From 0 to submitted – #lastmonthofPhD

I submitted my thesis at the end of February, a week after starting my new job as a Lecturer at Northumbria University. I then defended my PhD exactly a month ago and passed with no corrections. Before I completely forget how that last month or so of writing my thesis felt, I wanted to share some thoughts and tips that hopefully can come in handy to others in a similar position.

Back in January 2017, during a moment of utter panic, I sat down and made a timeline of what needed to be done in my last year. You can find that timeline below, but be aware: 90% of it didn’t go as I had planned. Compared to my original plan, I submitted 5 weeks late(r). By the time of submission, I technically still had seven months before a very hard university deadline (which was September 2018), but I wanted to have handed in a month before I started my new job to have some well deserved holiday and sleep. However, life is messy and doesn’t always go according to plan!  (more…)

QUDDLE – QUalitative Data Discussions Led by Experience

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to organise a student-led group to discuss qualitative research in my department that could provide peer support. After some deliberation about how to best lead it, in March I started the QUDDLE group, QUalitative Data Discussions Led by Experience (pronounced “cuddle”). Yes, I know, it’s a cheesy name – but sometimes when you do research and you are drowning in data (which seems to be always the case in qual research) you want a supportive virtual hug.


Will AI make us happy?

If technology is not making us happy, why are we using it?

And if it is making us happy, why do we run away from it as soon as we can?

On Monday I went to the debate “This house believes that Artificial Intelligence/Robotics will make us happy“, organised by CSAR (Cambridge Society for the Application of Research). While it was the first time I went to one of these events so I wasn’t sure what to expect, I certainly didn’t expect the panel to only include one woman, with an audience of similar (but slightly more balanced) gender ratio, and an average age of maybe 60. I was stunned that there were only a handful of people my age, given that we are the generation that can have maybe the strongest impact on what direction AI can take. (more…)

Becoming a research leader

Several weeks ago I attended a great workshop on mentorship, led by Natacha Wilson. I was so impressed with the delivery and the quality of content, that when I heard she’d be coming to UCL to run a workshop on becoming a research leader, I didn’t want to miss it. I maybe attend one too many of these workshops/seminars, but I generally find them very reassuring and useful. In a world of competition and politics, it seems that being strategic is key, and I’ll take any form of advice I can get. These events are also a great opportunity for self-reflection, which we far too often don’t find time for, but can help identify areas of improvement before it’s too late. (more…)

PhD life 101

I was recently asked to think about what I wish I had known on day 1 of my PhD. As a few friends, a flatmate, team members are about to embark on a PhD, I thought of sharing my thoughts and lessons learnt so far. Overall, I think the one thing I’d go back and tell myself is: make mistakes, make them early, learn from them and move on because a PhD is about choices, changes, and challenges.

On a more practical level… When I first started my PhD I did a lot ‘training’ and one thing that stuck with me was that doing a PhD is becoming a project manager: so learning how to mange resources, time, and people.


I’m at the end of my 3rd year so I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more between now and submission, What I’ve included here is stuff I’ve learnt from my own experience, from talking to other PhD students and by listening to my supervisor. Not everything came easy, some things I had to learn the hard way and others I’m still trying to master.


Why I use mind maps when interviewing

When running a qualitative study, several people by now have pointed out the format of my interview questions and asked me why I use mind maps instead of a list of questions. They all seemed generally curious and intrigued by my choice, and some have even recommended them to their students. So I thought of sharing what led me to this choice and how I use mind maps for interview questions.  (more…)

What ICT can do for work-life balance

Last week the Balance Network organised a one-day conference, Beyond Balance, to bring together researchers, practitioners and industry parties that work in the area of work-life balance and digital technologies. You can find the full program here. The event was organised as an opportunity to showcase and present findings from funded projects on the topic. Because there were two tracks going on, couched by morning and evening keynotes, I was able to attend only half of the sessions, two of which I was involved in. Thoughts and reflections shared below are intended to be a summary of the three themes that emerged across all sessions (I attended, that is) and I took home that day. Together, the three points offer an answer to the question:

What can ICT do for work-life balance?


Busyness vs. Productivity

Last week, at the Beyond Balance conference, in his closing keynote Oliver Burkeman argued Against Productivity.

He started off framing his views around the popular idea of limitless in time and positive thinking, according to which we can do anything. And as a result, we worship busyness (quoting Tim Kreider’s busy trap), which we can only keep up with if we fail at it. How? Take that email you received last week, and still have not replied to. You know it’s there, you know you should have done something about it, but actually, realistically speaking, your colleague has already emailed someone else to ask for their help, so, yes you failed at replying, but actually you can cross it off the list. Done.

And why are we so busy? (more…)

Leadership: the importance of talking about failure

There was a CV going around social media and the press posted by a tired academic who wanted to expose just how much our culture is based on success and competition. It was eye opening… As a fairly young academic myself, it was encouraging to read and know that others have bad days too. About a month ago, I was talking to a colleague I look up to and found out that behind her successes there were rejected papers. I had no idea. In academia, it is common to celebrate successes, and perhaps brag about them too, but it is also common to complain about reviewer 2, the biased editor, or the tardiness with which a paper is handled. There’s a good summary of typical academics and how to handle them here. Being a woman in STEM it can be considered even more important to just show off the best results and just how successful one is, to compete against gender bias. So when I attended the event “Women in Leadership” organised by UCL PALS Athena Swan I was expecting an empowering talk on how to stand up against men and show off our best traits. I have never been so wrong. (more…)