Resilience is defined as “having the ability to recover from or overcome misfortunes or struggles”.
The last few months have been an incredibly hard time for our HDR students and we acknowledge their resilience and efforts in continuing their research journeys during this time. Even, under normal circumstances the PhD journey is often cited as one of the most challenging times of an academic’s life. But the incredible circumstances of the last months has really turned things upside down. Candidates’ research has been disrupted, and it has disproportionately affected those at key stages of their PhD research, such as data collection stage. Living conditions have changed, with students having childcare/caring responsibilities, loss of income, or traveling back to their home country. Many candidates (and staff) have family abroad and are worried about them.
We understand that the uncertainty about the future might also be creating anxiety to all; and most specially, for those close to finish. A lot has been said and written in the last few months about resilience, doing research during the pandemic, and the future of the PhD degree.
Some links below discuss this more in detail:
- Resilience during the PhD: https://phdinahundredsteps.com/2016/08/09/building-researcher-resilience/
- How to do research during a pandemic: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01898-1
- The future for PhD students: https://utorontopress.com/us/work-your-career-2
The Covid-19 situation has knocked us down in terms of our work, but also at personal levels. Without diminishing the real impact Covid-19 has had, and still has on our HDR cohort, I see the need to shift our focus to a positive mind-set in order to overcome these struggles.
There are 3 things that can help us to think more positively during this time:
- Adaptability of Design and Humanities. Covid-19 has affected the way we do research, especially because our research involves people, and places, and human interaction, and as a result, access to locations and participants have been diminished. The HDR cohort and supervisors have demonstrated incredibly creative ways of redesigning research projects. This adaptability does not diminish the quality of the research, it just shows the amazing ability of Design researchers to adapt to circumstances, to pursue research questions and problems. This experience has been a lesson for all of us, and learning to adapt our research design to the context and situation will be a very useful skill for the future.
- Thinking more positively about your PhD journey. Yes, it has been said that completing a PhD can be a challenging and isolating time for a PhD student, but it is also a time of academic freedom, of learning, experimenting, exploring, with great opportunities to expand your knowledge (e.g. courses, conferences, etc) and skill set. When I was doing my PhD, the Head of School at the time told me that for her, the PhD process was the best time in her academic career. She said that she never again had the time to only focus so deeply on her research. When I think about that time of my life now, I have to agree with her. It was a time of so much learning, where I could pursue learning and research activities and spend days, weeks, months just only focusing on my research (just a look at my email inbox now and I know those days are gone for ever). Travelling to conferences (domestic or international) is usually one of the most exciting parts of a PhD journey. They allow you to present your research to peers, get quality feedback from your research, attend presentations of key experts in your area, and network. I personally found conferences inspiring, and being immersed for days on topics of research I love, fills me with ideas and enthusiasm for what I do. I acknowledge how frustrating it is missing out on this fun and very constructive part of the degree right now. But again, let’s think positively. The international research community is trying really hard to keep connected and as a result there are a lot of webinars, and conferences online. The offerings are very exciting, and the new format allows for more participation. Yes, it is not the same, but it is an opportunity nonetheless.
- Create your support system. When I think about what helped me back then (during my PhD process) and what helped me in the last few months, it is the support I have received from friends and family, my colleagues. Hopefully during this time of your PhD, you are as lucky as I was and you are making friends whom you will cherish for the rest of your life. I made incredible friends back then, that helped me through the PhD, and they have continued being a part of my life through the highs and lows. We went to each other weddings, celebrated babies, children’s birthdays, and jobs, we help each other through illness and losses and they are still my rock (See picture below-my support system, you may recognize them!). This support system has grown now with the incredible colleagues of the School of Design. To see how important, one’s support system during the PhD is, you just need to read the acknowledgment section of HDR thesis. Friends who have gone through the journey together are always acknowledged. This journey can feel like a solitary one, but there is a community of students, and supervisors who are there with you and for you. It is very important to find your tribe!
Finally, to all our Design HDR students I want to say to you, hang in there, let’s keep pushing through this rough patch, let’s be nice to each other, let’s be positive about the future. The 20th of July is coming soon, and it will be lovely to see people back on Campus and face to face again.
QUT announcements, protocols and help regarding COVID 19 https://qutvirtual4.qut.edu.au/group/student/covid-19#h2-6
QUT Counselling Services offer free support to all students. Consultations are currently being conducted by phone rather than face to face. Details about how to book an appointment and services available can be accessed at https://qutvirtual4.qut.edu.au/group/student/health-and-wellbeing/personal-support-and-counselling/student-counselling
Additionally this is an excellent information sheet that collates a number of resources available to you, your friends and family members – https://www.emhprac.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Full-COVID-19-Factsheet-.pdf
Courses and information, keep an eye for the GRE+D messages and announcements.
Shut up and write. The Design lab offers 3 session of Shut up write, one for HDR students and two for staff (but you are also welcome). Times below:
- Tuesday session for HDR students, 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
- Wednesday session, everybody welcome, 11:30 am to 1 pm
- Friday session, everybody welcome, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm