Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Here's why we need to keep moving! (Denise Jones)



Here we are, a couple of months into a global pandemic. For most us of this has been both a dramatic change to our lives and the way we engage in physical activity.

The early lock-down deluge with ‘inspirational’ vignettes of families learning to dance in unity and exercise together without rancour has slowed to a trickle. The implications of this being that they have succumbed to injury, boredom or lapsed back into more normal family dynamics. The rest of us may just have reached the stage where the only reason to launder “sportswear” are the food and drink stains down the front, so deep that they are visible to our colleagues during zoom meetings.

I think about physical activity….a lot. My PhD research is about returning to physical activity following hip surgery (arthroscopy) in young and middle-aged adults. The irony of sitting writing about physical activity for my PhD thesis has not escaped me. Over the last few years both knowledge and guilt have served as my motivators to move.


Friday, 29 May 2020

PhDing amid COVID-19 in North-East India (Dipjyoti Goswami)


RED Alert is running a series of posts where we hear from La Trobe graduate researchers who are (for lots of reasons) outside of Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next up, I invited Dipjyoti Goswami to share his thoughts on how COVID-19 has impacted his doctoral research in North-East India. 

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COVID 19, has caused immense ripple effects and significant disruption to students in general, and more specifically to international students worldwide. My case is no different. I am a student of the Linguistics department at La Trobe University pursuing my PhD and am currently overseas in North East India conducting my field research.

Both of the following photos are from Arunachal Pradesh, North East India where I went for my field trip. In the first picture I am sitting with one of my language informants. And in the second picture I was with my principal Supervisor Associate Professor Stephen Morey, and Kellen Parker who recently completed his PhD from La Trobe, along with other community members.


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

#WFH and the important stuff (Amy Baxter)

Image provided by the author | All rights reserved

Anyone working as a research scientist with young kids is familiar with the constant pull between wanting to give both your work and parenting 100%, yet never feeling like you are anywhere close to succeeding.

So, what happens when you force scientists away from their lab work and into a ‘kids 24/7’ situation without warning?

For me, the truth is that in many ways it has actually been pretty great.

BUT, before I go into all the gushy reasons why not being able to escape my darling children for five weeks straight has actually been somewhat of a blessing, I’m also not going to pretend it hasn’t been stressful.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

3 things I learnt about PhD supervision from midwives (Lauren Gawne)

Image by Nadir sYzYgY | unsplash.com

I was really fortunate to get to hang out with some amazing midwives when I was pregnant in 2018.

Not only did they help me through pregnancy, birth and first first couple of hazy weeks with a tiny human, they also gave me a lot to think about when it comes to PhD supervision.

Here are three things that I noticed good midwives do, which I now try to bring to my PhD supervision processes!

Support is person-specific


One of the midwives helped me navigate a pregnancy moment by reading through and explaining the Cochrane report on the topic. She knew that the best way to reassure me was to let me see the research and evidence and talk through a plan. That doesn’t mean she’d do the same for the next person to walk in. Another person might prefer a simple set of options, yet another might not have the space to engage with that issue at that moment.

One person’s ideal birth plan is another person’s idea of a bad time. The best midwives made people aware of the options and then supported them to make the best decisions for themselves and their babies.

The PhD experience is also incredibly varied (as nicely articulated in this Thesis Whisperer post from Ellie Wood). You can’t engage with all of your students in exactly the same way and expect they’ll all perform exactly the same.

As a supervisor, you have a good idea of the road ahead for a project. It's your job to help your student come up with the navigation plan that best fits with their habits and preferences while pointing out the obstacles.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Research life during Singapore's COVID-19 ‘circuit breaker’ (Lester Jones)

The view from Lester's desk 
RED Alert is running a series of posts where we hear from La Trobe graduate researchers who are (for lots of reasons) outside of Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next up, I invited Lester Jones, who is undertaking a PhD at the Judith Lumley Centre to share his thoughts on working and finishing off his PhD from Singapore.

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I am working in Singapore while completing my PhD studies part-time. This tiny island state – 50km by 27km - was initially seen as the exemplar of how to manage the threat of COVID-19. It did great. From early on we were required to declare our good health two times a day, accompanied by body temperature readings. Temperature checks were extended to other businesses including restaurants and hair salons but we were more or less unrestricted in our activities.

I was stopped one day, after a short but hot walk in the equatorial sun, at the National University of Singapore. I ended up in the ‘hot zone’ – the hot zone being the cordoned off area for those with suspect temperature readings. A place for feeling judged I found out! The gatekeepers were very polite and suggested I take a seat and they would reassess in a few minutes but I was not going to be touching or sitting on anything in the hot-zone! The few minutes was all it took to cool my temperature and I was on my way.


Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Virtual Shut Up and Write: Zooming in with the cheer squad (Jeanette Fyffe and SUAW participants)

The Arthur Voaden Secondary School, St. Thomas- Cheer Squad, 1965. Elgin County Archives.
When I (Jeanette Fyffe) became the manager of RED in 2013, the very first program I set up was our weekly Shut Up and Write (SUAW) group. 

Our first meeting was in the Borchardt Library on Thursday morning 9:30-12:00. Since then, through the actions of our brilliant La Trobe researcher community, we have opened SUAW chapters on every campus and weekly on Twitter. 

Now, as we respond to COVID-19, we have evolved the provision again to allow us to offer a fully online SUAW program. Led by a team of generous researchers across the university, we have 20 hours of SUAW sessions available every week. 

The shift to online SUAW has been pretty smooth: we still have the collegial productivity; we still have the gentle accountability; and we still have the shared connection to our values as researchers - to nudge the boundaries of knowledge ever forward. What we have added is an expanded community. We can now write with colleagues we hardly ever see without even having to take off our slippers. As one participant said last week “Shut Up and Write is like a silent cheer squad”. 

What does a “silent cheer squad” feel like? In this post, some regular attendees at our virtual SUAW sessions offer their reflections on shutting up and writing during the pandemic. 

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Allira Hanczakowski - PhD candidate, Italian Studies

I used to think that I mainly went to SUAW for the coffee and chats, but now that we have to provide our own hot beverage, I realise that there’s a lot more to it! It has been a constant in my weekly routine since I started my PhD, so maintaining one part of normality amidst the chaos has been wonderful. The familiar, friendly faces on the screen each week foster a feeling of connectivity and community, albeit now a virtual one. It’s always about turning up, and sitting down at the desk, and knowing that others are doing the same. For me, that’s the hardest part of the WFH (work from home) situation. While I don’t have children or other responsibilities requiring my immediate attention, my family and partner are far away, so sitting by myself can get really lonely. And sitting down is hard (because baking, doing washing, and going for an extra run is far more fun). So, for me, virtual SUAW provides that space to just sit down, and be alone but not lonely- it truly is a magical space! I always look forward to SUAW, not only because I get to see other peoples’ cute pets and virtual backgrounds, but because I know it’s going to be great, uninterrupted writing time.

Thank YOU and thank you to the RED team for the continued enthusiasm and support. You are all appreciated and valued more than you’ll ever know!

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Doing my PhD at home in the Philippines during Covid-19 (Andrew Albert Ty)



















In some upcoming posts we are going to hear from La Trobe graduate researchers who are (for lots of reasons) outside of Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Next up, I invited Andrew Albert Ty, who is undertaking a collaborative PhD at La Trobe while based at Ateneo de Manila University. Candidates enrolled in a collaborative PhD at La Trobe University undertake research while based predominantly at a partner institution and graduate with a PhD awarded by La Trobe University.

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Jamie from the RED team has asked me to share my COVID-19 story. Here are some of my thoughts from where I am in Manila.

I am part of an international cohort of La Trobe graduate researchers who are based in the Philippines. This means that using Zoom for supervisor meetings and RED team workshops and seminars is a built-in feature of my HDR experience. In mid-March of this year, my acting supervisor sent a group email to students and staff, easing us in to the online transition. In that message, my cohort was mentioned as being “ahead of the curve” when it comes to working remotely. I still wonder how ahead of the curve we might actually be!

Since starting my PhD in August 2019, I have experienced several awkward video-conferencing moments. I have confidently discussed my thesis topic on mute; I have sneezed in rapid succession without muting. My kids have attended several meetings behind my back, and the time-zone difference between Melbourne and Manila led me to go online at the tail-end of one session. I guess what I am saying is that I have already made some of the awkward adjustments to graduate researcher life on Zoom!


Tuesday, 5 May 2020

On pandemic lockdown while away from home (Sandi James)


In some upcoming RED Alert posts we are going to be hearing from La Trobe graduate researchers who are (for lots of different reasons) outside of Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. To begin this series, I invited Sandi James to tell us about her experience of sheltering in the UK after arriving for a conference. 

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This is the weirdest situation I have been in. Ever. And I have been in some weird situations before.

Originally, I came to the UK to present at a conference and a short 10 day visit to Ireland. I arrived in Ireland on the 8th March. It’s now the beginning of May and I am still here in the UK. I’ve lived and worked in South East Asia for the past 7 years, other than a recent 6 month stint back in Australia, so Malaysia is my home. My plan was to return to Malaysia where, on 30th March, I was meant to resume my posting as a Senior Lecturer in the Medical Faculty of a University there. That plan is temporarily on hold for now as I can’t get into Malaysia until the country’s borders are reopened.

So here I am.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Making peace with uncertainty… and getting your PhD done, too (Laena D'Alton)

Photo by Toa Heftiba | unsplash.com


I have a chronic illness, so I always knew that my PhD journey would be difficult.

I commenced my candidature four years ago and, since then, there have also been heartbreaking bereavements and other medical issues. I’ll be honest. My PhD has been the easiest part of my PhD journey.

And now there’s COVID-19.

We are all living in a new world of limitations, with a loss of freedom, lack of control, and bucket-loads of uncertainty. We are all concerned about the present. How do we survive physically, emotionally and financially? How do we support others?

At the same time, we fear for the future. What will it look like? Will we be able to graduate or get a job?

The burden of all these unknowns is exhausting. But, as a chronically ill person, I am very well acquainted with feelings of limitation and uncertainty. I have lived with them for years.

Starting a PhD and researching from home (Cecilia Bravo)

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar | unsplash.com

Perhaps the greatest challenge for me at this time is being able to sustain mindfulness in the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s happening everywhere can make us feel daunted and disheartened.

A particular worry for me is being unable to see or support my family in person if anything went wrong as I’m 15,000 km away from them.

Associated with the challenge of keeping a healthy mind, there is the occasional difficulty of balancing time between focusing on my research and having time for other activities, especially leisure, and keeping in touch with family and friends online in Peru. I am a first-year international PhD researcher.

I believe that sometimes we can hurt ourselves by thinking too much about certain things.

So, what do I do? I keep myself busy with various activities. Cooking and going out for a gentle walk or run have proved to be most helpful so far. After doing these activities, I usually feel more motivated and focused to keep working on my research, and I’ve been trying to run my own Shut-Up-And-Write sessions at home at least twice a week as it helps me to better understand and organise all the content I’m gathering in my research.

As well, the following approaches and activities help me maintain my mindfulness and live more anxiety-free days, and I hope they might be helpful to you, too.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Let's talk about writing (Gerald Roche)

This project, supported by the Research Culture Fund (RCF), is an excellent initiative to build writing culture in a School among researchers from different career stages and fields of interest. One of the things that connects us all in academia is the writing - and the anxieties around writing!

The RCF scheme is currently open for applications and closes 4 May. All La Trobe academic staff are welcome to apply - we are keen to see how creative you get, given our current working context!

For graduate researchers, the Intellectual Climate Fund (ICFhas similar aims and exactly the same deadline! 

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Photo by Claudio Schwarz Purlbaum | unsplash.com
You’re under lockdown, and with nowhere to go and nothing to do, you’re writing up a storm, churning out a flood of elegant, insightful prose.

😂

Yeah, no.

At least, I’m not. But I am finding myself thinking a lot about writing.

In part that’s because I’m in lockdown with my son, who has just started writing. We’ve been encouraging him to do so for a while, but he never really took to it until after lockdown started.

It began with a list of demands. He showed up with a sheet of paper in his hand, over which he’d used felt pen to chisel a series of improvised spellings in jagged capitals for things he needed, like ninja stars. And he more or less hasn’t stopped since then, copying out Lego serial numbers, or making lists of games we should play.

I’d already agreed to write this post - which is about academic writing - when all of this began, but I didn’t see the connection between my son’s writing and what I wanted to say until today.

Which is that academic writing is two things at once: intensely idiosyncratic and inherently social.

Great advice from a 'Careers in science' panel (Jemma Gasperoni, Jordyn Thomas, and Keaton Crosse)

This project, supported by the Intellectual Climate Fund (ICF), is a great example of how a few scholars can collaborate and create a tailored event that's of value for the area's graduate researcher cohort. Thanks to the convenors for sharing their event report and the gems of advice from the panel about careers in science. 

This scheme is currently open for applications and closes 4 May. We'd love to see what you come up with - get creative! 

For academic staff, the Research Culture Fund (RCF) has similar aims and exactly the same deadline! 

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After about 20 years of schooling and tertiary education, making the next BIG step into full-time employment can seem daunting for many graduate researchers!

Recognising this common anxiety among graduate researchers, the PAM HDR student society organised a Careers in Science and networking evening with the aim of helping their peers assess options for their post-graduation life.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Making the most of an online workshop (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by gotdaflow | unsplash.com
The RED team wrote a quick guide recently about using Zoom for our workshops and events.

I realised I had quite a few other things to say about how to be a good video conferencing citizen that didn’t quite fit on that 2-pager.

Now, for those of you who don’t know about the Zoom-pocalypse, a short bit of context: since the advent of the pandemic, and encouragement to work from home and exhortations to practice social distancing, many of us are working from home and away from each other. For events, then, this means we’re mostly dependent on Zoom, a video-conferencing platform to which La Trobe is subscribed.

Most of us are feeling over-Zoomed, and some of us have never loved the computer-mediated ‘connections’ that are now our only way to keep in contact with our colleagues and communities.

As this form of communicating and teaching has become the new normal, here are some strategies for being a good Zoom participant:

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Check 1, 2: Tips for sounding good online (Dan Bendrups)

The author, hard at work in the recording studio
Over the last few weeks, most academics’ responses to COVID-19 have involved the transformation of teaching material to be delivered remotely, and adjusting to the new web-based normal for graduate research supervision, meetings, and other gatherings. For me, fragments from years of professional development sessions in online learning have come flashing back as I’ve rushed to get fully online, though I’m sure I’m probably missing some crucial points, and I’ve got a new appreciation for colleagues who have this as their normal way of working.

Now that the pressure of the initial scramble is receding, I’ve been thinking about some of the finer details of web-mediated interaction, in particular, the importance of sound. Teaching and meetings are fundamentally verbal activities, and our students and colleagues glean a great deal of subtle information from our tone of voice, our pitch, intonation, timbre, volume, and overall vocal delivery. These things are affected by the online environment. Vision is also important, but as many will attest, when the bandwidth gets narrow, the video feed is the first thing to go. So, there’s something to be said for taking a moment to think about how to improve what we sound like online.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Being a PhD researcher in a digital world (Carolyn Leslie)

Carolyn Leslie is a PhD researcher in the Department of Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University, Australia. She is doing a creative-led PhD by writing a novel for young people about girl internees in Changi during World War II who made a quilt in secret, as well as an accompanying critical component. Carolyn is also an accredited editor and an author of works for young people and adults. 

She can be found @carolynleslie on Twitter. Her ORCID is 0000-0001-7622-1975.

Note: Carolyn wrote this post before COVID-19 restrictions came into effect. Because so much has changed in the intervening time, she has written an update that addresses some of the challenges that these restrictions are having on higher degree researchers. Her update appears at the end of this post. This post is simultaneously cross-posted on the Research Whisperer blog. 



Photo by Mike Erskine | unsplash.com 
During last year, I found myself drawn to attend several workshops run by La Trobe's Research Education and Development (RED) team. They had topics such as blogging and developing a digital profile. My interests sprang from a desire to get my research and writing on girl internees in Changi during World War II – and my wider interests in the editing and publishing worlds – out into the wider world.

However, kept coming up against an existential blockage: what sort of ‘me’ did I want to be when I’m out there in the digital world? And who did I want to connect with? Who did I want to share my work, words and thoughts with?

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Why journal clubs matter (Corina Modderman and Carol Reid)


From LEFT to RIGHT:
Emma MacDonald (La Trobe Rural Health School, Bendigo), Sire Camara (La Trobe Arts program, Shepparton), Nicole McGill (Charles Stuart University), Carol Reid (Judith Lumley Centre, Bundoora), Suzanne Muntz (Shepparton Research Network / Librarian, Shepparton), Corina Modderman (La Trobe Rural Health school, Albury/Wodonga), and Dr Phuc Nguyen (Business School, Shepparton campus)

Rurality and developing reflexive interdisciplinary research skills can make for an incongruous situation!

Researchers need skills in critical thinking, debating, and learning through discussion across multidisciplinary contexts. Living rurally means this occurs through either virtual platforms or involves long travel distances. Rural PhD candidates often find themselves appraising, thinking, reflecting and writing in isolation; we talk to ourselves (A LOT).

Regional and rural campuses present opportunities to come together to address academic isolation, having a purpose to connect help make these opportunities real. Introducing a journal club at the La Trobe Shepparton campus offered exactly such a reflective, regional research space.

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!
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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.
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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.

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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.