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!

Episode 5: Dr Ben Libberton

In this episode I’m talking with Dr Ben Libberton, who runs the website Literature Review HQ. Ben completed his PhD in Microbial Ecology last year, and recently graduated from the University of Liverpool. As well as running his site, he holds a post-doc in Electrical Engineering.

It was great chatting with Ben, particularly because of his continuing interest in things relating to postgraduate researchers. His site has some great resources, so please go and check it out. He’s also on Twitter: @litreviewhq.

Viva Survivors will be back soon with another episode! I have several interviewees in the pipeline, including a couple which will make for slightly out of the ordinary podcasts. If you have ideas and thoughts for future episodes, even for doing something different (whatever that might be!) then please get in touch. As ever, follow me on Twitter at @VivaSurvivors.

Episode 4: Dr Julia Collins

EDIT: I had the wrong link to Julia and Haggis’s blog in both the podcast and in this post! D’oh! Sorry about that everyone. I’ve corrected it now. Big thanks to Colin Wright for spotting it and letting me know.

Two podcasts in under a week! It’s almost like it’s your birthday!

In Episode 4 I have a chat with Dr Julia Collins, who had her viva in 2011. She got her PhD in maths (in the same field as me) from the University of Edinburgh. Since completing her PhD, Julia has had the position of Mathematics Engagement Officer at Edinburgh. Her stuffed sheep Haggis blogs about maths and science communication here and you can follow them both on Twitter: @haggismaths. It was great to talk to Julia about her PhD and viva; we met several years ago at various conferences, and were both doing research in the same branch of maths.

Note that there is a slight echo on the podcast audio; sorry about that! I forgot to plug in my headphones when we were recording, and it only became apparent towards the end. I’ll watch out for that more on future recordings!

Please share Viva Survivors with friends, family, colleagues, peers, anyone and everyone! If you have comments about the podcasts or questions about the viva then please get in touch, maybe they are things that I can explore in future podcasts. I’m always looking for more people to interview too.

And as ever, we’re on Twitter: @VivaSurvivors.