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Graduate Research School Blog

Sleep …..Part II

Atlas with the catsSo this week sees part two of the helpful sleep pointers Brian our awesome personal performance coach has suggested to encourage a better nights sleep.  Last week, Atlas, King of the World, was invited to comment and give a dogs perspective on these, namely cause Atlas’s human has a lot of photos of him asleep (it is her favourite time of day, he is a full on pup after all).  This weeks was to see how helpful these tips are from a cats point of view – we are after all both pro cat and dog round here.  However, in true cat fashion, off doing who knows what, no sleeping cat has been located in time for this post to go live.  Just as well Atlas’s human has lots of photos of him sleeping.

Drink herbal tea Settling down with a mug of non-caffeinated tea can help you relax before bedtime. Up the sleep-inducing power by opting for herbs that have their own relaxing properties, like chamomile, mint, and valerian. (Herbal tea, you say?  I see my humans drinking that chamomile stuff.  They do get awfully cross when I try to take a sip of the dregs at the bottom of the cup – Atlas)

Stay active Exercise isn’t the only way to expend energy; being active throughout the day, whether it’s running errands or talking on the phone while you take a walk, helps ensure that you’re sleepy when your head hits the pillow. (I love a good run (naturally cause I am a dog).  Best sleeps ever are after a hard day chasing my BFF at day care – yes I go to day care, you got a problem with dat? – Atlas)

comfy atlas

Try a natural supplement Many people swear by the supplements melatonin and valerian for helping you get sleep naturally. (mmm, interesting idea.  Although when I am in the herb garden and nibbling on some of the plants it results in a lot of yelling from one of my humans in particular.  Obviously she is unaware of how natural supplements are important to a good nights sleep – Atlas)

Have an exercise routine Expend your energy for the day with exercise, and you’ll be ready to drift off to sleep as soon as you hit the hay. Make an exercise plan so you stick with your fitness goals and sleep better in the process.  (See comments for stay active – Atlas)

Eat an earlier, lighter dinner Eating a heavy, greasy, and late dinner can cause discomfort when you’re trying to go to sleep, so go with an earlier, or lighter dinner to ensure your digestive system isn’t causing you to stay awake. (Food, Food, I love to eat any time anywhere.  I am a little frustrated with my humans, they never give me enough! – Atlas)

De-stress Constant worrying keeps you up at night, so learn to take time out to de-stress – both during the day and before bed – to clear your mind. (I am a dog I have no worries – good way to be, WWAD- Atlas)

meaning of life

Stop the afternoon coffee break Caffeine affects people differently, but if you’re finding that tossing and turning correlates to your afternoon coffee run, now’s the time to switch. If you’re looking for ways to reenergise in the afternoon, take a walk, gulp water, or trade your coffee for an herbal tea. (This dog is caffeine free, although I have tried to sneak the dregs from the Mister Human’s cup – again he was not best pleased – Atlas)

Find the right temperature Did you know that the best temperature for helping you get proper sleep is between 18-22 degrees Celsius? (oh, so important, especially if you are a double coated hairydale – I get so hot easily and I need my space to cool down – Atlas)

Check out your mattress If you’re tired all the time and are waking up with aches and pains, then your mattress may be the thing that’s keeping you from much-needed rest. (no aches and pains for me, got me a dog gon good mattress – tee hee  – Atlas)


Atlas nigh night

Make a routine Taking time to wind down in the night can help you prep your body and mind for a good night’s sleep. A pre-bedtime ritual is so important; whatever you choose, make it a routine so you get used to the idea of “winding down.” (My bed time ritual is to stare down my humans until they get off my space on the couch, then I throw the cushions off and snuggle into the blanket nest I make – night night, Atlas)

In conclusion, hopefully one or two of these pointers encourage a good night sleep.  Atlas also takes this opportunity to invite Monster Truck to have right of reply.

Brian Johnston, Graduate Research School and Atlas, King of the World

Sleep…….. Part I

Atalas asleep on couchSleep.  It is a wonderful thing and so important to being productive the next day.  Sometimes with one thing and another a good night’s rest just doesn’t happen.  Brian, our awesome personal performance coach, has some tips to help with getting a good nights sleep.  Atlas, when not sleeping on the job, also provided some dog inspired comments.

Eat sleep-inducing foods – A night time snack of Greek yoghurt drizzled with honey may just help you get a better night’s rest: both honey and dairy contain compounds that may induce sleep. (Food before bed, man, I am in.  I eat any time, anywhere and I never have problems sleeping – Atlas)

Stretch before bed – Stretching your limbs relieves aches, but it can also calm you and prep you for sleep. (I love a good stretch, and a walk, and playing fetch, and chasing cats, and chasing my tail – Atlas)

Wake up at the same time every day – Sleeping in on the weekends can make it that much harder to feel well-rested during the week, so stop the Sunday morning lie-ins and stick to your normal wake-up time. You’ll have an easier time getting to sleep and won’t feel as groggy the next morning. (I agree this is very important.  I do my best to wake at the same time everyday regardless of what day of the week it is.  For some reason my humans don’t appreciate this on a Sunday morning.  I see nothing wrong at waking at 6.30 on a Sunday – Atlas).

Atals stretching

Put away the electronics –The blue light from tech devices tricks your mind into thinking it’s day, so have a cut-off time for watching movies and catching up on email that’s at least 20 to 30 minutes before you need to get to sleep. (I am old school – This dog is techno free  – Atlas)

Don’t nap – Even if restless sleep makes you want to nap during the day, don’t. That nap may be just what’s keeping you from catching nightly Zs. Instead, take a walk or get some fresh air to reenergise until it’s bedtime. (I am sorry but I disagree with you Brian, I love a nap, especially when my humans are being boring.  A quick nap passes the time until something more exciting happens – Atlas)

Read a book – Set aside a few minutes each night to meander your way through a favourite book to help power down from a hectic day. (Reading is for humans, blah – Atlas)

Atlas on the floor

Don’t drink – Alcohol in your system can lead to a disruptive night of sleep, so if you usually enjoy a glass of wine every night, go without and see if it helps your slumber. (Water is the best.  Always drink lots of water – Atlas)

Take a warm bath or shower – A warm bath or shower can further soothe your muscles; it’s also great if you’re suffering from a cold or allergies, since the hot steam can help open up your sinuses to help you breathe better while you sleep. (Hate baths and showers, I prefer to go dig a hole in the garden- Atlas)

Go dark – Electronics, alarm clocks, street lamps – all of these can prevent deep sleep. Turn off your TV before you drift off to sleep, get blackout curtains to keep outside light away, and cover anything else that’s contributing to light pollution in your bedroom. (ohhh, I need to talk my humans about the laptop lights, the clock on the oven,  – man they have no consideration for a dog and his sleep – Atlas)

Atlas and a pillow

Change your pillow – Your pillow may be hindering, not helping, your sleep, so make sure you’re sleeping on the right one for you. (Love me a good pillow, especially if it is someone elses, night, night – Atlas)

If none of these points, or pictures of cute sleeping dogs don’t help you, then do not fear, this was part one of two.  Part two with photos of sleeping cats to follow  – I wonder whose tips will work best!

Brian Johnston, Graduate Research School and Atlas, King of the World


Master-ing the 3MT

If you had been umm-ing and ahh-ing about whether or not to enter the Three Minute Thesis competition this year, maybe those voices in the back of your head were nagging at you “I don’t have time” or “I really should be prioritising other stuff”… well the following post from our Masters Winner, Nicola Beatson, may just help you to realise that taking some time away from your desk could actually be productive for your research – go figure!

3MT NB 2

I entered the 3MT on a bit of a whim but was excited to see what it was all about… I saw it as both an opportunity to get involved in the post grad community and also to work out what on earth I was talking about in my thesis! Having been a part time MCom student for the past (won’t say how many) years, holding down a full time job AND having two babies in that same time period has meant that my thesis has been put on hold numerous times.

My research seemed to always take a back seat, however this year, I put it higher up the priority list and started putting blocks of time aside for research. So a few months ago, I was pretty close to a final draft, but I still felt like my thesis was a bit unfocused. It was through entering the 3MT competition that meant I was able to work out what I believed was really important about my work. As we all know, a thesis has so many moving parts, to find out what the point of your work is, can sometimes be confusing, confronting, or just near on impossible! Through writing a speech that described my work in just 3 minutes, I was able to figure out what my story was. This helped tremendously in terms of shaping all the chapters in my thesis, ensuring everything I wrote told part of my story.

3MT NicolaThe event itself was a great experience to meet other research students, so often we don’t leave our offices! I got to know other commerce postgrads at the heats and then when I got a wildcard place to the finals, I met other students from across the university! Wow, there is some amazing research being done here at Otago, it was fascinating to see what people are up to… It was also a fabulous and rewarding experience in terms of polishing up on those all-important presentation skills. It’s always good to feel the fear and do it anyway! I was lucky enough to win the masters section for the University of Otago which meant a trip to Auckland to compete at the national finals! I also won a research grant (thanks GRS!!!!), but more importantly I won the opportunity (just by competing in the first place) to figure out the essence of my research!

3MT Nicola Beatson

The moral of the story is, have a go next year…its really fun, but more importantly, it is rewarding in terms of progressing your thought processes… so if your supervisor says you don’t have time to enter the 3MT, let them read this blog!! As you will clarify and drill down into what is really important by reducing your many thousands of words into a 3 minute speech!

Six Point Formula for Talks (and Blog Posts)

Justine Rogers from UNSW Law is one of those academics who knows how to communicate well. She’s cracked the formula of giving a great TED talk, but the formula is applicable to academic talks in general.

I figured, if this could work for talks, it could work for blog posts too.  Which reminded me of the time I was four and my brothers encouraged me to scream out a swear word in church.

Moster Sniff

So, always remember, your research is the wind beneath your wings, thesis candidates. Tomorrow is another day, what does not kill you only makes you stronger, and make sure you have sorted your thesis metrics for your stakeholder supervisors.

glacierI’m sure you will all agree, that this post has revolutionized your life, which only leaves me to say, enjoy this TEDx Talk temporary flesh-people and have a great and ghost-free weekend.

Claire Gallop, Womanager, Graduate Research School



Master Panada

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???)

Your Workspace in the World

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Ahmadi – Masters, Public HealthRebecca Ahmadi

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

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

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

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

2015 3MT Final

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

3MT blog

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

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

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

3MT Emma Wadw Slide

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

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

3MT Judges

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

3MT Sarah

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

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

3MT Jenny McDowell

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

3MT Nicola

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

Gilles presenting blog

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

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

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

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

Postgrads hitting the airwaves

Today on the Blog With No Name we are talking with Lawrence Hamilton, host of the Postgraduate Radio Show on Otago University’s very own 91 FM, Radio One. The show is a great place to catch up with all the goings-on within the postgraduate community, hear some interesting interviews and catch the latest in Kiwi and international music. We asked Lawrence some easy questions…

Lawrence and Ali

Why is it called the Postgraduate Radio Show?

Because it is better than being called the Radio Show With No Name (ouch).

What time is it on?

10am-Noon Wednesdays – perfect for that second (or third) cup of coffee and early enough in the day so you don’t feel like you’re procrastinating.  But never fear if that third cup of coffee isn’t enough, or you were up studying all night and haven’t made it out from under the covers yet, the show is available on Just look up the programme page and you can be free to listen to past shows or any podcasts that might be posted. The programme page also contains links to postgraduate announcements and upcoming events, along with a whole jumble of interesting news stories and curiosities.

What is the show about?

The overall theme of the show is ‘celebrating the wonderful Otago postgraduate culture’. And it’s true, Otago does have a wonderful and vibrant postgraduate community. I am constantly amazed at the unique and creative research projects going on all round Dunedin.  It is also just a fun way to spend a mid-week morning. Each week I am introduced to something new and wonderfully random, like green tea super cheese.

But what if I am lactose intolerant?

Actually, the super cheese is designed for people with lactose intolerance, but anyway… Besides talking about local research, the show also has guests from around the world talking about interesting and ground-breaking subjects. Human rights lawyers, international film-makers, and even a scientist who believes he can stop ageing have all come on the Postgraduate Radio Show to share their views with the students here in Dunedin. And if that is not enough, there are giveaways, updates about activities at the Graduate Research School, and of course good music.

But what if I only listen to the radio in car?

Well then drive more! No, Radio one is available as a streaming service from most laptops, phones and tablets. Just go to and click on the stream. The world is changing and so is radio! It is not just for sitting in a car!

Can I participate?

Absolutely! Anyone who feels they have something to say about their research is free to come on and have a chat. It is a great way to get involved in the postgraduate community. Even if you are not technically a postgraduate but feel you have something to say to the community, then get in touch and get on the radio!

Where can I learn more?

Well, if you feel like you have the perfect face for radio then just stop into the Radio 1 office or you can email me directly at I love talking to postgraduates and would love to hear you over the airwaves!

And now for our final question, would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

Do I get a weapon?

No, just your brute strength.

Then one hundred duck-sized horses – at least you could kick them and jump on them.


MOOC, not Mook!

You gotta hand it to the Australians, they may have a funny accent but they are super good at providing support to their doctoral candidates.  In a couple of weeks we are lucky enough to have Hugh Kearns talking to us about resilience and confidence during your thesis journey (it’s not too late to register!) and Inger from ANU has just created a cool looking course.  And it’s free! 

Dr Inger Mewburn, Thesis Whisperer and thoroughly good-egg

Dr Inger Thesis Whisperer Mewburn is no mook.  She has however created a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that looks like it will super useful for all those doing a PhD and all those unlucky enough to be close to someone doing a PhD.

Inger says:

Did you know that up to one quarter of students who start a PhD don’t finish? You have to be smart to start a PhD, but resilient to finish one.

The new, free MOOC from ANU “How to survive your PhD” is designed to help built by Dr Inger Mewburn, better known as The Thesis Whisperer, to help build PhD student resilience. You will learn research based tips and strategies to help students and supervisors create a more supportive environment for research study. The MOOC will have many opportunities to connect and discuss the issues with other participants around the world, either in the discussion forums or on social media using the hashtag #survivephd15

The MOOC is suitable for supervisors, current students, prospective students and even parents, partners and friends. The course should take you no more than two hours a week so you can more easily fit it in a busy schedule. You could take the course on your own, or form a small group (have a look at the suggestions Inger has outlined here

I’ve just signed up for it and at 2 hours per week for 10 weeks it looks completely doable even with my heavy schedule.  Topics include: frustration (oh yeah); fear (you bet); confusion (all the time); and boredom (my, that cardboard box looks interesting) amongst other things.

So check out the course and give it a go and I’ll see you all in the ether.

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School

The Anatomy of a Workshop*

* Warning: this post contains genuine anxiety, real-time procrastination, and 24 carat chaos.  It is not for the fainthearted.

I’m composed of 82% Fear-of-Missing-Out which leads me to agree to a range of things I should probably say no to.  It means I have had the opportunity to do some pretty awesome stuff at work but it also comes at a cost.  The price I pay generally involves a few sleepless nights, the occasional dream that the Vice-Chancellor calls me to a meeting and I turn up naked apart from a stuffed possum on my head and a nervous smile, and a tendency to word coleslaw salad.  

Naturally enough when I got asked to present a workshop on how to do presentations, I said yes.

Several hours-in of the 25+ hours I spent on preparing material for the workshop had me questioning my career choices and cycling through Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief. 

I really love teaching and presenting** and every-so often I manage to convince some kind person that I’m ok at it.  Nevertheless, I still  feel under-prepared and worry about my inadequacy in all sorts of ways.  Feeling like a fraud (be it about our knowledge, our process, or our expertise) is not something we talk about readily but it is something I think we should acknowledge more.

The awesome Hugh Kearns is due to present a workshop on the imposter syndrome  in Dunedin in a couple of weeks (register here!) so it seems timely to write about my reality before rocking up and delivering a talk, lecture or workshop.  

Blog 1Blog 2Blog 3Blog 4

** Showing-Off, as my mother would say.

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School