Monday, 28 September 2015

The importance of distractions (Michael Munforte)

Shiny things
Photo by Ken Douglas (
To all those students battling a serious illness or a significant hardship, this post's for you!

When I was only 6 months old, I was diagnosed with cancer: a rhabdomyosarcoma (a malignant muscle tumour).

Subject to surgery and chemotherapy, the tumour was gone and all was well. Until the cancer returned. Following an experimentally high dose of chemotherapy (my parents thought they’d lose me to the chemo at one point), the tumour was once again gone.

Unrelenting, it returned for a third time. A third round of chemo seemed unreasonable and so radiotherapy was attempted. It had no effect and so the decision to amputate my right arm was made. I was only a month away from my eighth birthday at the time. However, to this day, I have remained free from this tumour, so it was ultimately worth the sacrifice.

Monday, 21 September 2015

How technology has transformed historical research (Merran Williams)

Image courtesy of Merran Williams
When I read a book like Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore, I’m in awe of the huge effort that has gone into the research.

Hughes and his assistants trawled through thousands of dusty books, faded newspapers, and fragile letters to reconstruct Australia’s convict history.

I’ve looked through my share of hardcopy books and documents and come to realise that, unless they have been well-indexed, it can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack to uncover specific information.

I’m fortunate that my research into the past has coincided with the mass digitisation of records. In fact, it would have been almost impossible to uncover the story I’m working on without the ability to perform a keyword search.

Appropriately in the internet age, my first encounter with the convict escape I’m now researching was on Wikipedia.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Never say never (Carmel Hobbs)

Photo by Caitlin Oriel |
I don’t know about everyone else, but when I was reading and writing about methodology, it hurt. A lot.

I constantly felt like I was faking it.

I chose to use grounded theory for my PhD and, although there are lots of great books and resources around, I felt like I needed more.

I was relieved to learn I wasn’t the only one.

I talked to a staff member (and fellow graduate researcher) at the alternative secondary school where I'm doing my research, and we shared our anxieties about how we felt we didn’t know what we were doing.

I went home that night thinking it would be great to have a workshop about grounded theory for students. That thought developed into a bit of a fantasy about having Professor Kathy Charmaz run that workshop. It was Kathy’s constructivist approach to grounded theory I was most interested in using for my research, and I'd spent a lot of time reading her books and related publications. The notion of hearing from her directly was an idea that I felt driven to explore.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it to happen. So, I found her email address, summoned up some courage, and...asked her.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Brevity is the soul of 3MT (Kelly Farrell)

La Trobe's 3MT finalists and judges
Photo by Tess Flynn
Did you know there’s a fungus in grass needed to get our milk from paddock to fridge?

That we should be helping robots avoid us?

And that looking after your voice can have a material effect on your job performance?

The La Trobe 2015 3MT Championship showcased the glittering mosaic of graduate research at the University as eight finalists vied for the title of La Trobe 3MT Champion.

Throwing your hat in the 3MT ring is the definition of chutzpah: it takes no small amount of audacity to squeeze years of work into a few minutes and then get up and present it – sans notes – to an audience and a row of judges. And did I mention it should also be engaging and void of jargon so that people who have absolutely no idea about your research can understand and relate to it?