The postgraduate platform: events and initiatives around the country

September 2017


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From 3MT, to writing workshops, to postgrad and research conferences, Education Review looks at some of the events and initiatives happening at our tertiary education organisations around the country.

 The postgraduate platform


Three Minute Thesis

The concept for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition came to a former dean of the Graduate School of the University of Queensland while he was taking a shower. Drought-related water restrictions meant Queenslanders were asked to use a three-minute timer while showering, and the dean fell to pondering what else could be accomplished in three minutes.

Now an established part of 600 university calendars in 59 countries, the 3MT is an annual competition that challenges postgraduate students to present their research to a non-specialist audience in no more than three minutes, using one (static) slide. Condensing three years of research, data collection, analysis and theorising into 180 seconds is no mean feat.

The competition aims to teach effective communication techniques between academics and those outside their field of study. It also promotes collaboration and increases funding and employment opportunities. Winners from each university’s doctoral-level 3MT competition will get the opportunity to compete at the Asia-Pacific finals in Queensland on 29 September. The New Zealand Master’s Inter-University Challenge took place on Thursday 24 August at Victoria University of Wellington.

Victoria’s own 3MT final was held on Friday 18 August and attended by more than 100 people. Jennifer Soundy received $3,000 for her winning presentation on a new solution to antibiotic resistance.

The University of Waikato’s winner this year was Harpreet Kaur, from the Faculty of Science and Engineering. For Harpreet, entering the competition was a way to gain public speaking experience and personal confidence. She came to Waikato from India on a doctoral scholarship, and is studying ways to detect kiwifruit quality using light-based, lightweight equipment. Kiwifruit is expensive and hard to find in her home country, but fortunately Harpreet has developed a taste for the fruit during her studies. Her presentation was so engaging that she took out the People’s Choice Award as well.

Postgrad workshops

In early September, the University of Canterbury’s Postgraduate Students’ Association hosted the Just Write workshop; a chance for postgraduate students to get together and ‘just write’.

The free annual event focuses on removing the barriers that prevent students from writing and provides inspiration to help polish chapters and papers for submission. It’s a great opportunity to network with other postgraduate students, collaborate and try out new ideas. The event also includes seminars throughout the day to help students produce quality research outputs.

Canterbury is also planning for GradFest, an annual week-long event of lectures and workshops for postgraduate thesis writers. At GradFest, held from 30 October to 3 November this year, students can learn about the latest research trends, develop new skills to enhance their study, and have the opportunity to network with other postgraduate students.

GradFest brings together different departments at UC such as the postgraduate office, academic skills centre, library, e-learning, careers and academic services group to share their expertise with postgraduate students on subjects such as understanding the thesis journey, applying for ethical approval, smart tools and technologies for research, the publication process, thesis structure and planning, and writing a coherent thesis. Due to its popularity, GradFest was also held in May this year.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) hosted something similar in August this year during its postgraduate week. The packed PG week schedule included a welcome breakfast, workshops, webinars, oral presentations, posters, a diversity panel, EndNote and NVivo training, publication support, and more.

Victoria University of Wellington’s postgraduate information evening will take place on 27 September and focus on both general postgraduate study and professional programmes.

Sharing postgraduate projects

Understanding how dairy farmers decide to adopt more sustainable practices and exploring spirituality in post-quake Canterbury were just two of the topics addressed at Lincoln University’s 2017 postgraduate conference recently.

Sixty-three postgraduate students presented their research projects to enthusiastic audiences on August 29–31 and the event demonstrated the broad range of issues studied at Lincoln, says Professor Charles Brennan, director of postgraduate studies.

“Postgraduate research is the lifeblood of Lincoln University and runs through the veins of all of our academics and students.

“While the majority of our research is focused on agricultural issues, the complexity of research throughout the whole land-based economy of New Zealand cannot be ignored.

“Our students provide invaluable information in terms of subjects such as health and nutrition, financial planning, supply chain dynamics and sport and recreation.”

Other projects presented at the conference involved students investigating how a social business model can enhance society’s values, helping to bridge cultural gaps in diverse business organisations, evaluating the effects of eight weeks of yoga training on rugby players’ performances, and understanding how the flammability of plants can promote wildfires.

“The applied nature of our research means it has direct importance for the health and welfare of all of New Zealand,” says Professor Brennan.

“It is a credit to all of our postgraduate students that they show determination, aptitude and enthusiasm for their research, which makes them global leaders.”

ITP research Symposium

The 2017 ITPNZ (Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics New Zealand) Symposium was held in July this year at Wintec, who hosted the event in partnership with Unitec, Weltec, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Otago Polytechnic and Manukau Institute of Technology.

Innovation that transforms societies was the theme for the two-day international symposium. Global innovators from Europe inspired more than 150 sector experts to transform problems into opportunities and create new innovations from challenges.

Organiser and Wintec research and development director Mariana van der Walt says the 2017 ITPNZ Symposium brought together industry partners and communities from around the world.

“This symposium is a meeting of minds and a platform for users, providers and thinkers from across the globe. The opportunity for attendees from across the education, government, industry and community sector to actively explore innovations and solutions is incredibly valuable for our local and global future.”

The international ‘who’s who’ of speakers at the 2017 symposium were drawn from organisations working with Wintec on long-term initiatives. They include Alexandra Descamps from Designswarm in the UK, recently named top of the list of 100 Internet of Things influencers; Dr Vesa Salminen, research director at HAMK University Finland; Minna Takala, senior advisor at Häme Regional Council in Finland; Ola Svedin, chief executive of Mobile Heights, Sweden and from Impact Hub, Jesper Kjellerås, Sweden and Wieke van der Zouwen, Holland. 

The event focused on innovative strategies for community impact, health and ageing, waste management and regenerative practices, through presentation and workshops.

(Photo credit: University of Canterbury)

New Zealand’s first design factory

There’s no signage on the window of Wintec’s Design Hub, just the letter D made of coloured Post-it notes; but now the creative initiative has been invited to join the Design Factory Global Network, and the D will soon make way for New Zealand’s first Design Factory.

The Design Factory brings together research, education and business practitioners to create a new learning culture and hands-on learning experiences.

“This approach prepares Wintec students for future industries, employment and a complex world full of change and the unknown,” says Wintec Design Hub director Margi Moore.

“We applaud our students and our industry partners; they are trailblazers, they invested in our process, took risks and we appreciate they were prepared to participate in a pilot.

“Over the past year we worked closely with Melbourne’s Design Factory to develop this model and submit an application. I am very pleased to announce we have been accepted into the Design Factory Global Network to become New Zealand’s first and only Design Factory.”

The design factory teaching model at Wintec is based on the growing global network of design factories that began in Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland. There are now 15 design factories in the Design Factory Global Network across five continents. They are based in universities and research centres where students work with industry partners in positive learning environments to solve complex, real-world problems.

“Together with our industry partners, we have embraced a learning-by-doing, fail-fast philosophy and can-do mindset, to help the students adopt ways of knowing and doing that will prepare them for employment.”

The results of the pilot went under the spotlight at Wintec last week. After 15 weeks, the student teams from the disciplines of design, communication, engineering and information technology outlined their methods and presented their final solutions to partners from Opus, Midland Trauma and Waikato District Health Board. The complex problems, managing water flow, reducing quad bike trauma and promoting interconnectedness for health and wellbeing were resolved and presented as opportunities.

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