PhD Diary – October 2021

When reflecting upon this past month I found it difficult to find new lessons to discuss. Most of my personal work has been preparing for my major review and the start of teaching this academic year. I am often working on campus and finding my personal blended approach has been a priority. What I found most valuable during my time on campus have been the conversations with those around me. In one of my earlier blog posts, I expressed that those brief physical conversations you can have was something I missed during the pandemic. Now having the chance to do that again after so long, it has been fascinating to relearn some of those interpersonal skills.

One skill that has been tricky to regain has been communicating complex topics. When you have buried yourself in reading and others in your field, it can be hard to explain your project or field to those unfamiliar. A common quote with many variations that applies here is the following: If one cannot explain something simply, then it is unlikely that you understand it yourself. I agree. Explaining a complex idea to someone in a manner they can understand requires you to know the foundations it is built on. Being able to explain my work to other students over this month has been a great experience. In practice I found that whilst explaining the core principles was quite easy, some of the details were a little more difficult to convey. It’s not that I do not know, but that network of knowledge is not built in a way to accurately explain my ideas.

This exercise was great practice for my major review presentation, something that I had not intended at the time. Whilst some of those examining in my presentation will know my work, there will be others who are not. Having this opportunity to test my ideas in a casual environment helped determine where my own gaps in knowledge exist. It reassures me that these conversations with each other are as valuable as I remembered. I will continue the blended workstyle, making the most out of the time spent alongside fellow students or colleagues. As opportunities for formal dissemination approach, having a chance to develop my speaking skills is a valuable one.

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