Our first ECRAG meeting of 2014 was very aptly on Chinese New Year. We discovered that our members consist of a diverse array Chinese New Year animal signs; dragon, rabbit, tiger, dog, monkey, rat (–insert academic zoo joke here–). Everyone appeared to be on their best behaviour last year judging from the goodies we got for Christmas. Favourite Christmas presents ranged from a pair of jimmy choo shoes to a garlic crusher to a harmonica!
Simon Jenkins kicked things off with a lively and entertaining reflection on his PhD experience, “surviving your PhD, Viva and a world beyond academia”. Simon reminisced that overall he enjoyed his PhD but yet still found himself reluctant to think back over the 3 years. Often the PhD felt never ending; thinking it’s over once the thesis is done, then the realisation that the viva still looms, followed by the dreaded corrections. Simon’s invaluable advice is: break your PhD down into manageable pieces, celebrate each milestone and share milestones with others. Rachel reiterated this point and advised to hold on to that final milestone whatever it may be for you, for example picture yourself at your graduation.
Top tips; Simon says…
– Break your PhD down in to chunks to avoid the never ending slog effect (and celebrate each success).
– Time management: to avoid/ reduce the inevitable manic period at the end, do yourself a favour and write chapters as you go along or plan what your thesis will look like.
– Practice your viva aloud. You might feel like you have finally tipped over the edge by talking to yourself; but it helps to get used to hearing yourself answer the questions you know you can answer so well in your head.
After reminiscing about the anti-climax of submitting your thesis to the library (no marching band and champagne?), Simon brought out a party popper which he popped in celebration for all the completed PhDs past and present. Consequently, we pledged that party poppers must become a new ECRAG tradition to celebrate the success of our members!
Curtsey of Shamil and Amanda, tips on become an effective researcher:
– Eat your lunch away from your desk
– Plan your time and plan for a contingency period (everything takes longer for than you expect)
– Disable your outlook email pop up to avoid distractions
– Get involved in peripheral activities related to your research
– Think about the ‘overall message’ of your research, what do you want to be known for?
Thanks to everyone who made it to our first meeting of 2014. Next month (20th Feb) we have Prof. Roy Bicknell talking out PERCAT, a group which offers excellent opportunities for skill and career development. See you then.