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The Blog-With-No-Name
Graduate Research School Blog

Where Mel escapes her desk again with a trusty sidekick – Submission Lady

Pic one Hocken

Once again I found myself sitting at my desk and feeling a bit restless.  Blame it on the lack of sunshine,  moonlight, good times or lack of boogie, or whatever. I decided to make a dash and escape the clocktower. This time I didn’t want to go it alone so I dragged Katherine with me (aka submissions lady to you) I took Donald’s advice and headed to the Hocken Collections where Katherine Milburn took us for a tour.  Man there is some brialliant stuff there.

After dodging the many football fans heading to the stadium to watch the footie we made it to the Hocken.  Formerly the Otago Dairy Co-operative Company the Hocken Collections has bounced round campus a bit over the years (oldies will know that the Richardson building was first and foremost the Hocken building) before setting up shop here and an impressive shop it is.  The reason for all the moves – space my dear friends.  There are a lot of things in the Hocken Collections.  A note hastily scribbled in my notebook reads fun facts like 10km of archive material, over 1 million images, 200,000 books.  You get the picture there is a lot of awesome resource material living here.

Hocken

So how did the Hocken Collections begin?  The brain child behind the collection is  Dr Thomas Morland Hocken (1836-1910) who settled in Dunedin from 1862 and collected like a mad thing  – books, newspapers, maps, photos, artifacts and much more  – all related to New Zealand, Pacific and early Austrialia.  This is the basis of the Hocken collection.  The awesome thing to note is that Dr Hocken used this material for his own research – as  part of the tour we were shown his hand written notes on a poster he had collected.  He was a very devoted man to his collecting

Dr Hocken’s reason for collecting is still a founding basis behind the Hocken collection today and it means that there is a wealth of interesting items within its walls.  Hocken offered his collection to Dunedin and the people of NZ  –  based on this the Collections is open to both Uni folk and the general public ( a lot of folk including myself have used the Hocken for family research – check out these awesome research guides).

etieruteruteop

Katherine (our tour guide although the other Katherine would be very keen to help) is responsible for the Ephemera collection which started to become a focus of collecting from the mid 60s.  The Ephemera collection is made up of things that in most cases we would think are rubbish that you throw away. However, Katherine views these items slightly differently.  The premise behind the Ephemera collection is to provide a snap shot of our society at a given time.  Best example, the little box filled with funeral programmes over the past 100 years.  The earliest is a beautiful word press item, mid 70s is an old school typewritten version while those from the 21st century are often a collage of images and stories.  It all tells a story about how society has changed over the years.

So as I hit my word limit on this little tale, I realise that this blog post is kinda like the Hocken Collections, there is a lot there to cover and not a lot of space for it all.  There is so much awesome material to look at(often restricted due to its delicate nature but it is there), so why not pay a visit and take a tour (it’s got 4.5 out of 5 stars on Tripadvisor) or visit the latest exhibition . If you prefer to stay put you can always  read  Ka Taka Hakena: Treasures from the Hocken Collections  or view some of the amazing images online via the Hakena Heritage collection or have a peek at the Hocken Snapshop to see what  Dunedin was like in the olden days.  They even have a blog!

Take the Copyright Quiz for Research Students

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 richard.white@otago.ac.nz if you have any copyright questions.

copyright-free-photos-afd-111349

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.

http://goo.gl/forms/A1sdolbvQX

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.

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

No Worries: a Sweet As Guide to Sussing Out New Zild

sweet asHas your supervisor asked you over to their house and asked you to bring a plate?  Did a technician question you about the flux capacitor being pakaru? Have you noticed that the chapter in your thesis is awesome when it really doesn’t seem like it is to you?  Has your flatmate suggested you lux the lounge?

When Lisa isn’t sussing out your dough so that you get paid sweet as, she does the hard yards by delving into the bewildering world of New Zealand speech. 

Chur Lisa! 

As if the English language wasn’t hard enough, the Kiwi’s had to go one step further.

What do the words choice, mean, mint and sweet have in common? In the kiwi language they all mean the same thing! (Translation: good, great, cool, awesome).

Words for blog 2

You might find navigating the kiwi slang hard yakka (hard work), or it might be a piece of cake (really easy), either way don’t bust a gut (make a big effort). Gizza (give us/me a…) moment, have a smoko (break, usually morning/afternoon tea) and I’ll spin a yarn (tell a story) for you about the mysteries of the Kiwi language.

Have you been invited to a bash (party) in the wop-wops (middle of nowhere, countryside), with togs (bathing suit, swimming clothes) and jandals (type of sandal, called thongs in Australia) standard attire? You’re one lucky son of a gun if you have! Maybe you’ll grab a cold one (cold beverage, usually a bottle or can of beer) from the dairy (local convenience store) and put a snarler on the barbie (cook a sausage on the barbeque) tonight. Let’s just hope it’s not hosing down (raining) by tea time (dinner, meal eaten in the evening).

 

Untitsfnjksdfjsd

If this all sounds like gobbledegook (nonsense) to you then no worries, grab a cuppa (cup of tea/coffee) and I’ll guide you through the mysteries of the kiwi language.

There are words with double meanings: stubby is a beer, or short shorts worn by a male.

We use adjectives such as dear (expensive), wee (small), heaps (lots). Used in a sentence it looks something like: “That was a dear steak for such a wee amount, I expected heaps more for that price.”

So don’t be a wet blanket (fun spoiler), pike out (pull out of doing something), or spit the dummy (throw a tantrum) and give the Kiwi language a go. She’ll be right (it will be okay). And if all else fails, just smile and nod .

Lisa Beckingsale, Scholarships Office, 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

A Word to our Sponsors: the True Cost of PhD Research

Today we hear from PhD candidate, P. H. D. Candy-D’Ate* who gives us the lowdown on the True Cost of PhD Research.   This is essential reading for anyone about to prepare a grant application! 

Dear Funders,

When I applied for my doctoral funding you asked me to submit a detailed proposal setting out the costs involved in undertaking my research. It recorded line items such as “paper” and “travel”. In retrospect, this proposal was naïve and reflected my inexperience as a researcher. I am now writing to update my proposal and ask for additional funds for expenses that have arisen and that I will need to meet to complete my research. The items are set out below. This budget is for the 30 weeks remaining in my candidature.

Item Purpose Number Cost per item Total
Coffee Upper – required for functioning during day 30 bags of high strength beans $7 $210
Wine Downer – to offset effects of coffee, required for sleep 40 bottles $18 (I’m a graduate student, I can’t drink the really cheap stuff) $720
Physiotherapy Repair arm damaged by transcribing interviews 2 sessions $60 $120
Massage Recommended by physiotherapist and enthusiastically accepted by researcher 20 sessions $40 $800
Yoga Maintenance of mental and physical well being 20 sessions $15 $300
Chocolate Maintenance of mental well being 30 blocks $3 $90
Running shoes Reduce negative effects of chocolate to physical well being 1 $150 $150
Hairdressing Disguise rapidly multiplying grey hairs 5 $150 $750
Brian Johnston Practical strategies for slowing the rate of grey hair accumulation 6 $15 $90
Fancy keyboard My productivity will definitely increase if I have a very expensive keyboard that sounds like a typewriter 1 $250 $250
Mouse Previous mouse wore out from too much clicking (yes, seriously) 1 $60 $60
Electricity For clothes dryer because I don’t have time for housework but I still need clothes 100 $1 $100
Total       $3640.00

 

I trust you understand how essential these items are and look forward to your positive response.

 

Yours faithfully,

P. H. D. Candy-D’Ate

*Still not her real name

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 

The Chaplaincy and You

CHaplainThere are a number of services and people around campus who are there to help make your postgrad experience easier. In what I hope will become a series for the blog, I thought it would be a good idea to hunt out some of these folks and learn a bit more about what they do and how it can help you with your postgrad study. First up, Mike Wright, one of the University Chaplains, and EdD candidate, so in short a busy lad.

Mel: Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by for a bit of a chat about your role as a University Chaplain. Do you want to tell us a bit about your role?

Mike:  Hey Mel. Yes for sure! As Chaplains we seek to provide pastoral care and spiritual support to all students studying at the University of Otago, and to do so in a respectful, confidential, inclusive, and non-judgemental way. What does pastoral care and spiritual support include, I hear you say …

For me, pastoral care includes anything and everything that impacts on your life as a student e.g. study pressures, finances, homesickness, relationships, grief and loss, etc.

Spiritual support involves supporting the spiritual dimension of students’ lives. That includes those things that give your life meaning & purpose, or the search for those things. It’s about the source of your creativity; and your relationships and the sense of connectedness you have with yourself, with others, with the planet, and with God/Higher Power/Other…. Spirituality also includes your beliefs & values, it drives your ethical behaviours, and is your source of resilience in times of challenge.

As chaplains, we’re involved in many other things on campus, but pastoral care & spiritual support are the main aspects of what we do.

Mel: Why do you think it is important to have on campus Chaplains?

Mike: We come to University as whole people – and that includes the spiritual. While there are many spiritual people on campus – both religious and not religious, the University chaplains have an official role with respect to spirituality; to support and encourage philosophies and practices of life that lead to wholeness and well-being (hauora). We’re able to engage with and accompany students (and staff) either in one-off conversations, or in more regular on-going support for example University’s new Healthy Campus website.

Greg Hughson and I have a full-time presence on campus (here in Dunedin) and are also available by email, phone, skype, etc., to distance students and students at Otago’s satellite campuses in Invercargill, Christchurch and Wellington.

Mel: Do you think it is important for postgrad students to acknowledge their spiritual side and how can it be of benefit to their studies?

Mike:  Yes I do. Socrates (among others) once said “Know thyself”, and “The unexamined life is not worth living” – that includes the spiritual aspects of our lives.

Being a postgrad student is not just about research outputs, thesis writing, and publications. It’s also about becoming a person more fully aware, more fully alive in the midst of the challenging process of postgrad study. Spiritual exploration (either religious or secular) is an essential part of that. As chaplains we’re here to help you with that exploration.

Mel: You are currently undertaking your EdD – how do you balance your study and role as Chaplain?

Mike:  With some difficulty! Maintaining continuity of thought and focus is very challenging. At times it’s actually impossible due to the unpredictable demands of my full-time chaplaincy role. I diary ahead blocks of time for writing but these are often consumed by work issues before I can get to them. I do keep trying though, and occasionally succeed!

Remembering that there’s more to life than both work and study is important. Down time to spend with family & friends, to read an occasional novel, and to watch movies is essential. So is regular exercise. I get to the gym as often as I can. It helps to clear my head as much as anything else.

Most important, however, I have an endlessly supportive team of supervisors, and a wonderful support crew made up of family, friends, and colleagues. They keep me going with words of encouragement and remind me of how much progress I’ve already made. They’re all vitally important!

Being a doctoral student for 5 years now has enabled me to connect experientially with other postgrad students in ways I couldn’t have before. Only by going through it yourself can you really understand what it’s like for others.

Mel: Finally, Would you like to fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

Mike: I’d go for one hundred duck-sized horses. Horses are pack animals. I’d turn the leader then have an army at my disposal.

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