In December 2020, our annual PhD student event provided an opportunity for our students to connect with each other, discuss their experiences and hear from a number of researchers about their career journeys.
As many of our PhD students are entering their final year of study, we wanted to explore the topic of future career journeys. Our Keynote Speaker, Professor Dave Jones, OBE, Dean of NIHR Academy discussed with our students what to consider when thinking about future academic research careers.
Our students also heard from our Post-doctoral Launching Fellows, Dr Cheryl Mcquire and Dr Naoimh McMahon, on their academic research career journeys and provided tips on the lessons they have learned along the way.
Carrying out a PhD during a pandemic
A number of our current PhD students, Dolly Theis, Sarah Beardon, Elizabeth Ingram, Cassey Muir shared their experiences of the challenges brought on by the pandemic and how this has impacted their research. Some of the topics raised included challenges of working remotely and the uncertainty, the need to change methodologies and recruitment processes due to new restrictions. This session opened the floor for discussion between SPHR PhD peers which enabled a really positive and encouraging environment.
Top take-home tips for our students included:
• importance of setting goals and routines
• seeing the opportunities in reaching out to networks and collaborations nationally
• being able to easily access training and conferences nationally
• releasing yourself of unhelpful expectations
• taking all the experiences as part of your ‘PhD journey’
• the importance of carving out time to be creative and reflect
Three-minute thesis competition
Prof Jones also announced the winners and runner-up of the Three-minute thesis competition. PhD students were given the challenge to apply the techniques they learned during a communications training session to create a filmed presentation suitable for members of the public.
SPHR Comms Manager, Zoe Thomas, and SPHR Knowledge Exchange Broker, Katie Appleby, ran a session around communicating the outputs of research. The session focused on the importance of identifying individuals or groups who should be interested in research, tailoring messages for those individuals/groups and how to communicate to them successfully.
The meeting ended with all our students joining the SPHR randomised coffee trial (RCT) where they all had the opportunity to can catch up and network with their peers. The opportunity to connect with peers was very well received, particularly at a time of remote working.
“I thought the keynote speaker was very inspiring and it was great to hear from the PhD students and Post-doctoral students about their experiences”
“The opportunity to network with other PhD students in my cohort was of great value. I really enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with my peers”