Thesis interrupted: Anisha's story

This year has been full of change, uncertainty and instability. For many research students, the COVID pandemic has significantly disrupted their professional and personal lives, as projects have to be reimagined, working habits are forced to evolve, and people are separated from their peers and families. While the current circumstances are quite unusual, they seem to reinforce that there is no typical or normal experience of the PhD. Research takes place in the context of a human life and its unique vicissitudes. Yet it's amazing how readily we assume things should go a particular way and that something is wrong when life happens. The piece below is written by a dear friend of mine, Anisha Gautam. Anisha and I met and became friends in a PhD lab many years ago - she started her thesis around the time I was finishing. We spent countless lunch hours together as part of a community of PhD students, sharing our woes and making each other laugh. Anisha recently returned to her thesis af


A few months ago, I submitted an application for my first academic promotion. The process was new to me, and the application fairly long and involved. It took me 2-3 months to produce the required 8 page case and a detailed CV. The promotion process feels a little like reapplying for your existing job at a higher level - it calls for honest and considered reflection on where you are in your career, what you've achieved so far, and where you're headed next. It requires you to explicitly identify yourself to others, and evaluate your achievements, as a researcher, teacher, mentor, leader and citizen of the university. Like job applications, I found producing the promotion application quite hard. My primary felt experience of the writing process was one of resistance - the feeling of not wanting to work on the application. More than being simply stuck or mired, I experienced a deep aversion to the task and all that it animated, a resistance that expressed itself in my mood, bod

The Well Academic Writing Retreat

Last December, I was lucky to be part of the inaugural  Well Academic Writing Retreat  in Wentworth Falls, the Blue Mountains. Created for research students and ECRs, the retreat was conceived by  Dr Willo Drummond , a local Sydney poet and lecturer in creative writing at Macquarie University. Over several days, I delivered a number of workshops on mindful research and meditation as part of a broader program that integrated mind-body and self-care practices with the writing process. The following post offers reflections from Willo and myself on this wonderful event.  *** The Well Academic Writing Retreat was an intimate five day retreat for researchers interested in doing some intensive writing in a supportive environment. The pilot event was attended by seven participants, most of whom were Masters or PhD students, but diverse in age and discipline. As the name suggests, the retreat was designed with a strong focus on wellbeing and generating dialogue b