A Welcome to all new PGRs

By Emma Joslin

At the beginning of October, the building welcomed the new influx of postgraduate researchers. To make them feel welcome and hopefully less nervous, BSPS organised an exciting itinerary of events for the new and old faces alike.

Following the postgraduate induction day and the committee’s first opportunity to meet the new pgrs, we have had a range of events to kick off the new academic year. With two successful Postgraduate Pub Quizzes, a welcome meal and a ‘tour’ of the local area we have all been very busy! We are now looking forward to the careers day, Halloween event and the fireworks night in the next few weeks to come.

In the meantime, here are a few choice pieces of advice from the committee and myself to all those embarking on the PhD journey…

Some tips for the new biological sciences postgraduate researchers (and reminders for the not-so-new)…

  • Remember that you will not understand everything about your project at the beginning.
  • Do not panic. It is unlikely that you will know what every single chapter in your final thesis will be when you start (or indeed, what any of your chapters will be). The joy is in the journey. Normally you have the chance to shape your research direction. Therefore, do some reading and find out what interests you; if you enjoy your work, it is likely to be of greater quality.

  • Create small goals
  • Just having an end goal of handing in a thesis in 3-4 years is intimidating. Try to set mini-deadlines/goals for yourself along the way so that you can track your progress and celebrate your achievements throughout the year.

  • Take advantage of any optional training courses
  • For example, to work out your supervisor-student relationship early on you can take the ‘managing your supervisor course’ on gradbook.soton.ac.uk.
  • Likewise, if you do not already have a preferred referencing system, take a training course to learn how to use a system such as EndNote (tip: compulsory session for first year postgrads the 20th of October).

  • Do something different!
  • Make sure you have something else in your life as well as your PhD. Your work is important but so is your mental and physical wellbeing.
  • The student union societies are open to postgraduates. There is no reason why you cannot take a break from your PhD to learn to paint, surf or play hockey at the weekends!

  • Make a list of all the reasons that you wanted to do a PhD on a good day so that you can read it on a slightly less good day (when you are no doubt questioning your major life choices).

  • Network
  • There are so many interesting, intelligent people not just in the building but also in other departments and even outside of the University. These people may have some great advice for you (or potentially be your future employers…)!

  • Consider what transferable skills you are developing during your PhD
  • You are in control of your own development. Fancy learning how to programme/code? Want to get involved in science communication and outreach events? Do it! Ensure that you make the most of the opportunities available.

  • Talk to others…
  • It is easy to get caught-up in the stress of your PhD. Talking to other postgraduates and your research group can be incredibly enlightening. Especially when you realise that the others are not managing to read 100 papers a day and have not won a Nobel Prize yet either.

  • …But remember that every project is different
  • Try not to constantly compare where you are in your project with others doing something completely different. Unless you are at the pub at 2pm… then perhaps you need to reassess your commitment.

And finally…

  • Get involved in BSPS (shameless plug), either as a member or as part of the committee!
  • BSPS organises both social and educational events. Taking part in these activities could help to improve your scientific skills, employability, as well as introduce you to the (sometimes surprisingly) social side of being a postgraduate student.

This blog solely represents the views of the author and does not reflect the views or opinions of BSPS. Blog content and comments will be moderated and any offensive comments removed. 

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