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!
Back in the day when there were only three ideas and four pictures in the world, no one had to worry about copyright. By the time there was six ideas and eight pictures, lawyers got in on the act and came up with the notion of copyright. Naturally enough, they copyrighted copyright.*
Now the academic terrain is full of terrifying possibilities for inadvertently violating some litigious dude’s distribution rights. Fear not, Richard White, Copyright and Open Access Superman and One-of-a-Kind helpful chap, is here to help. Richard knows copyright inside and out and he’s not afraid to share his knowledge. Check out his quiz and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any copyright questions.
Copyright is complex. In the digital age we all deal with copyright every day, even if we’re not really aware of it. Did you take a photo on your phone today? Did you tweet something? Who owns that photo or the text in the Tweet? What can other people do with these things? As research students you really need to know at least some basics of copyright: yours and that of other people whose works you want to build on.
So, try this quick copyright quiz. This is something I use in my face-to-face sessions as a quick way to learn a few basic concepts, ones that are especially relevant to research students.
Ok. You’re back. Wasn’t that fun? Hopefully you did OK. Of course, whether you thought about it or not, by using a Google form both I and Google now have copies of your answers.
Hopefully the quiz raised a few questions for you about your work and the work of others that you’d like to use. I cover some of those questions in my face-to-face sessions so look out for them when they’re advertised – but I’ll also cover some of them in future blog posts, so watch this space.
For now, you can review some of the basic points covered in the quiz by reading our page on copyright for students.
Richard White, Manager, Copyright and Open Access
*As usual, this is completely false.
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
‘Tis a little known fact that once you’ve written for the GRS Blog you get a hankering* to write for us again. Fiona Clarkson from Marketing and Communications explained the importance of the considering using the media to share your research in this post. This week she explains how to do it.
*By hankering I mean one of us usually harasses/begs/bribes you to do do it again for us.
If you’ve given it some thought and decided that yes, media attention for your research would be a positive thing, then I have good news for you – several pieces in fact!
The first is that the University of Otago has a Communications Team whose job it is to talk to the media and get their attention. They are not at all scary to approach, and can help you sort out what the media will want, and how to talk to them. Before you start, however, it’d be a smart idea to think about the answers to the following questions – these are what the Communications Team will want to know, and what the media will want too.
To be blunt, the first question you need to answer is, “who cares?” Why is your research important to the general public? Does it change someone’s life? Improve their life? Add value to it? Uncover or explain new or historic information? Is it quirky? Relevant to a current public issue? Involve glow-in-the-dark pigs?
Despite there seeming to be an endless amount of news everywhere you look, news real estate is actually precious and the news media are looking for something which will attract a wide audience – it pays to think to yourself, why would that school teacher, or the little old lady in South Dunedin, or the young millennial care?
The next questions are the age-old basic journalism questions: who, what, why, when, where and how. Getting these ducks in a row will make it easier to compile a media release, or make a pitch to a media outlet.
Once you have attracted media attention, more good news! The Communications Team can also help you with one on one training on how to talk to the media and what not to do. Their tips include being prepared with your facts and figures before an interview, considering a photogenic location, and perhaps doing some practice with a friend.
One important thing to consider is what are the risks? Is your topic in any way controversial? Once the media have spoken to you, who else might the media approach and what would that group or person say? You shouldn’t let that put you off necessarily – good news number three is that we can help you through this slightly more tricky process as well as the positive side.
As outlined in my previous blog piece, there are lots of really great reasons for a postgraduate student to want to get media attention for their work. So don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call. Modesty is not the way to win at this particular game, and we in Marketing and Communications know there are so many awesome “stories” out there in postgraduate research that we would love to help you share.
Fiona Clarkson, Postgraduate Marketing and Communications Coordinator
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 🙂
I nabbed Subject Librarian, Sarah Gallagher, also known as @sarahlibrarina, at a moment of vulnerability and twisted her arm into writing a post for us. I always say that librarians are super helpful. In fact, if the University was the animal kingdom and librarians were an animal, verily they would be the African Giant Pouched Rat. So, stop what you are doing, read this post and then book in to a workshop or a one-on-one today!
Back in the mid 90s when I was a postgrad student, library resources and services were quite different. Firstly, there was no Library website. The University of Otago Library was transitioning from card catalogues (1) to a computerised system that could be searched on an OPAC (2). This revolutionised searching but didn’t provide any access to items in full text.
I did love the catalogue cards but you could only search by author, title or subject. The cards were variously old; the card softened to touch like thick linen. New cards were hard and would pierce you under the fingernail in the soft bit given a chance.
There were very few online citation databases then; they were on a CD which had to be borrowed from the desk, and then loaded each time onto a precious public computer which had to be booked in 30 min time slots. There weren’t many of those computers either. This technology didn’t provide the full text either, it only provided citations. The leap from citation databases to full text or linked data hadn’t happened yet. The transition from citation to the object was manual.
So, like other library users, I did a lot of traipsing around the library for material: from reference section to book shelves to the murky journal collections upstairs; checking citations, chasing leads on foot like a gumshoe detective.
I spent a lot of time sitting in isles pouring over contents pages and indices or leaving through individual works page by page; it was filthy work. Paper is dirty; dot matrix print outs of indexes of journal articles are inky. The Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum had scores of volumes tied up with tapes and full of loose image plates. I opened, visually scanned and retied every. single. one. (3)
I didn’t make much use of librarians. I found them a wee bit scary (4).
When I did ask for help I didn’t get a lot (the service provided was very different then) and my topic was pretty esoteric. There were a few hard copy indices I could use (5) (LP, LIMC), but that was it. I really felt alone and I didn’t really know what to ask, or, besides my supervisor and other postgrads in my Department, WHO to ask for advice.
Most of my research was done reading indices and following footnotes. I also made excellent use of the interloan service, often having to request theses from overseas on microfilm (6).
I wrote everything on paper and meticulously inscribed all my references on index cards that I stored in Cussons soap boxes. I had many of these boxes and my backpack was heavy. I had no laptop, there was no Google, I had no online reference management software. In present day library terms, it was still a very analogue world. I developed a dent in one of my fingers from all the writing.
Reflecting back, I think part of the reason I didn’t seek assistance was that I felt I should already know it all; after all, I was a postgrad’ and I’d already been on campus for 4 years and I was an avid library user. So I struggled on in silence not knowing if I was using the all the resources available to me in the best way I could and was too embarrassed to ask.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and neither do you. No one does. <I do!!!>
Here’s a story to illustrate my point.
I’ve just finished building a house and the learning curve has been massive. The house has had a 3 year gestation (not dissimilar to a PhD timeframe) and there have been rules, regulations, new language, methods and terminology to understand and lots of decisions and choices that only I can make. There have been relationships to manage too; designers, builders, council, suppliers and tradesmen.
My builders have been my navigators. They’ve helped me understand a dwang from a bearer, what patterning is and why it matters, why I need bracing here, scribers and flashing, there. This time I’ve not been scared to ask. I am the one who has to live with it and it’s costing a lot of money. The builders are on my side, they’re part my team and they don’t made me feel stupid for asking ‘dumb questions’ (7). They’ve been kind, informative and have been largely supportive if my creative ideas or have respectfully explained why it won’t work. They have a level of service and professional practice, which they embody. They are proud of their work, so I know I can rely on them to give me sound advice. Building is their job. Librarianing is mine (8).
The University’s Library’s Liaison Service has a very different practice to our reference librarians of last century. We individually welcome all new PhD students and invite you to catch up with your Subject Librarian at your convenience. We also run postgraduate workshops several times a year; there are some coming up next week – you can register online.
We can teach you how to develop search strategies and how search effectively and efficiently using some pretty smart tools that we spend $mils on. We can teach you to use software like Endnote so you don’t have to create inline citations and bibliographies by hand.
Make use of us. We’re always available by appointment to spend time with you, and we really do care about you and your project. We know that this is a massive commitment of time, funds and often access to your nearest and dearest. We’ve been there too.
We know you don’t know what your don’t know and so we can anticipate some of the questions you may have. We’ve got your back; let us help you make this the best damn thesis you can.
Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, by ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- What is a card catalogue? http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-a-card-catalog.htm
- OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_public_access_catalog
- CVA is now online http://www.cvaonline.org/cva/
- The irony is not lost on me http://librarianavengers.org/worship-2/
- L’Année philologique is now online, the Lexicon iconographicum mythologiae classicae (LIMC) is not. Ha.
- Microform http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microform
- There are no dumb questions
- I did teach my builder how to use Pinterest … he loves it
Sarah Gallagher, Health Sciences Library
There are a number of scholarship programmes which help students and academic staff from Otago head over the big pond too far off countries to study. One of these programmes is the DAAD scheme. DAAD stands for German Academic Exchange Service and they offer a number of excellent scholarships to help students and staff at any point in their academic career study abroad. Anna Bauer is the NZ rep for DAAD and is coming to visit us at Otago shortly. Before she arrives I thought it would be good to learn more about DAAD so that if you attend the information session you have excellent questions to ask Anna.
Mel Adams, Graduate Research School
Mel: Hi Anna, thanks for taking part in the GRS Blog. My first question is can you tell us more about the DAAD scholarship scheme and what it offers Otago students, particularly those who are studying at post grad level?
Anna: Hi Mel, thank you for hosting me again this year, it’s always a pleasure to come to U Otago, you’ve got a wonderful town here and very well organised university. For postgrads, the DAAD are offering several different things. Students embarking on a 2 year master’s degree can apply for support to spend either one year of their master’s in Germany, or do the entire degree in Germany and receive EUR 750 per month for the duration of their stay as well as a travel grant. Doctoral students enrolled in a PhD programme here at Otago can apply to spend a portion of their research time in Germany in order to gather data or collaborate and learn from researchers over there for anything between 1 and 10 months, receiving a monthly stipend of EUR 750-1,000 as well as a travel grant. The doctoral support is also open to people who’ve just entered their postdoctoral phase, a time when many don’t have a job yet, but are keen to continue research, which will often lead to a job for them.
Mel: How did you get involved with the DAAD scholarship scheme?
Anna: I’d known about the DAAD from early on during my undergrad days. The Service is very well known at German tertiary institutions, and actually, it’s the largest of its kind in the world, giving out well over a 100,000 scholarships per year at present. When I neared the end of my PhD phase, there was a call for applications, and I applied for the DAAD liaison position in New Zealand.
Mel: How do students apply for a DAAD scholarship?
Anna: Nearly all applications are handled online these days, of course. Prospective applicants should go to DAAD scholarship website and take it from there. It’s always good to check things out early to make sure you know your way around the DAAD application portal, and to be able to submit your application ahead of the deadline, so you don’t get stressed. In order to make sure no application is lost, it’s still required at present to send in two print-outs of your application by post. For most programmes, the print-outs are sent to the German Embassy in Wellington.
Mel: Why do you think it is a good idea to spend time at another institute while doing postgrad study?
Anna: It sounds a bit clichéd probably, but it’s basically about broadening your mind. Being educated in one place means that you’re exposed to the ideas there, but even if it’s a vibrant place research-wise, it’s sometimes difficult to think outside the box that is particular to that place. Going to a different place means you’re entering a different box, and that opens up new paths, new ways of going about things, and you’re then able to use these for your research. I studied at three different universities and then worked at a fourth during my time as a student, and I think it’s taught me as much about thinking in different ways as my studies themselves.
Mel: You are a lecturer at the Uni of Auckland, what do you think is the main difference between studying in New Zealand and Germany?
Anna: The main difference at this point, I’d say is that students in Germany don’t have to worry about tuition fees, because there are none at the over 100 public universities, no matter whether you’re a national or an international student. Apart from that, experiences are pretty similar on the whole, I’ve found. A sizeable number of unis are in located in smaller towns and dominate that town much like U Otago features hugely in Dunedin as a town. On top of that, many unis are also quite international, and you meet people from all over the world, something that is made very easy also by the fact that most students in Germany flat with other students, it’s a bit of a rite-of-passage really.
Mel: Finally, Would you like to fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?
Anna: Hahah! I think I’d go with the duck-sized horses. Being nearly 1.80m tall, I’m fairly sure I’d be able to outrun them if our fighting goes pear-shaped at my end of the arena.
Anna is visiting us on Wednesday the 20th of May from 12 to 1pm in Quad 2 if you want to learn more about the DAAD Scholarship programme.
It’s March folks, and officially autumn and after such a spectacular summer I have started to notice that it is getting a bit cooler. Recently on a wander home from work the other day I started thinking how the different seasons of the year are similar to different seasons one experiences when undertaking a PhD or Master’s. I wanted to explore this idea further so I caught up with Brian Johnston our Personal Performance Coach to see if there was any truth to a wandering admin staff member’s theory.
Mel Adams, Graduate Research School
Mel: So the reason for this interview was I was wondering if the seasons in the year reflect the different seasons one may experience when doing a PhD or Master’s? Is it the case that there is a summer period when things are going really well, winter season you find it is hard and you are less productive? Do you think there is any truth to this wandering admin staff member’s theory or as an admin staff member I should stick to pushing paper around my desk? <Never! Says Claire>
Brian: I think you should stick to pushing paper around your desk! No, only kidding J. I think there is a lot to be said about your theory but I’ll try and keep it brief. In many ways the season’s parallel the PhD and the Master’s candidates experience. There are periods when the sun shines, it not only rains, but it pours and there’s calm before the storm!
Brian: The summer can be an exciting time. When the sun is shining, we have blue skies and all is calm, we may feel a sense of optimism and all is well with the world. We smile more, feel more energised and more open to others and opportunities. When all’s going well with our postgraduate studies, we can experience a similar sense of optimism and excitement and be open to new learning and new ideas.
Spring can be a time for new beginnings. The doom and gloom of winter is gone and we can emerge into lighter days and nights. We have a “spring in our step” (pun intended), the buds are appearing on the trees and bushes and there’s new growth. This is the time of new born lambs (aw!) and for many a time for change and creativity. Again this mirror’s some postgraduates’ study experience.
There can be “dark” times during the Master’s/PhD experience and it seems there will never be “light at the end of the tunnel”. But then things begin to change and there can be a sense and experiencing of “new growth”. Progress may be slow but a new spring dawn brings lighter days and a feeling of renewal or reconnection with their thesis.
Mel: Do you think it is important to have a ‘winter’ period?
Brian: I don’t know if I think it’s important but I think it is almost inescapable. It has been said that in order to experience the light we need to experience the dark. In order to experience joy, we need to experience despair. I am not sure I agree with that.
In my work with postgraduates we consider the academic rigour and stamina each student needs to run the marathon of the PhD. It cannot be a sprint to the end. To succeed and “cross the finish line” requires perseverance and the ability to push through even when the “path of least resistance” would be to give up. Undertaking postgraduate study challenges many students’ resilience and tests their character strengths. Winter can have a similar affect for many of us. Often it would be easier to stay in bed, conserve our energy and avoid facing the day ahead. It requires effort, energy and determination to motivate ourselves during the cold, harsh Dunedin winters, but remember spring will arrive and we can embrace the day with new energy.
Mel: Do you have advice for students on how to capitalise on each season? For example, should you you acknowledge that you are in a winter period but develop means of making the most of it?
Brian: I’ve probably answered this question in part above. However I would add that I truly believe that the seasons can affect our moods, energy levels and our abilities to work at our optimal best. And yet many employers expect their employees (and that includes postgraduate students) to work to their capacity all year round! My advice is to do the best we can, when we can. Develop a holistic approach to our life ensuring we listen to our body – eat well, sleep well and pace ourselves throughout the year.
Mel: What happens if things are going well personally (summer) but not academically (it’s winter) or vice versa? How do you cope with this? (wear a raincoat with sunnies???)
Brian: This has been a great summer in Dunedin. Lots of days for the sunnies! Oh if only this were the norm! Again I think it’s all about getting the right balance. Hopefully each of us can make the most of our “summers” (believe it or not, some people work best in the winter!), springs, autumns AND winters.
Build up the academic and personal “stamina” needed to run the postgraduate marathon. Keep your eye on the finishing line and visualise the enormous sense of satisfaction and achievement you will feel once you cross the finishing line.
Mel: How can you deal with worries about winter periods in your PhD/Master’s during summer periods?
Brian: Accept that “worries”, winter and summer days are a natural process of postgraduate study. We all have down days and we all have up days. Hopefully the ‘summer” days well outweigh the winter days. Once again, pay attention to creating a life/study balance. Develop the strategies you need to keep healthy, positive and don’t overdo it. Take regular breaks, eat well, exercise – even in the cold winter days and build up your resilience to “weather all storms”. Seek support from family, friends and fellow students – “A problem shared is a problem halved.
If you are keen to catch up with Brian for a one to one session to help with motivation and your studies you can book an appointment. Contact details on his webpage.
Data scandals, intellectual property theft, research misconduct, harmful experiments and holding the world record for time to completion are all examples of the kinds of things graduate students don’t want media attention for. But what should you want media attention for?
I always start my thesis workshops on what a master’s or PhD is not. It’s not a ticket to the New York Best Seller List and no one is going to make a block-buster movie out of it with you as the lead. Having said that, if your plans for media saturation aren’t quite so grand, then it is important to think about how much media exposure you want your research to have and how you will handle a reporter who gets wind or your cool research project.
Fiona Clarkson is the Postgraduate Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the University. She says has been a journalist and communications professional for over 20 years but I say she looks way too young and this can’t possibly be true. Either way we are lucky enough to have her sharing her wisdom on why it is a good idea to have a media presence.
The question of whether you should try and attract “mainstream” media attention for your research can be a perplexing one.
It’s journal articles and the like that really add value to your career, right? And everyone knows the media just beat everything up, and/or get things wrong, don’t they?
Besides which, nerve-wracking much? What if I’m misquoted? What if I sound like a dork?
Well here’s one reason: imagine you and another freshly minted PhD are interviewing for a post-doc role. And you both have wonderful theses. And you’re both awesome people. And one of you has newspaper articles giving your research publicity – with the potential to bring ongoing public attention to your work. In the modern funding environment, a public profile is a good thing.
Here’s another more philanthropic reason: I’ve not met a PhD candidate yet for whom the chance to add to the body of knowledge isn’t one of their raison d’être. But how much real value are you adding with a stunning thesis that is shelved only in a library? Let’s spread the joy and the knowledge.
Or what about purely practical reasons? Need survey participants and short on funding? Media attention to your project can reach further than any advertisement.
With careful preparation and thought, talking to the media needn’t be a scary proposition.
Yes, news in today’s modern world does seem to hinge on a catchy headline and a bit of conflict. But knowing that and preparing accordingly, with facts and figures and consideration to what a journalist needs (not just what you want), can have fantastic results. And avoid potential dork-ery.
Check out part two of this series for how to attract media attention and prep for an interview.
Fiona Clarkson, Postgraduate Marketing and Communications Coordinator