School of Computing research student conference!

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Conference venue with a view!

So one day a while back, I volunteered to be part of the School of Computing postgraduate student research conference committee. The conference was scheduled to take place on May 11th 2016 at the Merchiston Campus of Edinburgh Napier University.  I didn’t really know what to expect, or what the role involved but I thought it would be a good ideas to help develop my confidence and also get involved a bit more. So I did.

Anyway, we had six students and our responsible members of staff on the SoC conference committee, and we all were involved in the process of planning and organising the event. Some of the committee dealt with practicalities like getting things printed, getting organised for the day (catering, rooms etc) and others helped out to chair sessions.

My role was to chair the second year session where each second year student was required to present a 20×20 presentation of their PhD work. As part of my role, I had to communicate with the second years, making sure they were okay in presentation preparation and setting deadlines so that I could check the presentations thorough. With a little persuasion and thanks, we got our presentations all sorted ready to go on the day and everyone was just amazing! The presentations were great and it was hard work for everyone to ensure that speaking was clear and well-spoken!

I’m pleased I was able to do this as part of my preparation as this is what I will be doing for iDocQ 2016. It means that may problems I may encounter for iDocQ may have already been dealt with during this conference which is good. The experience kind of showed me how much effort actually goes into planning a conference and how much hard work it is to coordinate a group of people so that they submit presentations on time. For those who do this daily, I salute you!

Anyway, on the day it ran pretty smoothly and first of all, we got to listen to Dr Wendy Moncur who talked to us about her career and journey through a PhD. It was quite nice to hear a different academic give advice and one thing has stuck with me. She explained that we are on a ‘research apprenticeship’ where we are constantly learning and studying. We are training ourselves and our minds to become fully fledged researchers and the journey of a PhD helps us do that. Wendy spoke a lot about her own experiences, what she did and what she felt she could have done better. Most importantly, she spoke from her heart. Her speech did not seem rehearsed (although she did have slides), she spoke form images, pictures and experience. This is the type of speaker I respect, someone who can tell it as it is, and give advice to people they have never met before.

We then heard some of our third year students discuss their research (in full presentation format). It was really interesting to see how research has progressed and how different research topics are. The programme details the running order and also has abstracts on third year presentations so you can see what I’m talking about. As part of my own research, I was then required to present a one minute madness (taking about your research for a minute – hyper speed haha, examples can be found here) and then a poster which I have added to my slideshare account (thank you Hazel Hall). I think that my poster was designed well, however, I have already made improvements to it so that I can make it better for my next conference – ISIC. As I am not an automatic speaker, IMG_0365I hated the thought of having to talk about my research for one minute in front of the whole school. Last time I did, I forgot the names of my funders and messed the whole thing up, but this time it was quite different. I was nervous, but not in panic. I managed to explain my research in one minute and direct people to my poster, something I thought I would not be able to do.

After lunch was another opportunity for me to speak (again!), but this time I chaired the second year 20×20 presentation session. Each student was required to present 20 slides / images for 20 seconds each. This session was a little less formal than the full presentation but it was decided that all years would present something different to keep the spirits up and the day progressing nicely. I think that all presentations were great, and were well prepared so that when it came to presenting everyone did really well. For me, standing in front of an audience for 2.5 hours whilst others presented was a little odd. I’m not used to ‘presenting myself’ even when I did sit in the corner next to the computer (in case of many IT mishaps – which did of course occur). It was good that I was able to stand up and speak, encourage questions and even ask some myself. I even got compliments off our Director of Research and our Dean of School which was even better in the days following the conference!!I think for me, this was more of a confidence boost than just presenting, not only because I was able to do it (kind of) confidently, but because someone else noticed and told me. I often get nervous and flustered when doing things like that but I think I’m starting to settle in properly in the school and am finding the public speaking journey a little easier now.

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Image taken by Alicja Pawluczuk (first year research student – at the back of the lecture room!)

We rounded off the day with the final their year presentations and then a little wine reception where the session winners were announced. It appears that the judges were very kind on me and nominated my poster for second place, quite pleasing in my eyes. It kind of just ended the week nicely really!

Anyway, I think that is enough for now as I know others will be blogging about this later on. But please do keep reading about my PhD adventures, presentations and conferences as these are what make the PhD journey fabulous!

**Goal of being more confident in front of audience = check**

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Five days of feeling fabulous!

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Loch Tay

It’s not often that I blog about my achievements but today I do! Before I started my PhD, I was an intern for Dr Debora Jeske and we carried out a project looking at various factors relating to career decision making. I found out last week that (finally!) our article that we submitted will be officially published. That means, I am officially an author. We will be published in the Journal of Career Assessment which is quite a nice little journal and quite relevant to my own PhD. My internship publication journey has taught me a lot about the preparation, publication and review process, something that I will experience throughout my PhD. It helped me deal with rejection first of all as we were not successful in securing a publication. But we reviewed the article, we make significant changes and then chose another suitable journal to submit to. This worked and we are both overjoyed to hear the news late last week.

The day after that was PhD related fabulousness. A few of us have submitted to the ISIC conference and my submission included a poster (a poster proposal initially) and also a workshop to discuss my thesis. I thank my supervisor for helping me write the documents as she had a lot of patients with me when we discovered that the poster required an initial proposal (which we found out quite soon to the deadline). Anyway, my poster got accepted (yey!). This will be my first PhD related conference that I will be presenting at and also my first international one. I am looking forward to it, but at the same time I am quite scared as it’s something I have not experienced before. I’m sure I will thrive in the environment when I get there but I’m also sure that nerves might kick in at some point.

The day after that I found out that my doctoral workshop submission was accepted

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A waterfall enroute to Killin

(another yippee!!). This means that my work will be discussed and problems faced will be introduced, mainly how a framework can be developed for a PhD that is very multi-disciplinary. As my research is multi-disciplinary, but information science based, it can cross over other disciplines. So at the moment I am working on trying to address this to find a theoretical framework / explanation that will form the official basis of my information science research and help me define my research methods.

 

I was really pleased that both were accepted as I doubted the suitability of my PhD to the conference stupidly thinking that it wasn’t yet ‘information sciencey’ enough yet. I’m glad I was proven wrong.

Next on the agenda was a PhD retreat to Firbush Outdoor Centre (owned by The University of Edinburgh). Our trip aimed to help us develop our research and communication skills through a mixture of outdoor activities, question and answer discussions and also workshops.

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Our hill-walking views!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time away. We arrived around lunch time so when we got settled, it was time for or first round of outdoor activities. I chose to go hill walking with some of my colleagues as the wind/rain did put me off kayaking a little! It was nice to get to know others in the group, including one of the students starting in September and also being able to talk to staff in a less-academic setting.  On our walk, the views were gorgeous and the scenery was just picturesque. I love being outdoors so it was my cup-of-tea walking, taking photos and also chatting to the group. Our evening entertainment (work!) consisted of discussions about what is expected in the thesis write up and the viva. Although I will not be submitting for 2.5 years yet, it was beneficial to hear a member of staff talk freely (and un-scripted) about the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the viva and thesis document itself. I found that having staff members chat to us informally benefited us more in terms of feeling more comfortable in asking those silly questions. I particularly liked the viva horror stories that were thrown in to add examples! Our day ended with a ‘Parrot Party’ where we each had to explain our research to a partner for 5 minutes. They then had to explain this to a staff member and be grilled with questions. For this, I struggled a little but I managed to use a previous presentation script to ensure that I include all of my aims, objectives and contributions. I must have explained it okay as my fellow PhD student managed to explain my research perfectly and answer all questions appropriately!  For me, it’s good to do these type of things as I am not one for presenting in front of everyone and often I get very nervous. Activities like this one help me to understand my own explanations and help me to calm down before I actually present. Coping mechanisms are a must!

Our second day was even more interesting. Myself, one of our lecturers and our newest research student (to start in September) took a walk into Killin for more spectacular scenery viewings. I was able to get to know them both a little better and we discovered that there is actually some overlap between my own PhD and the PhD that our newest student will be doing. We are both looking at skills development so I am sure somewhere along the way we can pick each other’s brains and share ideas in this area.

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Killin

We participated in a workshop type event later on, helping us work in groups and communicate about that the requirements of our assessments (reviews). We were also able to discuss training and development in a PhD and how important it is not only to ensure you are on target, but that you are building up you skills as a researcher as you go along.

 

After dinner was the most frightening part… a 5 minute oral presentation on our research topic. This one was slightly different, however, as we only had a couple of hours to plan / prepare if we wanted to and we also HAD to use some props that were provided by our student reps. I was terrified to say the least and not looking forward to this as I don’t like speaking in front of people (especially when I have not learned a script). Anyway, our task was to describe our PhD’s with the use of props, but this had to be communicated to a general audience. This meant no jargon, no complicated stuff and useful information that people might want to know if they were asked. So here are some parts form mine:

  • I introduced myself and my topic ‘workplace learning and innovation’;
  • I asked for three volunteers (who happily stood to one side for a few moments);
  • I introduced my furry volunteer (a teddy bear called Randolf) – he was the ‘employee’;
  • I introduced Skills Development Scotland as my part-funders and they had highlighted the need for this research to be done;
  • I explained that the purpose of my research was to see how individuals (Randolf!) learn to innovate. I explained the difference between creativity and innovation, emphasising that the idea needs to be implemented for it to be innovation. I made sure I asked for audience participation to answer questions just so they understood the terminology;
  • I then used my volunteers to represent the potential framework of my research – The Social Cognitive Theory. Each volunteer was one area of the framework (behavioural, environment and cognitive) and by holding hands (literally) this demonstrated the reciprocal determinism in the framework and that areas can often not be separated;
  • I closed by explaining the benefits of the framework and also a sentence about the overall aim – I wanting to develop a framework that can show how workplace learning can enhance individual innovation capacity.
  • I tried to mention European data comparisons, got part way through then my timer buzzed and I could no longer go on…

I felt that I had rushed it and that some of it did not make sense. However, the

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The Falls of Dochart

staff judges did not feel the same. They declared that I (alongside another PhD student) were winners and joint 1st presenters as it was scored numerically and there was no way to decide between the two winners. This made me smile a lot. No only had some people sat and listened to my little talk, they enjoyed it and gave lots of positive feedback on it. I am pleased that I had that opportunity and it has given me a little confidence boost. We did have pictures taken for the occasion, however, I have decided to save the awkwardness and embarrassment of posting pictures of me and I will post them on twitter at some point instead.

It has rounded up my week of ‘feeling fabulous’ just nicely so that I have confidence in going into the next one with no problems at all. No more feeling like I could crash down as fast as a waterfall on the rocks like I did on Friday afternoon!