Monday, 31 August 2015

Leaving Paradise for a PhD (Fazeela Ibrahim)

Images courtesy of Fazeela Ibrahim
When I introduce myself and say where I am from, people often haven’t heard of my country. Who can blame them!

After all, Maldives is a country that is barely visible on the world map and has a population of just under 300,000 people!

If they have heard of Maldives, it’s usually in terms of being a paradise on Earth. 'The sunny side of life' is how my homeland is known to tourists all over the world.

Many also say, ‘Wow! You are so lucky! Why in the world would you leave such a paradise and come to a city with such unpredictable weather?’

From the outside, you might think a typical day of my life in the Maldives might include lounging on a beach with a good book, soaking up the sunshine in between swimming in crystal clear waters, breathing in super fresh air, and enjoying the soothing sound of pure nature.

In truth, you’re not completely wrong, as you can see from my images above!

I do have the option of doing all this! And it does sound like a life in paradise, but only if you can afford to be on vacation for the rest of your life.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Writing your way out of a corner (Jason Murphy)

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla |
(Or, the life-saving quality of Shut up and Write!)

Whatever your area of research, if you’re doing a PhD (like me), it comes down to being all about the writing.

You may have been put straight into the field, or a lab, and been gathering data from day one; or, like me, you may have had to locate your project in a body of literature and use that as your reference point.

As PhD candidates, our days are collectively filled with experiments, note taking, reading, procrastinating, being distracted, tidying up our references, drinking coffee, and especially feeling guilty. Above all, however, it is about the writing.

At the end of our candidature, we’ll submit an original, written contribution to our field. It should be a well-written, considered document that is 60,000 – 80,000 words in length. A PhD is, in its essence, an apprenticeship in academic writing.

That said, writing is more than just words on a page.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Tips from a first-year PhD researcher (Georgia Atkin-Smith)

Photo by William Iven |
Some people might tell you that doing a PhD is all work and that no play is allowed, but I say it’s possible to be dedicated to study, work, and maintain a good social life.

I’m a first year PhD student here at La Trobe. I originally moved from a tiny farm outside to Horsham to Melbourne and La Trobe University in 2011 to start a Bachelor of Biotechnology and Cell Biology.

After my 3-year degree, I completed my Honours in Biochemistry and was awarded a scholarship to undertake a PhD.

My study and research experiences so far have been very challenging and extremely rewarding. I’ve had the opportunity to present my research at multiple conferences, and recently published in the prestigious journal, Nature Communications.

One of the reasons why I’ve been able to achieve as much as I have, and stay happy, are my time management skills.

Monday, 10 August 2015

First awards - Intellectual Climate Fund for Graduate Researchers

Photo by Garrett Heath |
Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence 2.0
The first awardees for this brand new scheme have just been notified!

The Intellectual Climate Fund for Graduate Researchers was created and launched in July this year.

Sponsored by the Graduate Research School, the Associate PVCs (Research) of ASSC and SHE, this initiative offered over 20 grants of up to $500 each. Matching funding from Schools, departments, and research centres was strongly encouraged.

The awards were available to graduate researcher groups to support the development of their local research communities.

The scheme embraced a broad range of activities, and these could take place across schools, departments, physical locations, or disciplines.

At the 'Intellectual Climate Fund' launch on 9 July, Dean of the Graduate Research School Professor Chris Pakes challenged applicants to engage an "entrepreneurial spirit" with their ideas.

Teams of graduate researchers answered Professor Pakes' call and proposed projects ranging from theory salons, symposiums, and careers events, to stats skills development, networking breakfasts, and supporting new graduate researcher societies.

All the awarded activities must take place before the end of 2015, so look out for a burgeoning range of researcher opportunities over the next few months.

FULL LISTING OF AWARDED GRANTS: Intellectual Climate Fund Awardees - August 2015

As well as the stimulating and ongoing benefits of bringing together various groups of researchers at the university, this scheme offers valuable experience in event organisation, grant application writing, and project management.

Awardees will be submitting a report on their initiatives at the end of the year. We look forward to hearing all about them!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Research grant applications 101 (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Thomas Hawk
Writing research grant applications should be treated as a highly trainable skill.

No-one comes to the process with an automatic ability to comprehend grants-speak, and you’d have to be worried about anyone who did!

You should treat this short article as the tip of the iceberg in terms of advice on how to start your grant writing career.

My perspective is informed by my ten years or so of experience as a research academic, and the convenor of a research network that mentors many early career researchers.

Whether they’re for project grants, fellowships, conference travel, visiting scholars, or publications, all funding schemes have one basic desire: To give money away to the best applicants.

Your job is to convince the granting body that you’re the best team and project for the investment of their funds. Particularly in major national schemes, such as the ARC DECRA (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award), the competition can be intense.

While no advice can guarantee you grant success, there are many things you can do to make sure you are in serious contention.

These elements are essential to successful grant applications: