Tuesday, 24 March 2020

RED alert but not alarmed (RED team)

Photo by Nick Fewings | unsplash.com
One thing that everyone can agree on is that this last week has brought about seismic changes for what our 2020 will look like.

We (the Research Education & Development team) are working hard alongside all our colleagues to ensure as clear and smooth a process as possible for moving things to online modes. We recognise the importance of keeping communications open, maintaining quality development opportunities, and supporting the researcher community as we’ve always done.

But we also know that it’s not ‘business as usual’ because that is impossible.

In the midst of these huge transitions for everyone at the university, the RED team wanted to share what these changes mean for our work, and how we’re travelling with the significant shifts to our teaching and everyday practices.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

The trials and tribulations of writing in your second language: how can you make it easier? (Lise Leitner)

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
In this post Lise Leitner shares some strategies for writing in your second language, while writing in a second language!

Writing can be hard on the best of days. But when you’re writing in your second language, feelings of doubt and inadequacy can be extra soul-crushing on bad writing days. So, what can you do to make things easier? Here are a few tips and tricks that have always been helpful for me.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Doing an Australian PhD while being based overseas (Sandi James)

Photo by Chuttersnap

In this post La Trobe graduate researcher Sandi James reflects on what it is like to do your research while you are based overseas. She shares her experience and lessons she has learned to get connected and deal with isolation.

When I decided to pursue a graduate research degree I was already living and working in Southeast Asia. As I began looking around for research on doing a PhD while based overseas I found a lot of information and resources for international students arriving to study in Australian universities. This is great, and really helpful for students who are arriving to Australia for their studies. But I didn’t find a lot out there on navigating the system in reverse, i.e. studying with an Australian university from a very distant location. Given this absence, I thought I would write this post!

My research had been conceived out of other projects myself and my colleagues from the University of Malaysia Sabah were already running in Malaysia, and I thought everything would be OK with the support I had and the networks I had developed in over there.

And it was kind of OK, albeit a significant challenge.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Re-thinking mentoring (Maria Platt and James Burford)

Mentoring is a word of our time. 

Blogs and newspaper articles are awash with accounts of mentoring programs, narratives about inspirational mentors, and top tips on to prevent mentoring relationships from going pear shaped. This is true across universities too, with many institutions now offering multiple mentoring programs for staff, undergraduate students and graduate researchers.

As colleagues in the GRS who coordinate mentoring opportunities for graduate researchers, we (Maria and James) have been reflecting on what mentoring might be, as well as the ways different people might orient themselves to the opportunities it offers.  In this blog post we thought we’d share some key ideas that we have found helpful in our ongoing process of learning about mentoring.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Preparing for a media interview (David Cann)

Photo by Michal Czyz | unsplash.com

While opening your research up to the public through the media can be a daunting step into the unknown, there are plenty of potential benefits, including a broader audience, collaboration opportunities, and increased funding.

For researchers at La Trobe, there is a cornucopia of resources available for researchers looking to write for the public, write a press release, or broaden their audience. But preparing for a media interview – whether it be for print, radio or television – is a challenging task for any researcher, thanks in no small part to the unpredictability of interviews!

As an agricultural scientist, my run-ins with the media have been somewhat unorthodox, to put it lightly. From small town papers to state-wide radio, giving media interviews has given me opportunities to think about my research from different perspectives, and reframe it in ways that make it accessible to different audiences.

I am a long way from an expert in interacting with the media, but if you feel ready to start answering questions from journalists, you'll need to start asking yourself these questions first!

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

What does it mean to manage your data? (Hannah Buttery)

Photo by Luca Colapinto | unsplash.com

My name is Hannah, and I am a Senior Officer for Research Data Outputs at La Trobe University based on the Bendigo campus. I help academics with their research data management plans, assess these as part of ethics applications and provide help with Researchdata.latrobe.edu.au (powered by Figshare).

Before I worked in the library, I was an orthoptist, an allied health profession involved in the screening and management of eye disease and vision problems. I’ve been involved in eye related clinical drug trials. This work sparked my interest in the use and requirements around data generated through research.

Research data is exactly what it sounds like: data generated through research projects, clinical trials and research higher degrees.

You may not be sure what is included as research data, but it can be almost everything that researchers study.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Getting people to talk to you during a poster presentation (Wade Kelly)

Interactive art | Photo by Wade Kelly
Without fail, whenever I give poster sessions or tweet the suggestion that we need to reduce text and clutter on academic posters, I get negative feedback. That feedback can be, more or less, summarised as, “that’s just not how it’s done”. So, it got me wondering, just how long have we been doing things as they’re done?

When did the tradition of academic posters emerge? If we’re this wedded to the format, it must go back to Plato or the Royal Society? Well, no.

According to Nicholas Rowe’s (2017) Academic & Scientific Poster Presentation: A Modern Comprehensive Guide, academic poster’s really only came into their own in the 1970’s. Post-WWII, as the number of academics increased, so too did participation in academic associations, which resulted in an influx of submissions for presentations at conferences. Organisations turned to posters in order to have more submissions accepted to the conference.

The academic poster is relatively new to academia — only becoming widespread in the last 40-50 years — yet it seems to have been decided what it must look and feel like. For early poster ‘presentations’, scholars were afforded a 15-minute window to present the contents of the poster. Generally, we’ve dispensed with that formality. Now, poster sessions take place in large halls, often accompanied by drinks and hors d’oeuvres for about an hour. For larger associations, there can be hundreds of posters arranged in rows filling the conference centre floor. If the point is to disseminate your research, how can you expect to stand out in the crowd?

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Taming the beast (Lynda Chapple)

Photograph by Joel Herzog Unsplash.com 

Exciting news! Dr Lynda Chapple has started at La Trobe as an Academic and Language Skills Advisor in the Learning Hub. In this role, Lynda will have a particular focus on working with graduate researchers around their writing questions. Lynda is available for consultations in person (in Melbourne) and via Zoom. In this post, we invited Lynda to share some insights from her own doctoral experiences.


My PhD experience was, I suppose, like many other people’s: I was excited about intellectual engagement with an academic community and afraid I wouldn’t measure up.

I had been the first in my family to attend university and had a clear case of impostor syndrome. I was also an external candidate, living overseas and holding down a full-time teaching job at a university.

As so many others have noted, it was a lonely and isolating time. I visited my home university when I was on leave back in Australia, once or twice a year, but my main interactions with my supervisors were by email, and I while I had some contact with the broader academic community through my work, I did miss the stimulation that comes from being a student on campus. I had few people to support me or to talk to about my work on a daily basis.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Why should graduate researchers undertake an industry internship?

In this post we invited APR Intern’s Justin Mabbutt to share more about why La Trobe graduate researchers might be interested in joining an internship program. Justin works for APR Intern and is based at La Trobe for part of the week. Any supervisors or students who are interested in speaking to him are invited to get in touch.

Seeking a career following graduation has never been a simple enterprise. Indeed, previous RED Alert post writers have shared: career advice to your 16 year old self, top career tips for ECRs, and how to approach career planning as a research project itself. However, it is clear that employment markets for researchers have changed over time. One aspect of this change is that there has been greater participation in graduate research, which has produced a higher number of highly skilled researchers. At the same time academic employment markets have remained tight, and there has been evidence of growing demand for researchers in the private and public sector.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

The care-full doctorate: Doing a PhD from home with caring responsibilities (Jane Mantzalas)

Photo by Markus Spiske | unsplash.com

Recently I (RED team member – Jamie) celebrated the publication of an article called
Curating care-full spaces: doctoral students negotiating study from home (co-authored with my colleague Dr Genine Hook). Our article is a personal account that traces periods of our own doctoral journeys when Genine and I managed heavy care responsibilities and worked from home. Genine shared her story of writing her PhD in a walk in wardrobe as she was a sole-parent carer for her son, and I shared my story of caring for my mother and writing my PhD inside my parents’ old bedroom. When I shared the news of this publication online, La Trobe graduate researcher Jane Mantzalas contacted me to share some reflections of her own experience of working (and caring) from home. It is important that we recognise that graduate research is not only written in ‘ideal’ environments. Sometimes, in order to manage other priorities in our lives we need to curate different kinds of spaces in order to get our work done. I have invited Jane to share her experiences in this post.


I am a first-year PhD student from the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (School of Psychology and Public Health) where I am investigating autistic burnout.  I’m also the mum and primary carer of three school-aged children. To balance the demands of full-time study and motherhood, I work from home and only go to campus for weekly supervision and to occasionally attend workshops/seminars that aren’t accessible via Zoom. My work is structured around the school run and I need to maximise every minute, so a daily commute is impractical.  Most nights, I try to study after the kids are asleep (if I can stay awake) and while I aim to keep the weekends for family, part of me is always thinking about my research.  Working from home gives me flexibility to take care of the kids when they’re sick and I’m very fortunate to have supportive supervisors and children.