Full House for the Whitaker Institute PhD forum 2017

On 24th May 2017, the Whitaker Institute hosted its second forum for NUI Galway PhD students in the Hardiman Research Building.  Targeted at students at all stages of their PhD, the event was full, with 65 students attending.

The event was opened by the Director of the Whitaker Institute, Professor Alan Ahearne.  The day was then divided into two morning and two afternoon sessions.  The first morning session was called ‘Coaching yourself to success: How to manage the PhD journey (and beyond)’.  Led by Dr Alma McCarthy, this interactive session encouraged peer-to-peer discussion and learning, and identified common challenges faced by PhD students, including time management, work/life balance, and motivation.  Following this, a session titled ‘Research funding during and after your PhD’ featured presentations from Dr Denis Dennehy (Agile and Open Innovation Cluster (LERO), who spoke about his experience in funding applications; Ms Angela Sice, (Development Officer, Whitaker Institute), who identified the support for research funding applicants available through the Whitaker Institute; and Dr Ann Ryan (Head of Research Development, Research Office), who spoke about the process of applying for research funding, the sources of funding available, and offered advice for research funding applicants.   This session also featured a helpful Q&A where attendees could ask questions about research funding.

In the afternoon, the opening session featured advice about the Viva.  The presenters were Dr Rachel Hilliard (Vice Dean for Graduate Studies and Cluster Leader, Innovation and Structural Change), who provided helpful guidance about the Viva regulations and procedures; Dr Gabriela Gliga (Marketing Discipline), who spoke about her recent Viva experience; and Professor Mary Cawley (Adjunct Professor of Migration and Rural Societal Change, Whitaker Institute), who provided a PhD examiner’s perspective on the Viva.  Following this session, there was a lively Q&A, where questions about the Viva and regulations were addressed to a panel incorporating Professor Cawley, Dr Hilliard, Dr Gliga, and Ms Anna Marie Leonard (Graduate Studies Manager).  The final session of the day was called ‘Your PhD: advice on research output and impact’.  Three presenters: Dr John Danaher (Cluster Leader, Technology and Governance), Dr Ashley Piggins (Cluster Leader, Group Decision Making), and Dr Elaine Wallace (Cluster Leader, Performance Management), presented their advice on getting published, and creating research impact.  Dr Danaher also provided a helpful handout on the peer review process, and Dr Piggins provided advice on publishing from the perspective of a journal editor.

PhD posters were on display throughout the day, and poster sessions took place during coffee and lunch breaks.  The poster sessions also facilitated interaction and networking.  Attendees were provided with a supporting pack of materials from the Graduate Studies office, including a PhD Viva Guide written by Dr Ann Torres, as well as a set of guidelines on PhD submission and conferring.

Feedback from the day was extremely positive. Attendees completed a follow up feedback survey, and the comments below illustrate their overall assessment of the day:
• “It really was an excellent day. Great to link with other students and get focus. Thanks for organising!”
• “Thank you so much to all involved – I am so glad I attended. It was so worthwhile. I came back to the office and recommended it to ALL 2nd and 3rd years PhD’s that is a “must attend” event for next year.”
• “Excellent day. Friendly atmosphere. Excellent speakers.”
• “Great day, great speakers and advice would definitely recommend other PhD students to attend.”
• “Great day… Go raibh míle maith agaibh uilig !!!”

A number of the slide presentations from the day are available online on the Whitaker Institute slideshare site.