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.

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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…

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…