Hence I had no income for the last 3-4 months of my candidature (and afterwards).Does this mean that I should not have done as many professional activities and finished on time?Academic work can be largely autonomous, so how should you spend your Ph D time?
I was very fortunate to be in a good financial position with an Australian Government scholarship, a state government top-up scholarship, and an operating expenses grant.
However, even with the benefits/privileges available, I still exceeded the basic expectation of 3.5 years duration to complete my Ph D (most scholarships in Australia only run for a maximum of 3-3.5 years, after which you’re on your own).
Secondly, the professional activities (especially collaborative side-projects) were really valuable for feeding back into the ideas of my research and getting informal feedback and personal support in my work.
Thirdly, many of the professional activities helped me build skills on my CV, build my research network and make important contacts, and led to extremely important career opportunities.
I ended up successfully applying to present my work at this conference, where I randomly met a highly-regarded European researcher, who extended an invitation to visit his institute, which I took up after I completed my Ph D to collaborate on a grant proposal (although largely without funding support).
This proposal was eventually successful and hence 3 or 4 years down the track, I am able to follow my dream to work in Europe.This implies that stuff beyond your core Ph D work matters. In fact, I firmly believe that as Ph D students we should think and act far beyond our core Ph D work, use the opportunity to develop a wide range of professional skills, and contribute to building healthier research cultures in our organisations (e.g., more collaborative, supportive, and empowering for early career researchers). But none of this would have happened if not for all the seemingly incidental steps along the way, all of which were beyond my ‘core’ Ph D work. A visit from the procrastination fairy Academic on the inside?So in this case trying to save time in the short-term by cutting out a seemingly extraneous activity would have been completely unproductive in the long-term. ’ There is of course no single answer (we’ve all heard the stories ranging from ‘the beast that wouldn’t die’ to ‘the trailblazing prodigy who puts everyone else to shame’), and different research fields, institutions, and life experiences along the way combine to make each person’s Ph D journey unique.Nonetheless, I want to share some numbers based on a detailed tally of where I spent my time during my Ph D.He believes that the Ph D experience can and should be far better supported in Australia, and that early career researchers can help create a healthier research culture for ourselves into the future.Whether you’re in the thick of a Ph D right now, or considering doing one, a million dollar question can sometimes seem to be: ‘how long will this thing take?Firstly, I don’t think it would have been possible to hurry the work and ideas much more than I did – these things just need time to a certain extent.Ideas develop sporadically (sometimes slow and grinding, and sometimes in ‘aha moments’), and I don’t think it’s possible to ‘speed up’ the process of good ideas past a certain degree of effort and commitment.