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.


Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Academic Writing Month 2019: Showing up for ourselves and each other (RED team)


The 'Wall of Achievement' at the Bundoora retreat 2019 

November is a time where tiny ducklings scurry about, hot days arrive and are extinguished by cool showers, and the campus takes on that unique rhythm we call 'exam time'.

For researchers of all kinds, November is also Academic Writing Month or #AcWriMo for short. This is a month-long festival of academic writing where researchers of all kinds commit to making progress on our research goals. #AcWriMo is an event that has a long history of being tended to by researchers, and it is celebrated across Australia and internationally.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Writing habits of an early career academic (Troy A. Heffernan)

Photo by Lakerain Snake | unsplash.com

At a recent event, I overheard an aspiring graduate researcher ask a colleague, ‘Is doing a PhD hard?’.

After a little thought, my colleague replied, ‘Yes. It’s really tough and takes more thinking and work than you’d believe, but what’s really hard is if life gets in the way’.

I thought this was a very succinct assessment of what completing a PhD can look like, but also of academic writing more generally.

My writing habits as an early career academic began while I was completing my PhD. I achieved what I had to during the initial twelve months of my PhD journey to be ready for my first milestone, but there was no pattern or regularity to what I was doing.

I was fortunate enough to be lecturing early on in my PhD, which was good for the experience, but not so good for my writing. Teaching meant that some weeks a lot would get done, and some weeks very little would get done if marking or other work duties had to take precedence.

When I reflect on the first year of my PhD, I know I’m quite lucky that period went smoothly. It mostly happened because I was fortunate enough that the good days outweighed the bad.

The turn in my writing habits came in the second year of my PhD.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Keeping life visible: Balancing all we have to do (Mandi Cooklin)

Image by kosmolaut | www.flickr.com/photos/helico/404640681

Researching parenting and working.

Researching, parenting and working.

Different emphases, but the same idea – I am an academic researcher who does research about work and parenting while parenting and working.

While this is my location (‘woman’ ‘parenting’ and ‘working’), most of us who produce academic work have non-work responsibilities (and, hopefully, some fun and downtime in there, too). These all need to find a balance with the demanding nature of academic productivity.

How do we do this, in an sector that doesn’t always recognise or reward the non-linear stuff of life?

This is a saturated topic, but this post shares a few notes from reading, researching and talking about this (still! again!), which may spark next ideas and conversations.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

How do I write? (Pam Snow)

Photo by Dan Dimmock | unsplash.com

Being asked to reflect on my approach to writing is probably like asking a cyclist to explain the process of riding a bike.

There’s quite a bit about the business of writing that is so automatic for me that it’s difficult to unpack. Other aspects, though, are under my conscious control and reflect idiosyncratic preferences and habits established over many years.

I consider myself fortunate in the sense that writing is something I enjoy doing and, from a young age, it was one of my strengths (I am very pleased this invitation did not involve me having to reflect on my maths skills….). My late father was extremely well-schooled in spoken and written language and his enthusiasm for words and their meanings was a bug I caught early and have never lost. While this enthusiasm for, and ease with, the written word were a great asset in my early years as an academic, I still had much to learn about the academic voice and adapting my writing for different audiences.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Building 'Take 5: Research Rumble' (Wade Kelly)

Competitors from the inaugural Take 5: Research Rumble event during Research Week, Sept 2019. 
Photo from La Trobe University.



Recently, La Trobe University held our inaugural 'Take 5: Research Rumble' event. It's a 5-minute research staff competition.

Like 3MT (3 Minute Thesis) before it, we gave our academics one slide but, with our staff having established research track records, we thought we’d give them a few more minutes. So, 5 minutes, 1 slide, and a little terror.

We put out the call and weren’t sure if what the appetite and interest would be.

We underestimated the excitement for the competition (perhaps it was the $3000 up for grabs?) and ended up receiving dozens of submissions. In order to demonstrate a wide swatch of the research being conducted at La Trobe University — and make it interesting for the audience — the committee ensured there was gender balance and representation from a range of disciplinary backgrounds. Those who weren’t in the first edition (during Research Week) were asked to participate in our second edition, which is on Tuesday 26 November (register here).

Back in September, we were starting from scratch and had to consider everything from the program and timing, to the food, judges, AV, room, and on and on. As it was our first stab at this event, we decided to offer guidance to staff on formulating their presentations. The hope was that it would help them produce high quality talks that were accessible to a generalist audience.

How’d it go? Overall, we are thrilled with how things came together.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Accelerated Completion program: Helping researchers plan their way toward the finish line!

The Semester Two 2019 ACP crew at the finish of the program
The Semester Two 2019 ACP crew at the finish of the program 

There’s no way to put it without understatement: finishing a PhD is just hard yakka.

At the start of our degrees we often see a vast expanse of time ahead, and the day-to-day of a research degree often feels different as we pick up and spin all the plates and learn all the things!

After years of dedication and careful work, the end sometimes creeps up on us. The end stages of a doctorate are often some of the richest intellectually (if not always financially!). For many of us, the end is a time of crystallisation where the small parts of our research begin to add up to a bigger picture. So, the end is not only an exciting time for a doctoral project, it is also an exciting time for the doctoral researcher, as we observe ourselves stepping over the threshold from novice to expert knower.

This special time is also one where we have an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and who we need to be for ourselves in order to finish significant projects, like a PhD.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Bridging research cultures: A reflection on graduate researcher orientation with an overseas cohort (Dan Bendrups)



In this post RED team member Dan Bendrups reflects on his recent trip to Manila where he worked with a new cohort of La Trobe graduate researchers. 

Every year, the La Trobe University research environment receives a new injection of energy from the arrival of international PhD candidates from all over the world. Some are supported by home country scholarships, while others have been successful in obtaining funding from Australian sources, but for the most part, they come here individually, joining our research programs and finding their feet. We often know very little about their home research environments to begin with, but contrasts and comparisons inevitably emerge over time, and these discussions become part of the international PhD experience.

This year, a new element was added to this mix. Under the terms of a new collaborative agreement with Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, a group of six PhD candidates joined La Trobe as a cohort. The agreement means that their candidature time will be shared between Ateneo and La Trobe , thus, their home research environment will pay a bigger role in their doctoral experience. Their supervision is also shared between La Trobe and Ateneo, with a supervisor at each end.


Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Musings on Open Access and fairness (Jenny Fafeita)








Next week La Trobe University will be celebrating Open Access Week along with researchers all over the globe. From 21-27 October there will be a series of conversations, workshops and online offerings which are all about open access, and the questions of fairness that arise when thinking about accessing knowledge. Check out the activities here!   

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with library staff to coordinate a series of activities for Open Access (OA) week (21-27 October). ). This international event is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the meaning of OA and what it means for us as members of research communities.

The theme of this year’s OA Week, “Open for whom? Equity in open knowledge”, is timely as many La Trobe students are graduating and will no longer have access to research and educational resources sitting behind paywalls. How will they get access in the future?  


Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Research in the regions (Ruth Hardman)





"Great, you’re doing a full-time PhD. But don’t you live in Mildura? Isn’t that really isolating?"

This is a response I have had from many people when they find out what I'm up to. 

My answer is "Well, actually, no..."

I’m doing a PhD in the School of Rural Health on an industry scholarship, and I have just completed confirmation. I’m writing this blog to challenge a few assumptions about what research on a regional campus looks like.