Navigating first year: Introduction from a 3rd year PG researcher
As a 3rd year postgraduate researcher I know how exciting and daunting the first year of a PhD can be. It is exciting because you have the chance to start a project about something you are really interested in, and do some real independent research. It can be daunting because it’s all new and requires a higher level of critical thinking and independence! In this post I will introduce myself as one of the new PGR bloggers and give a couple of insights into how I found my first year of postgraduate life at the University of Glasgow.
I am a postgraduate researcher studying for a PhD in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences within the College of Science and Engineering. I study the nature of a sequence of rocks within the North Sea that contain abundant layers of volcanic ash that were produced by eruptions about 55 million years ago, and I conduct my research on rock samples collected during fieldwork.
When I first began my PhD I moved up to Glasgow, found a flat and walked into the University for my first day. At first I was excited, shy, and nervous. There were several other PhD researchers starting at the same time as me and we all quickly bonded – mainly because we were assigned to an office that occupied a cold, dark corridor somewhere in the very heart of the Gregory Building along with the noisiest paper shredder we’d ever heard.
The College of Science and Engineering induction day was the first main event that we were required to attend when we joined the University. This was an interesting day but there was a lot of information to take in all at once. Luckily this year the College acknowledged this, and there were two information sessions for induction, and there are now also blogs to help you too!
Another problem some of us faced as new students to the UofG was de-coding the acronyms! There seemed to be an endless number of acronyms with no prior explanation to aid in their understanding. This did not really help to solve our confusion, or decrease how overwhelming the first few weeks can be. You soon become a detective at de-coding everything. For me important acronyms included GUID: Glasgow University Identifier (your special ID number), PGR: Postgraduate Research, QMU: Queen Margaret Union, GUU: Glasgow University Union, GES: Geographical and Earth Sciences, EQ: East Quad, GUSA: Glasgow University Sports Association, and, GUESS: Glasgow University Earth Science Society….just to list a few!
You may have heard that a PhD should be conducted as if it were a 9am – 5pm job. This can be a great way to start off your research, as it will help you to get settled into a routine and begin to find your way quite quickly. As time moves on, other commitments can take hold and you’ll find that you’re working routine changes depending on the tasks ahead of you. Sometimes this means that the 9 to 5 just doesn’t work. If you’re required to do a lot of reading and compile a literature review within your first few months of research then a 9 to 5 work day can be perfect, allowing you to get some work done, but also meaning that you get some time to relax, meet new people and find the perfect places to unwind if/when your workload increases later.
There are loads of opportunities to get involved in different societies inside and outside of the University. I highly recommend having a go at a selection of different activities in your first year, it’s a great way to learn some additional skills and meet new people…also it might count towards your ‘credits’ if these are required for your first year progression in your College.
Basically, first year is a great time to embrace your new life as a postgraduate. Time seems to speed up with every additional year. So, definitely get lots of research done but lots of exploring and socialising in your first year too, while you have the time! By the time 3rd year comes around you might be like me, looking back on all the confusion of first year having finally found your way.