The Beginning (Mamma mia, here we go!!!)
September flew by and back to school vibes have dissipated — I successfully sent my kids back — year 6, year 8 and two in year 10 — and now they’ve settled in their school routines — albeit, they’re pretty self-sufficient at this point, I still take full credit for getting them to school on time every. single. day.
And now, for the first time in 16 years — it’s the start of the academic year FOR ME! and that means the start of my PhD.
As a quick catch up, for those who missed my prologue post — I am privileged to enter PhD research study (supported by my company and colleagues at Kabuni and professors at the University of Reading, as a recipient of the Wilkie Calvert Studentship). The intersection of my career influences has led me to this research and I am confident that undertaking a PhD at UoR is a powerful decision that will create opportunities for collaboration, knowledge sharing and innovations that I am very excited to be part of. My successful completion of this PhD will result in Kabuni set up well to accomplish our mission — to unlock the design potential in every human being, and elevate life. In order to do this, I need to become an expert in understanding biometric measurement methodologies in order to deliver content design for immersive experiences with meaningful, measurable outcomes — we don’t know how you feel before you put a Kabuni VR Headset on- but we know you’ll feel better after you take it off! — At a soul level, as my life purpose, my raison d’etre, I feel compelled to do this research now at the precipice, on the edge of a spectrum of potential digital futures—and, as a mother to 4 teenagers — to contribute and shape a healthy future digital world for the sake of my own children and future generations. #lifegoals #happy #healthy #legacy #transparency #integration
So, here I am — week 1 — and this is my perspective of starting a PhD at University of Reading. As a “mature” student #lol
Yes, it’s been a loooong time since I’ve been in an academic environment and to be honest, anything before the age of 35 is now a complete blur — but I am thoroughly excited to get cracking. In my usual, procrastination style and distracted online search — I googled “PhD year 1 and what to expect” — all sorts of advice and suggestions in the so called guidebooks, of course they suggest a plethora of tips and tricks to get started — this is what the experts say are the top 3 things to do at your first week of doctoral studies…..
Socialise! Awkward at any age. (Or, maybe it’s just me?)
Well, I did. I met two fellow “mature” women who are pursuing their doctorate studies in a part-time capacity #parttimers. I shall keep them anonymous for the purpose of confidentiality on this blog from herein ;) and I’m happy that they were willing to join my WhatsApp group. #bemyfriend
I felt that it was valuable to see ourselves in each other, as women of a “certain age”, with a passion to learn, to strive to become experts in subjects that are unique and specific to our life experiences, and up for a darn big challenge in life at a time when we could just start to chill out a bit #wtf #selfinflictedpain (I also wondered if they pondered for hours the age old question of “what to wear” on first day of PhD program…, but I didn’t ask #somethingsneverchange) I didn’t really notice what they were wearing, but I did see the passion for their areas of research and a real ambition to achieve the dream of achieving a PhD on a subject that they are passionate about. #lifegoals #nevertooold
Of course, we commiserated each other for being the oldest in the room — and also shared our vulnerability around refreshing our minds on the mandatory course PYM0S1/S2 Data Analysis Modules for Postgraduate Research (PGR) for students in Psychology.
The broader group of first year PhD students was a great bunch as well. It was really fascinating to hear about the areas of research for fellow “non-mature” colleagues — from the beneficial impact of mushrooms, to analysis of MRIs in relation to depression, and investigations into speech therapies for children with autism, I look forward to hearing more about their progress.
Get to Know your Supervisors and Support System
My supervisors will be with me throughout my PhD journey and potentially beyond. Clearly, it is important to build a good relationship with them, mostly because they will be my first point of contact at the university and in this new process. Having only met my supervisors briefly during the recruitment phase before starting my PhD, it was good to connect with Dr Peter Scarfe to get started on my literature review in my area of interest — my primary supervisor, Dr Juliane Honisch is currently on maternity leave and will return in January 2022.
Additionally, I met with the VR LAB team, which will be a weekly meeting with Dr Peter Scarfe’s team and Dr Andrew Glennester. Each Tuesday, a member of the team will present their findings — related to their studies, work or a review of paper that is of interest. My first date to present is 2nd of November — which feels overwhelmingly soon….. #icandohardthings #youvegotthis #deepbreaths
Get Comfortable and Establish a Routine
Hmmmm, they say establishing a positive and productive work environment wherever you are is essential to having a successful PhD journey. Well, I now have a desk (side note: the campus is beautiful- very green, eco-friendly and a mix of legacy buildings beside state-of-the-art designed architecture), but I don’t know how much I’ll sit there…
My PhD experience is not going to be a straight line. Routine is going to be a challenge. I’m a mum of 4 (I know, I know I keep reminding you). I am also working, pretty much full-time, along side the research (my work and research go hand in hand, so it’ll feel seamless, hopefully). One thing I’m certain, if I’ve established any skills in my 43 years, it is that I am a multi-tasker — i’m adamant that humanity, as we know it, would not exist without the ability of women, mums in particular, to multi-task the hell out of life. [So f*ck off to those experts who say “stop-multitasking” because seriously — multi-tasking is how your mother/caregiver got you to where you are, and that is how the world functions (sorry, letting off a little steam there ;0)]
It’s abundantly clear — that at the end of all this, my strongest relationship in life will be with my laptop — probably love/hate, but we will know each other intimately.
My supervisor gave some good advise, that I’m trying to heed — write as you go along. So I’m writing. Yes, yes, I know that this article is not what he meant — his advice was related to writing as I conduct my research, so that the bones of my thesis exist before that last year when I submit (fingers crossed!).
And so, the writing juices must flow….. the entire point of this journey is to make what’s in my head, what is in my colleagues’ heads come to life — to capture the imagination of what’s possible in a tangible form — the beauty of extended reality.
Week one — complete.
Only 208 weeks to go!
Any other “mature” students out there on a similar journey? Or maybe you're interested in biometrics, psychology, technology and virtual reality. immersion, presence or embodiment? Every heard of the “rubber hand effect” — we should be best friends….. anyway. let me know what you think (love it or hate it) in the comments — xo ~ Nina