Has Christmas come early for PhD candidates?
To enrol in a PhD, you need to be a deep thinker. Most PhD candidates are introverted and have analytical and reflective minds (i.e. The INTJs of the world). Pub visits may be few and far between, but it’s these characteristics that make PhD candidates so successful. We continuously ask the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what if’, which brings us closer to addressing our research questions. In times of crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic and National lockdown, PhD candidates either sink or swim. In this article, I reflect on my #phdpandemic experience and outline three essential characteristics PhD students need to channel to stay afloat.
Compared to other full-time workers, it’s common for PhD candidates to have highly flexible lifestyles and working arrangements. For some, adapting to the COVID-19 restrictions may even feel like Christmas came early. I’m sure some specifically caffeine-dependent PhD candidates have used their scholarship income to buy a coffee-pod machine and set up a home-office right next to their fridge and TV. For the lucky PhD candidates, COVID-19 means business as usual.
Most PhD candidates strive to plan for any issues that may arise and impact their research progress. Though, I would be shocked if anyone had a plan in place for a global pandemic. My thoughts go out to the lab-based medical sciences and social sciences-type PhDs that are now at an abrupt halt because no further data can be collected. The reality is that most PhD candidates are in a severe position of uncertainty because of COVID-19, as are the rest of the world who are now working from home. I believe that to make it through to the other side of this pandemic, we need to be resilient, maintain our research momentum and seek support.
Luckily, resilience is a trait most PhD candidates share. As an example, PhD candidates often cope with the rejection of a journal manuscript emailed at 10 pm on a Saturday. We stay up responding to 100+ comments listing why the article was not accepted and then work on a response the very next morning. I wouldn’t say I’m wholly in this camp, but I’m somewhat robust, and I believe COVID-19 won’t faze the more resilient PhD candidates.
Maintaining research momentum is vital for meeting PhD milestones and submission dates. Especially for those required to meet stringent scholarship conditions and industry agreements. Extending those all-important, intermittent spurs of productivity is now more essential than ever.
The news of the shutdown and social distancing rules meant that it was impossible to go ahead with my co-design project with primary care staff, health consumers and organisations. I was worried that this pandemic would cease any momentum and put a stop to my PhD. However, my supervisor immediately reached out and encouraged me to adapt my plan to maintain progress. My supervisor made it clear that both my PhD and my well-being were important to her. She has always kept herself available, and because of this, I felt supported, valued, and motivated to innovate my PhD strategy.
In my team, called Healthy Primary Care, we meet weekly via Zoom. These meetings, called Huddles, are an opportunity for members to discuss their goals and have a chance to collaborate. I used this week to talk about my project and listen to suggestions of ways to maintain progress throughout this time of crisis. I was reassured by the way that I related to my fellow PhD candidates in the Huddle, and I supported them and their projects. Although it was a stark reminder that not all PhDs are the same.
I am thankful that with resilience, momentum and support, I can continue the work of my PhD during the COVID-19 outbreak. I call on my fellow PhD candidates to support each other and strive to seek support if needed so that we all make it through the #phdpandemic.
Written by PhD Candidate Bryce Brickley