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

Sarah

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

BenjB

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/


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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.

Didi
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!

A Life in the Day of a Part/Spare-time Doctoral Student

My alarm goes off at about 07.00. I’m up by 07.15. I’m more conscious of helping my wife to get ready for work these days (e.g. take the ice off her windscreen), as she’s pregnant with our first baby. I enjoy our brief chat. Some mornings I’ll be up earlier to squeeze in an hour’s study at my desk in the spare room of our small townhouse. It can take 20 minutes before I’m in study-mode. I’ll scan over a couple of journal articles, highlighting key pieces. Some days I get distracted; I browse the web to get a sense of the life story of some interesting author related to my study. I listen to an interview with her/him, or a lecture she/he gave. I have always been interested in how and why people behave the way they do. This comes from my mother. Having lived in Limerick (city in the southwest of Ireland) all her life; she has an encyclopaedic knowledge of its people. Her stories – always respectful and, often, hilarious – make for fascinating insights into peoples’ thinking and behaviours. Since my teens, I have wondered if our decisions and behaviours are as much, if not more, influenced by intuition than rationality. Over the years, my growing interest in the interplay between rationality and intuition has led to me to conduct research on how organisations make strategic decisions for my Doctoral thesis.

I cycle 9km to work and listen to an audio-book or a lecture related to my studies en route. I love cycling. It keeps me fit, it’s faster than travelling by car, and it’s free; most importantly, it’s better for the environment! I’m at my desk between 8.30 and 9.00. My office is in Croke Park, an 83,000-seater stadium with great views out over the city. I really like my job. It is very important to me, and I always prioritise it over my studies. I feel that I am contributing, in a small way, to the development of Ireland’s children. I’m on my laptop and phone for much of the day, and there are regular meetings. I’m generally home at around 18.00. My wife is usually home before me and we prepare dinner. We sit, eat and chat. This is my favourite part of the day! I clean up afterwards. At this point I want to relax, but I don’t. I drag myself up the stairs to my study desk. Often, I feel selfish because I am not spending more time with my family and friends. However, none of them make me feel this way. They are very supportive of my study, as they know how much it means to me. My employer is also very supportive. Without all this backing, I just wouldn’t be able to do it.  Many would presume that the most challenging element of doing a Doctoral degree, on top of a full-time job, is finding the motivation and time to meet the profound demands it consistently poses. These are hard, of course. However, the most difficult part of pursuing a Doctoral degree, for me, is coping with the guilt of not being around for my loved ones as much as I could be.

I’m not one of those extremely motivated and high achieving people. Success, for me, doesn’t necessarily mean that you finish top of the class, climb the highest mountain, or win all the time. I believe that success is the self-satisfaction, which is derived from the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming – particularly at nobody else’s expense. Success, for me, is peace of mind! This is the part I can struggle with as part of my Doctoral studies. My parents are getting older, and as my friends begin to have children, they have less free time to meet up. Last September, for example, I missed my first All-Ireland Hurling Final in 20 years; this is the biggest fixture in the Irish sports calendar, and an annual gathering of many of my oldest friends. I was under ferocious pressure to meet a submission deadline for part of my thesis. I felt equal pressure from the regret of not being able to be there. I, simply, couldn’t afford to take the time off. When studying at this level, such sacrifices in your spare time are inevitable. You need to be very protective (almost jealous) of your spare time outside of work. It doesn’t make it any easier when you miss days like this, though. I probably won’t see some of my friends again ‘til next year’s final.

There’s nothing I value more than time spent with family and friends; it’s nourishment for the soul. Sometimes, I ask myself why I am putting myself through the challenges for five years of this degree. After all, nobody’s forcing me to do it. Not giving into the guilt and regret is a constant battle. It is fuelled by periods of isolation, tied to my study desk. It is reinforced by the fact that, beyond brief politeness, my family and friends have little interest in discussing my thesis topic (understandably!). Of course, I can discuss it with fellow students and my supervisory team, but that’s only every few weeks. GCU’s staff and fellow students are very supportive in this regard. As a part-time and distance learning student, you don’t have the regular face-to-face, on-campus support that many full-time students have. There have been a few days when I felt like throwing in the towel – especially when under pressure to meet a submission deadline, and when life throws things at you like the serious illness of a loved one.

By about 22.00, I’m dizzy with tiredness. I often feel like I should’ve done more. Then I tell myself that I’m working full-time and not to be too hard on myself. I’m asleep by 23.00. As intense as the Doctoral degree is, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It feels right at my most deep, intrinsic level. This feeling is very difficult to describe. I continually desire to be a better person and to live a fulfilling life. I thrive on facilitating the development of others and believe that you can’t do this unless you consistently develop yourself. Since commencing the Doctoral degree, I have never been as focussed on and appreciative of the most important things in life. I spend less time concerned with low quality activities. Every week I engage in more meaningful ones, whether it’s going for walks with my wife, a cycle with friends in the Wicklow mountains, or sitting around the kitchen table having a good old chat with my family. Although the quantity of time spent with them may be less, I have peace of mind from knowing that the quality is now higher. Pursuing a Doctoral degree is a very serious commitment, especially in conjunction with a full-time job. It forces you to be honest with yourself and, as a Doctoral student, you must have the courage to live this honesty to both endure and enjoy the journey. The closer I get to the finish line, the more I believe that, ultimately, it is others that will benefit most from all that I am learning and from the person I am becoming. And that’s what keeps me going…

A short version of this article was originally posted on Times Higher Education, UK blog:  https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/can-you-combine-phd-and-full-time-job-yes-it-can-be-challenging


Pat Culhane, 37, lives in Dublin, Ireland with his wife. He is over two years into the Doctorate of Management programme at Glasgow Caledonian University, on a part/spare-time basis. He works full-time, simultaneously, as a National Development Officer with the GAA, Ireland’s biggest sporting and cultural organisation.

Pat Culhane

Pat Culhane, Lesley Martin, and Eileen O’Neil – all current third year/cohort 10 Professional Doctoral candidates at GCU – have started a movement called the #ProfDockers. it is based on the premise that a wider conversation is needed between Doctoral students (past, present, and future) on their experiences of pursuing this rewarding, and very challenging, degree. It is intended to bring more PhD/ProfD students together from any part of the world, initially, through a variety of online media, in an attempt and to tackle the isolation often felt by them. By doing so, it is hoped to inspire (in some small way) people to start, continue with, and finish their Doctoral studies. Check out the first #ProfDockers podcast, where Pat, Lesley, and Eileen discuss why each is pursuing a Doctoral degree, and why they have started this wider conversation. Each has set up a blog and published a number of related articles.

Pat Culhane: patculhane.ie and @Pat_Culhane

Lesley Martin: lesleymartinprofdoc.com

Eileen O’Neil: balanceandrisk.com

I Ask Myself this Question…?

The PhD is a unique experience and one that offers challenge and euphoria, sometimes in equal measure.

Most research students will be able to empathise with each of Jorge Cham’s comic strips above – finding moments where their purpose is clear and their research engaging and important, and also enduring times when it seems like they have lost their way and wish to avoid the very mention of research.

The Graduate School Research Celebration on 19 March 2018 was an opportunity to focus on all the great things about research – the buzz of your project, the community of researchers around you and the fantastic lecture by Jorge Cham on ‘The Power of Procrastination’.

The day began with a packed lecture theatre full of keen researchers looking to hear an uplifting and insightful lecture from the creator of PhD Comics (www.PhDComics.com ), and they were not disappointed.  Dr Cham explored in a humorous and relatable way the ‘Big Question’ of why we all work in academia – and reassured us that it is certainly not for the money!

Jorge shared some interesting scientific insights into why procrastination is the close relative of laziness and also why academia never ends, leading to the problem of guilt.  Procrastination became re-defined as what you do when you’re doing what you want to do.

Some ‘Secrets of the Thesis’ were developed by Dr Cham, enlightening the audience to the little known fact that no-one is ever happy with their thesis, not 100%, but that life sets you deadlines that you can’t fail to meet – like the birth of a child, the dream job or just running out of money.

Finally, Jorge offered his personal reflections on what he had learned at Graduate School: how to learn independently; how to see the big picture and communicate that effectively – and even how to give a one hour presentation on almost anything…even procrastination.

The question and answer panel which followed was chaired by Prof Kevan Gartland, from the Graduate School, and provided an opportunity to quiz Jorge further on his fascinating lecture.  Researchers from GCU and neighbouring universities were able to find out more about procrastination: should we confess our procrastination habits to our supervisors; are there ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ways to procrastinate; and how Jorge’s procrastination led to a whole new career.

Prof Bonnie Steves, Graduate School Director, closed the lecture by thanking the speaker and inviting everyone to the poster session and celebration of research, complete with lovely cakes and refreshments.

The lecture was followed by a chance to snap up a signed copy of Jorge’s most recent publication “We Have No Idea: a guide to the unknown universe” and network with fellow researchers during a poster display of the wide ranging research currently underway at GCU.  With over 30 posters on display, participants were able to celebrate the vibrant research culture of our researchers, sharing with colleagues from other universities.

With such a buzz in the room and so many ideas being shared and pondered, I asked myself this question…”Would I really want to be doing something else with my life?”

 

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