Centre for Doctoral Studies

Equipping doctoral research students at King's College London to excel

Being enabled in academia – sharing PGRs experiences at King’s

Photo of Lienkie Diedericks

Lienkie Diedericks

Hi there! I’m Lienkie Diedericks, a PGR at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and I’m also currently a part-time Disability Project Support Officer at the Centre for Doctoral Studies (CDS). I’d like to introduce you to the project I’m working on currently, which focuses on PGR disability issues.

I’d like to better understand what disabled, chronically ill and/or neurodiverse PGR experiences are at King’s: what works for you and what doesn’t?

My mission is to create a central online hub where important information relevant to disabled PGRs is streamlined and easily accessible, including topics around extensions, interruptions, adjustments, and best practice. Other than that, I’d like to create awareness and cultural change around disability, chronic illness and/or neurodiversity within our research communities and the institution more broadly.

What prompted you to take on this project?

My own experience as a disabled PGR at King’s made me realise how few conversations and real change is happening in our research environment. Disability is very much still an unspoken topic.

I decided to create a podcast – which was funded by the CDS Wellbeing Fund – to address often neglected disability issues. The podcast is called ‘Enabled in Academia’. Off the back of this podcast, I was asked to join the PGR Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Task and Finish Group at King’s to co-write a paper of recommendations on PGR disability issues. This project aims to action some of these recommendations.

What are your focus areas in this project?

There are a few things I want to achieve. The first is to create a central online space as a reference point for information on PGR disability-related topics, including information on exemptions and interruptions, best practices, and a glossary of accommodations with accompanying case studies.

Importantly, I want to provide a resource for PGRs outlining your rights as a disabled person. And if you don’t identity as disabled? Not to worry, the Equalities Act 2010 covers any persons with a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. For more on this, see the Equalities Act Technical Guidance for Further and Higher Education.

Then, together with my colleagues at the CDS, we’re planning on launching a new online PGR Disabilities ‘Hub’ along with a series of events and seminars in September of the new academic year.

This will include an online open forum Q&A with key institutional stakeholder, disabled, chronically ill and/or neurodiverse PGRs and faculty, followed by an in-person ‘meet and greet’ (snacks included!). We’re also planning a series of short webinars on topics including supervision, and building your support network as a disabled, chronically ill and/or neurodiverse PGR.

How can PGRs get involved in this project?

I’m compiling a guidance document on best practices for disabled PGRs, which will be based around a series of case studies. It would be great if these case studies reflected the wide variety of PGRs and their disciplines at King’s currently.

Please get in touch if you’d like to share your experience – even if it’s not a positive one.

You can share your experience completely anonymously using this Google Form –  PGR disability hub form (google.com)

I’d also love for anyone to be involved in the communications campaign, whether that’s attending the events, co-hosting a webinar or feeding back to me on topics you’d like to be highlighted. Any suggestions are welcome! You can get in touch with me at: heilien.diedericks@kcl.ac.uk.

In the meantime, what resources are currently available for PGRs?

I’d strongly recommend becoming part of Access King’s, the staff disability inclusion network at King’s College London. As a PGR you can join this network, which hosts a wealth of resources and events. Other useful resources can be found on the Disability Inclusion Hub and the PGR Wellbeing Hub.

King’s 3MT Grand Final 2022

The King’s Three Minute Thesis Grand Final which took place on 28th April 2022 gave a wonderful insight into the captivating and prodigious research taking place at King’s.

A total of 14 PhD students across the King’s faculties took on the challenge of presenting their research to a lay audience within three minutes, using a single slide. This year, the four faculty heats were held online and eight participants went through to the Grand Final held in-person in the Bush House Auditorium during the Spring PGR Induction.

Julia Fajardo-Sanchez was selected as the King’s winner and has been put forward for the Vitae National Quarter Finals. The King’s Judges said Julia’s engaging presentation was “inspiring”, persuasive, and her stage presence was “excellent”. Julia is based in the Department of Life Course Sciences within the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, and her 3MT is titled Seeing the Whole Picture.

Here are Julia’s thoughts on her King’s 3MT experience:

Julia Fajardo Sanchez

The Three-Minute Thesis experience has been absolutely amazing. The team organizing the competition helped us along the way and all the criteria was made available on time. I felt very comfortable during the heats as the team encouraged us and made us feel at home between our peers. I knew it is a worldwide competition that can increase the exposure on your research and with that in mind, I decided to compete. If there are two things that, no matter what the result, we can all get out of participating is to increase your confidence by speaking in public and to engage even more with the purpose of your research by bringing the essence of your work to the public. I am definitely grateful for the opportunity, and I recommend it to everyone who would like to try it!”

Alex Martin, from the Department of Psychology in the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, was the Runner-up this year as the judges were highly impressed with her ability to convey the human angle on the need for her research very persuasively. Alex’s 3MT is titled the Role of the Father in Reducing Risk of Depression within Families.

Here are Alex’s thoughts on her King’s 3MT experience:

Alex Martin

“It has been an absolute honour to take part in the 3MT competition. I would strongly encourage others to take part. First, the process of developing my talk for a lay audience gave me the opportunity to ‘zoom out’. This gave me insight into my own research which I didn’t have before, having been immersed in the detail for so long. I really enjoyed reflecting on why my research matters outside of our academic bubble. Second, taking part has opened several doors. I will be collaborating with the DTC to develop a workshop on presentations. I have also shared the talk with several charities and was asked to develop a blog for them to publish – so my research has had real-world impact as a direct result of the 3MT competition. Third, taking part has been really good fun! Congratulations to the other contestants for such interesting and engaging talks – and to the very deserved winner!”

Nigel Eady, Director of Research Talent at King’s, and Chair of the Grand Final Judging Panel, said:

“Both Julia and Alex really engaged the audience in the first few moments of their talks. The simplicity of the images they used was powerful and they immediately drew you in, wanting to know more. Julia also used the stage effectively and both she and Alex explained the human angle on the need for their research very persuasively. As with all the best presenters, they deployed the minimum of technical language, leaving us as an audience feeling we had learned something new and feeling inspired at the amazing work of King’s postgraduate researchers.”

Tom Rusbridge, Research Staff Development Consultant, and Judge of the Grand Final, said:

“The winning presentation captured what 3MT is all about. Julia had a witty and memorable hook to draw the audience in, explained the rationale and process of research clearly, and used accessible language throughout. To cap it off, the presentation was confident and engaging in spades. I wish Julia every success at the national semi-final.” 

Watch the King’s 3MT finalists’ presentations and read about previous finalists’ experiences and advice for future participant below.

Learn about last year’s 3MT winner, Curie Kim who went on to represent King’s at the Vitae National 3MT Quarter Final Competition in the blog post titled King’s 3MT Grand Final 2021. You can also view the King’s 3MT finalists from 20142017, 2018 and 2020.

2122 King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize (Round 1)

Congratulations to the first round of winners of the 2122 King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize!

A limited number of awards are given across the year to celebrate truly outstanding research and theses completed by King’s doctoral students. The prizes are nominated by the external examiners and are judged by a panel consisting of the College’s Director of Research Talent and the Chair of the Research Degrees Examinations Board. 

 

Take a look at some reflections from the 2122 winners:

Dr Rana Alkattan, Dental Materials for Operative and Restorative Dentistry

As my time as a PhD student at King’s has come to an end, I look back at it as a period of growth, learning, and opportunities. My experience, although it had its ups and downs, was truly a positive and rewarding adventure. For this, I must thank my supervisors, family and friends who were with me every step of the way. I am honoured to have been recognized by King’s for my work, and am very grateful for all the time I spent here and all that I have learned.

 

 

Dr Olakunle Oginni, Behavioural Genetics

I really enjoyed learning about twin models and applying this knowledge to understand the health disparities among lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals compared to those who are heterosexual. I am very grateful to my supervisors – Prof. Frühling Rijsdijk (who was the overall winner of the 2020/21 Supervisory Excellence Award) and Dr. Patrick Jern (of the Abo Akademi University, Finland); the SGDP community, my family and friends, and the UK Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. Since completing my PhD, I have continued work as a lecturer and honorary consultant psychiatrist at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria; and I am a part-time postdoctoral research associate at Prof. Thalia Eley’s EDIT Lab at the SGDP Centre.

 

 

Dr Julia Burrill, Molecular Biology

I’m very grateful to receive this award and must, of course, thank my supervisors, Dr. Nunzianda Frascione and Dr. Barbara Daniel. Doing a PhD can be a real roller coaster and I’m so glad the rest of the gang in King’s Forensics was along for the ride. For those of you en route to submission, keep it up! Everyone thinks of chucking it in at some point, but it helped me to keep reminding myself of why I was passionate about the work in the first place. And remember to take breaks, whether it is going for a run or to the pub. My passion for the topic has now led me back to the U.S. to do a postdoc in Forensic Science Communication in the Courtroom at Stony Brook University, but I will always remember my time in London and at King’s with great fondness.

 

Dr Giles Masters, Musicology

It was a lovely surprise to be awarded this prize! I am, of course, very delighted and honoured. There are so many people I could thank, but I’ll just mention two. First, I’m very grateful to everyone at the Music Department at KCL – a truly vibrant community of intellectual and artistic endeavour – and especially my dedicated and brilliant supervisor Heather Wiebe. Second, I’d like to express my love and appreciation for my wonderful friend Clara Benjamin, who died last year.

 

 

Dr Laura Knopfel, Law

It is an honour to win this outstanding thesis prize in law for a socio-legal project. I thus read the award as an appreciation and encouragement for interdisciplinary and empirical research in legal scholarship. My thanks go to my supervisors Prof. Peer Zumbansen and Prof. Davina Cooper as well as the Law Department, in particular Dr. Eva Pils, the department’s former Director of Doctoral Studies, who gave me the freedom and possibility to pursue my research and supported me throughout the PhD journey at KCL.

 

Dr Harriet Cook, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies

I’m incredibly grateful to have been nominated for this award and it feels exciting to be able to share a few very public ‘thank you’ notes in this blog post. Firstly, to my supervisor Julian Weiss who has continuously supported me and shared in any and all of my cantiga-related excitement. Secondly, to my examiners whose kindness and encouragement during my viva meant so much to me. Thirdly, to my friends and colleagues in medieval studies at King’s and the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, all of whom I really look up to. Finally, thank you to the medieval troubadours I care so much about and who I hope know the relevance their poetry continues to have today. Roll on more cantiga moments for me and the world at large! And to PhD candidates nearing completion, I wish you all a lot of luck as you complete your projects and decide what you’d like to do next – I send my admiration your way!

 

Dr Sophie Carruthers, Psychology

I was very fortunate to complete my PhD under the supervision of Professors Tony Charman and Andrew Pickles, who generously invested in my learning and development, ensuring it was a wonderful experience. A special mention to the PACT-G Consortium and all the families who participated in the research for their contributions.

 

 

Dr Ana Caetano, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

I feel incredibly honoured to have been awarded the King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize. I am most grateful to my supervisor, Professor Paul Sharpe, for his intellectual guidance, relentless support, and for introducing me to the joy of being a scientist. Also, heartfelt thanks to my secondary and clinical supervisors, Dr Ana Angelova Volponi and Dr Veronica Booth. Thank you, too, to my external supervisor, Dr Eleanor D’Agostino, for her generous support; this work was jointly funded by the BBSRC and Unilever. Finally, I am deeply grateful to all my lab members and colleagues at the Centre for Craniofacial and Regenerative Biology, who made my time at King’s so memorable.

 

Dr Sarah McAllister, Health Services Research

It was such a surprise and honour to be awarded a King’s College Outstanding Thesis prize!  My heartfelt thanks go out to my supervisors Professor Glenn Robert, Professor Alan Simpson and Dr Vicki Tsianakas for all their support over the years.  Also, to the National Insititute for Health & Care Research for the incredibly generous research and training budget.  My favourite part of my PhD was getting to work alongside so many inspirational service users, carers and clinicians.  The work would not have been what it was without them.  My three wisest words of wisdom for completing a PhD: listen to those who use and deliver your services, always have a notebook handy to write down thoughts and ideas (they come at the strangest times) and make sure you make time for yourself to relax, sleep and eat.

 

Full list of winners from the first round of the 2122 King’s Outstanding Thesis Prize:

 

Dr Giles Masters Musicology, A&H
Dr Harriet Cook Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, A&H
Dr Rafael Lubner English Literature, A&H
Dr Rana Alkattan Dental Materials for Operative and Restorative Dentistry, FoDOC
Dr Ana Caetano Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, FoDOC
Dr Sophie Carruthers Psychology, IoPPN
Dr Olakunle Oginni Behavioural Genetics, IoPPN
Dr Matteo Montecchi Management Research (Marketing), KBS
Dr Alison McFarland Management, KBS
Dr Laura Knopfel Law, DPSoL
Dr John Whitaker Global Health Research, FoLSM
Dr Julia Burrill Molecular Biology, FoLSM
Dr Natasha Hezelgrave-Elliot Obstetrics and Gynaecology, FoLSM
Dr Edward Baker Nursing Research, NMPC
Dr Sarah McAllister Health Services Research, NMPC
Dr Malte Probst Theoretical Physics, NMES
Dr Ecaterina Burevschi Chemistry, NMES
Dr Duncan Wane Middle Eastern Studies, SSPP
Dr Eduardo Ortiz Juarez Development Economics, SSPP

 

To see the list of previous winners, please visit our website.

15 top tips for writing a funding/grant application

Blog post by Dr Nigel Eady, Director of Research Talent, Centre for Doctoral Studies

I spend quite a lot of time reading applications for funding. Some are for around £100k or more, for example, scholarship funding for a PhD, others may be much smaller, a few hundred pounds to attend a conference.

Funding schemes are nearly always competitive. In some instances, you don’t get funding just because there were too many good applicants. However, you’d be surprised how many people make very basic mistakes that significantly reduce the chance of getting funded.

So here are my top tips to give yourself the best chance possible!

  1. Check remit/eligibility carefully. If you’re not sure what you’re proposing is in the remit of the scheme, then ask! You also want anyone reading your application to see really clearly that you’re a good fit for the scheme or the funder. You certainly don’t want to spend lots of time preparing an application to find out you weren’t eligible anyway!
  2. Contact the administrator for advice. Don’t be afraid to contact the people running the scheme. Their job is to answer your questions! They are judged on the smooth running and impact of the scheme. They want to get good bids and they are better able to do that if they are talking to potential applicants. They like to build relationships with the people they’re funding.
  3. Follow the guidance you’re given. If a question says ‘max 400 words’, don’t write more than 400 words! Word limits are partly there for fairness and consistency, so everyone is given the same opportunity to present their application. You need the people reading and scoring your application on your side, so do everything you can to keep them happy! You don’t want them thinking you’re trying to gain an unfair advantage, and you don’t want them annoyed that there’s lots of extra info to read! Beware – some forms will just cut off anything over the limit!
  4. Remember the panel may not be experts. Please write in plain English – no jargon, acronyms…. Or at least as few as possible! I have a PhD in biochemistry. That means I understand certain research disciplines but it won’t take long for me to get lost (or annoyed!) by jargon that may make sense to you, but not to me.
  5. Don’t forget the panel are probably busy! If your application is hard to read or confusing or very long, it’s not going to help how your reviewers feel about your application. If it’s easy to read and understand then the panel will likely be on your side and more likely to advocate for you to get funded!
  6. Demonstrate commitment to what you want to do. Have you already applied anywhere else for funding? Why not? Funders like to see commitment. It may persuade those reviewing your application that you’re really serious about doing the research, going to the conference or whatever you’re asking for money to do.
  7. Show that other people think you’re worth funding. In an academic setting, it might be as simple as showing you have the support of your supervisor or department or faculty through a short written statement or letter. Even better, is there someone who will commit part of the funding for what you want to do? This is often called ‘matched’ funding. Always be clear what funding you already have and what other funding you’ve applied for. You can’t ‘double fund’, i.e. get funding from two places to do the same thing! Always read the information about the funding scheme carefully and check what’s allowed (and maybe double check with the administrator).
  8. Be honest about the costs. Time spent getting your budget right won’t be wasted. If you ask for too much money, you may immediately be ruled out. If you underestimate, you might end up having to deliver something without enough money! Panel members will often be considering whether a budget is realistic. You should definitely be truthful, not least as that shows the panel that you can be trusted with the funds. Requesting exactly the amount on offer tends to look suspicious, unless you’re showing that it will cost you more than the full amount and you’re just asking for the maximum available. Where possible, include quotations for purchases you’d like to make.
  9. Make sure your budget adds up! You’d be amazed how may budgets are wrong! Get someone else to check your calculations and that what you’ve written makes sense. There’s actually lots to say about budgets – maybe I’ll write a separate post with further thoughts!
  10. Provide a clear timeline. Funders want to know that you will spend their money wisely. In your application, show that you can think like someone managing a project and describe what will happen over the weeks or months after you get the money. You don’t necessarily need a proper GANTT chart, a few clear bullet points may be enough. What will you do if something goes wrong? Is there enough time in your schedule to respond to difficulties? Have you already planned for the most obvious risks?
  11. Ensure supporting info supports your request! The supervisor whose statement in support of your application effectively says nothing more than ‘I confirm this person exists,’ isn’t doing you any favours! The more bespoke and tailored the statement the better! Consider what the panel are looking for. Perhaps you can give your supervisor/PI/referee a few bullet points they might consider including in the statement/letter? Hopefully if you’re one of a number of students from the same research group applying, your supervisor won’t have written the same statement for everyone!
  12. Make your application easy to read. Again, keep your reviewers onside. Online forms sometimes make this difficult (as you may have little ability to format text) but do think about formatting and structure. Long, dense paragraphs of text, ridiculously   are all a bad idea!
  13. Ask for feedback. Get as much feedback as you can, especially if your application isn’t successful. Verbal feedback can be even more helpful. People may say more verbally than they are willing to write down! You might be able to turn a ‘failed’ application into a really successful one, based on the feedback you get.
  14. Seek advice on applying. Do you know someone who’s applied before? Will they read your draft application? Are there examples of good/bad applications available?
  15. Think like a reviewer. Imagine you were reading applications to the funding scheme. What would you want to know? Give your reviewers the assurance they are looking for.

 

If you bear all these points in mind, you’re giving yourself a good chance of getting over the first hurdle and being considered for funding.

All the very best for your funding applications.

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