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PGRs Together
Issue 2

Welcome to our second newsletter for LJMU's PGR community! 
In this issue, we have more PGRs' experiences of life and work during lockdown, and news from LJMU's PGR community.  
Best wishes from all of us in The Doctoral Academy

In this edition....eDoc, a special Graduation Celebration3 more PGRs share their experiences of Lockdown, news of PGR Awards 2020, details of Researcher Development ProgrammeMotivate LJMU is an opportunity to access a personalised exercise plan based on World leading research.  If you're looking to recruit Participants, JISC's new service is now available.

Thank you for your feedback on issue one.  If you have any suggestions for content, or would like to contribute your story, please contact Jo McKeon


A reminder that online support is available.  We are able to offer one to one video calls with PGRs and Staff including a virtual tour of eDoc demonstrating its functionality, or provide support required for specific features.
Please email The Doctoral Academy directly to arrange:

‘Quick Start’ guides with a variety of screenshots are available at  The Doctoral Academy's landing webpage:


Graduation Celebration

Whilst we weren't able to gather at the Anglican Cathedral earlier this month to celebrate Graduation, we look forward to marking your achievements with colleagues, friends and families in a special online celebration.  Further details will  soon be announced:  

At time of writing, there have been 68 vivas since mid-March and 63 successful completions.  

School of Sport & Exercise Sciences at Graduation, July 2019

PGRs at Home

Three more PGRs share their experiences of lockdown and working from home.

Richie Kirwan, School of Biological & Environmental Sciences, shares his experience of changing his planned research, due to Covid-19

A global pandemic was the last thing I was expecting. I distinctly remember at an ethics meeting being asked if I'd be able to do everything I proposed to do. I resorted to my standard, fake-confident reply of "absolutely". Then 'Rona decided to get involved.

Just after getting ethical approval (which took the best part of a year to get), my research is suspended until we return to some form of "normality"... and I'm ok with that. I've done everything I could do for my project but there is nothing I can do about Corona. Reading more on stoic philosophy lately has really helped me realise that I should only focus on what I can change and not on what I can't.

So I've been staying busy and taking control of what I can. I'm actually waking up earlier than I used to (it still hurts) and I start my day with a social-distancing-appropriate bike ride for 40 or 50 minutes to make up for the loss of my commute. I'm also trying to do some home-exercise 3 days a week. I’m a big believer in routine so I’ve set my own to make sure things get done. The exercise set's me up for the day and it's good to know that no matter what happens in the day, I've achieved that and I'm staying relatively fit. I'm trying to eat well and to help with that I'm making sure I don't have any food in the house that would make me want to snack every 5 minutes (out of sight, out of mind). My big focus on diet is exercise is strengthened by the fact that a lot of my recent research has focused on the negative effects of lack of exercise and poor diet during quarantine. It can be really easy to slip into poorer habits so I’m just trying to reduce that as much as possible.

Thanks to advice from my girlfriend, Georgia and my office mate, Ineke, I'm using timers (occasionally) to get work done and make sure I'm taking breaks regularly to walk around and get drinks. I decided the best thing to do during Corona was to get to work on adapting some of my research to questionnaires, writing some papers and reviews, to collaborate with others and make this time in lockdown productive, so that's what I'm doing. I'm working harder than ever and probably worked a little too hard trying to publish my first article as first author. I needed to work on something big to feel like I wasn’t wasting my time during lockdown. I’m still not reading or watching the news, which may sound irresponsible but I don't want to risk it messing up what I'm trying to get done. I'm also really enjoying the extra time I've been able to dedicate to my vegetable garden. We had hoped to be self-sufficient in few months but now, over 4 months into lockdown we’re just self-sufficient in lettuce and other greens 😆.

I know that I'm getting through this a lot better than many people and I'm very grateful to be in the position that I'm in. I genuinely think that accepting what I can’t change has played a big role in that. I'm getting work done so I don't feel any urgency to get back to the office although I do miss my office mates and I'm looking forward to seeing them when this is all over... because it will be over, eventually.
Ilaria Frau, Department of Civil Engineering, tells us about writing up and submitting her thesis during Lockdown

I am Ilaria Frau, a PGR at LJMU who has just submitted her PhD Thesis. My work focuses on developing a novel sensing system for real-time detection of toxic metals in mining-impacted water. Luckily, I finished my last experiments and data collection before the lockdown, so the isolation has not been too bad for me.

I have been writing from my room, in Liverpool, surrounded by my pink environment full of hearts. I have been so lucky that my boyfriend moved in with me, keeping me company, sharing love, being quiet and keeping himself busy with work or pleasure reading. He has learnt to deal with me and my fluctuating mood during the “writing up” period. Though, writing and correlated mood do not end with the thesis’ submission: job applications, articles, reviews, and Viva examination preparation, which is a mix of excitement and concern.

The first two weeks were exceedingly difficult, considering I have never liked to work from home. It was very boring for me. During my PhD journey, I attended the office/lab every day, keeping a routine from 9-10 am to 6-7 pm. I have started to keep the same routine at home, waking up around 7 am, having a shower, eating a nice breakfast and drinking an amazing triple espresso. Then, I get dressed, do my hair, and wear some makeup. Yes, I wear my lipstick at home EVERY DAY!! It makes me feel better and ready to face another “writing” day!

From the third week, I started to be very productive and enjoyed writing. Around 5 pm I go for a run to enjoy the sunshine in one of the beautiful parks in my neighbourhood. This revitalises me to do another hour of work. I categorically have weekends off; I only open my laptop for watching Netflix or having Zoom meetings with family and friends.

Every Wednesday afternoon and the first Friday of each month I attend the Online Writing Sessions organised by the Doctoral Academy. All PGR write together, to feel the positive energy to keep motivation and to share the positive or negative feelings with each other during these uncertain times. It is encouraging to talk about my PhD with people who can fully understand this weird feeling inside. I cannot explain it to others. I keep in touch with my colleagues using Teams and we organise additional online working time. Of course, I miss to share my worries at the office, with my colleagues and chat about research or life in general but I am lucky to have strong support from my supervisors via video calls, mail or messages.

A positive aspect of working from home is the nice infinite coffee and tea that I can prepare, accompanied by delicious treats. I also cook nice and healthy food, as it helps to keep my mood up! If I am productive enough and I have finished the set goals of the day, I have a little drink in the evening, but only if I deserve it!

What is the main problem that I have during this lockdown? Preparing/cooking lunch EVERY DAY, thinking twice at day what to eat. I have never thought this could have been such a concern. And it stresses me out.

In the future, I may maintain the “working from home” lifestyle when I can as I am quite enjoying it!   An important lesson that I have learnt: if a day doesn’t work, it is okay; there is always tomorrow!  P.S. Do not worry, the pink Thesis is my personal copy for Viva preparation!

Craig Thomas, School of Sport & Exercise Sciences, shares his experience of an online viva
My experience during lock-down was unusual for different reasons than those of my peers. As a PhD student, rather than having my research brought to a halt by the COVID-19 situation, I was preparing to do my viva over Microsoft teams. I appreciate this is not as bad as having your research programme temporarily stopped and of course, the uncertainty that comes with that, but it was still an unusual way to finish the PhD. I had to be careful not to underestimate the viva, with it being online, and I also wanted to get as much as I could from the experience. On the day, I’m pleased to say I passed my viva with minor corrections after 3h on Microsoft teams and I really enjoyed the process. So, you could say what was all the fuss about!   
I felt the following really helped me to stay motivated and focused during my studies, in otherwise unusual circumstances:

  1. Keep to a routine – Although studying at home can be difficult with all the possible distractions, I found that identifying what time of day I work best helped my productivity. A quality over quantity approach in other words.
  2. Study in natural light – Having studied sleep and wake during my PhD, exposure to natural light can help with your alertness. If you can, think about positioning your chair and desk next to a window when studying. 
  3. Exercise regularly – I’m a keen runner and try to get out the house for a run on the days I work. I felt exercise (it doesn’t have to be strenuous) was useful for offloading my stresses and helped with my readiness to study the next day.  
  4. Maintain contact with DoS – My supervisor was excellent with communicating and they put together a detailed schedule of how the viva would run on teams. Take advantage of Skype etc (not that they aren’t busy!).
  5. Safe socialising – You may be eager to get as much done for your studies whilst you’re not in university but try to keep the work: life balance. I have been doing some quizzes with friends over Zoom.

 Many thanks to Richie, Ilaria and Craig for their contributions, more will follow.  If you'd like to share your story, contact Jo McKeon

PGR Awards 2020

Congratulations to ten PGRs who were recognised as Outstanding Communicators. They were nominated for excellence in communicating in a wide range of environments - through talks, workshops, partnerships, public engagement and outreach activities, or media appearances. 

Paul Carreon, Nursing & Allied Health
Hannah Dalgleish, Astrophysics Research Institute
Bee Hughes, Humanities and Social Science
Adbullah Kadhim, Civil Engineering
James Schofield, School of Art
Ali Shubbar, Civil Engineering
Hazel Sivori, Maritime and Mechanical Engineering
Timmion Skervin, Sport & Exercise Sciences
Kathryn Smyth, School of Art
Billie-Gina Thomason, Humanities and Social Science
You can hear more from some of these PGRs at a special research communication themed Research Café on 13th August.
Winners of this year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) University Final were also announced at the awards ceremony.
Congratulations to the winner, Richie Kirwan, Biological and Environmental Sciences, who will now go forward to the next round of the UK-wide 3MT Competition.
Fares Yousefi, Computer Science, won the ‘People’s Choice’ award, voted for by the PGR community.
Congratulations to the winners, and to all the finalists:

Valeria Carini, Pharmacy & Biomolecular Sciences
Paul Carreon, Nursing & Allied Health
Reece Chapman, Sport Studies, Leisure & Nutrition
Matteo Crotti, Sport Studies, Leisure & Nutrition
Martin Hudson, Liverpool Business School
Geert Kleinnibbelink, Sport & Exercise Sciences
Michelle Mathieson, School of Psychology
Hazel Sivori, Maritime & Mechanical Engineering
James Waterman, Biological and Environmental Sciences

All participants did a fantastic job of creating recordings of their presentations, which can be viewed on our Canvas site here
(if you’re not yet enrolled, you can do so here).


Researcher Development Programme

You can find details of workshops and writing sessions for July and August on the Doctoral Academy website here. We also have various resources from past workshops available on our Canvas site.
We are really pleased that so many of you have taken part in the online workshops over the last few months, and we will be continuing to deliver sessions online during 2020-2021. As we are currently planning next year’s provision, please do get in touch with Victoria, or Jo,, if you have any suggestions for topics you would like to see included.

For information on upcoming Researcher Development events see

Resources from previous webinars are available on our Canvas site.

Motivate LJMU

A new initiative from Sport & Exercise Sciences could help our university community get active and become healthier from home. The aim of “MOTIVATE LJMU” is to help increase your activity levels by providing novel online exercise resources, based on World leading research. This involves a progressive, home based 12-week exercise programme. The programme will start with easily achievable levels of exercise, which will gradually increase over the 12-weeks as your fitness improves. The resources provide education on exercise intensity and offer a choice of modalities, meaning that the programme will be personalised to each individual. This means you will always be exercising at the right level for your current fitness and following a programme of your choosing.
The online resource is due to go live in the coming weeks and will be available to all staff and PGRs. In the meantime, if you would like to express an interest in the initiative and/or have any questions then please email the team at

JISC Call for Participants

If you are looking to recruit participants for your surveys, interviews, or any other research studies, you can now make use of a ‘Call for Participants’ service run by JISC. This service allows you to publicise a study page on the Call for Participants online platform, which is visited by thousands of potential participants around the world who can self-select to take part in your research if they meet the requirements. When your study page is published, the service also sends email notifications to anyone in the signed-up participant pool who matches your criteria. 
You can read more about it here:
The Doctoral Academy has recently purchased a group licence for this service. If you are interested in using it, you can join the group by following this link. You can then go on to create a Study Page to recruit participants.
If you would like to contribute a piece, or have content suggestions for future newsletters, please email Jo McKeon

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