Tag Archives: postgrad

Spring Gradfest: Smooth out your thesis journey

Gradfest is coming soon (27-30 Oct), full of sessions to help you on your thesis journey.

Every time I see the ads, they remind me of when I attended as a new postgrad student, hungry for information on the thesis process. I learned in the time management session, for instance, that if we didn’t schedule social interaction into our calendar, we’d end up stealing it from our thesis time. That won’t happen to me, I thought. I don’t need to socialise very much. But the presenter was right! Thesis study can be lonely—it’s important to make friends to survive and thrive. Knowing that social time is essential keeps you from feeling guilty about it, and learning to manage your schedule is a vital part of the journey.

Visit https://canterbury.libguides.com/gradfest/programme to see the many sessions on offer this time around.

-Kara, former international PhD student at UC

Postgrad Student Blog: The not-so-obvious choices

Postgraduate study is a lot more than the degree itself: it’s also a chance to understand the universe, and yourself, in your own unique way, says UC postgrad student Dr Sriparna Saha.

It is often said that pursuing a PhD is a matter of choice, and I couldn’t agree more. It has almost been a year since I started my second doctoral degree at the University of Canterbury. Whenever I have been asked how far along I am in my PhD journey and responded with 1st year of my second PhD, I have seen the look of incredulity on peoples’ faces ending with the same question each time, “Why.”

Why indeed?

It indeed is hard to justify choices to people when things are viewed from a lens of social norm, of things that one is expected to do, or career paths one is expected to follow. Even in academia, conformity lies in pursuing a postdoc as an independent researcher immediately after finishing up a postgrad, and keep at it till one lands a tenure track research position.

What, however, is not obvious is that there may be people who want to experiment and pursue careers that lie outside the spectrum of the obvious.

Academia is replete with stories of how the persistence to pursue a non-obvious career choice is seen as a sign of abandonment. But where amidst all this conformity is the space for the self, to bring in our other non-science passions and interests into the research we care so much about?

This is what I tell people.

While I loved cooking rocks in a highly prestigious experimental lab to understand how continents formed about 4 billion years ago, I felt restricted when I couldn’t bring my art, my interests in writing, storytelling and teaching to the lab.

It took me a while to realize that the postgraduate degree is a lot more than the degree itself. Of course you eventually become an expert in your field, but most importantly, it is an opportunity to understand the universe in your own way.

As with most other things in making life choices, the value of the postgrad degree is relative to what you want to do, and what it is that other people use to judge your version of success. It truly is about learning skills that inspire you each day to enquire and understand the world around you in different ways.

When I look back, I feel fortunate to have worked with people who have given me the space to make these not-so-obvious choices, and supported them no matter what.

At the end of the day, it is not about making it easy, but finding the niche, that space where every challenge can make you realize the value of pursuing your dreams.

This article was first published on 7 September 2020, on the UC Science Blog.

Dr Sriparna Saha is a 2nd year postgraduate student in GeoEducation at the University of Canterbury, where she is using Digital Storytelling for Volcano Risk Literacy. She has a PhD (2019) in Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences from Rice University (USA), where she used experiments to understand the origin of continents. She feels strongly for communicating science and art and is continuously looking for innovative ways to blend the two.

Come along to the Change Direction Postgraduate Expo (10-17 September) for a range of information sessions where you can find out more about postgraduate study options and pathways at UC. Check out the timetable and register free here.

Postgrad Student Blog: Into the Unknown

If you have ever stopped to think about why you have chosen certain paths in life, surely, like me, you won’t find an immediate answer. However, over time, that questioning inevitably finds its response as a consequence of the first step of the journey itself.

I clearly remember the day I started the Master of Human Interface Technology (MHIT) programme at the HIT Lab NZ. Each one of my classmates introduced themselves; everybody had different backgrounds. I was not the exception. When my turn came, I said: “Hello, my name is Gonzalo, I have a background in psychology, and I am uncertain as to what I’m doing here.” We all laughed together with empathy. I believe that was a shared feeling. Surprisingly, communicating my uncertainty brought an immediate sense of security. After that precise moment, I knew that I had lied. Indeed, I couldn’t have been anywhere else. The HIT Lab NZ was the only place where I wanted to be. Since then, the response to my self-contemplation started to take shape.

I joined the MHIT program to learn about cutting-edge technologies, with a focus on innovative training tools to promote the development of engaging learning experiences. My studies in psychology equipped me with rewarding knowledge and expertise. However, as expected, there was not so much scope for the analysis of technical developments. Thus, I carefully considered how compatible my background and the MHIT program were. That insightful thought was probably one of the biggest warning signs. Something told me “do not risk it”.

I suppose that I could tell stories about how I developed skills that were not within my reach before undertaking the MHIT programme, or how much I now enjoy writing code. But I suppose I’m not writing these lines to sell something, but rather to share and provide meaning to people with similar desires or experiences wanting to venture into unfamiliar areas of research.

More than a year has passed since that first day of class. Happily, I have finished the programme, and I believe I have acquired a unique set of skills not often found in my profession. Without a doubt, the overall experience offered by the MHIT programme provided the necessary grounds required to achieve my personal goals. But that’s not the end of the story, as I’ve only grappled the surface, and I’ve realised there is so much I am yet to learn.

Today I am grateful I did the MHIT programme. Of course, it was not easy, as nothing worth having is easy to achieve. Thus, as long as the desire exists, I encourage those who question themselves, to venture into unknown areas of knowledge. I truly believe the beauty of thinking thrives through diversity. Certainly, great things will come with the right amount of passion and the right combination of skills. The MHIT programme has provided those skills for me.

Gonzalo Suarez

Hangarau Tangata, Tangata Hangarau | The HIT Lab NZ, is the University of Canterbury’s primary research centre for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), applied immersive game design, and human-robot interaction. At HIT Lab NZ, we cultivate connection between industry and our students to create highly skilled graduates who are ready for careers in industry or academia.
For more information about our Master’s or PhD programmes, visit our website or contact our friendly team at info@hitlabnz.org.nz