exposed!), delighted at the sight of spring flowers and full of hope that this very cold weather might just come to an end at some point – we hope you will be inspired on the next sunny day to take a stroll round campus, avoid the construction sites and see if you can spot some signs of spring.
*Sunshine: noun, “direct sunlight unbroken by cloud, especially over a comparatively large area”
**No pandas were hurt in the shooting of these photos. When it comes to photos the GRS team are highly trained professionals (does High School Bursary Art count???)
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.”
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 🙂
The winners have been drawn from the very official hat! Congratulations to…
Georgia Bell, Tyler Northern, Rebecca Ahmadi, Mike 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 email@example.com 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!
You gotta hand it to the Australians, they may have a funny accent but they are super good at providing support to their doctoral candidates. In a couple of weeks we are lucky enough to have Hugh Kearns talking to us about resilience and confidence during your thesis journey (it’s not too late to register!) and Inger from ANU has just created a cool looking course. And it’s free!
Dr Inger Thesis Whisperer Mewburn is no mook. She has however created a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that looks like it will super useful for all those doing a PhD and all those unlucky enough to be close to someone doing a PhD.
Did you know that up to one quarter of students who start a PhD don’t finish? You have to be smart to start a PhD, but resilient to finish one.
The new, free MOOC from ANU “How to survive your PhD” https://www.edx.org/course/how-survive-phd-anux-rsit-01x is designed to help built by Dr Inger Mewburn, better known as The Thesis Whisperer, to help build PhD student resilience. You will learn research based tips and strategies to help students and supervisors create a more supportive environment for research study. The MOOC will have many opportunities to connect and discuss the issues with other participants around the world, either in the discussion forums or on social media using the hashtag #survivephd15
The MOOC is suitable for supervisors, current students, prospective students and even parents, partners and friends. The course should take you no more than two hours a week so you can more easily fit it in a busy schedule. You could take the course on your own, or form a small group (have a look at the suggestions Inger has outlined here http://thesiswhisperer.com/2015/08/05/are-most-academics-lonely-at-work/
I’ve just signed up for it and at 2 hours per week for 10 weeks it looks completely doable even with my heavy schedule. Topics include: frustration (oh yeah); fear (you bet); confusion (all the time); and boredom (my, that cardboard box looks interesting) amongst other things.
So check out the course and give it a go and I’ll see you all in the ether.
Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School
It is a little known fact that when Brian is not busy coaching thesis candidates and helping them to realise their goals, he dabbles in a spot of poetry. Unlike me, who thinks all poetry should start, there was a young man from Dundee, Brian breathes iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets and the occasional spot of assonance. So here’s a wee mid-winter delight to warm the cockles of your heart.
A Witty Ditty when you’re feeling a bit…..
Backs Against the Wall!
Life is full of troubles
They come both large and small
But it’s the itsy, bitsy, bits
That get you most of all.
When the cash machine is broken
Friends don’t return your call
You don’t know who to turn to
Your back’s against the wall!
Buy yourself a tiny houseplant
A little piece of life
A haven of tranquility
In the midst of all this strife.
Buy a shiny green companion
To tell your troubles to
No matter what your worries are
It will always listen to you.
Winter, spring and autumn
And in the summer too
PhD and other stuff
Can really get to you
When that Lit Review is pending
Chapter four’s no use at all
You’re already at your wit’s end
And your back’s against the wall.
Buy yourself a tiny houseplant
A little piece of life
A haven of tranquility
In the midst of all this strife.
Give your plant a selfish earful
It helps ease your stress away
Your tiny plant will always be
Your loyal friend each day!
Brian Johnston, Personal Performance Coach, Graduate Research School
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.
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 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
- 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
- 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:
Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School
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:
* 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