Breakfast club: Making the most of your PhD experience

by Nora Schmit & Constanze Ciavarella, PhD students in the School of Public Health

The first School of Public Health breakfast club took place in the morning of Tuesday 26th March 2019 at St Mary’s campus. The student reps organised this initiative to bring together PhD students from 5 departments spread across St Mary’s, Charing Cross and White City campuses, to share their experiences around the theme “Making the most of your PhD” while enjoying a delicious breakfast buffet.

The event had a high turnout, with over 50 students from all stages of the PhD gathering in room G64. It started at 10am with tea, coffee and various breakfast options from Le Pain Quotidien, including waffles, pastries, baguettes and fruit. After everyone had taken a seat, 3 students from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology gave short talks on extracurricular activities they had pursued during their PhD.

First, final-year PhD student Tom talked about the insights he gained during an internship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. He also gave practical tips for students wanting to apply to the internship scheme and on managing the practical aspect of taking time out of the PhD. Andria, a second-year student, then presented an overview of her short-term work assisting the Ebola outbreak response team at the World Health Organization. She gave some details on the current Ebola epidemic and the tasks she had to complete during this position interspersed with beautiful pictures of Geneva. Finally, Nora shared her experience of the Global Fellows Programme at Tokyo Tech University organised by the Graduate School, which she had attended during the first year of her PhD. She highlighted her happy memories of the trip and encouraged participants interested in developing teamwork and communication skills to apply. All speakers agreed on the benefits of taking up these varied opportunities and expanding their experience beyond their research project, particularly with regards to skills and careers development, but also highlighted the difficulties they encountered in reconciling the activity with their PhD.

After the talks, everyone had the chance to ask questions or talk to the speakers in person. People helped themselves to more food and some stayed to mingle with the other students until 11.30am. Participants additionally had the opportunity to vote on future social activities to be organised by the PhD reps, with paintball, karaoke and a museum late visit coming out as favourites.

The first breakfast club was a great success and received positive feedback throughout; everyone was impressed by the food and participants said they appreciated the opportunity to get to know other students and getting inspiration and practical information to make the most of their PhD.

We would like to thank the Graduate School for funding this event and hope to organise more activities in the future to improve the postgraduate research community in the School of Public Health.


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