Library starts Click and Collect service for print collections

A barrier reading "2 metres. Please maintain social distancing at all times" stands in front of the security gates at the University of Sussex Library. Image: Sussex Library

Since the Library building closed in March the team have been working hard to provide Sussex students and staff with the online resources and support they need.

Now – after consultation with Health & Safety, SEF and campus unions – they’ve launched a Click and Collect Service to enable access to some printed materials in the collection.

It isn’t possible to request items that are on loan at the moment, but if the item you want is available on Library Search, request it as normal and you will receive an email once it’s ready, with further instructions on when and how to collect.

See the Library Click and Collect webpage for more information.

Festival round-up: Three Minute Thesis 2020 Final

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) returned to Sussex a few weeks ago for the Festival of Doctoral Research 2020. It was, however, different to previous years as the proceedings took place entirely online! The 3MT event usually takes centre stage at the Festival, and we were determined not to let a global pandemic and national lockdown get in the way.

A banner for 3MT Three Minute Thesis, Founded by the University of Queensland

After getting the all clear to host the event virtually from the 3MT founders, University of Queensland, and UK organisers, Vitae, we set about organising the logistics and moving everything online. It seemed that the Sussex doctoral community was equally determined not to let lockdown prevent them from taking part, as we received plenty of applications to participate. After holding 3MT training sessions with facilitator Dr Sarah Robins-Hobden, and a peer practice session to hone their skills, this year’s presenters took to the remote stage in front of judges and a Zoom audience!

Pro Vice Chancellor Stephen Shute opened the show and after the judging panel of Dr Katy Petherick (Public Engagement Coordinator at the School of Life Sciences), Dr Mahmoud Maina (Research Fellow and People’s Choice Winner 2016), and Dr Andrew Fleming (Regional Manager of The Brilliant Club) introduced themselves, the participants got going.

Anyone in the audience is sure to agree that the calibre of presentations this year was extremely high. After everyone had delivered their presentations, the judges deliberated in their break-out room and the participants had a well-deserved break, while the audience voted for their People’s Choice winner. Due to such high quality presentations, the judges had an extremely difficult decision to make and needed all of their allotted time to come to a conclusion.

Upon returning for the prize-giving ceremony, the results were announced, and we are delighted to confirm the winners below. Congratulations to you all, and also to everyone who participated, as all the presentations were inspirational and delivered in a unique and entertaining way. You can read all of the presenters’ abstracts on the 3MT 2020 webpage.

Stay tuned to Doctoral Connections as we will be adding more Festival posts and catching up with event winners in the coming weeks.


First place – £500 towards research and a place in the UK quarter finals: Melina Galdos Frisancho (University of Sussex Business School)

A woman delivering a presentation.
Making sense of Inclusive Innovation: Institutional Drivers for Knowledge Production and Organisational Learning in Peru

3MT Winner Melina’s research explores how universities approach developing ingenious alternatives to conventional ways of delivering basic services. She questions what drives research teams to respond basic services challenges and how their actions are shaped by the context in which they operate, and investigates how researchers’ sense-making shape their understandings, actions, and the different ways in which they come together to create enabling environments for developing socially inclusive innovations.


Second place – £250 towards research: Sushri Sangita Puhan (Education and Social Work)

A woman delivering a presentation.
Why and how people think, talk and practice adoption in India

Sushri’s research looks into the experience of adoptive family life in India, where adoption is an emerging practice in recent years. Since adopted children and adoptive parents have no access to the birth family information, it has been traditionally a confidential practice in the country. However, recently there is a transition in the legal process to promote adoption. Sushri’s research on adoptive family lives in India aims to understand how and why people think, talk, and practice adoption in their everyday lives in an environment where adoption is largely unspoken.


People’s Choice award – £250 towards research: Judy Aslett (Media, Film and Music)

A woman delivering a presentation.
Making a TV documentary to support the #ENDFGM campaign in The Gambia

Despite having internet connection issues, we arranged for Judy’s presentation to be shown with a pre-recorded video. Judy’s research investigates Female Genital Mutilation in The Gambia, where most girls endure the practice as children, without anaesthetic. Her thesis involves making the factual documentary “My FGM Story”, in collaboration with presenter Halimatou Ceesay, and assessing the impact of the film on men and women in The Gambia. It is the first time a documentary about FGM has been shown on TV in The Gambia, with Halimatou interviewing her family, Imams, health professionals and President Adama Barrow as she campaigns to end FGM in a generation.

Why you need the support of other Doctoral Researchers

Four differently coloured wooden pawn playing pieces lined up next to each other.

As we come out of lockdown and a period of uncertainty and anxiety, and with the University still shut, never has it been more important to connect with other doctoral researchers than now. If you are looking for ways of linking up with other people in your School or in the wider University to form a mutually supportive group that ‘meets’ online, then read on…

Very early on in my PhD I realised that it was going to be a lonely few years. Without lectures and seminars to attend and with supervision just once a month the opportunity to connect with other people and talk about my research was limited.  I didn’t spend much time on campus, preferring to work at home, but this meant that it was difficult to link up with other doctoral researchers in my School.

I decided that I needed to reach out and talk to other people about the difficulties and stresses of doing a PhD and to discuss how they manage the ups and downs of PhD life. I found three people in the School of Education and Social Work and we formed an online support group. We are now in our third year and we all really value it.

We meet on Skype once a month and update each other on our research, discuss ideas and research methods and anything else that comes up. It has been really useful to pick each other up when things are not going so well and to celebrate our successes together.  We have supported each other through research proposals, ethics, fieldwork, analysis and now writing up. We carried on ‘meeting’ even when one of us intermitted due to illness and we intend to continue until we finish our PhDs.

I’m pleased to say that the Doctoral School has taken on board our idea and is now promoting it throughout the University.  If you would like to be better connected with your fellow researchers and want to feel the support of a group of people who are having similar experiences to you (good and bad), then I recommend that you get involved with a group.

Contact your PhD Convener to see if they can match you with people in your School, but if they can’t, fill in this simple form and the Doctoral School will connect you with suitable people. You may also want to read these guidelines on how to set up a group before you start.

Our group has operated without a hitch and everyone is respectful and supportive. If, however, you have any problems then Katy Stoddard in the Doctoral School is there to help. Whatever stage in your PhD you are, I thoroughly recommend an online support group to you and urge you to set one up as soon as possible.

Claire Durrant, doctoral reasearcher in social work

Festival round-up: staying connected at a distance

A mobile phone below three pink speech-bubble-shaped post-it notes.

This year’s Festival of Doctoral Research posed a unique challenge – how to celebrate the doctoral community when we’re all working and living at a distance? How can we bring people together when we have to be apart?

Converting some of our regular events was straightforward – the 3MT live final, the new Finishing your Doctorate panels and the RDP workshops lend themselves to the Zoom meeting set-up we’ve all come to know, if not love! But we wanted to go beyond that and seize this opportunity to take the Festival properly virtual, using online platforms to provide activities and community spaces where researchers could share their experiences, connect and chat.

Thanks to some enthusiastic PhDers and our lovely colleagues over at the Library we did just that, bringing you daily wellbeing check-ins, celebrating PGR publications and online vivas, and gaming, quizzing and crafting together, while the Hive Scholars collected your quarantine images to build a collage of PhD life during lockdown.

Catch up on some of the virtual events below.

Daily Check-Ins and Lockdown Tips
As a way of starting each Festival day and encouraging conversations around lockdown and mental health, we interviewed a PhD researcher on the blog and hosted a Twitter chat around a theme: working at home, exercise and physical activities, games and hobbies, entertainment and creativity. We’ve pulled the interviews and resources together on the Check-Ins webpage so if you’re looking for ways to switch off and boost your wellbeing it’s a good place to start.

I Am the Doctor: Viva Survivor Soundtrack
Alice Corble from the Library created a Viva Survivor playlist on Spotify in honour of all Sussex PhD graduates and candidates who have recently defended or are about to defend their thesis online, crowd-sourcing tracks from recently graduated researchers. Taking your viva is a huge achievement and deserves to be celebrated! If you’re approaching a distant viva the university has issued guidelines to help you prepare, and Dr Fiona Scott wrote about her own online viva experience for the Research Hive blog.

Promoting PGR Publications
The Library used the Festival to highlight some of the work published by Sussex doctoral researchers over the past 12 months, sharing articles on a Twitter thread @SussexLibrary. If you want to get published but you’re not sure where to start, this Library publishing resource can help. It includes recordings of seminars on book proposals, open access and publication strategies, tips on choosing where to publish, as well as advice on getting your work noticed and information on PhD by Publication.

#QuaranTimeCapsule collage
To highlight the impact of Covid-19 on doctoral researchers, the Hive Scholars put a call out for your #QuaranTimeCapsule images on Twitter and Instagram, and created a virtual photo collage illustrating the experiences and challenges researchers at Sussex have faced in lockdown. As they say in their blog round-up, “Everyone’s experience during this pandemic has been unique, but one thing connects us: we have shown grit and resilience to manage the challenges of the pandemic. Whether that is pushing on and adapting our research and workspaces, juggling a multitude of responsibilities, or taking the time to look after ourselves and others.”

A collage of photographs of doctoral researchers' work spaces at home, including laptops, sofas, gardens and small children. One image reads, "lockdown life".
Doctoral researchers’ #QuaranTimeCapsule collage. Image: Hive Scholars

UCL / openDemocracy competition: What is your view of the world after COVID?

Promotional banner for the Visions of a world after Covid-19 competition, showing a beautiful hand-drawn image of the coronavirus. Artwork courtesy of David S Goodsell and the RCSB PDB.
Source: openDemocracy

What might democracy look like as countries emerge from lockdown? How will our societies and cultures respond to this global crisis and its aftermath?

UCL and openDemocracy are teaming up to invite school and university students to have a say in how the world should look after coronavirus. They want to find and shout about the best ideas from the next generation for what should come next. They’re looking for images, short videos and written entries, and the judging panel includes academics across a wide range of subject areas and world-class institutions.

The competition is open to mature and postgraduate students, and the grand prize includes a bespoke training opportunity with either openDemocracy or UCL that may take the form of a mini-fellowship, work experience, or placement in line with the winner’s area of interest. All winners and runners-up will receive a personal mentoring/career advice session with one of the expert judges and their entries will be published on openDemocracy’s website.

The deadline is 10 July 2020. See the openDemocracy World After Covid website for further details and to enter the competition.

Creating a PhD support network – sign up for the webinar this Thursday

Brightly coloured Ludo game pieces  stand on a board, connected by straight lines in a non-uniform pattern.

The Doctoral School is launching a scheme to connect researchers together to create Online Peer Support Groups

This initiative is inspired by Claire Durrant (ESW), who set up a monthly online support group with three other doctoral researchers when she started her PhD. Claire will be hosting a webinar on Thursday 25th June to share her own experiences and show you how to set up your own group, based on the guide she created for the U-DOC Project.

Support groups can guard against isolation, provide on-going support and increase your wellbeing during your PhD. These factors are especially important to address amid the current pandemic.

Many researchers don’t have a ready network of peers to connect with, and opportunities for meeting others in the community are harder to come by in lockdown. That is where the Doctoral School can help, facilitating groups that best meet your research interests and doctoral progress. 

Sign up for the webinar at 13.30 this Thursday to learn more.

TOMORROW – two careers workshops on postdoc fellowships and looking beyond academia

The Research Staff Office has opened two workshops to doctoral researchers tomorrow, Tuesday 23rd June, looking at post-PhD careers options and proactive steps you can take to reach your career goals inside or outside academia. Both sessions will be taught by Joanne Young from the Scientific Editing Company.

Careers beyond research – applying your skills outside academia
10.30 – 13.30, on Zoom
Book your place
Not everyone chooses to climb the academic ladder. During their career, researchers develop a number of skills that they can utilise in a variety of other positions, whether these are related to their research or not. A key component to finding a job outside academia is presenting yourself well at interviews, highlighting your skills and explaining your academic experience in a way that appeals to certain employers. This workshop aims to highlight a number of these careers and to explore what particular options might be compatible with individuals. 

Attracting your own research funding – writing & applying for fellowships
14.00 – 17.00, on Zoom
Book your place
A career in research is exciting, but it is a highly competitive environment and researchers from all over the world aspire to reach the top of the profession. If you are aiming for a career in research it is crucial to publish regularly, be independent and attract your own funding. You can start to do this early in your research career: if you are awarded a postdoctoral fellowship, not only will you stand out from the crowd, but you will demonstrate that you can propose innovative projects that attract research funding – this is a key requirement for a successful academic career.

Last minute training opportunity – How to Develop a Plan B (SeNSS)

SeNSS DTP is partnering with how2glu to deliver Plan B Training.

This training has been developed especially for PGRs and ECRs in response to current events and will help you to identify key outcomes and objectives of your research and map out realistic and achievable alternative routes to achieving them.

WORKSHOP(Duration 2.15 hrs)

  • Monday 22 June: 13.45 – 16.00

WEBINARS (Duration 1.5 hrs)

  • Thursday 25 June: (13.30 – 15.00)

Click to sign up to either a workshop or webinar, and if the session books up unsuccessful registrants will be offered space on a future date in the coming weeks.

Making sense of PhD research – winners of the Research Poster competition

Like the Image competition, the Research Poster Competition is an integral part of the Festival of Doctoral Research, showcasing the variety and impact of PhD research at Sussex. The prize winners for this were also announced on Wednesday following the Three-Minute Thesis final.

This year’s judges included Sussex PhD graduate Dr Shonali Banerjee and Joanna Young (an expert on scientific posters who runs our Posters RDP session). Take a look at all of the excellent entries on the Research Poster webpage.

First place – £300 towards research

Research poster by Norah Alzahrani titled Why Does It Matter Knowing How Journalists Perceive Their Role?
Why Does It Matter Knowing How Journalists Perceive Their Role? Image: Norah Alzahrani

Norah Alzahrani (MFM) was awarded first prize for her poster entitled Why Does It Matter Knowing How Journalists Perceive Their Role? The judges called it an “excellent poster, very comprehensively and nicely presented”.

Joint second place – £150 towards research

Research poster by Meirin Evans titled ATLAS Experiment at CERN.
ATLAS Experiment at CERN. Image: Meirin Evans
Research poster by Ferheen Ayaz titled Blockchain-Enabled Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications, describing the process of using blockchain technology to enable verification of accident sites and re-routing of vehicles.
Blockchain-Enabled Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications. Image: Ferheen Ayaz

Second place goes jointly to Meirin Oan Evans (MPS) for a poster on the ATLAS Experiment at CERN, which the judges said was a “great visual poster”; and Ferheen Ayaz (Engineering & Informatics), for her poster on Blockchain-Enabled Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications, which was “excellent overall, very visually appealing and clear.” Meirin and Ferheen will each receive £150 towards their work.

People’s Choice – £150 towards research

Research poster by Yasser Kosbar titled Challenges Facing Egyptian Women Postgraduates in UK, showing quotes on harrassment, racism, monoculturalism, elitism and Islamophobia over a map of the UK.
Challenges Facing Egyptian Women Postgraduates in UK. Image: Yasser Kosbar

Yasser Kosbar (ESW) was voted People’s Choice by staff and students at Sussex, for a poster titled Challenges Facing Egyptian Women Postgraduates in UK, which the judges described as “visually appealing and beautifully designed”.

Congratulations to all of our winners! Check out the results of the Research Image Competition and the Adam Weiler Doctoral Impact Award, which were also announced on Wednesday, and check back for a full round-up of the Festival next week.

Festival Daily Check-Ins: Creativity at home (Friday)

The Festival Daily Check-ins are signing off with a bang as we hear about the creative things the Crafternoon team (Katharina Hendrickx, Kate Meakin, and Manuela Salazar) have been up to during lockdown

three people sat on a pebbly beach smiling and wearing sunglasses.
socially distanced fun!
  1. What creative activities have you got (back) into throughout lockdown?

Some of the hobbies we’ve really got really into are collaging and drawing, baking (banana bread and apple cakes especially), reading fiction and joining/ starting a reading group, meditating, online yoga classes and weightlifting. We also found it so important to keep in touch with friends and fellow researchers online with fun activities such as quiz nights and online Pictionary. Once lockdown rules were relaxed a bit, we enjoyed planning small (socially distanced) get-togethers. 


2. How have these helped you throughout lockdown/Covid-19?

These activities allow us to break up the day, unwind and relax, and to feel like we have achieved something even when we are struggling to focus on work. They also help to create some sense of routine during the day and week.


3. What would you recommend for people interested in finding out more about creative activities, and where can they access resources?

We’d recommend integrating fun tasks into your day to alleviate stress. Here are some tips and resources that we’ve found really useful: 

  • Baking: super easy recipes for banana bread and apple cake 
  • Online Pictionary to play with friends
  • Crafting suggestions and ideas: Join us at 3pm today for the PhD Crafternoon! Here are some ideas to get you started
  • Weightlifting routines: YouTube has many free workouts at the moment – all you need is a mat and some dumbbells (if you can find them in store – otherwise you can use wine bottles or cans). If you want to be more serious about an exercise routine, you could follow personal trainers on Instagram such as Mari Fitness. She posts a lot of free workouts on her Instagram and has great, reduced PDF Home Workout Guides, which you don’t need much equipment for. 
  • Online Yoga Classes: There are many free yoga sessions online, but we found that Yoga by Adriene is a great place to start. 
  • Meditation apps: Headspace is currently free with the Spotify Student Membership and has many guided mediation classes for different goals such as anxiety relief and going to sleep more easily. 
  • Joining/ starting a reading group: Katharina set up a monthly crime fiction reading group together with Brighton and Hove Libraries that is now online – feel free to get in touch in you want to join. But you could also set up your own group online with friends/ colleagues or join other established online book groups. For ideas see the Scribendi Book-club website