Returning to University and the Exhilarating Task of Research

First comes Induction… Google was founded in the year that I first matriculated at Cambridge as an undergraduate.  We were looking forward to the Millennium, still a couple of years into the future.  When I arrived, my stereo was my only electronic equipment (I bought my first mobile phone after I’d graduated); and induction meant heading to the College bar to find second- and third-years to assure you that you didn’t need to go to all your lectures (you don’t).  Homerton, where I am now, wasn’t yet a Cambridge College. Arriving as a grad student has been an entirely different…

Staying Afloat: Managing the Second Year of a PhD While Trying to Win a Boat Race

In the last year, I’ve been trying to juggle my role as President of the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club (CUWBC) with the second year of my PhD, in which I’m researching the role that parental input plays in the development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills in primary school children. I didn’t plan to spend the past year simultaneously managing the two tasks, but following a disappointing loss in the 2016 Boat Race, I decided that I wanted to do everything in my power to put an end to Cambridge’s 5-year losing streak. I was encouraged by teammates to run…

Tips and Tricks for PhD Students: The #PhDlifehack

This week a new cohort of PhD students is about to embark on their doctoral journeys in Cambridge. Although this is surely an exciting time, filled with many hopes and expectations, starting a PhD can also feel scary and overwhelming – How should you organise your work? Are there any tools or strategies that could be particularly helpful in staying on top of things? And how do you build good professional relationships during the PhD? With some of these questions in mind, we asked current PhD students and academics for advice and encouraged them to share their best #PhDlifehack with us…

Planting Seeds, Nurturing Roots, and Growing Sideways: Transitioning from a Cambridge PhD to a Prairie Postdoc

On a hot June day in 2013, my friend Clementine walked with me through the infamous red doors of Cambridge’s Board of Graduate Studies to hand over my PhD thesis. While this celebratory photo is saved on my computer as “happy day,” I can still taste my anxiety. Having just dedicated three years of my life to a single project, what would come next? Beyond the frame of this photo are bags stored in various friends’ living rooms. I was days away from leaving a place where my roots grew deep. In this moment, I recall wondering where next? Would anywhere…

Reflections on a Successful Viva Voce

In this short blog post I will share general tips on preparation for the final PhD defense, as well as ideas on publishing en route to the PhD. I believe these tips contributed to my result of ultimately passing without corrections. I will not share the specific line of questioning that arose in the defense, since this is not particularly important, other than to indicate that it focused largely on philosophical debates around theoretical and methodological choices centered on, for example, Bourdieu, diffraction, post-humanism and new materialisms. From my post-viva standpoint it now seems to me that the focus was…

If I Were to Do My PhD Again …

Before 2011, I had never thought that one day I would choose to do a PhD. But I did it! I have not suffered from ‘Permanent Head Damage’, though it is true that I find it a ‘Probably Hard to Describe’ experience. What I hope to share with you are some of my thoughts when I look back on my journey 2 years after my PhD viva. I am not going to talk about the sacrifices that one has to make or the hardship that one has to endure (C’est la vie! Life is like a box of chocolate, and…

How to Manage Your Time During the PhD: Balancing the Thesis, Writing for Publications and Gaining Teaching Experience

During my PhD career at Cambridge (September 2012 to July 2016), I spent around 95 per cent of my time in a magical sphere called the University of Cambridge Writing Group. In this space, I wrote nearly my entire thesis, published three peer-reviewed journal articles, won a Best Paper Award and landed a job as Lecturer in Education immediately after graduation. I now have friends who write to me from time to time to get my advice on time management, on job hunting and on work-life balance. While I keep emphasising to them that publication is the most important, I…