Tuesday, 27 September 2016

From uncertainty to the semi-structured interview (Jason Murphy)

Image courtesy of Markus Spiske/Unsplash
Taking on a PhD while working full-time can be a rewarding experience. I get to delve into an area of intellectual enquiry in a really rigorous way, and in a fashion that I'd be unlikely to undertake during my spare time!

My post today shares my preliminary experiences with research interviews. I hope it will prove useful to others in the social sciences. I present this post with the caveat that I'm by no means an expert in this area, and that these insights are things that I've learned along the way.

Within the social sciences – my discipline – candidature often involves establishing your position, concerns and argument within the existing literature and defining your methodological approach. This is often done before attempting to collect your data.

For those who are studying part-time, this can be a considerable journey and one that almost risks the complete abstraction of your original question and motivation for embarking on your journey of enquiry.

In my own case, it’s been a truly humbling experience and one where, quite honestly, the more I “learned” (note those deliberate commas); the more I delved and enquired, the further I seemed to drift away from any kind of absolute clarity about what I was doing.

In other words, the more I learned the less I knew. With this came an acute sense of ambiguity within a boundless ocean of perspectives, enquiries, points of view, etc.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Lesson learned - Research Week 2016 (Tseen Khoo)

Our wonderful 3MT finalists
You know that feeling when you say yes to heaps of stuff, then don’t feel like doing it all?

Well, that was me at one stage during Research Week.

La Trobe held its inaugural Research Week from 5-9 September 2016. The five days were focused on the university's researchers and their varied, fascinating work, and it was a packed with things to see and do.

It would’ve been excellent to get around to everything but I settled for committing to attending and livetweeting the lunchtime talks as much as I could, as well as La Trobe’s 3MT finals.

Now, when the lunchtime talks came about that first day, I thought to myself, “Hmmm. I have so many things on. I might just skip it…”. I sat there for about 5 mins having that internal argument.

But I forced myself to go – partly because I’d stated on Twitter that I’d be livetweeting (public accountability ftw!), partly because I spend a lot of time in a research bubble of similar disciplines and approaches and it’s always – always – good to break that up once in a while.

I ended up having a hectic, wonderful time over the week, and it was for many reasons. Some may not be the ones you’d think!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Interview with Dr Rachel Winterton (John Richards Initiative, Wodonga Campus)

Photo by Rachel Winterton
This week's interview is with Dr Rachel Winterton, who is based mostly at La Trobe's Albury-Wodonga Campus.

We say 'mostly' because we know that Rachel clocks up many hours on the road as she is involved with many things that take her regularly to LTU's various other campuses!

Her active support of research culture-building initiatives, including the ECR conference on 26 September, is a hallmark of Rachel's positive, collegial attitude.

How did you end up researching in the field you're in?

Basically, it was a calculated risk that has turned out quite well!

My PhD is actually in historical studies (a social history of aquatic sport in nineteenth century Melbourne!). When I was three-quarters of the way through my PhD, I began to worry about employment, as most doctoral students do, and began scouring the job sites looking at what might be in store for me.

One particular job piqued my interest – a full-time, one-year research position at the John Richards Initiative, an ageing research centre at La Trobe Wodonga. Given that my not-yet-completed PhD was in history and they wanted someone in health sciences, I wasn’t too hopeful of getting an interview – nor was I sure if I wanted to move away from Melbourne – but figured putting together an application would be good experience.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

I think I’m a data scientist now (Murray Neuzerling)

Image: Murray Neuzerling
At the very least, I’ve taken the first step.

In May, I started my work at ANZ under the AMSI intern program. Until November, I’ll be doing data science-y things in the analytics team in this beautiful Docklands building.

That’s right, I’m making the scary transition from academia to industry.

Except it hasn’t been scary at all.

Sure, working a corporate nine-to-five is a very different experience to the usual t-shirt and jeans academic experience, but there’s been no catastrophic culture shock. Mostly, that’s due to the immensely helpful folks at ANZ who have smoothed the transition for me and two other interns. I cannot overstate just how wonderful these people are.