Dear Incoming Postgraduate Research Student,
Welcome! It's great to have you here. Below is some potentially useful information.
Some good people to know
Apart from your supervisors, obviously. Your supervisors are your first point of contact on any issue you are having, and you should meet with at least one of them regularly (e.g. most weeks).
As Director of Postgraduate Studies (Research), I'm kind of like a “third supervisor" sitting behind your primary and co-supervisor(s), and happy to talk to you about any issues that for any reason can't be resolved by others in your supervisory team. You most likely won't need to talk to me very often - but please remember that I'm here! You can find me in my office (RC-6113) or e-mail Ian Doust email@example.com
Graduate Research Services (GRS) are the central unit responsible for postgraduate research students, who handle admissions, completions, etc. They are happy to help with most non-mathematical matters, and sometimes run interesting workshops and seminars (e.g. job-hunting skills and advice). They run an induction program for new students each semester, so please keep a look-out for that.
This one might seem a bit random, but being a research student can be isolating and we want you to know the supports that are available. Beyond your fellow students, supervisory team, and myself, in addition the staff at UNSW Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help if you or a fellow student feel distressed (e.g. highly anxious, depressed). CAPS are located on the second floor of the Quadrangle building, on the right a little up the Basser Steps. They have a drop-in system, check out their website to see how to get an appointment. They are worth keeping in mind because these issues can get serious if not managed early. If getting an appointment becomes difficult let me or Julie know and we can try to assist. Ideally, your supervisor should of course be kept in the loop. Also check out the CAPS website for self-help information and resources.
Annual Reviews and Talks
A review panel will meet with you every year during your degree to check on your progress and see if you need any extra help to keep things moving along. Annual reviews are not a test - they are an opportunity to get and to give feedback on how things have been working out to date. Your review panel will be myself and two other members of staff, usually from the same department as your primary supervisor.
Your first review will be scheduled 6-9 months from enrolment, and is referred to as a Confirmation Review, where candidature for your degree is officially confirmed. You will be asked to prepare a short document outlining your progress and in particular the project plan for your thesis. This is mostly to check that things are heading in the right direction, and to think about ways to provide further assistance if required.
We also have an Annual Postgraduate Research Conference, usually in August, where all enrolled postgraduates (except new starters and those nearly finished) present their research to the School. This is an excellent opportunity to practice research communication skills, to find out what your peers have been up to, and to get feedback from a broader base of people in the School than your regular supervisory team. And perhaps to give some feedback yourself. The Postgrad Conference is aligned with Annual Reviews, so members of your review panel can get up to speed on what you have been doing before your review.
The main one to know about is the Postgraduate Research Student Support (PRSS) scheme, which offers a couple of thousand dollars to present at an overseas conference at some stage during your degree. Easy to get once, hard to get twice. Make use of this opportunity!
For local conferences, the School is often happy to pay registration costs.
By now you have a desk, a pigeonhole in the mailroom, and you are familiar with the Level 3 Common Room. Have you found your nearest printer, kitchen, photocopier? Do you also know about our high performance computing facilities and the dedicated room for producing YouTube videos of your research?
All departments have regular seminars during semester, and from time to time special topic seminar series also run. You are expected to regularly attend seminars relevant to your discipline. Sometimes students give talks in these sessions, especially if they have an exciting result to share, so keep this option in mind.
You are encouraged to apply to teach undergraduate tutorials in the School (first and second year service courses in Mathematics or Statistics). This looks great on your CV and also pays well! Applicants will be asked to present a demonstration tutorial to a small panel of staff. If you have no prior teaching experience it might be worth working as a one-on-one tutor in the Student Support Scheme to build up some teaching experience before hitting the classrooms - the panel may direct you to this if they think it appropriate. Apply a month ahead of semester, more info at the School Office.
There is a regular student-run Postgrad Seminar Series in the School. This is a fantastic initiative and you are encouraged to participate and present a talk. And maybe down the track you could even organise it?
Other ideas you have for activities for our postgrad community are most welcome - if you want to start something up I will see what can be done to assist. (Journal club? Book club?)
Prof Ian Doust
Director of Postgraduate Studies