All posts by fc328

Highlights from the 2024 PG Conference by Tommy Cheale

On July 3rd, the Graduate Researcher College hosted the annual PG conference.  Thanks to the hard work of organisers Thomas Cheale and Edoardo Peroni, the School of Mathematics, Statistics, and Actuarial Science (SMSAS) sessions were a resounding success, consisting of discussions, great talks and interactive sessions.

The day started with registration and coffee, giving everyone a chance to settle in. In the first session, we heard two fascinating talks. Edoardo Peroni gave an introduction to soliton theory, and James Bradshaw followed with an interesting talk on kink collisions, complete with videos and graphics.

Session two shifted towards interactive mathematics experiments. Morgan Reese demonstrated the theory of vortices with a water tank and home-made vortex generators made from plastic bottles. Then, Thomas Cheale led an interactive statistical experiment using randomised response techniques to estimate how many audience members didn’t like their supervisors, while keeping answers confidential. Finally, Painos Chitanga introduced the game N-pile Nim and showed how to use maths to win it.

The third session consisted of an industry panel with three former PhD students who shared their experiences and gave advice. Javier Aguilar Martin talked about moving from academia to the private sector and how to effectively leverage a PhD in industry. Lucy Barnes shared her journey working as a civil servant and starting her own company. She gave tips on managing work-life balance. Jack McKenna discussed the different paths into academia after a PhD and emphasized the growing importance of teaching.

We ended the day with a poster session featuring the work of current SMSAS students. Special thanks to Rogerio de Lemos for printing the posters. Amy Klintberg’s poster, titled “When Midnight is an Odd Number: The Mersenne Composites That Are Revealed in mod(Odd),” won the award for best poster in the division of Computing, Engineering, and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS).

The 2024 PG Conference at SMSAS was a success, thanks to Thomas Cheale and Edoardo Peroni, as well as everyone who participated. It was an opportunity to learn, share, and connect with others in our field.

GradPost Article: ADHD Awareness by Aaliyah Fooks

October marks ADHD awareness month. I was diagnosed with ADHD in the summer. At just twenty, this came in the middle of my undergraduate studies. I was in the middle of finishing my second year, part-way through a research internship, and trying to balance part-time work, full-time study, and a relationship.

Although my diagnosis was not that long ago, I am still learning about myself in this new context. I want to share my story to allow others to seek help and treatment for whatever issues they may be facing, not just ADHD.

Before my diagnosis, I spent my whole life thinking that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I could never comprehend why I did not have any friends or was so annoying, chatty, fidgety, and bossy. As a young teenager, my ‘unique personality’ left me very lonely, with little to no close friendships that did not include some form of indirect bullying.

The photo shows me a six or seven years old, the way I was for most of my childhood, lonely, with only my much older sister to keep me company. This photo was taken by her, on the beach.

Anxiety about all of the above only made things worse – I constantly anguished about being different and lonely, primarily as a teen – I worked hard to come off as ‘normal’. I always feared that the rug would be pulled out from underneath me at any moment, and my carefully curated persona would be removed like a mask.

Confusion and a lack of understanding of ADHD in women and girls led me to write off my symptoms for many years, attributing my difficulties to anxiety and depression.

For me understanding my ADHD has been a bit of a process. It was like a switch turning on and shedding so much light on myself.
As a child, I always knew that I was different. I was called “fidgety”, and family members referred to me as “away with the fairies”.

Subconsciously, I think I was always aware it was something more. In primary school, I was called a “chatterbox”, a “blabbermouth” who would blurt out answers, and a “know-it-all”. I remember my report card was always: “Aaliyah is a pleasure to teach, but she needs to chat less”. But since my work was always finished and often correct, I never got in trouble for my chattiness.

These were qualities that, as a child, I associated with my favourite character, Hermione Granger, and continue to see as a strength.

Even though I constantly felt like a failure, no one around me saw me for that. “But you’re so put together!” I’d hear. If only they knew the excruciating effort, it took for me to appear normal.

My life only started to ‘fall apart’ once I started university. The first of the ‘dominoes’ was a culture shock. I began my degree in September 2020. This was a massive step up, and because of the pandemic, there was no structure. My social insecurities and anxieties suddenly emerged, and government-bound isolation made friendships extremely difficult. Like most first-year university students, I was struggling with time management.

First, I sought assistance through my university’s disability service. ADHD came up by chance. We discussed my mental health and any previous treatment or diagnosis I had received. In one of the forms I had filled out when I was applying to university, I spoke about my previous attempt to be diagnosed with ADHD. The team member then recommended that I complete a non-diagnostic online quiz that the team uses to refer students to proper methods of diagnosis. I remember completing the quiz that evening with my partner, looking at him once I had gotten the results of ADHD combined type and saying, “what do we do now?”.

Google-ing, and a lot of it. There are droves of articles just like this online that I read and immediately identified with the image that these authors drew from their own experiences of the little girl who:
Has difficulty sitting still
Has trouble concentrating or focusing
Has difficulty staying organised
Is chronically forgetful
Struggles with tasks incompletion
Struggles to relax and unwind as their mind is constantly on the go
Is a high achiever but struggles with perfectionism
Feels overwhelmed and shy at a social gathering but can end up talking over people as you are nervous
Drifts during conversations unless you’re the one speaking or it’s a topic you find very interesting
Struggles with friendships because social rules seem complicated
Had so much energy and liked to be busy – but later in life, you are just exhausted and burning out
I couldn’t believe there was a name for everything I was feeling and experiencing.

This explained so much – every symptom was another finger on my hand, another tick off the list. I couldn’t believe there was a name for everything I was feeling and experiencing, let alone medication and dedicated therapies.

When I decided to begin the diagnosis process, I decided to tell some of my close friends and family about what I was doing. The question that was asked most frequently, not just by friends and family members but also by doctors, was “why now?”. A lot of the time, I would answer that I want to know and understand my brain and myself better.

On some level, I was ashamed.

But I think I knew what the outcome of this would be, and I skirted around the issue of an ADHD diagnosis because, on some level, I was ashamed. I had always been an intelligent, high-achieving child that my family didn’t have to worry about. Here I was telling them that maybe they should have been worried. Perhaps they should have paid closer attention to the independent child who would sit and read for hours.

When talking to my psychiatrist, one of the things we spoke about was the question of “why now”. One of the most illuminating factors in my ADHD journey was higher education and the difference in the structure that it brings. And he assured me that this was a common catalyst for people of a similar age to me to realise that they might need help.

A day I will never forget is 22nd June 2022, roughly two weeks after my sit-down conversation with the psychiatrist, I received a mammoth document. The final sentence of that document will stay with me for the rest of my life:

“In summary, Ms Fooks has a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

My first instinct was to call my partner, who had been by my side throughout this journey. I remember he picked up the phone; he didn’t say anything. I exhaled nearly in tears and told him, “I have ADHD”.

The more information I read, the more I understood. But with this understanding came anger. I could not help but think: “Why was this missed?”. I often asked my partner if he thought that if I had been diagnosed as a child my mental health would not require as much work as it currently does. Had I been done a disservice? How did all these responsible adults in my life, including family members who were teachers, miss such a crucial part of what made up me? I wondered if my life would have been drastically different if I had known. Would I have struggled to make friendships as much? Would I have spent so many years confused, conflicted, and depressed because I felt I was missing something?

I didn’t understand anything about my life until this point in many aspects.

My partner lifted the curtain of anger that immediately followed my diagnosis. Although at the time I did not want to hear it, he told me exactly what I needed to hear at that moment: “Love, you can’t change the past. You can’t say for certain if you had known that would have changed anything. You need to focus on what you can do and what you can change. Look at everything that you have achieved despite everything.”

For me, this is not just about my mental health but also about understanding myself and being kind to my inner child. Throughout this process, I placed a lot of stress on my inner child because I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand anything about my life until this point in many aspects.

My diagnosis has permitted me to be kinder to myself. It has allowed me to structure my life and degree to work for me. It would be wrong of me to say that this was an easy journey, it wasn’t, and it isn’t. If anything, this is an ongoing process and a very emotional one. But thanks to a vibrant online community of women with ADHD, and the unconditional support of my partner, I feel understood, seen, and part of a community for possibly the first time in my life.
These are their accounts:

Annual Postgraduate Conference 2024 – Bookings now open!

We are delighted to announce that the Annual Postgraduate Conference,  taking place on Wednesday 3 July, in Sibson and Kennedy is NOW OPEN for bookings.

Book your spot now via your Target Connect account!

This year, the Graduate and Researcher College (GRC) will be collaborating with the Division of Arts and Humanities, the Division of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, Kent Business School and the Division of Natural Sciences to celebrate our postgraduate researcher community.

This is an excellent opportunity to attend talks, take part in interactive workshops, learn from colleagues, a chance to view research posters – there are even GRC prizes to be won too!

There will be an awards ceremony and buffet lunch provided – an excellent opportunity to network.

Further session information and programme to followkeep your eyes peeled for our emails.

Don’t delay, book your place here today!

Graduate and Researcher College Prizes 2024

The Graduate and Researcher College are delighted to announce that this year’s GRC Prizes competition is now open, and we are accepting nominations for 2024!

The GRC Prizes were established to recognize and encourage the exceptional efforts and achievements of the university’s graduate researchers.

This initiative not only highlights the outstanding contributions made by these talented individuals but also serves as a testament to the university’s commitment to fostering a vibrant and supportive research community.

This year’s winners will receive a £200 prize, and the two runners up will each receive a £75 prize!

More information on the website and nomination forms are here.

GradPost Article: Research Compassion, Inspires and Hope by Octavia Whiteley

When I did my Psychology undergrad here, I said I never wanted to do research because I’m an aspiring Clinical Psychologist. I never had a burning passion for any particular area of my degree. I just knew I loved clinical psychology and wanted to help people.

Then came my Masters, I met a transman friend the summer before, and I started getting interested in transgender individuals. I didn’t realise at the time, part of my interest stemmed from I was trans myself, but I didn’t know the language to describe what I had always felt.

My Masters gave me a chance to research a clinical population I was interested in, because I knew there were a lot of negative mental health outcomes for transgender individuals. Not because of them or something being “wrong” with them. That isn’t true at all. Instead, the negative outcomes come from societal and social factors typically more than the gender dysphoria itself.

This is why supporting trans people, affirming their gender identity and just being a good human being is so important.

That’s why I research transgender mental health through how Chosen Names (so how using a name that reflects your gender identity) and wearing gender-wearing clothing improves mental health. I have compassion for trans people considering how demonised, discriminated, and targeted they are in the media for no fault of their own. Trans people just want to live their lives in peace and have their gender on the outside reflect how they feel on the inside.

My research, my exploration of my own gender as non-binary and continuing to meet so many amazing trans people inspired me to keep researching and supporting trans people. I want to produce good, high-quality research that can make a positive impact on their lives. Since that’s the point of clinical psychology and my results have given me hope.

Hope for a better future where trans people can get more support, understanding and acceptance.

And that’s because of a passion for research, so if you have a passion you want to explore, don’t deny it.

Express it, enjoy it and carry it out. You never know where it’s going to lead you on your postgrad journey.

GradPost article written by Octavia Whiteley.