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PGRs Together
Issue 3

Welcome to the third newsletter for LJMU's PGR community! 
In this issue.... new arrangements on campus3 more PGRs share their stories and Celebrating Class of 2020.

Also....eDoc training sessions,  details of Researcher Development Programme and Research Ethics and Governance updates.  JISC's  service is available, if you're looking to recruit Participants.   Motivate LJMU tell us more about personalised exercise plans based on World leading research. 

Best wishes from all of us in The Doctoral Academy

If you have any suggestions for content, or would like to contribute your story, please contact Jo McKeon

Class of 2020 Celebration

The University celebrated the achievements of the Class of 2020, with an online event on 4th September.  You can find messages from Sir Brian Leveson,
LJMU's Chancellor here:
 JMSU's President Lila Tamea
 and Professor Ian Campbell, Vice Chancellor

Graduation Ceremonies at the Anglican Cathedral will be held 8th - 12th March 2021, further details will be announced:  

There have been 85 vivas since mid-March and 94 successful completions, including 5 Professional Doctorates.

LJMU Moving Forward Together


The University's microsite will be updated to relfect new information and be the collection point for all the updates in the present circumstances:

PGR-specific information relating to Covid-19 is available on our website

The Doctoral Academy contact details:, or telephone (0151) 231 6375 and 6464.

PGRs at Home

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

Johanna Ender, School of Engineering, tells us about Franka and reaches out to the rest of LJMU’s research community.
Hello to all of you brave PGRs and LJMU staff.
I am lucky to have a cosy place to work under the stairs (with some kind of nice Harry Potter feeling) within an apartment located in Wismar, Germany, Baltic Coast. Here, I am able to push forward my writing for the PhD-thesis about Human-Robot Collaboration.

I am investigating, very roughly abstracted, a design strategy to free robots from their cages and, here I am in this special situation and feeling caged myself sometimes. But also If I absolutely miss working with my joint-arm robot, her name is Franka, I find myself luckily within a supporting environment.
Online seminars offered by the university and affiliated organisations are helping a lot to stay focused and happy minded (!) through this situation. Particularly, the Writing Afternoons and Writing Days are making me feel productive and it's so perfectly nice to see familiar faces, getting to know new people with passion about their research, exchanging ideas and having some fun within the little breaks while having a good cup of tea. So precious! A great thanks to all of the LJMU staff members who are supporting us PGRs, especially supporting to overcome that unforeseen obstacle and a lovely greeting to all of you brave PGRs - after we will have completed our study, we will be extra proud and we will celebrate to got through this time, together.
If someone is also working with robots, Human-Machine Interaction or just excited to exchange ideas - please connect via LinkedIn, ResearchGate, etc. 

Zoe Swithenbeck, Public Health Institute, speaks about doing a PhD during COVID19, the challenges and opportunities.

 Like everyone else, I had many ideas about what doing a PhD would be like.  None of them included a pandemic.  I’m in my second year, and was mid way through data collection when lockdown started.  I’m researching smoking interventions in drug and alcohol treatment services, and a central aspect of my project is (or was) co-production with people with lived experience.  Of course, my face to face research came to a grinding halt. 
The first few weeks of lockdown were tough.  I live alone, and am usually so busy with various things that I rarely spend much time at home.  I didn’t know what to do with myself, and the fact that my PhD was now so uncertain didn’t help.  I considered giving up altogether, or taking some time off.  I didn’t feel that the work was worth doing if it couldn’t be what I had envisioned.  Luckily for me, my supervisors are brilliant.  My DoS kept in regular contact, talking me down when I wanted to give up and helping me reshape the project into something I’m excited about doing.  I’m still facing challenges, trying to adapt to a new way of working and the frustrations of navigating changing rules and regulations.  I’ve had to accept that this has put my project months behind schedule, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I know a lot of people took advantage of lockdown by working hard and learning new skills.  For me, it was more about getting through it with my sanity relatively intact.  I tried to keep to a routine, getting up in the morning and doing some work.  It wasn’t always easy.  One thing that really helped has been the support from other PGRs.  Our department (PHI) has held monthly lunchtime get togethers for a while now, so we moved them to weekly online sessions early on.  This has been invaluable, from sharing tips and advice on research, to venting about lack of motivation or boredom.  It’s been a definite highlight of a pretty dark time for me, and I’ve made some new friends and developed existing friendships.  If we take one thing from this situation, I hope it’s the sense of community and support that has developed. 
On reflection, it’s made me re-evaluate what’s important.  Previously, I’d say yes to any opportunity, without really thinking if I had the time or energy to pursue it.  Now I’ve realised how important it is to maintain a work life balance, even if that looks a little different for a PhD student than other people!  Now that restrictions have eased, I’ve been making more effort to get out and enjoy my local area.  It’s been an opportunity to rediscover places I haven’t visited in years, and get out in the fresh air with friends, which has been wonderful!

Laura Sheehy, School of Biological and Earth Sciences, shares her story including being invited back to campus

Suffice to say the start of my PhD has not gone as I imagined it would…

I started in February, the first few weeks were a blur of training sessions, forms and meeting new people. The focus of my project is on whole genome sequencing of parasitic nematode species that are currently used as biological controls. After completing all the training sessions and inductions I was ready to get my first experiment up and running!

But we all know what happened next… lockdown. Just six weeks after starting the university shut down as the country entered lockdown due to COVID-19. So, what do I do now? I did not account for a global pandemic in my plan.

Since lab work was not an option, I threw myself into the literature. I was new to nematology so actually having that time to sit and read was helpful. To make the most of this time away from the lab I joined quite a few training webinars. I found these sessions offered a much-needed break from the constant reading, I discovered you can only read so many papers in one day before you hit a wall.

During lockdown getting into a routine was the most helpful thing to do, keeping to a standard working day really helped differentiate work from home. I created a structured day, starting at 8am and ending at 4pm with plenty of regular breaks to avoid sitting at my desk all day long. I enjoyed setting up virtual tea breaks with friends who were also working from home at the time. I will admit some days were not as productive as others, but I did not beat myself up about this, I just did what I could each day.

Similar for many people, hobbies became a big part of coping with lockdown. For me this meant expanding my already large houseplant collection to what can now only be described as an indoor jungle. The restricted access to the outside world inspired me to bring the outside in. Slowly I turned my home office into a little green oasis. When I hit a mental block I would take some time to check my jungle as something always needed to be done. This time out focusing on a new task separate to my PhD work usually reset my mind and removed the mental block.

Lockdown went relatively easy for me but after four months I did start to worry about whether I would be able to do everything I had proposed for my PhD. I still had not generated any data, but then the email I had been waiting for arrived! The University labs were re-opening. There were many documents to read, forms to fill in and an induction to complete before I could enter the labs. I was equally excited and nervous; it was like my first day all over again. I was not sure what to expect.

It was very strange; the University as it was so quiet! But it was easy adapt to the new COVID-19 regulations such as signing in each day, booking lab access, and following room occupancy limitations. The return to labs was not difficult, just a bit different. I am delighted to be back in the lab, finally setting up that first experiment I planned nearly five months ago, I cannot wait for my initial data set to be generated. The first six months of my PhD did not go as expected, but I made the best of it given the circumstances.

 Many thanks to Johanna, Zoe and Laura for their contributions.  We'd like to hear from PGRs about their experiences.  Are you back on campus?  What are your thoughts as we start a new academic year?  If you'd like to share your story, contact Jo McKeon

Researcher Development Programme

The Researcher Development Programme (RDP) is available for all PGRs to support research and transferable skills development.  We are now opening bookings for online workshops taking place in 2020-21. You can find more details on the events calendar in eDoc.

During September you can take part in some really interactive sessions on public speaking, and presenting yourself on screen, and find out more about identifying and applying for funds through the Alternative guide to postgraduate funding webinar. In October we look forward to welcoming new PGRs, and have a range of workshops on tools to help you get started with research, as well as Hugh Kearn’s (@IThinkWellHugh) popular session on Staying well in research (updated for socially distant times). November is Academic Writing Month (or #AcWriMo) so this month you’ll find sessions on literature reviews, writing, and editing your thesis. And throughout the year, there are always plenty of sessions on progression reviews, viva preparation and on using eDoc.
If you are looking for a bit of extra motivation and company while working on your thesis, why not join other PGRs at our weekly Wednesday Writing afternoons,
2-4.30pm? We also host full virtual writing days on the first Friday of every month. These provide structured time to focus on your work, a chance to check in with other PGRs, and access to a writing tutor for one-to-one support.

Resources from previous webinars are available on our Canvas site.


eDoc for PGRs sessions will be held 10-11am Tue 22 September,
11am-12pm Wed 21 October  and 2-3pm Mon 9 November

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

We are also 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:

Motivate LJMU

The LJMU Sport and Exercise Science department have developed new resources to help with your exercise journey while working from home!  LJMU PGRs and Staff have exclusing access to four different 12-week exercise programmes developed by world-leading researchers.

Using these resources, the Motivate LJMU Team are also conducting a research trial to evaluate the effectiveness of 2 different interventions on basic health measures.  During the study you will receive a free basic health check, (which you will complete in your own home) and a 12-week personalised exercise programme and ongoing support from the research team.  If this is something you might be interested in, or to find more about the study, check out the 'ABOUT' page on the website.

To gain access to the training programmes, talk to a member of the team or express an interest in the study, please email:

 Quotes from members of the Motivate LJMU study:  

This study has really motivated and encouraged me to increase my activity levels and do more structured exercise. My exercise programme is tailored to my preferences and very flexible to fit in with me and my everyday life to keep it enjoyable.” LJMU Staff Member
So far it has been great, everything I need to measure my heath arrived in a box on my door step! The exercise has been personalised to my needs with loads of extra information available on the website too. The staff running the project are lovely and are always happy to answer my questions” LJMU PGR


Research Ethics and Governance


The LJMU Incident Management Team has determined that face-to-face research activities can now be undertaken if current Covid-19 practices are met, subject to the conditions detailed at:

University Research Ethics Committee submission deadlines and meeting dates:

JISC Call for Participants

A reminder that 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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