Researcher-Led Mental Health and Wellbeing Initiatives – Call for applications

We are pleased to announce that the Researcher-Led Mental Health and Wellbeing Initiatives funding scheme has been reopened for further applications.

The scheme is offered through the Office for Students funded Understanding the mental health of doctoral researchers project. Current Sussex doctoral researchers are invited to submit proposals for initiatives/interventions designed to benefit the mental health and wellbeing of Sussex PhD students. Initiatives should be aligned to one or more of five themes, which were identified following focus groups with Sussex doctoral researchers during May 2018.

The themes are:

  • Creating and maintaining community belonging
  • Cultivating time to breathe
  • Celebrating self and successes
  • Constructing “other groups, other routes, other ways to be free”
  • Curating experiences of research process

There are opportunities to get involved by:

  1. Submitting a proposal for £750 for an initiative you would like to organise yourself,
  2. Suggesting an idea for an initiative, or
  3. Expressing your interest in helping other researchers to deliver a proposal

The project is already supporting four researcher-led initiatives and we are keen to fund further proposals. You can seek funds for initiatives for doctoral researchers at the departmental, School, or University level.

Please visit the webpage for further details. If you have any questions about the scheme or wish to run your idea past a member of the Understanding the mental health of doctoral researchers project team, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Dr Sophie Valeix.

Round-up: Festival of Doctoral Research 2019

The Doctoral School’s Festival of Doctoral Research returned last week for three full days dedicated to showcasing and celebrating doctoral research at Sussex. There were workshops, exhibitions, human books, and a slightly windy BBQ. Here’s a quick round-up of what happened….

Tuesday 18th June

The Festival kicked off with an interesting and thoughtful discussion on the individual, social and institutional factors that may influence doctoral researcher mental health. Facilitated by Prof Alison Phipps and Dr Liz McDonnell from the Changing University Cultures (CHUCL) collective, participants were invited to create representations of these factors using lego, plasticine, and pens, and to propose ideas about what a supportive institution for doctoral researcher mental health would look like. The discussions that took place during the workshop will be used to inform the outputs of the Understanding the Mental Health of Doctoral Researchers project.

After lunch, the day continued with another participatory workshop, this time exploring Imposter Syndrome in the context of academia. Dr Charlotte Morris, Dr Jill Kirby and Dr Laila Kadiwal invited participants to consider the nature of imposter feelings, and the aspects of academic culture which may exacerbate these. Participants discussed a range of possible solutions for reducing and managing imposter feelings.

Wednesday 19th June

Wednesday kicked off with the Living Library, where researchers transformed into ‘books’ and imparted their experience, advice, and knowledge for eager ‘readers’. The event, organised by the Doctoral School and The Library, enabled researchers to benefit from listening to their peers on a broad range of topics including Dealing with writers block (Abigail Rieley), Podcasting and science communication (Gigi Hennessy), and When research gets personal (Rachel Fricker).

Following the Living Library, there was a lunch to accompany the Research Image and Research Poster exhibitions. Displayed together in the Jane Attenborough Studio (ACCA), the images and posters offered a glimpse into Sussex research. There were ballots for attendees to vote for their favourite, and some of the entrants were present to explain their creations to interested onlookers.

All of the Research Image entries were of a high quality and included a wide variety of topics, ideas, and locations; from e-waste in Ghana to mosaics in Hackney, the moral psychology of politics, to the philosophy of love. The People’s Choice award went to Raphaël Lebrun-Gallagher (School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences) for their shot of quantum computing ping-pong. Alexandros Daniilidis (School of Media, Film and Music) won second place with their black and white image of an individual walking through a desolate arcade following the Greek financial crisis. First place was awarded to Evie Browne (School of Global Studies) for their photo of Daimary, who was taking part in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Havana. Daimary’s expression captured attention in this powerful image which touched on themes around sexuality, women’s objectification, and the politics of representation.

The Research Posters were also of a very high quality and equally varied in the types of research represented, including the psychology behind giving, war experiences, architecture and lived experiences at Sussex and Essex universities, and mixing creative arts with young people at risk. Meirin Oan Evans (School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences) picked up the People’s Choice award with their poster of the Atlas experiment at CERN. Abrar Almjally (School of Engineering and Informatics) won second place for their poster on research investigating tangible and graphical user interfaces to support teaching at primary school level in Saudi Arabia. First place was scooped by Paul Shuttleworth (School of Education and Social Work) whose poster detailed research on children’s voice for issues surrounding kinship care. Paul’s poster took readers on a visual journey (including some cars) of his work, making it easy to follow and learn key points on the topic.

Wednesday closed with the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in The Gardner Tower (ACCA). The rules for 3MT presentations are simple: explain your thesis in just three minutes and only one PowerPoint slide. Considering an 80,000 word thesis would take 9 hours to present, this is no easy feat. The seven presenters, however, took it all in their stride. Following a lengthy discussion by the judging panel, Noora Nevala (School of Life Sciences) was awarded first place for their talk on zebrafish, and their environment and behaviour. Second place was awarded to Heidi Cobham (School of History, Art History and Philosophy) who presented on a philosophical re-examination of love, and the audience voted for Chris Mackin (School of Life Sciences), who presented on how the environment affects floral evolution.

The 2019 3MT Participants

Thursday 20th June

The final day of the Festival commenced with a new event, Methodology Speed Networking, which was hosted by the Research Hive Scholars. A synergy of speed networking and methodology discussions, participants were paired up and spent five minutes describing their research and guessing the methodology adopted by their networking partner. The aim was to encourage researchers to question how things are done, leave their methodological comfort zone, and share knowledge and ideas. After the allotted time was up, each person was introduced to someone new to talk with.

Over lunch, researchers joined a brand new workshop, Succeeding at interviews for doctoral researchers, organised by the Careers and Employability Centre and launched to coincide with the Festival of Doctoral Research. Participants went away with tips for preparing for both academic and non-academic interviews, and guidance on how to best showcase their skills.

The Festival came to a close with the Doctoral School’s annual BBQ. Despite the disappointment that the BBQ wasn’t accompanied by the glorious weather from the 2018 event, researchers came down to Falmer Bar to enjoy a drink and feast on BBQ delights. We thought it was a great way to end three days of celebrating the impactful and innovative research being undertaken by our community of doctoral researchers at Sussex.

Thanks for coming!!

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) 2019

This year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, held on Wednesday 19th June as part of the Doctoral School’s Festival of Doctoral Research, gave a fascinating insight into the diverse areas of doctoral research being conducted at Sussex.

Presenting their research with one slide and just 180 seconds, the audience heard from:

  • Fatmah Alhazmi (School of English): #Women2drive: It is not just about driving
  • Farah Alrajeh (School of English): The 21st Century Iraqi Novel, Texts and Contexts
  • Mathias Ciliberto (School of Engineering and Informatics): Low Power Complex Human Gestures Recognition
  • Heidi Cobham (School of History, Art History and Philosophy): A Philosophical Re-examination of Romantic Love
  • Chris Mackin (School of Life Sciences): Wildflower Evolution: Let’s talk about the Birds and the Bees
  • Noora Nevala (School of Life Sciences): The fish view of the world
  • Nehaal Bajwa (School of Education and Social Work): Fathers’ narratives and practices of care in Pakistan

With each speaker delivering their presentations to a high quality and in a range of different styles, the judges had some tough decisions to make. Following the competition, at a prize-giving ceremony hosted by Dr Ruth Sellers (Senior Lecturer and ESRC Future Research Leader Fellow), Noora Nevala was awarded First Place, Heidi Cobham received Second Place, and Chris Mackin received the People’s Choice award. You can read the winners’ 3MT abstracts below.

Almost a week after the competition, Prof Gordon Harold (Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor – Research Excellence Framework) met the three winners for lunch to discuss the competition, their research, and life as a Sussex doctoral researcher.

The 3MT winners joined Prof Gordon Harold (Deputy PVC- Research Excellence Framework) for a celebratory lunch
L to R: Heidi, Noora, Chris, Gordon

In addition to receiving £500 towards Noora’s research, as the overall winner of the Sussex competition, Noora will go on to participate in the UK semi-final of the 3MT competition, hosted by Vitae.

The fish view of the world
Noora Nevala (School of Life Sciences)

Imagine a situation where you are diving in a shallow, slowly moving stream in India. You can see the red-brownish bottom, some green plants moving with the rhythm of the water and sunlight glimmering near the surface. All of a sudden a small swarm of tiny fish swim by and you start to wonder: how do they see this colourful underwater world? What is important for them to see? In my research, I study the connection between the natural environment of the zebrafish and their colour vision, and how this can be seen in their behaviour.

A Philosophical Re-examination of Romantic Love
Heidi Cobham (School of History, Art History and Philosophy)

Humanity shares a deep-seated fascination with romantic love. As a society, we are completely preoccupied with ways to find ‘the one’, ways to make romantic relationships work and ways to ‘love better’. However, despite such wide-spread attention, romantic relationships fail at an alarming rate, which begs the question: why is it that romantic relationships persistently fail? Using philosophy, my research argues that the failure of romantic relationships assumes that our current understanding of romantic love is highly problematic. Due to this, I propose a re-examination of romantic love, in order that we might have long-lasting and successful romantic relationships.

Wildflower Evolution: Let’s talk about the Birds and the Bees
Chris Mackin (School of Life Sciences)

Plants are vital for our existence, and by studying recent changes in plants we can better understand how plants will respond to global change and how best to conserve them. The evolution of new floral form can occur rapidly, such as when a plant invades a new area and experiences a change in the pollinator community visiting it. Using a species that is visited by bumblebees in the native range and hummingbirds in part of the new range, we found rapid evolution of plant floral traits. My research investigates how these traits are inherited and how the environment influences this.

Festival of Doctoral Research 2019

Details and booking links for all the events taking place 18th – 20th June

Workshop: Changing University Cultures for Doctoral Researchers

Tuesday 18th June (10.00 – 12.00)The Gardner Tower, ACCA

  • How do we create meaningful equality in neoliberal universities where how things look takes precedence over how they are?
  • Is speaking out in the media ‘outrage economy’ our only route to political resistance, or are there ways to ‘speak in’ to the institution?
  • Can university cultures be changed?

These are some of the questions that underpin the work of the Changing University Cultures (CHUCL) collective, which has conducted in-depth research in a number of UK institutions on their cultures, and how they shape equality and diversity and common problems such as bullying, harassment and violence.

In this creative and interactive two-hour workshop led by Prof Alison Phipps and Dr Liz McDonnell, we will encourage participants to reflect on Sussex’s culture, especially as it is experienced by postgraduate students and precariously employed academics. You will engage in personal reflection, talk and listen empathically to others, and consider the systems which oppress us and the ones in which we are complicit. Intersectionality will be foregrounded as a principle for understanding both individual identities and experiences, and institutional inequalities.This event will also be informed by some of the findings from the Understanding the Mental Health of Doctoral Researchers project.

Tea and coffee will be provided on arrival, and lunch will be available after the workshop.

Book a place

Imposter syndrome: What is it and what can we do about it?

Tuesday 18th June (14.00 – 16.00)The Gardner Tower, ACCA

We are increasingly hearing the term Imposter Syndrome in academia. First described by psychologists Clance and Imes in 1978 as the imposter phenomenon, it describes “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness”, despite outstanding achievements.But where does imposter syndrome come from? Is it within us, the culture we exist in, or both?

This session, led by Dr Charlotte Morris (School of Education and Social Work), Dr Jill Kirby (School of History, Art History and Philosophy) and Dr Laila Kadiwal (University College London) will consider the nature of the imposter syndrome in academia, the mechanisms that enable and perpetuate its existence, and the ways in which we can resist it. Refreshments will be provided.

Book a place

Three Minute Thesis (3MT)  Competition

Wednesday 19th June (14.00 – 16.30)The Gardner Tower, ACCA

Developed by the University of Queensland; Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is an academic competition that challenges doctoral researchers to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience.

This year, you’ll get to hear from researchers in the following Schools who are taking on the 3MT challenge:

  • School of Life Sciences  
  • School of History, Art History and Philosophy
  • School of English
  • School of Engineering and Informatics

Book your place below and get involved in the People’s Choice audience vote! The competition will be followed by a prize giving event, where the winners will be announced. 

Book a place

Living Library

Wednesday 19th June (10.00 – 12.00)Open Learning Space, The Library

In our Living Library, doctoral researchers are both the readers and the books! Just like a normal library you can check out a ‘book’ on a topic that interests you, only at our Living Library the book is a doctoral researcher. The idea is that books share their experiences with others in the doctoral community – we know that doctoral researchers have a vast range of expertise and experience in research and there is not always the opportunity to share such insights – so here is an opportunity!

How it works

As a reader, come along to the Open Learning Space on the ground floor of the Library and review the catalogue of living ‘books’ that are available. Read through the short abstracts and arrange to borrow someone. Our librarians will then introduce you to your ‘book’ and you will then spend 20 minutes having an informal chat. If a particular book is in demand, small groups of 2 or 3 may take out a book together.

Who’s in our library?

Books you’ll be able to chat to include:

  • Creativity in Research Writing – Madhushala Senaratne (School of Media, Film, and Music)
  • When Research Gets Personal – Rachel Fricker (School of Psychology)
  • Share your passion: teach – Meirin Oan Evans (School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences)
  • Taking and Making Opportunities – Heidi Cobham (School of History, Art History and Philosophy)
  • Art at the furthest edge of Europe after the bloodiest, most sudden revolution – Bob Jarvis (School of History, Art History and Philosophy)
  • Working 9-5: what a way to write a thesis – Bethany Logan (School of History, Art History and Philosophy)
  • Dealing with Writers Block – Abigail Rieley (School of History, Art History and Philosophy)
  • Podcasting and science communication – Gigi Hennessy (School of Life Sciences)

You can book a place for the event and can
also reserve a specific ‘book’ at a specific time. 

Research Image and Research Poster Exhibition

Wednesday 19th June (12.00 – 14.00)Jane Attenborough Studio, ACCA

Come along to our Research Image and Research Poster Exhibition and discover the exciting work taking place in our doctoral community. Shortlisted entries to the Research Image Competition and Research Poster Competition will be on display from Tuesday 18th June in the Jane Attenborough Studio, and there’ll be an exhibition event on Wednesday 19th June where you’ll be able to put in any final votes for the People’s Choice award.

This is a drop-in event between 12.00 and 14.00, but please book a place below so we can ensure we’ve ordered enough refreshments! A prize-giving ceremony will take place in The Gardner Tower, ACCA, following the 3 Minute Thesis Competition.

Book a place

Methodology speed networking

Thursday 20th June (11.00 – 12.15)The Meeting House, Quiet Room

The Research Hive Scholars want to invite you to speed… methodologise! The game is inspired by simple rules of speed networking, in which everyone circulates around the room and gets a set number of minutes to communicate with each person. This time, however, it is not just about networking but guessing each other’s methodologies and research methods.

Everyone will introduce themselves with a one/two-sentence description of their research project, whereas the other person will have to come up with a method to match the project. The idea is to leave our methodological comfort zone, question how things are being done and inspire each other’s projects.

Book a place

Workshop: Succeeding at Interviews for PhD Researchers

Thursday 20th June (12.30 – 14.00) – Careers & Employability Centre, The Library

What can you expect in an interview? Whether you have had ten interviews or zero, interviews can still be a daunting prospect if you’re not prepared. That’s why we are here to help you.

Find out how to succeed at interviews for roles inside and outside of academia after your PhD. This session will look at different styles and approaches to help you market your skills effectively.

We will cover:

  • What to expect from interviews
  • How to build your confidence and feel positive
  • Variances in structure of an academic and non-academic interview
  • Key differences between an academic and non-academic interview
  • How to handle unusual questions and showcase your skills
  • Questions you might ask

Book a place

End-of-festival BBQ

Thursday 20th June (15.00 – 17.00)Falmer Bar

This social event is a chance to enjoy some free BBQ food and a drink with other researchers from across campus. All doctoral and early career researchers are welcome.


  • Marinated chicken & vegetable skewers
  • Burgers (veggie & quarter pound beef), relish & salad in a soft floured bun
  • Barbequed halloumi, sweet chilli & salad in a soft floured bun (v)
  • Roasted mediterranean vegetables (v/ve)
  • Basil pesto & pine nut pasta (v)
  • Creamy coleslaw (v/ve)

We hope the menu will provide something for everyone, but if you have any specific dietary requirements please let us know at when you book your place.

Book a place

Mapping Queer Geographies Methodology Workshop

A one day interdisciplinary workshop exploring embodied queer research methods

Monday 17th June, 09.30 – 17.30, The Phoenix Centre, Brighton
Lunch provided

This one-day workshop, as part of CHASE Feminist Networks’ small project grant, attempts at exploring creative and critical ways of using ‘Walking’ and ‘Story-Telling’ as intersectional and interdisciplinary frames of doing queer-feminist research.  It acknowledges that existing methodologies that build on flattening out differences for the sake of a neat analysis fail to capture the messiness of our subjectivities and geographies.

The workshop is led by Dr. Dhiren Borisa, a visiting fellow from Delhi, India whose work specialises in mapping queer geographies of cities, and often unseen cityscapes of lust, class and caste. Collaborating with Dhiren is Effie Makepeace, PhD student at the University of Sussex whose community theatre practice specialises in research methods which embody narrative and explores the maps we carry in our bodies. In the morning there will be an introduction to their work and an experiment together, moving into a practical walking activity in the afternoon (please wear clothes and shoes you feel comfortable to move and walk in!).


Please email or with a bit about yourself and your interest in applying.  The organisers would like to welcome people from all social locations and experiences and aim to be fully accessible, please let them know if you have any particular needs including dietary requirements. Please register by 12th June at the latest, spaces are limited. 

Those attending who are CHASE funded can apply for transport and childcare reimbursement. If you wish to attend but are not CHASE funded and these costs are a barrier, please contact us.  This workshop is funded by the CHASE Feminist Network Small Projects Fund.

Youth Engagement with Science workshop

Friday, 7 June 2019 from 10:00 to 13:30 (lunch included)
AH-103, Ashdown House, University of Sussex

Book your place for this workshop exploring the topic of youth engagement with science hosted by the School of Life Sciences and presented by marine biologist Bryony Carter.

Workshop objectives:

  • To explore and understand who ‘young people’ are as an audience (ages 11-25)
  • To consider and evaluate the benefits and challenges of engaging young people with research
  • To explore how to identify and support young people to get involved and look at pathways you can use
  • To practice communicating with young audiences
  • To understand the basic principles and methods of evaluation

Workshop contents:

  • A look at ‘young people’ as a large and diverse group. Explore how to refine them into a more targeted audience.
  • What are the benefits and challenges to engaging young people with your research?
  • Explore how to identify and reach young people with your engagement activities, identifying pathways and networks available to you.
  • How to communicate with young people. Tailoring your communications and activities to your audience.
  • Evaluation – a look at the basic principles and methods of evaluation to get the most out of your youth engagement.

Sign up here