Archives for the month of: January, 2016

Guest post by Gareth McCathie, Postgraduate Researcher, Department of Biomedical Science.

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I stumbled upon BitesizeBio in the early months of the second year of my PhD whilst troubleshooting a particularly stubborn cloning reaction and, after seeing the wide range of useful little lab tricks & practical insider knowledge, quickly bookmarked the site. When I returned to check it out in more detail I saw they also had a large range of advice for dealing with the stresses of work & PhDs, enhancing your personal development and getting the most out of your career in general. Many of these articles used a heavily introspective approach and led me to consider things that are often, intentionally or otherwise, disregarded in the scientific community. Dr Nick Oswald, the founder and MD of BitesizeBio, had written several of the articles himself and so I was delighted when he agreed to come and deliver a talk to the Faculty on how to have a happier and more rewarding work life.

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fsa_logo.pngRemember my Fellowship Ahoy! research project? Well it’s now been published. The summary of the project outcomes below is the press release from the Leadership Foundation.

The research paper itself is here on the LFHE website and has a lot of data in the fellows own words about how they got their fellowship funding.

You can find links, two online virtual workshops on ‘Network Building for Research Success’ and ‘Having Creative Research Ideas’, and a batch of videos of the Fellows talking about their experiences all branching from the FSA home page here. Read the rest of this entry »

Often I’m asked what mentoring can actually achieve.“OK, I get that it’s nice” (they say) “But it’s just a chat right? What can talking to someone do that I can’t do on my own?”

Actually a lot. Like bringing in more objectivity, creating bigger picture thinking, supporting creativity in problem solving, spotting unhelpful patterns of thinking or behaviour, benchmarking in new areas of work,  hearing yourself think out loud, providing reassurance and sense checking, breaking large tasks into manageable chunks…and actually it helps you carve out time for the things you never get round to if you try to do it on your own.

That’s what I think, but what do the researchers who’ve worked with a mentor think? Below are some posters I’ve recently pulled together that capture overview data from two of the mentoring programmes I designed for researchers: research staff mentoring and thesis mentoring. Take a look, there’s a case study at the end of this post too.

Thesis Mentoring Overview (click to get PDF)

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Research Staff Mentoring Overview (click to get PDF)

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A mentoring case study | 2015 mentee | male | engineer

I approached the mentoring programme for help to form a career plan and get my work back onto a productive track.  The reasons for approaching the mentoring programme for this help were to glean impartial advice from someone outside of my department who had experience in different institutions prior to their time in Sheffield.  These were important points for me.  It was essential to be able to have frank confidential conversations safe in the knowledge that nothing would reach my department.  I also wanted perspectives of working elsewhere in Higher Education to help me consider my future options.

With my mentor, we discussed the wider Higher Education landscape in the UK and the nuances of our faculty in Sheffield.  This was a comforting experience, as it helped clarify my opinions for remaining working in Higher Education and where the sector may be heading in the future, with someone more experienced than myself and willing to share their outside opinion.  Additionally, I worked with my mentor to form a strategy to maximise my opportunities in Sheffield in the near-term. 

Knowing that I’d sanity-checked and agreed a plan with my mentor has encouraged me to abide by it more closely than may have been the case otherwise. 

Overall, the mentoring programme has given me more confidence in my approach to working at Sheffield and helped me produce a career plan for the future in the short-term.  I feel in a much stronger position for having gone through the scheme and it has made me more content with working in my department.

The scheme has some particularly strong points.  I found the fact that mentors as well as mentees had voluntarily entered the scheme a tremendously positive concept, because it meant that both parties wanted to be in the discussion.  Having a mentor outside of my department also ensured there was no hidden agenda behind the discussions or fear of any information being used by my department at a later date.


Happy New Year

I wanted to start my first blog of 2016 by reflecting on how many times I have told researchers that they possess a very marketable commodity (if you will excuse my use of a business phrase), and how companies outside academia who employ PhDs value your specialist knowledge, research skills and problem solving ability. 

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Google search ‘colour psychology’ (other search engines are available) and you can take your pick of opinion pieces, blog posts and article links on the topic of how colour affects both our mood and behaviour.

I am not going to attempt to literature review the research in this field, I am just taking the general position that colour and phrases can cause us to perpetuate a state of mind.

For example, the annual phrase, ‘January blues’ classically reinforces our sense of gloom about the short day light hours and the fact that the festive break with no work alarm and an unending supply of brie, crackers and chocs has come to a premature end. Read the rest of this entry »