My #PhDshelfie: Michelle

Hi, my name is Michelle and if I have any special talent it is approaching burnout and staying on the brink of it for far too long. For those who don’t know, “burnout”  is a term coined in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, to describe the effects of severe stress and high ideals in “helping” professions, such as doctors and nurses. Today it is used to refer to the phenomenon in professions across the board, with main signs and symptoms falling into three main categories: exhaustion, alienation from work-related activities, and reduced performance. These signs can be both physical and emotional and are starting to be more recognized as a problem within academia.


Raising the Bar? Why PhD Students and Postdocs Publish and Perish, and How They Could Publish and Flourish Instead (Part 2)

I propose here that to publish and flourish the focus must shift from our obsessions with metrics to our contributions to knowledge. The metrics are merely (or at least should be) by-products of the research process. To flourish within this crude system, let me offer some tips on getting published frequently and publishing well to thrive in your first postdoctoral years in academia.

Raising the Bar? Why PhD Students and Postdocs Publish and Perish, and How They Could Publish and Flourish Instead (Part 1)

Publish or perish remains a popular maxim in higher education circles. Although it may ring of neoliberal institutional straight-jacketing or self-imposed bio-governance – and there is resistance against it by a number of academic groups – the experience for many scholars is that the mantra still holds true. It seems as though one must publish often in high-impact journals or expect to be relegated to a second-class citizen of the academy. The challenge is to face this situation without succumbing to the pressure. My task then in this short two-part blog post is to offer some tips from my personal experience as an early-career academic and recent graduate of the Faculty of Education in Cambridge on how to publish often and publish well.

My PhD Journey in 8 Pictures

I am Lina and I like pictures. If asked to introduce myself to a group of academics, I would say: “I am Lina and for my PhD thesis I explored how children engage with wordless picture books.” Given my love for visual stories and my PhD topic, I hereby succumb to a temptation I always had in mind: to summarise my entire PhD life in 8 pictures. A complete thesis for the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge is equivalent to approximately 80000 words. Based on the famous saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, for the sake of this blog post, let’s equip images with even more power and try to visualise a four-year PhD experience.

Going Alt-Ac After a PhD in Education

I spent most of my PhD worrying about what I was going to do once I finished it. I had an idea of what I wanted to do but I just could not find the place to do it. My research focuses on the intersection of human rights and education and I wanted to keep on working on both aspects of it. This was a nightmare in terms of job hunting. Human Rights Education is quite a new field so there were not many positions available – only one since 2014, to be precise – and positions in education faculties had little or no connections with human rights at all.

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…