Special Podcast Coming Soon – I Need Your Help!

A “special” podcast? What do you mean?

Periodically I ask if there is anything else that I can do on the podcast that would be valuable. And just over a week ago someone responded:

This is a great idea! I’ve been mulling it over and think that it would be difficult for me to do by myself. This is where YOU come in: do you have time at some point in the next few weeks to contribute to a special Viva Survivors podcast?

What might we talk about?

It would be good to look at trends in academia, the kinds of jobs that people go for, competition, skills that help in academic jobs, CVs, what helps you to stand out… There are so many things that we could cover! What other questions or topics could we discuss? Email me, tweet @VivaSurvivors or leave a comment below if you have some ideas.

What’s all this “we” business?

As I said above, I can’t do this alone. I work in parallel with academia as a skills trainer, but I’m not a researcher in an institution now. This is where YOU come in, whoever you are. What can you tell us about the academic job market? How did you get your position now? What skills do you use in your job? Or do you work in a careers service and have time to share your experiences with the podcast? Please get in touch!

New podcasts coming soon!

This doesn’t mean that I’m stopping the regular flavour of podcast! I’m always looking for more people to share their PhD story and their viva experiences. If you would like to contribute to the podcast then please let me know. And thank you to everyone who tweets, RTs and tells me about how valuable they’re finding the podcast. I do this in my free time, and it’s nice to hear that people are getting something from hearing the stories that our @VivaSurvivors are sharing.

Episode 11: Dr Claire Savy

Dr Claire Savy did her PhD in neurotoxicology at Newcastle University, and her viva was less than a month ago! She is currently working at the University of Leeds as a Researcher Training and Development Project Officer; Claire is working on the organisation of the Postgraduate Research Conference and is responsible for the Thesis Twitter Conference and the conference’s Twitter feed: @UoLPGconference.

Claire had a lot of great advice on viva preparation. She spent a lot of time preparing, and I know that people are going to find her story valuable – particularly practising answering questions out loud to get used to talking about her thesis in a certain way.

If you have questions or comments about this or any of the podcasts then please get in touch, either through the comments, on email or via the Viva Survivors Twitter account: @VivaSurvivors.

Episode 10: Dr Katy Shaw

In this episode I’m interviewing Dr Katy Shaw, who is the Subject Leader for English Literature and a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at the University of Brighton. Katy is also the Director of C21: Centre for research in twenty-first century writings. She completed her PhD at Lancaster University in 2007 and her thesis was on cultural representations of the 1980s UK Miners Strike. Following on from the last podcast it was great to hear more from someone whose PhD research is in such a different area to mine. As an early career researcher Katy had lots to say about life as an academic, and shared some valuable advice for PhD students too. Katy can be found on Twitter as @DrKatyShaw.

Please leave comments below! And if you’re happy to, then please tweet and share the site and podcast with others. I’m slightly shocked that we’ve reached ten episodes already, it seems like yesterday that I was just getting things rolling. I wonder when we’ll hit 25? (which feels like the next milestone) If you would like to be on the podcast then please get in touch, either by emailing me or by sending a tweet in the direction of @VivaSurvivors.

Episode 9: Dr Nadine Muller

In Episode 9 I’m talking with Dr Nadine Muller, a lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University. She received her PhD in English Literature from the University of Hull earlier this year for her thesis “The Feminist Politics of Neo-Victorian Literature, 2000-2010”. It was really great talking to Nadine about her research and her viva, as her field is something really different to my PhD research, and to the research of other interviewees in other Viva Survivors podcasts so far.

Nadine also has a great interest in supporting postgraduate and early-career researchers, so we had a lot to talk about. She is the creator of the #phdadvice hashtag on Twitter, a community sharing their experience of postgraduate research. Her Twitter handle is @Nadine_Muller.

Any questions or comments? Let me know, either drop me an email or leave them below. Share your postgraduate experience and advice with Nadine’s #phdadvice hashtag. And keep track of the podcast on Twitter by following @VivaSurvivors!

Ask The Audience 1

I’ve been asking a lot of questions recently via the @VivaSurvivors Twitter account. I wanted to know about the experiences of PhD graduates, even if that meant polling people in 140 characters or less. I had an inkling that people would share some really great advice. I was right! I’ll collect answers and share them on the blog over the next few weeks as I ask more questions. To start us off:

“What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about the viva?”

@NextScientist gave an encouraging reply:

I asked this question again yesterday, and thanks to some signal amplification from @Nadine_Muller I got some more great responses:

All of which is great advice! Thanks to everyone for sharing. I particularly like the advice from Selena Daly: the viva really is the longest time you’ll get to talk about your PhD research in that depth. With that in mind you can hopefully approach your viva with the same passion you’ve approached your research for the last three (four, five…) years!

More questions to come soon. If you have any more thoughts, then please continue the conversation in the comments. And if you have more questions about the viva, what are they? Let me know!

Episode 7: Dr Andy Hoyle and Dr Louise Hoyle

In this episode I talk to some married friends of mine, the Drs Hoyle! Dr Andy Hoyle graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2006 with a PhD in Mathematical Biology; Dr Louise Hoyle finished her postgraduate research this year, completing her PhD in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Stirling.

We’ve been trying to arrange an interview time for a while now; I thought it would be really interesting to chat with them about their research and also about their experience of having a partner who was doing postgraduate research. It was lots of fun talking to Andy and Louise, I hope you enjoy listening to it. They had lots of good advice for both the PhD and the viva.

Episode 8 should be along in the next few weeks; I’m still looking for interesting ideas for future podcasts and interviewees. Drop me an email, leave comments on the episodes and make sure you’re following the Twitter feed for announcements: @VivaSurvivors.

Episode 6: Dr Helena Mihaljevic-Brandt

In this episode I’m talking with Dr Helena Mihaljevic-Brandt, a PhD maths graduate who did her research at the University of Liverpool and now lives in Berlin. She works as an editor for Zentralblatt MATH, an online reviewing database of mathematics papers. Helena’s research area was holomorphic dynamics – I know a little about that because she used to sit at the next desk to mine at Liverpool!

It has been a few years since I last caught up properly with Helena, and it was great to do so for Viva Survivors. I was really interested to hear her perspective and her PhD journey; I was curious about what it was like for her to do her postgraduate research in a foreign country, and what it was like to then return home to take up a research post.

I hope you enjoy Helena’s podcast as much as I did recording it with her! Check back soon on Viva Survivors for more podcasts and maybe a couple of surprises; as always, please feel free to leave comments or drop me an email, and make sure you’re following the site’s Twitter feed for updates and announcements: @VivaSurvivors.

Coming Soon

As I’ve been tweeting, the next episode should be recorded later today; with any luck I will be editing that tomorrow, and then it should go up on Wednesday or Thursday. I’m interviewing another maths colleague, but perhaps someone who had a different experience to the two mathematicians that I have talked with so far. I’ll tweet loudly when the podcast is released!

I’m also still mulling over what else might be interesting to have on the site: I’m looking for ideas of what might be really valuable for people who are preparing for their viva, or perhaps just things that might be a bit inspiring. If anyone has any ideas then do comment or email and let me know. I’m also looking to widen awareness of Viva Survivors by writing articles on preparing for the viva for University PGR-related blogs. If you would like a top 5 tips or similar then get in touch.

And as ever, follow on Twitter for announcements and updates: @VivaSurvivors

What Else?

Last week I tweeted, asking

I’ve got one response so far:

This is definitely something that is in my mind, and I’m going to look around my contacts and see who has experience that they can share.

I’ve also been thinking about sharing some funny viva-related pieces. Many of you might be familiar with PhD Comics, which I am sure has had some viva-related humour in the past. As well as that I was forwarded a really funny piece of thesis examination preparation, care of McSweeney’s, “FAQ: The Snake Fight Portion Of Your Thesis Defence“.

Q: Would someone who wrote a bad thesis and defeated a large snake get the same grade as someone who wrote a good thesis and defeated a small snake?
A: Yes.

You can go and read the rest of it here – I am extremely thankful that I defended my thesis in the UK, where you simply have to know a couple of sets of Morris Dancing, rather than have to fight a snake!

To come back to my main question though: what else might be good to include in the podcast or on this site? What helpful resources or conversations could I try to provide? Let me know in the comments or email me!