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. Continue reading “Becoming a research leader”

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.

DISCLAIMER:

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.

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Why you should do a Doctoral Consortium

In May my supervisor tweeted me the link to the MobileHCI Doctoral Consortium (chaired by Stephen Brewster and Keith Cheverst) and at that point I had no idea what a DC was. But, being as curious as I am and always trying to push myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to apply. I wrote the paper in a couple of hours, got some quick feedback and submitted it. A few months later I received my acceptance email. 
By then I learnt that a DC is an opportunity to
  1. talk about your research,
  2. get feedback from experts who are not directly involved in your research, but have a good understanding of the broader area, and
  3. network with peers (but not only). All this in a supportive but critical environment.
This is what you find out when you search for Doctoral Conosortium and gather information from the various websites. What I didn’t realise is how useful this actually is.

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Visiting Microsoft Research, Cambridge

This week I visited Microsoft Research in Cambridge for a 2.5 day workshop on how to build a successful career in research and get to know more about the work that goes on in these labs.

It has been a fantastic opportunity to learn hands on about Azure, but also find out for example how computing can be used to cure cancer, capture medical imaging and predict bio-models. I had no idea Microsoft Research covered so many different topics related to computer science! We also got very good tips and tools to on how to write a paper, think strategically, present data and do interdisciplinary research.  Continue reading “Visiting Microsoft Research, Cambridge”

7 networking lessons I learnt at CHI 2014 (aka what I wish I had done)

I just came back from CHI conference (http://chi2014.acm.org/), and after talking with other PhD students I realised what I did wrong when trying to network. If only I had known this stuff before…. oh well, lesson learnt for the next upcoming conference!

1. Don’t aim only for the “big names”.

People that are like rockstars in your field might not have time to chat with you or, if they find a few minutes, they might not still be working on that paper you love citing so much. 

2. Don’t just go for questions at the end of a presentation talk.

Questions are good if you want a specific short answer on the paper they just presented, but it’s more likely that you want to have a long conversation with that person and that’s hardly going to happen at the end of a presentation. Especially cause people want to run off to the next session. 

Continue reading “7 networking lessons I learnt at CHI 2014 (aka what I wish I had done)”