On Monday evening of this week, I put on an event for newly registered postgraduate research students at UWE, an event that had been postponed from October. It is something that we run every year to provide a space for new research students to get together from across the whole university. I think this is important because it introduces the idea that there are other researchers around who, whilst not being in the same discipline, are on a similar path.
We opened the event with an introduction from the Director of the UWE Graduate School, Neil Willey. His slides are here:-
Neil opened by highlighting one of the Doctoral Descriptors, the criteria for the award of a research degree, to explain that the goal, the end result is to come up with an original and significant contribution to knowledge. He pointed out that it was this that ultimately is the most satisfying, exciting, infuriating element of what most people refer to as a journey. He then went on to explain the place that the new UWE Graduate School will have in supporting postgraduate research students in that journey.
The main element of this gathering is that we invite current research students to pass on their thoughts about what it is like to be a research student to others. I only provided the title:- “What I know now, that I wish I’d known when I started” to the wonderful research students who volunteered to come and talk:- Anja Dalton, Billy Clayton, Amy Webber and Sarah Dean (take a bow folks!). The insights they gave astounded me because if I tried to write down all the hints & tips about being a research student that I could think of, I still wouldn’t have been able to cover everything that they did!
Here’s a flavour of the presentations with thanks to Billy, Amy & Anja who gave me permission to reproduce their work here:
I learned things from these presentations, the most common theme in describing a research degree is around a journey toward a summit and that there is a collective term for research students studying for a PhD; the PhDers!
Billy also raised awarenes of a crippling syndrome that pervades many in academia, the imposter syndrome. In fact, only this week Athene Donald wrote about this on her blog..
I then summarised the skills development programe I run at UWE for researchers within which I revealed some of the nuggets of wisdom gathered from years of being a researcher, brought to life through the medium of the Piled Higher & Deeper comic strips. Here’s the overview of what I said:-
Finally I summarised the PhD using the fabulous Illustrated Guide to a PhD by Matt Might which helps us all keep the magic of what we do into some sort of perspective.