So I have spent most of the last week in Windsor Great Park at the British Society for Geomorphology’s Windsor Workshop. It’s a chance to meet other physical geography PhD students and to get the low-down on how to finish your PhD with minimum possible faffage!
We were staying in the Cumberland Lodge, which is kind of like a stately home-cum-conference venue (see the photo attached to this post – thanks to Wikipedia for that one). It’s the sort of place with pictures of the Queen in every room and where you could have an epic game of hide-and-seek if the mood took you. I was going to count the number of pics of Queenie but there were that many that I never had time. Great food though and plenty of it, we will all have to be exercising like crazy over the weekend to burn it all off.
Anyway to stop myself digressing into a meal by meal list of yumminess, I’d better say something about what we were actually doing. There were a series of short talks by BSG academics on everything from types of modelling to how to get published. Lots of handy hints and tips but particularly useful in my opinion was a group exercise where we had to plan a PhD project and present a kind of pitch for what we would do if we had that project. To make it extra challenging, each group was created so that none of the members had much knowledge of our project area and then we were given just a couple of hours to work on it. So no time for lit searching or backtracking in our choice of aim or methods. We really had to think fast, especially as the winning group got a bottle of wine. Bribery is definitely the best policy when getting students of any type to get their thinking caps on.
The group presentation set us up nicely for presenting our individual projects to a those of our peers who are working in the same broad area and to a couple of the academics. This presentation was a lot harder than it sounds as we only had 5mins to get across the gist of our PhD and then had to face a barrage of questions. Luckily no-one seemed to think my project was a really terrible idea/ that I am totally mad to be doing it. So that’s a massive relief! And the questions were very helpful in getting me to think about possible issues in my methods, which I can now work out how to avoid.
But the best part of the workshop was definitely meeting the other students. So reassuring to find out that the problems I have been having are shared by lots of others and to compare how things are done at Sheffield with other unis. Plus of course it was very interesting to hear all the icy peoples’ presentations and get a flavour of their project. As the only ice PhD starting at Sheffield this year, it was nice to have some geeky chats with other people doing similar projects.
Overall, the workshop is good opportunity for sharing info and ideas as well as getting some top tips from the people in the know. And now I might actually have some friends at the next conference I attend. No need for my excellent “awkward person standing in the corner like a lemon” impression (it’s very convincing I hear).
So thanks to the BSG and particularly the academics who ran this year’s workshop (you know who you are). Also thanks to the Cumberland Lodge staff, who were even nice to us after my group had broken a table and I’d lost my door card (oops). Did I mention that their food was ace? And merci beaucoup to Mark, Rupert and Kate for giving me a lift to and from Windsor in their snazzy hire car. It would have been a long train ride from Sheff without you guys (with significantly fewer 80s power ballads), and I would never have known how many Gs you can generate going around a roundabout at 30mph.