All posts by Katia Rahman

3MT 2024 Reflections by Kent Winner Becky McNeill

Hi! My name is Becky and I am a second-year PhD student studying Forensic Psychology at Kent. My research focuses on exploring a new theory of paedophilia which suggests that this sexual interest falls into two pathways: one that is more biologically created, and another that is more environmentally created. I am using a combination of questionnaires, scales, and interviews to gain an idea of how a sexual interest in pre-pubescent children develops, and how it is perceived by those who have it.

I entered the 3MT competition after seeing it advertised and being encouraged by my supervisor to take part. Since I haven’t had the chance to attend many conferences so far in my PhD, I haven’t really been able to showcase my research or practise my presentation skills, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to do so. Even if you are lucky enough to attend plenty of conferences during your studies, the 3MT competition is a great chance to demonstrate an ability to present your research in a clear, succinct manner to an audience who may not be experts in your field, or may not even be that familiar with it at all. Once I started practising my talk, I realised just how short a time 3 minutes is to try and get across something that I’d been working on for nearly 2 years!

 

Some advice I would give to those considering taking part:

  • One way I found helpful was to imagine that I was at a social event meeting strangers, and they had asked me what my PhD topic focuses on. That way, I could figure out how I could explain it in a simple manner, while getting across the important information.
  • Draft a speech to start with – even if it is in bullet points, this will form the basis of the speech and make sure you are hitting the key points that are outlined in the guidance for 3MT. Only focus on the really key parts – it might be tempting to go into detail, particularly with complex research, but that’s part of the challenge: how well can you present your PhD to someone who doesn’t study your subject, in a very short period of time?
  • Read it aloud while timing yourself – it’s best to not look at the timer while doing this as it can be quite off-putting! This will give you a good idea of whether you are way over or under in terms of time, and you can tweak your speech accordingly
  • Even if you don’t have solid findings yet, or feel as though your research isn’t quite developed enough, that’s fine! I didn’t have any findings at the time I applied for 3MT, and I presented what I expected to find
  • If you have the opposite problem, and you have too many things to talk about in your speech, that’s fine too! I only spoke about one part of my research as I wouldn’t have had time to talk about the other part – the judges don’t need to know every aspect of your PhD, just a bit of it is enough, and they are focusing on your ability to present your research clearly, enthusiastically, and professionally
  • Try to think about the really key parts of your research when creating your slide. I found the slide one of the hardest parts, and in the end I went for a very simple, fairly vague message, which I explained in my speech. There are various approaches you can take to creating your slide, which are in the guidance resources for 3MT, so I definitely recommend taking a look at them. The main thing is to make sure you don’t overcrowd your slide or make it look dull; the judges won’t want to read a lot of text alongside you talking, and things like images are more eye-catching than a graph or table!
  • It doesn’t have to take ages, for those who might be worried about balancing 3MT alongside their studies – I would honestly say it took me longer trying to perfect my powerpoint slide than creating and recording my speech!

The 3MT competition is a great chance to demonstrate an ability to present your research in a clear, succinct manner to an audience who may not be experts in your field, or may not even be that familiar with it at all.

I was thrilled to hear I had won the Kent competition, and after doing so, I was very pleased to receive the prize (£200!), and my entry has been submitted to the UK semi-finals for the national 3MT competition. While I don’t know yet the outcome of the semi-finals, it is fantastic to have got this far, and I will at least be able to say that I was a contender in the UK semi-finals for the 3MT competition. Taking part in something like this will look great on a CV in terms of showcasing presentation skills – not only to a room full of experts in the field at a conference, but to a lay audience with a very strict time constraint.

I would thoroughly recommend taking part – you never know, you could be the next UK 3MT winner!

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition 2024 – University of Kent

The University of Kent recently hosted its annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, an event that highlights the innovative spirit and academic excellence within the institution. The 3MT competition challenges postgraduates to present a compelling spoken presentation on their research and its significance in just three minutes. This year’s competition was absolutely outstanding, bringing out the diverse and revolutionary work being conducted by the university’s researchers.
Celebrating the runner-up: Olasunkanmi Arowolo
The competition showcased the remarkable work of Olasunkanmi Arowolo, Centre for Journalism, the runner-up, whose research explores the role of traditional media and social media in the context of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) in Nigeria, specifically focusing on the press and social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter).
Celebrating the winner: Becky McNeill
Emerging as the winner of the competition was Becky McNeill, School of Psychology, whose presentation topic was “An exploration of the Compositional Explanatory Theory of Paedophilia”. Becky’s innovative approach could help shape treatment for those convicted of sexual offences against children, and provide better understanding and support for those who do not act on their interests.
The 3MT competition at the University of Kent is more than just a contest; it is a celebration of innovation and knowledge where postgraduates have a fantastic opportunity to cultivate academic, presentation, and research communication skills. The competition is a reminder of the astounding potential within the academic community and the importance of sharing knowledge and expertise in ways that inspire the world around us.

Celebrating Excellence: The Global Skills Award Ceremony 2024

The Global Skills Award Ceremony took place on 11 June 2024, recognising the outstanding achievements of postgraduate taught students who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to enhancing their global awareness and employability.

The GSA, an initiative designed to foster a deeper understanding of global issues and improve the employability of students through a series of engaging workshops and postgraduate talks, has once again showcased the dedication and hard work of students from diverse backgrounds.

The Global Skills Award programme is a unique opportunity for PGT students to broaden their horizons and develop essential skills that are highly valued in today’s global job market. By attending a variety of workshops and postgraduate talks, students are exposed to a wealth of knowledge and perspectives that prepare them for the challenges of a globalised world. These sessions cover a multitude of topics, including intercultural communication, leadership skills, consequences of conspiracy beliefs, the benefits of biodiversity for our health and wellbeing, the future of AI and much more. The flexibility of the programme allows students to choose sessions that align with their interests and career goals, making the learning experience both personalised and impactful.

The GSA Awards Ceremony 2024 was filled with excitement, pride, and a sense of accomplishment. Congratulations to all the 2024 Global Skills Award recipients! Your achievements inspire us all.

Researcher reflections on the Career Planning Beyond Academia Retreat 2024 by Richi Mohanty

“You are not alone!”

This is the message of solidarity and shared experiences that resonated with me during the two-day ‘Career Beyond Academia Retreat’ organised by Graduate Researcher College.

Every day, we start with a blank page and aim to fill it with our opinions, findings, and analyses. Hidden behind our screens, we type away a million words. ‘Scroll and click’, ‘copy and paste’, and ‘delete and undo’ are our best friends. A PhD journey is a solo journey, with researchers facing their anxieties, doubts, and reflections in isolation. As we reach the end of this journey, we find ourselves pondering the following steps while navigating the complexities of our current state.

As researchers, we are taught to question the status quo, appreciate the knowledge, distil information into meaningful insights and produce something coherent, applicable or valuable. However, in the process, we often forget to balance the needs of our research with those of ours. The retreat helped bring focus back to our strengths and skills by providing a safe space to self-reflect as a group and encourage each other. It focused on two main aspects: the ability to identify our skills (direct and indirect) and how to articulate them effectively in our CVs and cover letters.

The retreat helped bring focus back to our strengths and skills by providing a safe space to self-reflect as a group and encourage each other.

Starting with an energising group exercise, we quickly got to know each other in the room and formed a strong sense of group. From understanding the skills we’ve accumulated during our PhD to learning to voice our career aspirations clearly, the first day was spent translating our research-specific knowledge into industry-relevant essential skills. With interactive exercises that fostered group collaboration and communication, we discussed common topics like procrastination, self-worth and goals. My biggest takeaway from the day was acknowledging my accomplishment as a PhD researcher, documented in the form of a short story, and the five values I cherish (using an individual card-sorting exercise). Though seemingly simple, these small tasks, separate from research activities, were fundamental to the day as they provided an objective perspective of our individual experiences and visions. The individual CV review sessions (I had a revelation!) and pizza dinner were the cherry on top of the exceptional first day.

Having had much to think about and reflect on from the first day, the Yoga session to start the second day was a great way to calm our busy minds ahead of another action-packed day. While the first day had been about identifying our vision, objectives, and values (regarding the next steps and in general), the second day was about working on actionable steps to achieve these goals. The main aim was to tackle the omnipresent question we all felt: how do our previous experience/ education and current PhD skills combine to respond to a job application/ description? Often, while working solely on one (PhD) project for an extended period, we become short-sighted and focus on the immediate actions and skills we’ve utilised to produce our thesis. However, gathering evidence of our skills across the timeline (using prompts provided by the facilitator), discussing it with our peers and then using the STAR method to craft our success stories to add to our CVs or cover letters shed a different light on our skills and achievements.

Although, as PhD students, we might sometimes struggle to negotiate or use influence in communication and interaction, we are also resilient and self-motivated (mostly!). The three “Get Ready for Job” stations, that is, LinkedIn, CV, and networking station, helped us understand this and articulate it in industry-friendly language. With a “how-to” for an active LinkedIn profile, practical examples of CV responses to job descriptions and tips for ‘staying in touch’ (networking), I felt more equipped to tackle my job application process. My biggest learning that day was that I’m not a PhD student but a PhD researcher with experience.

As the day ended, I left the room feeling a bit more confident about myself, connected with others, and generally positive.

Whether I move beyond academia or stay within this realm, the retreat helped me understand what values drive me and, thus, what work would bring the most meaning to me.

I know this is said often but equally often forgotten, “Do the Job you want to!” and that is what the retreat helped me remember.

Goodbye for now. But let’s stay in touch!

Researcher reflections on the Career Planning Beyond Academia Retreat 2024 by Nick Von Behr

I attended this excellent event for two days of stimulating activities designed to help finishing PhD students at the University of Kent work out their next steps in employment outside academia. We were hosted by the Graduate and Researcher College and the Careers Department, as well as an external facilitator, who all kept us literally on our toes from the first morning session of the conference.

We started with group interactive sessions that helped break down any initial nerves and introduce us to each other in a light-hearted way. Then we were asked to challenge our conventional thinking and reflect on how this had shaped our own approaches to our lives and careers. After that we set about recognising and converting the skills we had acquired during our PhDs so that we might become more desirable employees.

There was plenty of team work during the day, an important work-related skill, as well as an increasing focus on our ideals and values for the perfect job. We were invited to set ourselves big challenges for the future, stretching our imagination. All this hard work was topped off with pizzas and one-to-one sessions with advisors – mine helped me tailor my CV better to the needs of future non-academic employees, who don’t want pages of detail (like mini theses), but focused messages.

On the second day of the conference some of us first relaxed in a yoga session, while the rest joined them afterwards to reflection on our collective achievements on Day 1, which seemed considerable! We then examined our transferable skills in more detail to see how they could be highlighted in job applications, particularly covering letters, using the STAR(R) method (situation, task, action, result and reflection). This was followed by sessions on:

  • making the most of Linked In as a search tool for career opportunities;
  • assessing model CVs and cover letters to understand better the employer perspective, and;
  • networking approaches to connecting more and building closer relationships with key people who might have a decisive impact on your career.

Having been an engaged student member of my own specialist international associations for the length of my doctoral studies, I would certainly recommend this as a good way of networking widely, even globally if that fits your career needs.

But for me one of the simplest but stand out features of the whole conference was having to write a letter to myself which would be posted to my home address. What would I tell my other self in three months? What was I expecting to have changed as a result of all this new knowledge gradually seeping in over time?

Nick von Behr, Doctoral Researcher, University of Kent School of Architecture, Design and Planning

Your postgrad stories for vouchers

Kent Postgrads – we need to hear about your positive experience as a Master’s or PhD student. Send in a short video or blog and earn yourself some Amazon vouchers or funds on your KentOne card.

We’re looking for new and fresh content for our upcoming marketing campaign, and we know potential students love to hear from our current students. Our postgraduate community are an amazing diverse bunch with some interesting stories, so we’d love to hear yours.

Here are a few key themes below, if your story fits one of these profiles, please do get in touch.

  • Budget and money managing – how are you managing your money? How has Kent supported you especially during the cost of living crisis
  • What does an average week of study look like for a Master’s student – how many hours a week do  you study? What days are you on campus? How do you manage your time?
  • Studying for a Master’s whilst working – how are you managing the work, study and life balance ?
  • Are you a postgraduate student who has young children? – How do you balance study and childcare? Do you use the creche facilities on campus? Have you been given any additional support?
  • Do you commute to campus for your degree? How easy is the campus to get to? How often do you need to come in?  Are there certain discounts you receive?
  • Do you live on campus? Why did you choose to stay on campus? How are the facilities? How is the postgraduate community on campus? How much does it cost? Are there any benefits or perks of staying on campus?
  • We’re you worried before doing a Master’s? How have you been supported in your studies at Kent? How did you overcome your concerns?
  • Did you receive a scholarship? What was the application process like? How did you prepare for your studies ?

Content we would need, either of the following:

Blog post – Ideally up to 500 words with an image of you as the author (head to shoulder shot) and up to two relevant images.

Video post – Ideally 60 second video clip in portrait format with a Kent backdrop i.e. on campus, society club, etc.

You will also need to sign a consent form for use of your images on the Kent website and marketing channels.

Deadline for student stories will be 30 December 2023.

If you’d like to share your story and earn Amazon vouchers or funds on your KentOne Card, please contact Yasmine from Marketing. Email: Y.Wahid@kent.ac.uk 

Reflection on Cumberland Lodge Doctoral Students Conference 2023 by Tharsagini Nanthaprakash

Each year the Graduate and Researcher College offer one or more funded places at the annual “Life Beyond the PhD – Cumberland Lodge Doctoral Students Conference”.

This annual conference offers PhD students and early career researchers from across the UK the opportunity to share their experiences with each other and to take part in invaluable training in communication, public engagement, and interdisciplinary working, while also being encouraged to think about the impact of their research within its wider social context.

Tharsagini Nanthaprakash from the School of Biosciences was selected by the Director of the Graduate and Researcher College, Professor Gordon Lynch, to attend the 2023 Life Beyond the PhD conference, please see their reflection on the event below:

“The uncertainty of what lay beyond the dissertation was both exciting and daunting. It was in this state of mind that I attended the “Life Beyond the PhD” conference. The Life Beyond the PhD conference at Cumberland Lodge covered many aspects, from writing a covering letter to facing interviews, presentation skills, and storytelling. Experts from academia, the civil sector, and industries were there to discuss the variable carrier opportunities. Other than that, the conference gave me the opportunity to meet fellow PhD students from different disciplines. The whole environment was filled with positive vibes, on top the location of Cumberland Lodge was a bonus for anyone who loves nature. It was one of the best four days, with lots of training and practicing of different skills with lots of fun and good food. A big thank you to the Graduate and Researcher College, University of Kent for fundingme!”   

Kent Stars – Nurturing Network

Maureen – “My name is Maureen Bungei, a PG student pursuing an MA in International Relations with International Law. I have been the Postgraduate Network Chair during the academic year 2022/2023 and handed over to Miquel Santos at the end of my term in April 2023. I was also supporting the College and Community Life team as a Resident Life Assistant in creating a community and sense of belonging for students on campus. As a member of the Kent Model UN Society, I have attended several conferences in London and the World Harvard MUN, a global event in Paris, France.”

Miguel – “I am Miguel Santos, a Master’s by Research student in English. I’m the de facto Chair of the Postgraduate Network, taking over from Maureen Bungei. My research focuses on 20th century Anglo-American experimental poetry. I am also a PGR Student Rep for English; the editor-in-chief of the university’s postgraduate, peer reviewed literary journal Litterae Mentis; and a committee member of the Research Salon. I have contributed to the Templeman Library’s ‘100 Years: T.S. Eliot and The Waste Land’ exhibition. I did my undergraduate at Kent as well, where I was involved as Environment Officer and in the Turing College Committee.”

Tell us about the Postgraduate Network and how you are making sure the postgraduate voice is represented at Kent.

Miguel – “The Postgraduate Network is led by postgraduate volunteers and aims to ensure that postgraduates get the most of their time here. We create campaigns and events, representing the voice of the postgraduate community to the university and Kent Union.

Our committee members include Megan Brown and Nteteawan Bassey-Duke. We’re proud to have a mix of taught and research students, as well as Ntete acting as our Medway representative.

Our aim is to ensure that the postgraduate experience is as thriving and vibrant as possible. Kent has an incredible postgraduate community who has shown so much support and kindness to me.

To support the postgraduate voice, we sit at boards and meetings to represent student feedback. In the autumn term, there was a proposed restructuring of Kent Union’s Officer Team. We organised a student feedback session at Jarman Plaza to gather the views of postgraduates. Because the PG community felt this was a step in the wrong direction, we were able to successfully push Kent Union to drop this proposal in January.

We have hosted events, both in Canterbury and Medway, including socials, study meetings, and a hustings session for the Kent Union elections. With the GRC, we co-organise monthly coffee mornings with guests, including Ben Bradley (Kent Union’s VP Postgraduate Experience), Mark Bass (Careers and Employability Service), and Professor Gordon Lynch (Graduate and Researcher College Director).

On a personal note, I’m indebted to the phenomenal work of postgraduates when I was an undergraduate here, particularly Rowena Bicknell and Tom Ritchie, who inspired me to care about the postgraduate community. I hope that our contributions will ensure that people feel part of the community in the same way Rowena and Tom made me feel.”

“On behalf of the Postgraduate Network, we are so grateful to the entire GRC Team for all the support and the kindness you have shown to us. We are so fortunate to work alongside you this year.”

What advice would you give to other students?

Miguel – “I would encourage anyone to get involved with co-curricular activities, volunteering or representation. Be optimistic that every action you take and every discussion you have will inform your personal development.

I should also highlight the mental health challenges postgraduates face; as such, it is important to remember you are part of a supportive community here.

Finally, while being nominated for a Kent Star means a lot to me, being part of the postgraduate community at Kent means even more. Although awards and recognition are lovely, we care about the postgraduate community simply because it is the right thing to do.”

Maureen – “You have the best time now to take part in co-curricular activities alongside your studies. The university has over 250 clubs and societies where you can take part and nurture your soft skills or sports fitness at your comfort. There are exciting opportunities like student representatives, student ambassadors, and Kent Union Network chairs that will give you an exciting experience that will give you an edge in your CV or interview not forgetting the employability points. Please take them up.

Your health and well-being is the most important aspect of your student experience here at Kent. The university provides academic and wellbeing support services that you are free to utilise and enhance your stay at the university.”

What are your plans for the next year?

Miguel – “The entire Postgraduate Network committee will finish our courses in September; we believe we’ve set a strong foundation for next year’s committee to work closely with the Graduate and Researcher College and Kent Union’s Ben Bradley. The GRC Team and Ben are our biggest supporters!

For myself, I hope to have a job prior to applying for a PhD. I would love to work in higher education in a professional/academic-adjacent role. I’m so grateful for my time at Kent and for all the people who have supported me; I can only hope that my involvement has helped make a difference.”

Maureen – “As I look forward to graduating this July, sadly I might not be here at Kent to oversee the network, but I strongly believe that we as the network committee (Miguel, Ntete, Megan  and I) have done our best and created a sense of belonging for PG community. We hope the next network chair/committee sustains the vibrant community as they will be lucky to work with Ben Bradley who actively supported us during our tenure. Personally, I would be considering doing my PhD sometime later, and the University of Kent definitely has a spot in the top 3.”

Please email us your stories on kentgrc@kent.ac.uk

 

New GradPost Edition is here!

We are thrilled to announce the publication of the newest edition of GradPost, the publication written by postgraduates for postgraduates.

With a mission to celebrate and showcase the remarkable research endeavors of our Kent postgraduate community, GradPost continues to serve as a platform for sharing inspiring stories, valuable insights, and engaging experiences. The latest issue is no exception, featuring an impressive collection of articles that are sure to captivate and enlighten our readers.

We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the contributors, writers, editors, and reviewers who made this publication possible. Your dedication and hard work have resulted in an extraordinary edition that truly captures the spirit of our vibrant research community. Please read here for more info about our amazing team.

You can read the new edition here. Be sure to share the news with your colleagues, friends, and fellow researchers to spread the word about the remarkable work being done by our postgraduate community.

Happy reading! 📚

Call for participants: Eastern Arc Conference 2023: “Orchestrating change: Food in a time of crisis”

Our food system is increasingly dysfunctional. Events such as the pandemic and the Ukrainian war have demonstrated how fragile it is, with production and supply disrupted and costs spiralling. When food is available, there is a fierce debate about the nutritional benefits of processed products, the long-term impacts on population health, and even the morality and sustainability of dietary choices.

The annual Eastern Arc Conference, taking place on 20 September, will be a chance to debate these issues and look at solutions. The Consortium is well placed to do so, as it stretches across a region that has been shaped and defined by food. From the breadbasket of England on one side of the Thames to the garden on the other, the East and South East accounts for a third of England’s total income from farming (TIFF), and around two thirds of the country’s food imports come through the region.

In readiness for this we are seeking applications to lead or be involved in the breakout sessions. For these, we very much want to hear a diversity of voices and viewpoints, whether they be asking questions or offering solutions, sharing research or encouraging engagement. We want to hear from researchers and stakeholders, academics and businesses, community groups and charities, among many others. 

If you have an idea for a session, please complete this simple form by Monday 17 July. We hope to select the eight sessions shortly after, and open up registration at the beginning of August. The conference itself will take place in the Sibson Building at the University of Kent in Canterbury. It will be free and open to all, and registration will open in August.

More details on the call and rationale for the conference are available here. To get an idea of what an Eastern Arc conference is like, visit our ‘resources’ page from last year’s event that focussed on ‘The Collaborative Coast’.

If you have any questions in the meantime please contact Phil Ward, and feel free to share this more widely with your colleagues and networks.