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.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

What is a literature review? Imaginings and re-imaginings (James Burford)

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

A desk that has become overgrown with piles of paper.

Puzzle pieces, some of which are currently blank.
Idea bubbles that are linking and sometimes looping back.

This week I have been coordinating workshops that encourage researchers to think about writing literature reviews.

Somewhere in the middle of each workshop I have asked participating researchers to pause and reflect on a question or two: “What does a literature review look like for you? What comes to mind when you think about it?” The sentences you see above are just some of the many images that researchers conjured at these workshops. On the back of these descriptions, I want to use this blog post to think about how we might imagine literature reviews, and the lessons these imaginings might teach us.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

When research collaborations go bad (Tseen Khoo)

Stuff happens | Photo by Kim Tairi
Released under CC licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0
One of the toughest things to do gracefully in an academic relationship is to end it, or even question it.

Sometimes, even though you try, there isn’t a ‘good’ way to do it. Perhaps that's why issues around collaborations - particularly what to do with bad ones - persist so strongly.

A lot of angst can be saved by early discussion about expectations from all team members – who’s doing what, when, and how. As mentioned in this co-authoring post, the division of labour doesn’t have to be equal, it just has to be clear.

On an academic risk management note, make sure you can tick these boxes before embarking on a collaborative project:

  • I’ve had at least one research conversation with the collaborator(s) I will be working with.
  • We’ve talked about division of labour and timelines for the project.
  • I feel comfortable facing my collaborator(s) first thing in the morning to talk about project and publication work. [This is a golden rule with me - ymmv]
  • I’m confident that my collaborator(s) bring relevant and appropriate levels of intellectual value to the project.
  • My collaborators communicate with me in a timely and constructive manner.

If you can tick off that checklist, it should mean few misunderstandings and disappointments.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Managing a social media community (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Brian | unsplash.com
I've been invited to give a workshop in October, focused on how to start and manage a social media community (or group).

I have so many things to say! And it's probably most usefully said in a blogpost that I can point people to in the future.

Creating and managing a strong online community requires extremely high level communication skills and can bring great value to your professional life. Being a group or community manager can sometimes be stressful and daunting.

This post addresses basic online group creation and management so you can start as strongly as possible in that role!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

3 PhD life hacks for the remote researcher (Caroline Baker)

Photo by Andrew Neel | unsplash.com 
To embark on a PhD can be a big life decision. To do it remotely may be an even BIGGER one!

More and more, Universities and technology are opening opportunities to learn flexibly and remotely. What does this mean for you as a PhD student?

Can PhD students successfully make progress and complete their study remotely (i.e. be interstate/international/regionally-based from their University)? Can the learning experience be rich and rewarding?

I'm currently a postdoctoral research fellow with the Centre for Research Excellence in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation, La Trobe University, and I say YES to these questions!

But I'd follow up with a proviso that it does depend on your research field and you need to navigate the terrain!

People say PhD research can be isolating in the first place, so why choose to be remote?

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

A PhD as a career path: expect the unexpected (Jade Sleeman)

Photo by Stephen Leonardi | unsplash.com

As I near the end of my PhD studies, I’ve been reflecting on where this journey has led me, and have realised that even though my career goals were not exactly strictly laid out at the start, I am still surprised by how it has helped me end up where I am today.

Now that may be surprising to those of you who know exactly where you want your higher education studies to take you. But for me, I have never really had a clear idea of exactly where I wanted to go, I just knew I wanted to go somewhere.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Researchers on retreats: The value of being away together (Silvina Sanchez Mera and Esther Desiadenyo Manu-Barfo)


Many of us take significant private pleasure in becoming researchers.

We whittle drafts away in the wee small hours or sneak a moment here or there to read a book or article. But finding time to just be a researcher can be tough, especially for those of us who have busy work lives or heavy care responsibilities. It can be challenging to get large stretches of time to sink into researcher mode.

Retreats away from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life can offer us these opportunities. In addition to the practicalities of giving us time, many of us find that there is something magical about being away together.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

On the value of research partnerships (An interview with Maria Platt)

In this week's RED Alert, we interview La Trobe alumna Dr Maria Platt, who started working in the GRS as a Senior Project Coordinator in 2018. Maria shares her research background and offers some great advice to graduate researchers on engaging with industry. 

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Photo by Alfons Taekema on Unsplash

Can you tell us about your research journey and your career trajectory?

I have always had a thirst for knowledge, even as a kid. In my undergraduate degree in Public Health I realised that there was this thing called 'research' and you could find out lots of interesting stuff, and you got to read articles! That was the bit that I really found quite exhilarating. When it came to knowledge, I really enjoyed the chase. Then I did my honours, and that took me in more of an anthropological direction, looking at the lived experiences of women with Hepatitis C. After this, I took some time out and started doing some research jobs. During this time I realised that I needed to do a PhD in order to advance in my research career further.

I undertook my PhD at La Trobe in the Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS). Initially, my research was going to be focused on HIV prevention programs in Indonesia, but then it morphed into looking more at how women negotiated their way in and out of marriage without any formal level recognition of their martial status. So really, I was on an exploratory journey without a grand plan!


Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Creating a great relationship with your supervisor (Keaton Crosse)

Photo by Jake Noren | unsplash.com 

To all the graduate research students out there: There’s no doubt about it. Graduate research study can be very tough.

So, how do you make sure you are getting the most help from your supervisor along the way?

I am a 3rd year PhD student in the School of Life Sciences undertaking a molecular microbiology research project.

Throughout my candidature, I've developed an appreciation for past students who take the time to share their experiences, so I feel it is only right for me to pass on my top 5 tips that have really worked for me to establish and maintain a prosperous relationship with my supervisor!

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

International graduate researchers: You are not alone! (Kiran Shinde)




This week’s blogpost is written by Kiran Shinde, who recently gave a workshop called 'International PhD students: Identifying and overcoming hurdles' at the last College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Commerce (ASSC) Higher Degree Researcher Retreat. 

Kiran’s post builds on other RED Alert contributions by international researchers at La Trobe, Shawgat Sharmeen Kutubi and Lynna Feng.

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For an international student, pursuing a Higher Degree by Research is a multifaceted growth opportunity. It is now widely recognised that international students “represent a high-achieving and highly motivated group” (Russell, Rosenthal, & Thomson, 2010) as they choose to pursue their dreams for higher study in a sociocultural and educational environment that is different from their own.

But these journeys are also full of challenges.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Going beyond comfort zones (Ashley Ng)

Photo by Mia Anderson | unsplash.com
When I first received the email, I thought it was a scam.

It was from a someone who claimed they were from a media production company telling me that I had been selected to potentially be part of an SBS TV series with a well-known health journalist who would host the show. The project was vague, and I knew of the journalist they mentioned, but I wasn’t a big fan of their ideology and methods.

We had a zoom meeting where the media production company wanted to get a sense of who I was and the work I’ve done previously. Throughout the conversation, I was up front and honest with my opinions about the journalist’s work and approach to health. In fact, I was pretty blasé about the whole thing and tried not to think of the TV aspect as it made me anxious. Being a fairly introverted person, a TV appearance was not on my list of career aspirations.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Applying for an internal grant (Amy Kong)

Photo by Shane Aldendorff | unsplash.com

"What do you do for the Social Research Assistance Platform?"

This is a question I often get asked when I tell someone where I work.

My quick answer is always: "I help give out internal funding to researchers and provide a match-making service for researchers and research assistants".*

The next question is usually: "How do I get this internal funding?"

So, here's the post about winning an internal grant!

I must start of with a disclaimer: I don't claim to be an expert in this but what I am sharing is based on my years of experience with the platform and its funding rounds, and my own observations. The RED team runs a great session on grant writing called the '5 Rules of Grant Club'. If you have not been to one, I highly recommend that you do! [We didn’t make Amy say this - we promise! But here's the next session on 22 October, if you're interested!]

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

When a radio interview terrified me (Brooke Huuskes)


Brooke on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania | Photo courtesy of Brooke Huuskes
I love talking. So, it might come as a surprised that I used to be terrified of talking in front of people. I hated public speaking at school, yet my report card always said, "Brooke would be a good student if she didn't talk as much."

Getting over the fear of talking in large public spaces really came when I stumbled into the spotlight to talk about a topic that I knew the best – myself. Yes, back in 2011 I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for a cause, and I felt the cause was so important that I put all my fear aside and promoted the heck out of it. This meant that I had to be the face of the cause, which involved comment for newspaper articles and multiple radio interviews. Side note: I was eventually on live TV talking about the same cause but got there through winning best film at a film festival...

In summary, I have had a bit of experience with the media.

It was really no surprise, then, when I started entering public speaking competitions throughout my PhD. The 3MT (three-minute thesis) and FameLab were amazing experiences that really allowed me to passionately express my research in a forum that I love (talking) and developed my science communication skills. And I did alright, too! I won a few awards, including audience choice awards at FameLab (which I was pretty stoked about considering my microphone fell off. Maybe they just felt sorry for me? Anyway...).

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Top tips on designing infographics (Danilo De Oliveira Silva)


Photo by Gareth Harper | unsplash.com

How many people are reading the research you publish?

Let’s make it a bit more interesting and ask: how many people outside academia are reading the research you publish?

We live in a world where most of our research articles are inaccessible for non-academics due to our jargon and the fact that much of it is behind paywalls. I always find myself asking if we are doing and sharing research only for researchers, or do we want to share with the general community as well? If we want to make our research more broadly available, we are doing it wrong!

But let’s stop the criticism for a moment and offer some solutions instead.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Extending your inter-campus research community (Karen Strojek)

(Left to right): Emmy Frost (Archaeology), Anna Henger (History), Karen Strojek (Politics), Esther Manu-Barfo (Linguistics), Nicola Linton (Classics and Ancient History), Nicole Pavich (Media Arts & Screen Studies), Paul Northam (Visual Arts), and Justin See (Social Inquiry - Planning).
Photo by Greg Muller.
 
I’ve written before about broadening my research community across disciplinary boundaries, by taking part in conference organisation in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS).

Attending and working at university conferences is a great way to meet other graduate researchers and find points of commonality, but it’s not the only way!

Many Schools, and the Departments within them, have graduate student representatives who work with their department heads and graduate research coordinators to improve communications, and the intellectual climate in general, at a local level.

In my roles as a representative for my Department (Politics, Media and Philosophy) and my School (HUSS), I attend regular meetings with other School representatives - all graduate researchers - from the Colleges of ASSC and SHE.

A lot of our discussion is about university policy, infrastructure and facilities, supervision relationships, student wellbeing, and how we might work to improve social and professional networks between graduate researchers.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Spaces that matter for La Trobe researchers (Lauren Murphy & Ilan Abrahams)

Photo by Tyler Nix | Unsplash.com 
Where do researchers write? In this article fiction writers talk of productive writing sessions in the subway, on the couch with the TV blaring, and at a café, among other places. And in this article writing spaces range from “small messy rooms that don’t look out on anything interesting”, to bathtubs, beds, hotel rooms or a cabin on the shore. It seems that space is an ongoing interest for writers of all descriptions.

In April this year I (RED team member – Jamie) published a post called Spaces that matter for graduate researchers reflected on a research project on the spatial practices of graduate research that I am undertaking with colleagues in Thailand. After I published the post a number of people got in touch with me to tell me about the spaces that matter to them – on La Trobe campuses and beyond. Here are their reflections.
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Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Boost your visibility with VYT! (Jenny Fafeita)

Could you explain your thesis in 1 minute using an animated presentation? Yes, 1 minute!

As Training Coordinator in the library, I'm coordinating La Trobe's round of the Visualise Your Thesis (VYT) competition. VYT is a competition format developed by the University of Melbourne, and it's the first year that it's a formal inter/national challenge!

VYT requires graduate researchers to present their research in a 60-second, visually appealing, digital display. Cash prizes are available for the winners of La Trobe’s local competition and the winning entry will compete in an online international competition final.

While I’m excited to be coordinating our local competition, I must admit to being a little anxious as well. I want the competition to run smoothly and, more importantly, I want our graduate researchers to enjoy the experience and have fun while they’re honing their skills. We offer VYT workshops to support graduate resarchers in their potential entries, but putting your hand up and participating in the competition brings a range of rewards.

So, why should graduate researchers enter VYT? What’s in it for them, other than the cash prizes? I asked last year’s competition entrants to reflect on their experience of the competition. What did they learn? How did they benefit from entering the competition?

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Conferences: Is it time you had a fashion makeover? (Jessica Peters & Deena Ebaid)

This post is cross-posted from the academic conferences blog Conference Inference, with kind permission. Thanks for sharing your experiences of conference organising with us, Jessica and Deena! View original post

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Camila Damásio | Unsplash.com
Don’t be fooled by the title, this blog post is not just for fashionistas. For those who are curious, the psychology behind fashion is quite fascinating and can even be employed to up your conference networking game. Take this blog post for instance – if it wasn’t for a love of fashion, conferences and twitter (#pinkpantsuit), we wouldn’t have been invited to write this blog piece at all!


For many people (the two of us included), fashion can be used to showcase personality, and help feel more confident and better placed to accomplish the task at hand. Think of the old adage “look good, feel good”. I (Jessica) have applied this notion in many aspects of my professional life – job interviews, psychological practice, and university teaching. For the latter, my fashion choices were particularly helpful when I first started tutoring undergraduate classes. I was nervous about public speaking and doing a good job and was only a few years older than many of my students. Dressing smart helped me feel more confident, competent and visually set me apart. So why not apply this principle to conferences?

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Giving career advice to your 16-year-old self (Megan Cook)



Bud Helisson | Unsplash.com
Recently, I was invited to head back to my old high-school to talk to Year 10 students who are currently engaged in a week-long intensive focusing on careers and the future.

It was fascinating to be asked to reflect on my own career journey, a career journey which has led me to work as a researcher in a university research centre.

While I never entertained the possibility of becoming a researcher during school (I’m not even sure I knew that there was such a career), I have been given a range of wonderful opportunities during my post-school years which have culminated in my decision to start a PhD.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Blogging your research

Photo by Hannes Wolf | unsplash.com
There's a first time for everything and the first time for the 'Blogging your research' series of workshops was Semester 1, 2019!

We (Tseen and Jamie - RED team members) wanted to run these sessions because we're both big fans of academic blogging, and have gained so much value from the practice both professionally and personally. It has been a lot of fun sharing our knowledge, tips, and strategies with highly engaged La Trobe staff and graduate researchers from different stages of career and a varied bunch of disciplines. And we have learned a lot in the process of bringing together these workshops.

One of the activities for the final workshop is to work with the class on writing, formatting, and publishing a blogpost. We wanted to make it live from within the workshop itself! So, that's what this post is: a communal post from the inaugural RED series of blogging workshops.

We asked our participants to reflect on the sessions they've attended and the discussions we've had. What was the most valuable thing they learned from them?

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

La Trobe - the most Wiki-engaged university in Australia?


Only six people ever read my doctoral thesis. Six. After years of research blood, sweat and tears poured into this document, that is the impact my work will have. It was that realisation that drew me to writing for Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is by far the largest encyclopedia to have ever existed, replacing - for free - what used to be a luxury item only a few decades ago. The encyclopedia is one of a set of projects hosted by the WikiMedia Foundation, which is refining its strategy through to 2030 to be a leader in the open knowledge movement.

Academic publishing readership versus Wikipedia’s yearly readership. 

Since I started editing and writing for Wikipedia in 2013, I’ve been busy trying to promote new ways of engaging academics, researchers and experts in improving its accuracy. By working with PLOS and the WikiJournals, I’ve helped develop ways to entice experts to write Wikipedia articles by combining the best bits of the encyclopedia’s massive reach, and the rigour of scholarly peer review. They’re likely to be the most-read work that most academics will ever write.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

You and your academic profile

Aspirational avatar | By Tseen Khoo
Did you know that every researcher at La Trobe now has a university academic profile page?

Yes, EVERY researcher!

Academic staff have always had one and now all graduate researchers do, too! This coincides with the issuing of institutional staff accounts for grad researchers, a move that gives everyone a great opportunity to present their researcher profiles as they would like.

This post is for all those researchers out there - no matter what stage of career you're at - who have yet to populate their academic profile page.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Emerging Impact Landscape (Wade Kelly)

White Night Melbourne 2018 | Photo by Wade Kelly
Shared via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
There’s considerable confusion about what ‘impact’ is, and this is no surprise given that it’s a term that’s used for so many things in the contemporary research space.

For my research, I’ve had many, many conversations with people across higher education in Australia and Canada at all career levels (graduate researchers, Early Career Researchers, Mid Career Researchers). Alongside the confusion about what impact is is what impact means (and will mean) to academics.

The following primer is a brief history of the impact landscape, an exploration of some of the trends in higher education, and some things to consider as you start your ‘impact journey.’

So, let’s start by clarifying some of the many meanings of impact. I find it easiest to consider impact as happening either inside (internal) or outside (external) of academia.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

How cups of coffee lead to world leading research (Greg Dingle and Sam Grover)

La Trobe Sports Park | Photo courtesy of La Trobe University

What is it about a cup of coffee that can lead to a $48,000 research grant and world leading research?

The answer is that if that coffee is had at a university Early Career Researcher (ECR) event then, more likely than not, emerging researchers will be also talking for the first time with other researchers from outside their discipline where they have exchanged ideas and realised the linkages that exist between their seemingly disparate research interests.

The scenario described above actually happened in October 2015 when we – Dr Samantha Grover and Dr Greg Dingle – were chatting between sessions at the La Trobe University ECR Network Conference in the John Scott Meeting House.

We were there to give presentations on our latest research and explore the potential for collaborating with researchers from outside our disciplines. Sam is a soil scientist, and Greg is a social scientist specialising in sport management. In addition, Greg thinks that the opportunity to have a free lunch should never be missed!

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Showing up (Rachel Loney-Howes)

This article, written by La Trobe University PhD alumna Rachel Loney-Howes, is cross-posted from the University of Wollongong Careers blog. It is an excellent example of the importance of building your profile and reputation as a scholar and colleague from early in your career. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Photo by Fabian Gieske | unsplash.com
In recent years, career development researchers have focused on the role of chance and luck in career development. They’ve found that, although on reflection we have a tendency to ‘reframe’ our career success in terms of luck, there are certain behaviours and attitudes that contribute to taking advantage of ‘chance’ events. Dr Rachel Loney-Howes a Lecturer from the School of Health and Society here at UOW was ‘lucky’ enough to start an ongoing academic position 6 months after her PhD (yes – 6 months!) In this blog post, she talks about one of the behaviours that helped make that happen.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Using rewards to help you achieve your writing goals (James Burford)

Photo by Jennifer Pallian | unsplash.com

As a lecturer in the RED team, I facilitate learning opportunities for La Trobe’s researcher community. Across these workshops we often touch on one of my favourite topics: rewards, and how they can be helpful for researchers who are trying to motivate themselves to achieve writing goals.

Writing is often a lengthy process for researchers. Motivation can sag as the hours turn to days and the days tick over into months. Added to this picture are the brain bending, shoulder crunching and finger cracking realities of many hours spent at a keyboard trying to get words on a page. It can be exhausting work on all levels, which makes pushing on so difficult sometimes. This is where rewards (some people call them power ups), combined with appropriate planning can be so useful for researchers. Some positive reinforcement can be a really valuable way of sustaining motivation throughout the long duration of a research project.


Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Spaces that matter for graduate researchers (James Burford)


Given that this post is all about the spaces and places research is conducted in, let me start by describing the space I currently find myself in. I am clicking the ‘publish’ button on this post while sitting in a library at Thammasat University in Pathumthani, a province in the northern part of the Bangkok metropolitan area. The library I have been working in this morning is possibly the coolest place on campus, which is important given that the temperature outside is hovering around 40 degrees celsius! This library is named after Puey Ungphakorn, the former Rector of Thammasat University. Professor Puey is an important figure in Thai history. He resigned his rectorship (what we might call vice chancellorship in Australia) in protest following a massacre of university students on campus in 1976 and subsequently fled Thailand for his own safety, ultimately dying overseas. The ground floor of the library features an exhibition about Professor Puey’s life and service, and nearby to here is a memorial to those killed in the 1976 massacre. Sitting in this library, I find myself thinking about the uneasy social space that universities often occupy and the risks that have been taken to defend universities as spaces for critical and creative thinking.


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Reflections on HDR supervision: The graduate student experience

Ebony Monson (School of Life Sciences) and Allira Hanczakowski (HuSS) participated in the supervision panel convened by Jamie Burford during our first graduate researcher orientation of 2019. 

The reflections from all participants in this panel were thought-provoking and reflected the diverse ways that supervision occurs across the campus. Throughout this conversation it became clear that there is no one ‘perfect’ model for arranging supervision. It is always a complex negotiation between all the players involved and is responsive to the kind of knowledge that is being produced.


Ebony and Allira generously contributed to this post for us, based on their panel notes.

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Photo by Kobu Agency | unsplash.com

Jamie: Could you please introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about your research project?

Ebony: My name is Ebony Monson and I’m currently beginning the third year of my PhD in the School of Life Sciences. My research focuses on looking for novel mechanisms that drive an immune response to viral infections, with the hope that teasing apart the complexity of an effective immune response will allow the creation of novel anti-viral treatments to combat in-curable viral infections. I currently have 1 primary supervisor (Dr Karla Helbig) and 2 co-supervisors. I also have 2 external panel members who have an input at my progress panel meetings.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Learning about conferences by organising a conference (Karen Strojek)


This post is cross-posted from the academic conferences blog Conference Inference, with kind permission. Thanks for sharing your experiences of conference organising with us, Karen! View original post 

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Photo by The Climate Reality Project | unsplash.com


 “The question of “What should I do at a conference” might be answered with a question, “What kind of researcher do I want to be”? …Once students understand the kinds of values they hold as researchers, they can think with greater clarity about how to enact themselves as researchers at conferences” – James Burford, Conference Inference Blog. 

Every year, La Trobe University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) runs a two-day interdisciplinary conference at which Masters and PhD students present their research to their peers and to academic staff. For many early-stage postgraduate students, this is their first experience of participating in an academic conference. Some approach their first solo performance in a state of high nervousness but, once it is done, most can relax into spectatorhood and many leave with positive memories. In this post I reflect on my experience of being on the organising team for the HUSS HDR 2018 Conference.

Jamie (from the RED team) has already posed some thought-provoking questions at La Trobe conference preparation workshops that I have attended in the past. He addresses the practical what-do-I-do questions but also invites us to be thoughtful about another important question: “What kind of researcher do I want to be?” The ensuing questions of how action might contribute to being and how being is enacted can be hard to disentangle but engaging with them shifts attention to what goes on outside the solo performer’s spotlight. What kind of researcher do we, students, want to be to whom, and how might we achieve it?


Tuesday, 2 April 2019

How uncertainty and doubt are friends of your research writing (John Hannon)

Photo by Kyle Glenn | unsplash.com

During my post-graduate research I needed structure. First, I used goals, theories and methods to structure a space for the exploration of knowledge, then this gradually filled with things that count: progress reports, due dates, prescribed word lengths, abstracts, submissions to conferences, journals and grant bodies. What started as a personal program became populated with institutions, peers, academic traditions and disciplinary cultures. This was my introduction to the academic game, in which researchers have a stake and play by a set of rules. The game offers graduate researchers and academics, both employed or underemployed, a (competitive) position in a field of knowledge, that is, a space of certainty. You are really there when you forget about playing and the game is taken as doxa, the way things are.

 As one who came late to the game, a late ECR, I had no time to lose and plugged in, conferencing, networking, and aiming to produce a little more than the required annual output. Playing the game offered me clarity and certainty that was useful in the fast introductions that are a currency of the academic world.


Tuesday, 26 March 2019

"But you don't look autistic...": Unmasking Autistic representation in academia (Elizabeth Radulski)

La Trobe University Representatives attend the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre Strategic Plan Launch on January 31 2019. The new strategic plan strives, in part, to increase Autistic representation in academia and research. 

Pictured L-R: OTARC Director Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, PhD Candidate Beth Radulski, Chair & Former Chancellor Sylvia Walton, Chancellor Richard Larkin, Strategic Planner Jan Ferguson, and Vice-Chancellor John Dewar. 
Photo courtesy of La Trobe University.

On 17 August 2016, La Trobe staff and students gathered in the campus Agora to protest the impending deportation of PhD candidate Sarmin Sayeed, whose family was declined Australian Permanent Residency. The reason: Their son’s Autism status. Sayeed’s visa denial exemplifies the Medical Model of disability, which understands Autism as a disease and developmental disorder—a barrier to ‘normal’ functioning. Fortunately, following public outcry over disability discrimination, Sayeed’s family was granted their visa, and allowed to stay.

I attended this protest as a proud La Trobe student and immigrant myself.

I was also there (in secret) as an Autistic person.

Nearly three years on, I am proudly ‘out’ as Autistic, and conducting a PhD exploring the overt socio-political and economic discrimination experienced by many Autistic people, alongside the social drivers which lead many of us to conceal our Autism status.

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.