New advice webpage for PhD researchers on approaching the Autumn term

The University has updated its advice for doctoral researchers and supervisors in light of coronavirus, incorporating it into a new area of the staff website covering plans for the Autumn term.

The new webpage includes the latest guidance on travel and fieldwork, remote supervision, online training and events, submission and the viva, options for intermission and studying outside of the UK, plus what to do if you become unwell.

The new webpages may also be useful for researchers working as doctoral tutors or based in Sussex, particularly the information on teaching (remotely and in the classroom), research grants, and the reopening of campus.

The coronavirus advice webpage will no longer be updated – please make sure you replace any bookmarked links you may have stored.

Free online learning: Courses on networking, building a website and intellectual property

Logo for Electv.

We still have nine free places available for Sussex doctoral researchers on the online Digital Course Collection from Electv Training, who deliver the Posters and Data Visualisation workshops on our regular training programme.

One free code gives you access to:
1) Your professional profile & networking (reflective)               
2) Build your own website in a day (software)               
3) Intellectual property essentials (information) 

The three courses in the collection are complementary but distinct from one another, and can be completed in any order. You will receive a downloadable certificate when you complete each course. 

If you would like to benefit from these online courses for free, email
researcher-development@sussex.ac.uk with the subject: “Digital Course Collection”. Access codes will be given on a first come, first served basis.

New University funding schemes to support PhD researchers impacted by Covid-19 – apply today

A calculator and a pen sit atop a printed balance sheet.

The University Executive Group has agreed two new funding schemes in support of doctoral researchers impacted by Covid-19: the Sussex Scholarship Extension Scheme and the PGR Hardship Fund, both launching today.

The PGR Hardship Fund is open to PhD researchers without access to external funding extensions (e.g. UKRI scholarships). Any queries regarding the Hardship Fund should be sent to colleagues in the Student Life Centre – studentfunding@sussex.ac.uk.

The Sussex Scholarship Extension Scheme is open to PhD researchers funded by Sussex, to apply for scholarship extensions. Questions around extensions can be sent to doctoralschool@sussex.ac.uk.

Please note that:

  • any PhD researcher experiencing financial difficulties – regardless of their funding source – can apply to the general Student Hardship Fund.
  • PhD researchers experiencing Covid-19 related financial difficulties – bar those with access to externally-funded scholarship extensions (e.g. UKRI) and the Sussex Scholarship Extension Scheme – can apply to the new PGR Hardship Fund. Priority will be given to students in the later stages of study.
  • PhD researchers who are applying to the Sussex Scholarship Extension Scheme can subsequently apply to the general Student Hardship Fund, once they’ve received an outcome from the Extension Scheme.

For full details, including how to apply, see the PGR Hardship Fund and Sussex Scholarship Extension Scheme webpages.

RLI Projects: Looking back at the Way-Back Weekender (3-5 July)

Poster for Zooming in on Nostalgia: The Way-Back Weekender, supported by the Researcher Development Programme. The image shows a cassette tape, with the tape spooled out in the shape of a heart.

The aim of this RLI project was to create a community of people in these oddly uncertain times to think creatively and critically about ‘looking back’ while also indulging in some nostalgic ‘throwback’ fun. We had a film night, a musical evening, and a book discussion, before Dr. Pamela Thurschwell from the School of English gave her closing remarks in the form of a talk titled ‘Brushing Nostalgia Against the Grain’.

The event gave us an excuse to watch some of our favourite old-timey films and listen to some music that gives us hope – the Weekender playlist is still collaborative and accessible for all and contains music added by our attendees. We then got together on Zoom to discuss how or why we feel nostalgic about these films/music/books and the ethics of such longing. As a host, I found these conversations immensely rejuvenating – it was fantastic to hear people talk about the difference between personal and political nostalgias, what it means to long for a time that didn’t exist, colonial/postcolonial nostalgias, and more.

Dr. Thurschwell’s talk was a lovely way to close the event on a relaxed Sunday evening. She talked about the film Pretty Woman and the song Sun City, and briefly about BoJack Horseman. Her talk sparked ideas about the politics of nostalgia, and also located it within the ongoing discourse of Black Lives Matter and our role as academics (and non-academics) in the critique of nostalgia. Overall, it was a vibrant event, attended by people from different parts of the world – an upside to the otherwise bleak Zoom business!

I am currently working with a video editor to explore the curation of a short video that captures the essence of the event.

Aanchal Vij, doctoral researcher in English

DOC Grant reopens: apply now for funding to cover online conference fees

A laptop on a desk next to a coffee mug shows multiple people on a Zoom style conference call.

As a temporary measure that will be kept under review, we are reopening the Doctoral Overseas Conference Grant to applications for online conference registration fees only. We are temporarily expanding the scheme for conferences in the UK as well as overseas.

The DOC Grant supports doctoral researchers who are presenting their research at a conference. Applicants must be registered for a doctoral degree at Sussex University, and the application must be made prior to submission of your thesis.

While under normal circumstances researchers are able to apply for a maximum of £1,000 during the period of their registration, we will consider applications for online conferences that take you over the £1,000 threshold at the moment. 

For further information, including the updated guidance notes, eligibility criteria and the application form, see our DOC Grant webpage.

Take some time out with the Research Hive fortnightly Quaran-Time Tea & Talk

Lockdown has been a real challenge for many researchers, and socialising and self-care may be proving difficult. Join the Hive Scholars for an online Tea & Talk, bringing the doctoral community together to chat and connect over a cuppa / coffee / lemonade (delete as appropriate).

Sign up using this Doodle and the Scholars will be in touch with more details. These sessions will continue fortnightly until campus reopens, so there’s plenty of opportunity to connect with your fellow researchers. The next two dates are Wednesday 8th and Wednesday 22nd July.

The Tea & Talks and accompanying PGR self-care packages are part and parcel of the Hive’s Researcher-Led Initiative, supported by the Researcher Development Programme. The first batch of packages were scooped up in record time, but join the waiting list to be first in line when the scheme reopens in the Autumn term.

For more information see the Hive’s Quaran-Time Tea & Talk blogpost, and keep an eye on their @SussexResHive Twitter feed for regular updates.

This great initiative is another example of how the Hive Scholars continue to support researchers and foster an (online) doctoral community. They know the risk that social isolation brings for researchers, and have worked hard to focus on wellbeing and support. Visit the Hive Scholars website for more PGR-related fun, or join their Slack channels to chat with or work alongside your fellow PhDers.

So, you’re finishing your PhD in a pandemic… what’s next? – lecture with the Thesis Whisperer (15th July)

Wednesday 15th July, 09.30 – 10.30 (Online)

Graduates in gowns throwing their caps into the air.

Sussex Research Hive are thrilled to announce that renowned Thesis Whisperer Dr Inger Mewburn is ‘coming’ to Sussex to give a virtual lecture, with a Q&A session, to doctoral and early career researchers about careers in light of Covid-19.

In this lecture, Inger will use her team’s research on the post-PhD job market to:

  • Enhance your understanding of the changed academic job market, analysing the effects of hiring freezes and travel restrictions.
  • Increase awareness of career opportunities in industry; which sectors are looking for research talent?
  • Help you approach the non-academic job market with more confidence.

You can read more about the event on the Hive Scholars’ blogpost, and book a place through Sussex Direct.

A poster for the event titled So, you're finishing your PhD in a Pandemic... What next?

RLIs: This weekend, zoom in on some pure nostalgia at the Way-Back Weekender

Poster for the Way-Back Weekender: Zooming in on Nostalgia, supported by the Researcher Development Programme. The main image shows a cassette tape, the tape spooled out into the shape of a heart.

Given the uncertainty that haunts our everyday right now (hello Covid-19), why not give in to the pull of nostalgia just for a weekend?

Sign up (it’s free!) for a movie night, music evening, and more. The schedule is as follows.

Friday, 3rd July: (Throw)back to the Future

This Friday evening, pick a film of your preferred culture/language that makes you feel nostalgic and watch it with your family or lockdown company. The idea is for all participants to watch a film that reminds them of a bittersweet, feel-good time, before we all come together at 20.30 BST on Zoom. We then have a relaxed evening chat over popcorn (and your choice of beverage) about what film we saw, how it made us feel, why it made us feel that way, and more.

Movie suggestions (but not restricted to): Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, When Harry Met Sally, Lord of the Rings, E.T, Lion King, Forrest Gump, and of course, Back to the Future.

Saturday, 4th July: The Recollection Collection

For 19.30, dress up (or don’t!) in your choice of themed costume (80s bandanas, fun disco sunglasses, Britney-inspired outfit, etc.) and get on a Zoom call with the others to listen to the music that takes you way, way back. Here is a collaborative Spotify playlist to which you can add the songs that make you feel most nostalgic and you can view other participants’ songs as well. Wine, pets and succulents are encouraged to be a part of this little party. Feel free to accompany the listening with activities that typically make you feel nostalgic too — knitting, painting, doing a puzzle?

Those who are still in the mood can join us for a short chat at 20.30 to talk about their choice of music, era, that particular beat that really tugs at your nostalgic chord, and more.

Sunday, 5th July

11.00 – 12.00: Lattes and Literature

Why is it that we are drawn to certain kind of books from our past? Or why is it that we avoid certain books from our childhood? Over a nice cup of tea or coffee, we’ll have a laid-back and relaxed Sunday morning chat about the books that make us feel nostalgic.

18.00: Short talk by Dr. Pamela Thurschwell (University of Sussex)

Dr. Thurschwell writes about music, TV shows and lots more, and is currently working on her book on adolescence. She is a reader in the School of English at Sussex and her full bio can be found on the university website.

Will she speak about Watchmen? BoJack Horseman? Music? Come find out!

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.