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 email@example.com. 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
Before the New Zealand ShakeOut, there were a myriad of awesome shaking-moments-from-history.
There was Shakin’ Stevens, milkshakes, K.C. and the Sunshine Band urging you to shake your booty (I defy you not to get down like James Brown after checking that video out), and, of course, three hands shaking all at once:
The Graduate Research School live and breath preparedness in all aspects of our lives, so when Department health and Safety Officer, Katherine van der Vliet, told us we had to do our earthquake drill, we complied eagerly.
The drill was useful for two reasons, first we know better what to do in an earthquake (a very real, and as Christchurch residents will tell you, important thing to master) and we also found some amazing stuff under our desks.
Mel found the chewing gum she left there and has been stuck in this position since Thursday.
Robin found her ‘be prepared emergency bag’ and discovered Claire had removed the first aid kit and replaced it with a small bottle of boutique-made gin.
Annoyed about the loss of her bandaids, Robin threw a box at Claire. No brains were harmed in the ensuing tussle.
Tina, dedicated as always to the doctoral candidates, chucked herself over a newly submitted PhD and continued to run the office from underneath a straw hat.
True to her Australian roots, Belinda held on to the table legs like a Koala grips a Gum tree in a gale-force wind. Belinda was delighted to locate a Vegemite sandwich and a cork hat behind her rubbish bin.*
Lisa took a break from paying our lovely scholarship-holders and was absolutely delighted to find her ponytail.
Susan was reminded of the dark days when she first started yoga and her yoga instructor had to send her to hospital after she seized up during downward facing dog.
Under her desk, Sarah found her mojo again and was equal parts delighted and horrified.
To be honest, this was just plain embarrassing. The Dean was not actually taking part in the drill and I just happened to need to ask her a question when I found her like this. I dont really know what to say.
The all round awesome and massively overachieving Karyn found at least three awards that she hadn’t realised she’d received during her earthquake drill.
I was feeling as perky as anything as I took my ShakeOut selfie. I’m a bit worried that I might have jaundice though. Nothing a bit of foundation won’t fix I guess.
So, the Graduate Research School are all sussed in case of emergency. The question is are you?
* This exhausts my cultural stereotyping, although I was mighty tempted to include reference to Trevor Chappell’s cricket ball. However, I’m too nice for that.
Claire “Without Borders” Gallop, Graduate Research School
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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”.
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!
Thanks for tuning in 🙂
Just finished some postgrad study and craving more research to sink your teeth into? Like the ring of ‘Doctor’ before your name, but a drop of blood makes you queasy? Then a PhD might be just right for you!
The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programme is the University’s highest level supervised research degree. We currently have over 1300 doctoral candidates studying at Otago, from both around New Zealand and overseas. Here are a few tips on how to get started with a PhD application.
Pre-requisite step: You need to have put in some hard yards before applying – here’s the nitty gritty:
Every candidate must be a university graduate and produce evidence of ability to undertake research in the area of proposed study. Such evidence shall include:
i. a Bachelor’s degree with first or upper second class Honours or equivalent (including a research component, e.g. a dissertation or a thesis); or
ii. a Master’s degree (including an appropriate research component, e.g. a dissertation or a thesis); or
iii. appropriate research experience (e.g. publications in academic journals, books, etc).
Got it? Cool – that will lead you nicely onto step one…
Step one: Find a supervisor!
Someone needs to be there with you on your research journey, to guide you, advise you, and support you; maybe even to provide you with coffee, chocolate, office space with a comfy chair conducive to napping in…
But in all seriousness, approaching a department and finding a supervisor with the right expertise, and that is able to supervise you, is the first necessary step. Keep in mind that this person will be your ‘colleague’ – we get regular feedback from completed PhD candidates that choosing the right supervisor off the bat is a crucial aspect of the PhD journey.
Step Two: The application process [Sidenote – you can totally apply at any time of the year – woo!]
a) If you’re a domestic student (‘Domestic’ includes Aussies; and international students who have previously studied at the Uni of Otago):
You will complete an online application form through eVision. You can access this from our website: http://www.otago.ac.nz/courses/qualifications/phd.html
After filling out the form, you will need to upload to eVision a research proposal, current CV, any academic transcripts for tertiary study undertaken outside of the University of Otago (we can get the Otago ones ourselves), and a Scholarship Application form – if you are applying for a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.
eVision then sends us your submitted application, and provided all the necessary documents are there, we will forward it on to your nominated department for them to complete their sections. Once it’s returned to us, we process it and flick it on to the meeting of the Graduate Research Committee to determine your fate… dun dun dunnnnn!
Check out this sweet flow chart for more detail: http://www.otago.ac.nz/research/graduate/otago084600.pdf
b) If you’re an international student (new to the Uni of Otago):
Once you’ve found that supervisor, contact the International Office (email@example.com), and they will work through the application process with you. Once they’ve done their bit, they send your application to us and as above, it goes to the GRC meeting for consideration.
Check out this just-as-cool flow chart for more detail: http://www.otago.ac.nz/research/graduate/otago084644.pdf
Step Three: The outcome
Technically you don’t need to do anything until we contact you – but bear with us, your application will be processed as quickly as possible. Sometimes we need to follow up on a few things, but rest assured, we’ll contact you as soon as we can with an outcome!
Here are some helpful links to our website, where you can get more information on the process, and access other handy tidbits:
General PhD Information: http://www.otago.ac.nz/study/phd/index.html
More info on applying for the PhD: http://www.otago.ac.nz/study/phd/otago009275.html
The Doctoral Office is located in the Graduate Research School, on the Ground Floor of the Clocktower Building. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before the Kardashians were exposing themselves (ahem) on TV, the U.S. had Hunter Thompson exposing the Hells Angels and Woodward and Bernstein exposing Richard Nixon. Roguish Irish journalist Donal MacIntyre exposed the British underworld and even New Zealand had hard hitting investigative journalism in the form of Target exposing the tastiest corn-chips.
This time the tables have turned on the Graduate Research School when charismatic megafauna, World Wide Fund for Nature mascot and undercover bear, Panda B. Ear, spends time inside GRS. What Panda finds inside the Clock Tower may change you forever*.
In a two part exposé, first as a doctoral candidate and then as a member of staff, Panda puts the spotlight on Otago University’s support for thesis candidates.
* The chances are slim to vanishing.
This is Part One of Panda’s story…
Given that there were no current vacancies in the Graduate Research School, I decided to go undercover as a student first. My rugged good looks mean I am hard to ignore. I stayed up late reading about total fraud and has-been, Winne-the-Pooh; this gave me that haunted dark-circles-under-the-eyes look that so many grad students seem to have. I blended in perfectly and no one noticed anything amiss.
I’d heard that the Manager of the School was good for a chat so I went to see her about my “thesis”.
I discovered I could talk to her forever and soon I was telling her about how I didn’t feel like I fitted in and that my supervisor did not realise how rare and precious I was. I explained that sometimes the University feels like such a zoo; I’m unique, don’t treat me like one of the pack!
I also asked for some Excel advice and for some help with some quadratic equations. To be honest, she was completely useless regarding the latter issues but she did help me to stop being so black and white. I knew I’d said too much when we explored my bamboo habit and my relationship with my mother. I’ve never known such tiredness.
I’d found out all I could about life as a doctoral student. GRS’ most heinous crime was in its choice of marshmallow confection. I sensed there was more to this story and I started to plan how to get behind the (frankly crazily high) reception desk.
Panda B. Ear
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
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.
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.
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!
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.