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Category Archives: University Community

Gregory Scott, Rest in Peace

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 ScottGregory 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

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 

2015 3MT Final

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

3MT blog

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

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

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

3MT Emma Wadw Slide

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

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

3MT Judges

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

3MT Sarah

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

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

3MT Jenny McDowell

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

3MT Nicola

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

Gilles presenting blog

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

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

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

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

Backs Against the Walls – A Witty Ditty from Brian

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.

Pic one for Brian

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!

So……..

Pic two Brian

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.

Lit Review

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.

So…..

Plants 22

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

The Art of the Form: a Re-Enrolment of Two Halves

One of the reasons I became the Manager of the Graduate Research School is because I am atrocious at filling in forms.  Every time I go near a form (be it online or paper) I manage to get myself caught in a wormhole of confusion, fear and panic.

Either I do not understand the questions, I object to the style in which they are written or they violate some moral principle that I hitherto had not realised I was committed to.

The Doctoral Office are a crack-team-of-awesome when it comes to helping fill in forms and so when I am faced with some bewildering bureaucracy, Tina kindly takes me by the hand and gently asks, “don’t you remember, Claire, we did it like this last year?”

No!  I don’t remember!!  I never remember!!!

I would like to blame the form-designers of the world, but given the repeated nature of this problem and the fact that there must be more than one person designing all these forms that I fail at filling in, reason would suggest that I’m the common denominator here.  I seem to have a rare and peculiar debilitating condition called Formus Blindicus cum Incompetencia.

This week I tackled my re-enrolment and all was going well until I went to Study Link to apply for a student loan.  I checked out whether or not part-timers could still get their fees paid (and they can) and I started to churn through the questions feeling almost competent.

Sure, I had to reread a few of the questions, sure I may or may not have cursed at the screen a few times, but I was feeling truly hopeful as I pressed the final Eligibility radio button.

YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR A STUDENT LOAN

YOU ARE ELIGIBLE FOR CHILD DISABILITY ALLOWANCE

I know I’m perky for my age, but a child disability allowance?  Really?

SIGH.

After going back through every screen with a fine-tooth comb, I unclicked the offending buttons.  I undid all my answers to the questions I’d misinterpreted.  I no longer accidently identified as a child/felon/bankrupt/in loan arrears.

Then booya!  Just like that I was all sorted.

Easy as.

Personal and prolonged form-incompetence aside, all this is by way of reminding you that if you weren’t enrolled for second semester, it’s time to do it now.  Go on, if I can manage it, anyone can!

Sarah will help you….

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

Re-enrol

It’s that time of year, people! If you only have a Semester One (part-year) enrolment, and you’re still busy beavering away on your thesis, then you’ll need to re-enrol for the remainder of the 2015 academic year.

How do I re-enrol?

Please email us at phd@otago.ac.nz, with your name and ID number, requesting enrolment for semester two, and we’ll update this in the system for you. Once complete, a message confirming the change to your enrolment and an invoice for semester two fees will appear in your eVision portal.

If you’re wanting to make a change from full-time to part-time or vice versa, you’ll need to fill out form for that instead, which can be found here: http://www.otago.ac.nz/OTAGO089636

REMEMBER… you need to be enrolled to submit your thesis for examination, so if you didn’t quite make it for a semester one submission but you still want to submit this year (and don’t have a current full-year enrolment), then flick us an email!

Re-enrol3

Speaking of beavering away, we’ve also been busy little bees here in the Doctoral Office processing all of your glorious hard bounds theses! Please bear with us while we get everything sorted for those graduating in August, we’ll get to any of your queries as soon as we can 🙂

Sarah McGregor, Doctoral Office, Graduate Research School

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

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

3MT-FoundedByUQ-WEB

Who is eligible to enter?

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel

Daniel Wee, 2013 3MT Winner

What could I win?

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

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

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

But wait, there’s more!

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

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

When is the Dunedin Final?

Wednesday 26 August.

When are the national/international competitions?

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

2015 Trans-Tasman 3MT: Queensland 2 October 2015

Are there any specific rules for the presentation format?

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

 What are the judging criteria?

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

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

Engagement; was the audience left wanting to know more?

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

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

What are you waiting for? 

Click below to enter the appropriate heat:

Auckland, 25 July

Dunedin, 27- 31 July

Wellington, 18 August

Christchurch, 20 August

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

3MT: Fame, Fortune and Fun! Part I

 

Panda 3MT

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many times have you entered the 3MT competition?

Shobhit: Once in 2013.

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

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

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

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

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shobhit: I’ll be back! 😀

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

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

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

Anything further you’d like to add?

Shobhit: BAZINGA !!

Daniel: Good luck to this year’s competitors!

Thanks, Daniel and Shobhit!

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

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

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

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

I want to enter the 3MT and compete in:

AUCKLAND
WELLINGTON
CHRISTCHURCH
DUNEDIN

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

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School 

Gym Bunnies (opps, I mean Bears)

A long time has passed since I first went to a gym.  The year was 1990 and the fashion was for gym-goers to wear g-string leotards and fishnet bicycle shorts.*

It would not be an exaggeration to say that I have had a mixture of gym-based experiences.There was the time I forgot that the weights room was lined with mirrors and that the cute boy in the corner could see me “appreciating his form”. In terms of embarrassment, this was exceeded only by the time I fell off the backwards incline bench*** and the occasion I had to get cut out of the rowing machine.****

Despite this periodic public humiliation, I have always enjoyed  the gym and since thesis candidates should not live by thesis alone I thought I’d venture back there to scope it out for you. Armed only with my obligatory sweat towel and a giant Panda to spot me on the bench, we tested out the facilities at Unipol.

Panada on Couch

Denial is strong in this one and convincing Panda B.Ear to leave the comfort of the couch was trickier than you might imagine. His attempt at camouflage was impressive but ultimately futile.

It was a nice walk to Unipol but slower than normal. Panda basked in the attention of some tame professors and I was stopped by Campus Watch inquiring about the strong arm tactics I appeared to be using to get Panda moving.  Needs must and all that and I headed off with a slightly weaker grip on the Bear’s throat.

Panda Bike

Panda started with a bit of cardio and some off-key singing. One minute in and the sweat and guy-liner was running down his face.

ROwing machine

Hmm, my nemesis. Was slightly nervous about this one given my past experience. However, Panda’s bareness meant we escaped without getting caught up.

swiss ball

In the face of ongoing speculation, Panda was determined to show how well balanced he is.

Pand on the leg curls

Panda rest his foot

Leg press

 

Slump panada

The middle part of the gym excursion was evocative of the middle part of the thesis journey.  After the initial enthusiasm for the adventure there was confusion about what any of the equipment was for, bouts of self-pity, and an inability to meet the direct gaze of anyone official.

Panda is superman

Like any good trainer, I pushed Panda through the bleak period and he was soon flying high again.

Panda in the shower

A sweaty bear is a stinky bear and a stinky bear makes an unhappy Claire. Panda was surprised but pleased there were no changing facilities for bears at Unipol. Not to be undone by this odd oversight, I broke into a nearby student flat and drained their hot-water cylinder getting the sweat off Panda’s fur.

Now you know how inclusive and welcoming Unipol is, you have no excuse not take a break from your thesis and get down there.

Getting some exercise will make you feel better, sleep more soundly, and will help you work out the next bit of your experiment or the best way to word that pesky chapter you’re stuck on.  Not only that, you might meet a nice Panda there.

 

*To be fair, it was only one woman who wore this combo, but the memory will be forever etched into my mind’s-eye**

**Which I’d like to poke out

***Don’t ask

****Really don’t ask

 

Unipol gets five bamboo sticks out of five.

 

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School and Panda B.Ear, Under-Cover Reporter and Raconteur 

When Mel Leaves the Bubble with Donald’s Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1

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

” It certainly made me feel uplifted”

3

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

 Mel Adams, GRS