GCU Experience Survey for Postgraduate Research Students


Have your say on your research student experience at GCU – and win £200!

All research students have been emailed a link to the GCU Experience Survey for Postgraduate Research students, just follow the unique link in your email to complete the short survey and provide valuable feedback on your experience.

In the previous years, feedback from surveys has led to the creation of the PG Study Space in the library and informed developments around supervision and progression.

In 2017, your survey responses indicated that 91% of you rated your supervisory team highly – let us know if you still feel the same…

In 2017, 79% of you responded that you had a suitable working space, so we worked with the Students’ Association to create the PG Study Space on level 4 of the Saltire Centre.

We can only act on the feedback we receive, so let us know what is working for you so we don’t change it, and if there are things we could do better – complete the survey and let us know.

More information can be found here:  https://www.gcu.ac.uk/student/studentlife/getinvolved/surveys/gcuexperiencesurveyforpgrstudents/

Become a College Connect Tutor!

Each year GCU College Connect team look to recruit a number of postgraduate research students as College Connect Tutors for their annual Transition Programme. The Programme runs from July to August each year for incoming articulating undergraduate students and  introduces direct entry students to academic skills and university life before they start their degrees at second or third year.

The role of College Connect Tutor is ideal for postgraduate research students looking to develop and deliver their own teaching methods and materials, and to support the University’s mission in widening access to Higher Education.

The role combines the development and delivery of classroom-based teaching of core subject skills. College Connect Tutors deliver the final session of the programme and offer a subject specific session in which students could apply some of the skills introduced to them and get a feel for what learning and teaching is like at university.

In previous year postgraduate research students in the following areas have developed and delivered sessions:

  • Nursing
  • Healthcare/Social Work/ OT
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Computer Games, Software Design, Interactive Entertainment
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Construction, Property
  • Computer Networks, Security Engineering
  • Social Sciences
  • Accountancy, Finance and Risk
  • Media, Journalism
  • Business, Marketing and Events Management

Becoming a College Connect Tutor has so many benefits. You will receive training from the College Connect staff, enhance your employability and be paid for your development, preparation and teaching time.

If you’re a postgraduate research student and you are interested in the role, then why not apply?

More information can be found on the Graduate School website, and if you wish to apply, please follow this link to download the application form: https://www.gcu.ac.uk/graduateschool/researcherdevelopment/opportunitiesatgcu/

If you have any questions about College Connect, widening access or the role/application process for College Connect Tutors then please feel free to contact: Emily.Flaherty@gcu.ac.uk


college connect

Twitter: @GCUConnected

Website: https://www.gcu.ac.uk/study/collegeconnect/

The ‘Write’ Moves

On those days when you get completely invested in writing up your PhD thesis, article, review paper or even a lengthy blog post, it is easy to forget about giving your body those few short breaks to get the blood going – get up, take a few steps, stretch. The World Health Organization tries to remind us of the importance of exercise, be it light or intense, on the Move for Health Day taking place each year on 10th May.

Luckily enough, you don’t have to wait that long to get things moving. If you are looking for guidance on how to properly stretch your neck and back without having to use any equipment and being able to do it from the comfort of your own study/work space, then this blog post can get you started.

The following clips were taken at this year’s newly launched Write Away! event (click ‘View details’), organized by Dr Grace Poulter (Senior Lecturer in Academic Writing) and the Graduate School in Glasgow Caledonian University, as well as in collaboration with our partners in Edinburgh Napier University, University of Strathclyde and University of Stirling.

Lonneke Lyle is a Pilates instructor and owns a Pilates studio in Glasgow. In these videos she shows our Write Away! participants how to do some easy exercises to relieve neck and back pain. Why not give it a try yourself?

Neck warm up



Back and shoulder stretch



Correct sitting posture




Top Tips for New Research Students

Glasgow Caledonian University PhD students reflect on their research journey and offer their advice to new students

Every October at induction, we invite current students to come and share their top tips for new research students. It’s the part of the day when anxious faces relax the most, as the new cohort get the opportunity to meet with peers who have been in their shoes and be reassured about the journey ahead.

This year, some of our wonderful students kindly took the time to write down this advice, which we have shared with you below. The students are from different schools and research backgrounds and all at different stages but the same messages are repeated; take care of yourself, find a balance that works, communicate, and take advantage of the resources and opportunities available to you.

The Graduate School would like to welcome all new students to the research community and wish you an interesting and enjoyable time as you rise to the challenges that your studies will bring and we look forward to hearing of your success.

Top Tips from GCU Research Students

Sarah Goldsmith, GSBS


Hi I’m Sarah and I want to welcome all of you onto the PhD programme. You may have heard people refer to the PhD journey as a rollercoaster ride and a marathon not a sprint and these are true! So make sure that you celebrate the highs, know that there will be some lows, but also know that you will overcome them and that they will pass. Also make sure that you pace yourself. In order to do this you need to get a good work/life balance. You don’t need to be doing your PhD 24/7. Stepping back and having regular breaks are important to keep you and your work fresh and they are essential for your mental health. As a playworker I say that everyone, adults included, need to make time to play! So whatever you enjoy doing, whether it’s getting out with your family, doing some exercise, music, art, or computer games, create time for them, make them part of your routine, stimulating your brain in a different way might well create that eureka moment!

I’m in the final year of my PhD which is entitled ‘‘Girls’ toys and ‘boys’ toys: learning through play’ and I’m in GSBS within the sociology department. My research is participatory with children in play settings, so if anyone else is doing research with children please feel free to contact me as there’s not many of us and it is a slightly different approach to other research so it’s good to be able to talk things through.

I also wanted to tell you about the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS), the GCU rep is Didi Taris. Irrespective of the discipline or school that you are in, if your PhD involves social science you can access training, summer schools and internships through SGSSS. Most of the training and events are free and they usually pay for travel and accommodation as the events are held across the country. It is also a great place to network with other PhD students who may be working in similar areas as you. Have a look at the website and sign up to the GradHub to get more information https://www.sgsss.ac.uk/.

Good luck on your PhD journey and don’t forget to play!

Benjamin Butterworth, SHLS


I’m Benjamin Butterworth and I’ve just started the second year of my PhD in Psychology, investigating the effects of alcohol on memory in the context of psychological trauma. I’m a member of the substance use and misuse team at GCU, as well as the Scottish Alcohol Research Network. I really enjoy science communication and public outreach, which I’ve been able to do as an academic tutor on the Applied Psychology BSc program, as the postgraduate representative for the Scottish Branch of the British Psychological Society, and through several GCU events here in Glasgow (e.g. Three Minute Thesis, Glasgow Science Festival, PubHD). Doing the PhD is incredibly challenging and rewarding- you’ll never get a better chance to pursue so many opportunities, so remember to enjoy it!

Communication with your supervisors and other students is very important. Sometimes we struggle to meet deadlines or situations arise, but so long as those around you know about it, solutions can be found. A PhD can be extremely challenging- allowing people to help you is a great way to meet the challenges, which can only be done by communicating your problems.

Manisha Ajmani, SCEBE

manisha_ajmaniMy name is Manisha Ajmani and I am an Engineer! I received my Bachelors and Master of Engineering degrees in Electronics and Communication in India. Currently, I am pursuing my PhD degree at the School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment at Glasgow Caledonian University under the supervision of Dr. Sinan Sinanovic and Dr. Tuleen Boutaleb. Our research focuses on designing algorithms to support a low-cost alternative for indoor positioning systems using optical wireless communication technology. In simple words, we are working to design an easier way to track the location of people inside a room using LIGHT! Using these algorithms we can extend help to dementia affected people by making their care better. I am a STEM Ambassador and Vice-Chair of GCU IEEE and GCU Women in engineering student branch. I would like to encourage you all to come forward and join our branch and help in further encouraging many more young women to take up STEM areas of study.

As many PhD researchers may be non-native English speakers, there is a possibility that sometimes they are not able to convey their thoughts, research ideas or results to their supervisors. In that case, my tip will be to draft your work as a document and share it with your supervisors. It might help them to understand better or further enhance your communication.

Emma McGeough, GSBS

EmmaMy name is Emma McGeough and I am a final year PhD student in GSBS.  My research is evaluating how food standards are enforced in Scotland and I have conducted a purely qualitative methodology and am now writing up my findings.  Along with my colleague Alyson, I am co-founder of the PhD Women Scotland network and we try to create an inclusive and supportive network for all women embarking on the PhD journey – check out and follow our blog and twitter pages https://phdwomenscot.wordpress.com/.

My top tip for surviving the PhD is to find what works for you and run with it – don’t feel tied to your office desk between the hours of 9-5 if you are not being productive.  Being full-time with minimal other obligations makes me able to be a bit more flexible with my work pattern but the same goes for part-time students and those with caring and other responsibilities too.  Whether it’s early mornings or late evenings, at home, in cafes or in the library, find your rhythm and run with it and if it doesn’t work today, try something new tomorrow, not every day will be the productive break-through you’re hoping for.

Annelysse Jorgenson, SHLS

AneI’m Annelysse, a second year PhD student looking at the implementation of infection control guidelines in different countries. I’m also your Postgraduate Research Student Lead if you are within the School of Health and Life Sciences, so please feel free to contact me, stop me if you see me around the university or visit me in my office, if you have any feedback about your experience or want to talk about how GCU can support you throughout your PhD.

My top tip for new PhD students: Get to know your supervisors on both a professional and personal level. This way it’s easier to go to them if you are having any difficulties, academic or personal, and you have a really good working relationship where you feel comfortable discussing and debating your research with them.

Shuja Ansari, SCEBE

Headshot-AnsariI’m Shuja Ansari from the School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment. My research has been on mobile communications for connected and automated vehicles. During the last three years, along with my research and teaching responsibilities, I sought to professionally and personally develop myself. I’m indebted to the Graduate school and GCU for giving me the opportunity and resources to be what I am today.

The journey that will change your life has begun. It changed me, both professionally and personally. I considered the university as a fountain of knowledge and it was up to me if I just took a tiny sip or completely indulged myself into it. GCU is for the common good and the opportunities are numerous. From the Graduate School workshops and seminars to your school and departments internal professional development, the fountain is all yours. I am a member of IEEE which is the world’s largest professional body for Electrical engineers.  All you need to do is be pro-active, maintain a balance between work, research and most importantly your life.

The PhD journey is one of a kind. It’s not an easy road; it’s a road full of potholes and ruts. There will be days you’ll have a block when nothing will work, everything will be at a standstill, you will feel miserable, and you’ll question why you got into this. Rise above it! For every result that doesn’t make sense, there will be something to learn, something to build upon. At the end you’ll realize that success is nothing but try, try, fail, try again, fail again, learn, fix, try again… until it makes you feel proud of yourself. Trust me when I say, the success you will achieve at the end will make you forget all the misery! I wish you all a great PhD journey.

Jamila Audu, GSBS

jamMy name is Jamila Audu and in 2016/17 I was the Research Student Lead for the Department of Law, Economics, Accounting and Risk.  I’m a third year PhD student with LEAR, GSBS and my research area is Credit Risk Management. It’s been an experience studying in GCU. I would like to advise all new students to sign up for all relevant workshops. This will really help you all to get used to the school system and make you more focused. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but Grace Poulter will really help you through this journey. I mean this because she goes through the journey with you – so again- watch out for Karen Coyle’s posts about upcoming workshops and sign up for the ones that will help you.

Finally, I would advise you to apply to be the research student lead to represent your department or school. This way, you can be involved in improving the research students’ experiences.

Zuzanna Cejmer, GSBS

ZuzaMy name Zuzanna Cejmer and I’m a final year PhD student and lecturer in Digital Marketing & Omnichannel Communications, GSBS.

A PhD can be a very isolating journey but don’t let it be that way – remember that whatever it is that you are going through, one of us has already been there. Talk to people if you find yourself feeling lonely or distressed. Use your free time wisely, take a good rest, and focus on yourself. And most of all, never ever let others pressure you too much. There is no need to compare yourself to someone else, just do your thing at your own pace and surround yourself with good people.

Anuradha Goswami, SCEBE

AnuI am Anuradha Goswami, PhD final year student. I am working on drinking water treatment and modifying conventional Fenton Oxidation Process with Iron incorporation. I am a Research Student Lead for the School of Computing Engineering & Built Environment and available to work with you all during my tenure.

Today, I am here to share my experience, to help you to conquer the long journey. As Benjamin Franklin remarked, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” and I would recommend that you heed this advice for PhD success.  You can never read enough. The literature survey or review never ends; you need to keep yourself up-to date on current research to actually produce an innovative PhD.

Another tip I would suggest is that you need to manage your time and take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you. I say this because I am a live example of this, where I almost finished the experimental part of my research and during final interpretation, a new mechanism was discovered which brought a brilliant opportunity to showcase an innovative contribution.

I would like to end with these final words: this is your opportunity not only to research but also for development and networking. We are lucky to have so many opportunities at GCU. I am Chair of the IEEE WIE Student Branch affinity group, President of the Women Engineering/STEM (WES) society and actively volunteer in GCU STEM activities. Fasten your seat belt for the new life ahead… WELCOME ONBOARD!!!


If you would like to contact any of the research students or the Graduate School please email us at GraduateSchool@gcu.ac.uk.

Counselling and Wellbeing for Researchers

duncan thompson pic

The counselling service provides a free, professional and confidential counselling service to all GCU students.  As well as short term one-to-one counselling we also offer a variety of therapeutic groups and workshops and seek to raise awareness of the importance of good mental health by working collaboratively across the university.

In the counselling team we work with a huge range of presenting issues such as relationship concerns, anxiety and low mood / depression, low self-esteem and personal growth.  In addition to this there are some issues unique to PhD students which can lead to or exacerbate difficulties.

Navigating the relationship with your supervisor. The supervisory relationship is such an important one and when things are working well it can be supportive, nourishing and inspiring. Like any human relationship however it can also be fertile ground for miscommunication, the playing out of power dynamics (either intentionally or unintentionally) and conflict.

When things go wrong our instinctive response is often to bury our heads in the sand and hope things will magically sort themselves out. Whilst this undoubtedly works in the short term it’s unlikely to address any underlying issues. It’s important to remember that the relationship is co-created and you each have a part to play in monitoring its effectiveness. Being clear about each other’s roles and responsibilities from the outset can be helpful.

Isolation.  It can be a lonely experience at times as a research student when you don’t have as many opportunities to meet with your peers as during your undergraduate studies.  This can be a shock and can leave you feeling isolated, demotivated and disconnected.  It’s important to remember that as PhD students, one of your biggest coping resources is each other.  Seek out opportunities to meet with your peers, both formally and informally.  Often when life gets difficult we imagine that we’re alone in our struggles.  Connecting with others can help us recognise that we’re not unique in this regard and can allow us to learn from each other’s experiences.

Burnout.  There’s also the challenge of finding a sustainable work / life balance whilst meeting the practical demands of studies.  When we’re feeling under pressure we usually stop doing the very things that we actually need to be doing more of in order to look after ourselves.  We imagine that we’re too busy to leave our desk and get some fresh air, or meet with a friend, or do anything that nourishes us.  Working in this way is neither sustainable nor productive.  It’s like expecting a car to keep going without putting any petrol in.  We risk burning out.

Don’t put off asking for help

Often one of the things that can get in the way of people asking for help is a feeling that it’s a sign of weakness.  The reality is that everybody struggles from time to time, and that asking for help is actually a sign of strength.

I realise that I probably haven’t been saying anything here that you’re not already aware of but maybe it’s good just to remind ourselves of this stuff now and again.  Perhaps the most important things to remember are: everybody struggles at times; you’re not alone in this; help is available.

More details about the team and service can be found on our website www.gcu.ac.uk/counselling

Duncan Thomson is an accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist working in the Counselling Team at GCU.  His areas of interest include the dynamics of attachment in professional encounters, sensorimotor psychotherapy and the teaching of mindful self-compassion.

Food for Thought

Since the early 2000s, the phrase ‘public engagement’ has been used to encapsulate the wide and varied range of perspectives, languages, objectives and activities that might be mobilised as part of the efforts to build relationships between researchers and broader society’ Burchell et al (2017).

It makes perfect sense to me that those people who will benefit most from research are involved in the research cycle from the start, yet from our GCU CPE ‘Imagine Community’ consultation[1] with community organisations in 2016, it seems that universities are still in most cases seeking participants for research questions which have already been designed. Nearly half of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) case studies submitted made some mention of public engagement as a route to claimed impacts[2] but evidence of co-production was limited.  Instead ‘submissions describe the ‘processes of public/user involvement such as information-sharing, consultation or collaboration in the research’ (Morrow, 2016).

Funders though are reflecting wider policy changes towards community empowerment and so public engagement with research is expected and REF 2021 will reflect that.  We await further guidance on impacts arising from public engagement but I recommend reading the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE’s) Review of REF 2014: Reflections for shaping the second REF.

I believe that community engagement as a process prior to research has the potential to build relationships, generate questions, inform design, creates a culture of engaged research with a more equitable balance of power and engages end users from the start. It also offers opportunities for our student body in community engaged learning and volunteering and for GCU this links with our Common Good Curriculum. My colleague, Dr Ima Jackson terms this process ‘Impact from the off’.

Partnerships are critical to any community engagement activity with the potential to have ‘impact from the off’.  We each bring our own expertise and are the ‘brokers’ who engage with different groups of people.  A few years ago, I interviewed the three partner organisations and some of the participants of a community engagement project I was involved in to reflect on the successes and the challenges of the project.

Even if the perspectives differed, the following were commonly expressed as being essential for successful partnership working:

  • Trust is key to all involved.
  • Projects must be mutually beneficial.
  • There must be recognition that each partner has a different skill and outlook to bring, with a range of short or longer term objectives and this needs managed with transparency, negotiation and agreement
  • Partners must be prepared to do things differently if it is not working.
  • Partners must never assume and instead should continually consult with the people involved and allow them the opportunity to resolve things so that decisions are made with people and not for people
  • Creating a space away from the actual engagement activity where people can voice concerns is recommended.

I have taken these lessons learned into the community partnerships with Queens Cross Housing Association (QCHA) in North Glasgow and a project we have piloted this academic year, called ‘Food for Thought’. We have held four talks by researchers from the School of Health and Life Sciences (Whose Superbug Crisis is it anyway?, Can we harness the digital revolution to improve health in Scotland?, Sit Less, Move More, Feel Good and What does Community mean in the 21st Century?) and have a fifth planned for June (The Science Behind Healthy Food Community Meal).

Each has taken place in a different QCHA community venue at a time of day to suit the local demographic. The initiative was in response to QCHA’s Social Regeneration team identifying a gap in their provision for tenants particularly within the age 30 – 50 bracket many of whom live alone and wanting to put something different on that would allow people the chance to come together and also to have some food as food poverty is an issue amongst some of QCHA’s tenants.

I saw the initiative as an opportunity to bring researchers to community and talk to members of the public they might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with and who would not otherwise engage with their research, particularly those who have experienced barriers to education in the past such as people with mental and physical disabilities and long-term health conditions.  Attendance has been small (10 –  20 members of the public each time) but feedback from our partners, GCU researchers and attendees has been positive and people have tended to stay on to talk and have given me ideas for future sessions.

This example of community engagement breaks down barriers and stereotypes about researchers and the work going on at universities because it demonstrates the relevance to people’s lives. It allows GCU to keep live a relationship with QCHA and scope research opportunities.  On a personal level, the favourite bit of my job is getting out into community and talking to people such on these occasions.  It always leaves me feeling very humble and motivated to do more.  At the last talk, a man I had worked with on a previous project who had been unemployed for some time was there.  He is now employed by the Housing Association as a Community Development Worker.  That really made my day.

‘Food for Thought’: Exploring the science behind healthy food community meal will take place on Tuesday 12th June from 5pm to 7pm at The Courtyard, as part of The Glasgow Science Festival. The full GCU Community and Public programme for 2018 can be viewed here

[1] Imagine Community: Recommendations for a (refreshed) GCU Community and Public Engagement Strategy and our Imagine Community film can be viewed here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/uad6ciheysx08um/AADSOg57Kfu3ISYfPLL0Dcsga?dl=0

[2] Our developing Engagement Mapping Tool can be viewed here: https://engagement.gcu.ac.uk/


By Susan Grant, GCU Community and Public Engagement Coordinator (@GCUEngagement)

Susan coordinates and supports the Community and Public Engagement Steering Group and is the main point of contact for CPE activity at GCU.

GCU Social Science Research: Part of Something Bigger

My name is Diletta Taris (but I go by Didi) and I am a 1st year PhD Student and also the GCU Student Representative to the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS). The SGSSS is the UK’s largest facilitator of funding, training and support for social science doctoral students. Their services are provided through combining the expertise of 16 Scottish Universities (one of which is GCU) and it’s funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).  GCU, due to the efforts of our Graduate School, was able to obtain membership of the network a few years ago and this year has assumed a more central role in the programmes offered.

Diletta (Didi) Taris, 1st year PhD Student, GCU Student Representative to the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS)

As part of its mission to ensure world-class PhD research for the students of the network, SGSSS offers a series of advanced training opportunities, events, and scholarships for overseas experience, amongst other things. Included in the offer, SGSSS funds a Symposium, led by students of the network. This year, the Symposium will be held at  GCU on the 10th and 11th of May and the sessions will include topics relevant to PhD journeys such as gender-based violence, ways out of academia, sharing and coping with PhD anxieties, and the use of social media for academics. A meditation session will be provided, and there will be a session entirely dedicated to celebrating PhD diversity!

Thanks to SGSSS funding, the hard work of 5 student reps from universities across Scotland (Elizabeth Graham, Heather Branigan, Nkeiruka Ndubuka, Marlit Rosolowsky and myself),the indispensable support of GCU’s own Dr Emmanuelle Tulle (SGSSS Associate Director, Student Experience) and the SGSSS+GCU admin team (Sheena Cummings and Hilary Tenant), we were able to secure a series of great contributors to the event. Dr Mark Carrigan for instance, is going to travel up from the University of Cambridge, to provide his insights into the digital world in an effort to help us navigate it as professionals.

Neil Hanna Photographywww.neilhannaphotography.co.uk
07702 246823
Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Directorate

Not only does the event provide great food for thought, but a dinner event is also included in the Symposium! Dinner will be held on the 10th of May at 6.30pm at the Calabash African Restaurant (Union Street).  This will provide an opportunity for all of us to network and mingle with fellow students and also with the senior lecturers, research fellows and the whole range of great contributors in attendance.

If all of this was not enough, members of the SGSSS directorate have made themselves available to answer any questions or discuss any issues that students may have. If you are interested in the event (and if you’d like to attend the dinner) we’d ask you to register and specify dinner attendance. Students coming from outside Glasgow will also be offered support for booking accommodation and travel reimbursement in an effort to make the event as inclusive as possible. The registration link can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sgsss-student-led-symposium-2018-tickets-45192303396

Thank you, and we hope to see you all there!