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.

Continue reading “PhD life 101”

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.  Continue reading “Why I use mind maps when interviewing”

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.

Continue reading “Why you should do a Doctoral Consortium”

PhD Showcase at UCLiC

This is an internal event of my department to get all PhD students to talk about their work. First year students present a poster in a 3minute madness session, second year students give a longer presentation on their progress (10 minutes) and third year students have the option of how to present their work (talk or poster). Supervisors and research staff are then encourage give feedback to each student.

Here you can find some pictures from the event:  Continue reading “PhD Showcase at UCLiC”


So, clearly I never did a PhD in Italy, but I know several friends who did or are still in the process of.  After being here for 6 weeks one thing is clear: a PhD is totally different from here to there. 
But is it, really?
Or does it just depend on the people you work with, the project, and whether it’s funded (and have a more strict deadline) or not?
What I noticed is that none of my friends and colleagues abroad seem to have a clear timeline and milestones to cover over the years. Yes, it’s an ongoing process, always shifting towards more detailed and specific topics, but what is common to all of them is that the first year you kind of struggle through figuring out what to do and how to do it. Most of the time you might just be reading papers and maybe doing some side project, such as helping some post-doc run an experiment. 
Not me though. British PhD are structured so you have to be examined after a year through a Viva Voce examination (aka Viva) where a committee decides whether you are fit for research, or to say it formally, you get upgraded from MPhil to PhD. Specifically, my department requires an other more informal Viva examination before the official one. The latter will be in approximately 6 months. By then I need to write 2 or 3 chapters of my thesis (the introduction, the literature review and possibly my first study), which means I have to read, write, think of an experiment, recruit participants, collect data, analyze it and wrap all of this with nice paper and a bow by May.

No time to procrastinate, oversleep or daydream. 

The timeline I created will hopefully help me stay on track.
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