Words & Wonder

About eleven years ago, just after I finished my PhD and started to explore researcher development, I learned of the Sagan Series and the Feynman Series, two science engagement projects by Reid Gower. Through a combination of beautiful images, inspirational music and wonderful words by two great science communicators, these videos hooked into my brain. As I was starting on a path thinking about how to share things with others, this helped me to see that you had to do more than just say the words to communicate.

I saw just how important it is to choose your words carefully. You have to play, practise, listen… Maybe then you can find a way to connect.

Eleven years on, and when autumn arrives I think of these videos. I press play on my playlist and see what they make me think of today. Today they make me think about how one might inject a little wonder into your words. How will you choose your words for the viva? How could you frame your research to make it connect with your examiners and others?

Perhaps, more importantly, how could you describe it for yourself? Not to boast or brag or deceive yourself – how could you make your thesis feel even more wonderful and inspiring than it already has to be? And how might that help you?

Read More


I put slips of paper on the walls by my desk to inspire or motivate me; they’re like really low-tech motivational posters! I wish I had a gorgeous sunset with a quote, but they don’t make them with the quotes that motivate me. I have things to try to direct my projects and thinking. It helps prod and prompt me.

A recent addition is a quote attributed to Vince Lombardi, “The man on the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” It resonates with a recurring theme on this blog: you can’t get to the end of the PhD by accident. If your viva is coming up, it’s because you did the work. You must have done.

Not all quotes or sayings work for everyone, but maybe you can find some words out there that will help. Maybe you already know a quote that helps you when you’re facing difficulties. Either way, if you find some words that help, share them!