Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Academic productivity tips for 2019 (Lauren Gawne)

We may be into the third month of the year already - gasp! - but we can look forward to at least nine months of charged up progress! 

This post, bursting with productivity apps and tips, is cross-posted from Lauren Gawne's blog Superlinguo with kind permission. She published this just as she was starting a year's leave. Thanks for sharing your strategies with us, Lauren! View original post.

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters | unsplash.com
I'm not really into the New Year's Resolutions thing, but a few conversations over my final few weeks at work made me realise that there are a few things I do to make my work life a bit easier that other people don't know about.

Most of it is about filtering out noise. Whether that means you get more done, or just get through a day with less distraction, it just depends on what you want in life.

I thought I’d share some of them here - maybe I’ll need to remind myself when I get back to work in 2020…

You're the boss of your Inbox


Be ruthless about unsubscribing from lists and events that are no longer relevant. For everything else, set up filters. I have a filter for blog stuff, one for the podcast, another for mailing lists that aren't so important I need to see them immediately (but I do like to check them). I have a boss who gets CC'd into so many things that he doesn't necessarily need to act on but should at least see or know about that he filters them off to a separate folder. This way, he doesn't miss important things that he does have to actually think about.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Lab family retreat: building stronger connections (Fung Lay)

As lab-based researchers, we spend so much of our daily waking hours surrounded by people with whom we share work areas, research problems, and our latest findings (good and bad).

We share a lab identity. We are connected. But how well do we actually know our lab colleagues outside of the work sphere? What are their interests? Who are their partners? How much have their kids grown since they last popped in for a visit after a childcare pick up?

In the Hulett and Poon labs, where I’ve been fortunate to work as a postdoc for many years, we make it a point to take time out at the year’s end to reflect and celebrate our collective successes (from grants, conferences, awards, publications to student completions). This could be over lunch (that could span much of the afternoon), a day trip to the zoo (we’ve visited all Victorian attractions by now), or a picnic after a memorable ride on Puffing Billy.

Members of the Hulett and Poon labs. Photo courtesy of Fung Lay.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Advice from Future Dave (David Cann)

David Cann out in the field - literally. Photo by James Hunt (@agronomeiste). 

Dear Orientation Dave,

I'm writing to you from February 2019 so congratulations! You've survived the first year of your PhD.

You can take "dying from excess caffeination" off your seemingly inexhaustible list of things to worry about this year. The great thing about a PhD is the time it affords you to make mistakes, then mop up after yourself and try again. The key to not burning out is reflecting on your experiences, celebrating your successes and tweaking your shortcomings.

So, with that in mind, here's a bit of advice from future Dave:

Don't forget your passport.


Learning to drive a 4WD, giving radio interviews, conversing with farmers who somehow managed to find my number, driving a truck and being invited to join a random country football team's end-of-year drinks – at first, all these things seemed like distractions from my magically-extending to-do list. But, the more time I spend talking with other researchers and mentors, the more I start to see it differently.

A PhD is like a plane ticket – a tool to get you from one place in your career to another. But the skills you develop, the connections you make, and the credibility you build during your PhD? They're your passport. If you really want to go places, a plane ticket isn't worth much without a passport.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Communicating your research: the complex language of science (Ebony Monson)

PAM HDR Student Society at their ICF funded ‘Showcase Symposium’

[Back row, L to R] Keaton Crosse, Troy Raglus, Ellyse Noy & Stephanie Lynch
[Front row, L to R] Jemma Gasperoni, Ella Johnston, Louise Pham, Jordyn Thomas & Ebony Monson

Not only is it important to ask questions and find the answers, as a scientist I felt obligated to communicate with the world what we were learning.” ― Stephen Hawking
As a PhD researcher, you’re often focused on a very niche research area with loads of technical jargon, complex ideas and concepts that can be difficult to communicate to researchers from different fields.

Why is it important to be able to communicate your research?

While your main focus as a graduate researcher might be to write your thesis, you need to be able to communicate effectively in writing and orally for a range of audiences (academic journals, media, industry and the community).

The idea of translating our academic interests into simpler, more engaging words can seem daunting, but it all helps share our work, widen the range of potential collaborations, and create new opportunities.

In research, the ability to succinctly convey your ideas to other researchers and to the public is one of the most important skills you can gain, yet the opportunities to build these skills are often scarce.

That’s why, at the end of 2017, a group of graduate researchers (including me) founded the Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology (PAM) HDR Student Society with the aim of nurturing social relationships, promote networking and provide platforms to enhance educational experiences, and therefore promote positive outcomes for individuals within the department.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Upskilling: learning to code in R (Erika Duan)

Image by Erika Duan
I learnt to code in R out of necessity.

First, part of my research involved the exploration and visualisation of extremely large datasets.

Second, it never hurts to learn a new job skill.

R is a programming language used mostly by statisticians, bioinformaticians and data scientists (due to its vast library of statistical, data exploration and visualisation tools). Code is written via a program called R studio. As a beginner, I found the R studio environment very friendly, as it allows you to write code, test it in small segments (or ‘chunks’) and quickly visualise your results.

When I first started learning R, I had no experience with coding and was utterly clueless. My first coding session happened at an introductory workshop held by Research Bazaar (ResBaz) in 2016. ResBaz is an annual research fair, held early in the year at the University of Melbourne, which promotes computer literacy and digital research. Although I emerged from the workshop only slightly more knowledgeable than before, the biggest impact of attending ResBaz was its introduction to online research communities via Twitter. This allowed me to connect with different data science communities and researchers, and their posts have led me to useful resources for learning how to code.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Writing together (Kylie Mirmohamadi)

Sue Martin (L) and Kylie Mirmohamadi | Photo courtesy of Kylie
Kylie Mirmohamadi (HuSS) participated in the panel convened by James Burford about 'writing together' during #LTUacwrimo in 2018. 

The presentations from all participants were thought-provoking and reflected the diverse ways that researchers collaborate (or not!) when writing. 

Kylie generously wrote this post for us, based on her panel notes. 

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What follows is a reflection on the practice of collaborative academic writing, and the way that I have experienced it in my work with Professor Sue Martin (College of ASSC's APVC-Research).

For this post, I’m going to leave aside the much larger issue of how collaborative writing is perceived and received within the politics of academic publishing.

I’ll begin with a few observations from other people that illustrate the often-unacknowledged personal dimension of writing together, and also its gendered aspects.

For me, and I’m sure also for Sue and for Katie Holmes (with whom we have also collaborated), writing together academically is a gendered and a feminist activity. Although this is not always the case with collaborations, ours have been productive of, and pursued within, patterns and modes of female friendship. Those friendships that Kayleen Schaefer sees as captured in women’s late-night request to each other to ‘text me when you get home’, which she shows is not only about safety, but also about solidarity, affection, connection, and holding an ongoing conversation with each other (Text me when you get home, 2018).

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The pleasure of values (Interview with James Burford)

In this week's RED Alert, we interview James (Jamie) Burford, who started with the RED team in July 2018. Jamie talks candidly about his research background and offers some great advice to graduate researchers.

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Jamie and his co-blogger Emily |
Photo courtesy of Jamie
How did you end up researching in the field you're in?

My primary research field is higher education, with ongoing dabbles in gender and sexuality studies. And it is fair to say that I sometimes feel surprised to find that I have arrived in this space.

One way to answer this question is to say that my arrival was unplanned. I followed my curiosity and it led me here. There are also some other answers. My BA was in political science, my Masters was in Development Studies and I came to my PhD via youthwork, community development and diversity education. These histories continue to shape the way that I think about research.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Pet positive (Giselle Roberts)

This interview with Professor Pauleen Bennett by Giselle Roberts first appeared in the SHE Review (October 2018) and is republished here with kind permission. 

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Pauleen Bennett and Errol | Photo courtesy of Giselle Roberts
My guess is that Dr Pauleen Bennett is rarely without a dog in tow. On the morning I met her, Errol, one of Bennett’s Lagotto Romagnolo dogs, sat happily in a sunshine-filled corner of the office, gnawing on a chew toy.

Bennett is an anthrozoologist and behavioural psychologist who has devoted her career to understanding the relationship between humans and animals. She heads Australia’s first dedicated human-dog interaction laboratory, and together with Dr Tiffani Howell, has embarked on a ground-breaking program to train assistance dogs for veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I sat down with Dr Bennett to chat about how animals enrich our lives.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Done with PhD…and still miles away from Paradise (Fazeela Ibrahim)

Photo collage provided by Fazeela Ibrahim

Could it be three and a half years already?

It still seems like yesterday that I left ‘Paradise’ to embark on my doctoral journey back in 2015. If you're curious to know more about my leaving Paradise, my story begins here.

Approximately three years, two months and a week later, I submitted my thesis for examination in early June 2018 (i.e. just before the three year, three-month minimum submission mark). It was a two hundred and seventeen-page document. To put it simply, for me, it was a proud moment and significant achievement but also a reflection of hard work, exhaustion, self-doubt and tenacity.

It was a shocking moment when my thesis amendments were approved by my supervisors.

My initial reaction was, “I am not ready! There is still a lot more improvement to be made.” But mostly it was because I really wasn’t ready to let go of my prized possession yet, for several reasons (most of which were not directly related to my thesis). What I felt at that time was a quiet moment of joy followed by the dread of what was coming next.

Monday, 10 December 2018

More than words: Reflections from La Trobe’s Academic writing month 2018 (James Burford)

The beginning of the 'Creative ways into academic writing' workshop | Photo by James Burford
In this post RED (Research Education and Development) team lecturer James Burford reflects on the activities of the La Trobe Academic Writing Month, which took place in November.

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This probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, but I’m not super good with numbers.

The slide-sweep-click movement that my thumb does on my phone to find my calculator is a familiar one, and you’ll sometimes see me counting out big numbers on my fingers.

Despite my rather humble abilities in the maths department I know that (taken collectively) the La Trobe researchers participating in #LTUAcWriMo this year will have written more than tens of thousands of words. Indeed, some individual writers clocked up word counts in the tens of thousands. Perhaps the total number of words written by #LTUAcWriMo participants numbers in the hundreds of thousands, or maybe even more?