Gearing up for 2013 Postgraduate and Research Months across the country

September 2013


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3MT comp a highlight of the University of Waikato Postgraduate Month

Three Minute Thesis winner and doctoral student Ku Marsilla Ku Ishak, working on turning red meat industry co-products into useful and non-polluting plastics.

The University of Waikato dedicates the month of October to its postgraduate students, hosting a number of events, including professional development, competitions, and entertainment.

The feature event is the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, formally known at Waikato as the Th3sis in 3, where candidates have just three minutes to talk about their thesis and its significance in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. With a first prize of $3,000, it’s fiercely contested.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Postgraduate, Professor C. Kay Weaver says Postgraduate Month aims to increase the community’s awareness of postgraduate teaching and research and enhance the postgraduate culture on our campus.

“While the PhD has historically been known as a lone journey, we are keen to dispel that belief. With more doctoral candidates enrolled in 2013 than ever before, it is getting much easier to share the journey with other doctoral candidates.”

International students make up a significant proportion of Waikato’s doctoral numbers, and while many have English as a second language, it’s clear they’re not disadvantaged when it comes to explaining their research, says Professor Weaver.

In the four years of hosting the Three Minute Thesis, there have been two international candidates win the major prize.

Ku Marsilla Ku Ishak from Malaysia won the 2012 competition after likening her research of turning blood products into bioplastics to a “perfect marriage”.

“Ku Marsilla took a complicated topic, injected plenty of wit and humour, and turned it into something we could all understand,” says Weaver.

Ku Marsilla also won the People’s Choice Award in the 3MT and says entering the competition has given her more confidence and motivation to complete her PhD study. The prize has also allowed her to attend several conferences, which she says has also helped keep her focussed and motivated. She’ll be at the University of Western Sydney when this year’s Waikato Three Minute Thesis is on, competing in the Australasian finals of the event, which is becoming more popular year by year.

University of Otago celebrates new Graduate Research School

The 4th annual Graduate Research Month at the University of Otago has a slightly different flavour to previous years’ events, with Otago launching the Graduate Research School this year.

The creation of the Graduate Research School led by a new Dean (Professor

Rachel Spronken-Smith) marks the commitment the university has to the support and development of their thesis candidates. In keeping with this brief, this year’s Graduate Research Month has a special emphasis on professional development for PhD and master’s research students.

The month opened with a workshop on professional networking. Thesis candidates were primed with tips for helping them to make valuable professional connections and presented with practical tips for confidently and respectfully approaching important people in their discipline. This workshop was followed by a social event designed to let candidates practice on staff at the university.

A workshop helping thesis candidates navigate the highs and lows of disseminating their research in the media also proved popular.

“Thesis candidates are actively taught how to submit their research to academic journals,” says Spronken-Smith, “but those looking to give back to the community by informing the public through popular media need some additional guidance, and so we asked a communications professional to help. I am delighted by the student response to this.”

A social media expert offered a workshop on professional social networking, reminding the thesis candidates that there is more to social media than sharing what one had for breakfast. The professional development theme continued with workshops run by the Career Development Service about refining CVs and life after academia.

As well as these specialised events, Graduate Research Month also featured programmes for developing thesis skills such as the Insider’s Guide to Doctoral Domination and Mastering Your Thesis. Long-term fixtures in the month such as the Thesis Twitter Conference, OUSA Supervisor of the Year, and the Three Minute Thesis competition were as popular as ever. Alongside the delightfully irreverent Chamber Debate on the moot that ‘Supervisors Should Receive Compulsory Training in Supervision’ these events helped create what was both a useful and fun programme for Otago’s thesis candidates.

“Graduate Research Month puts the spotlight on our terrific thesis candidates. It provides a great opportunity to give our candidates new forms of support as well as to foster the strong sense of community that Otago prides itself on,” says Spronken-Smith.

From global to local: CPIT showcases research output CPIT Research and Knowledge Transfer Manager, Dr Margaret Leonard

CPIT’s Research Month is a celebration of resilience with research outputs increasing at the institute during 2012 despite disruptions to work spaces and external venues.

The event, from 6 to 29 August features over 50 public lunchtime presentations plus several sessions where students pitch a project in three minutes.

The event begins with a guest lecture by Dr Peter John from the Canterbury Development Corporation about ‘securing external research income’. Research then rolls out through the month with presentations from the departments of business, computing, engineering and architectural studies, applied science and allied health, nursing and human services, creative industries, humanities, Te Puna Wanaka, the New Zealand broadcasting school, outdoor education and sustainability, and the centre of educational development.

Topics are diverse. ‘What is ‘current affairs?’, by former TV1 head of news Paul Norris, and ‘Designing the Track Cycling Skinsuit for the London Olympics’ should appeal to a broad audience, while topics such as Māori language revitalisation and the politics of disability performance are expected to draw more specialised audiences. From solutions to globalisation challenges facing local businesses, to exploring how children consume media, CPIT’s research informs the institute’s industry partners and communities with practical solutions to real challenges.

As well as addressing social, environmental and economic issues, research also enhances the institute’s own teaching practice and connections with our community, including local industry, says Research and Knowledge Transfer Manager, Dr Margaret Leonard.

“The variety of research being done at CPIT reflects the breadth of our engagement with stakeholders. The presentations cover every area of the institute and add to the expertise of our staff and our industry partners in very specific ways. There is something for everyone.”

Leonard recognised the importance of striving for excellence in research.

“We acknowledge the contributions made by our external funders, our international collaborators and the invitations our staff have received to present, perform and work internationally,” she said.

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