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

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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.

Health Professional Researcher Profile: Dr Graham Blackman

Dr Graham Blackman

Dr Graham Blackman, PhD Student at King’s College London

In this blog post we introduce you to one of our Health Professional Researchers (HPRs) at King’s, Dr Graham Blackman:

Graham, could you give us a brief summary of your route into a PhD, including previous research experience, and how this was funded?

I originally studied psychology at University before deciding to complete a graduate entry medicine degree. Prior to studying medicine, I had a couple of years of research experience under my belt which was really helpful in getting a flavour of what it was all about. Prior to taking time out of clinical training to complete a PhD, I was an academic clinical fellow (ACF) on the Maudsley Training Programme which provided 25% protected research time. I’ve long considered a career in research, so taking time out of clinical training when the opportunity arose felt natural. 

What are your long-term ambitions for your clinical academic career? 

After completing my PhD, I will be returning to clinical practice to complete my training and gain my Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). I hope to continue having some protected research time during the rest of my clinical training to further several clinical studies that I’m involved in which look at improving clinical care in patients suffering with psychosis. Ultimately, my long-term ambition is to be able to balance a career as a clinician and academic. 

What tips would you give to a clinician newly embarking on an out-of-programme research project e.g. a PhD or MD(Res)? 

My main advice would be to gain research experience as early as possible. The time frame to conceive, plan, execute and publish a study is quite considerable and therefore careful planning is necessary. The other piece of advice I would give a budding clinical academic would be to seek out opportunities to work alongside a research team with a track record of securing grantand publishing in high impact journals 

What support has been most helpful to you in terms of navigating your clinical academic career to date? 

In terms of formal support, being a clinical academic within the Maudsley and IoPPN has been hugely beneficial in providing the infrastructure, training, and support to navigate a rewarding, yet challenging career path. For example, through the ACF programme I was enrolled in a postgraduate certificate in clinical research, had protected research time, and dedicated training days. Informal support has also been critical – particularly in the form of advice and mentoring from other trainees, as well as more senior colleagues. 

 What is the most rewarding thing about being a clinical academic researcher? 

This is entirely personal, but in my case it’s the opportunity to continue to learn and challenge myself – there are so many facets to research, from generating research ideas, to managing a project through to completion, to analysing the data and disseminating the results. Furthermore, the chancof making a contribution towards improving care in patients suffering a serious mental disorder is a huge privilegeFinally, my experience in clinical research has really helped improve me as a psychiatrist by gaining a much deeper understanding of the disorders I see on the wards and in clinic. 

PhDeets Podcast – Talking about all things PhD

Blog post by Carolin Oetzmann, Katie White & Nicol Bergou.

The PhD Journey can be a turbulent one – from finding the right program to navigating supervisor struggles, and all the madness in between! PhDeets is a podcast aimed at current and prospective PhD students to share experiences and help those trying to figure it out.

About the hosts

Carolin

We are three researchers working and studying at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.  Each of us are in a different stage of our PhD journey. Katie is in her second year of a part-time PhD, alongside a research assistant role. Nicol is in her first year of a 1+3 programme funded by the Medical Research Council. Carolin is due to start her MRC funded PhD in September 2021, after contemplating whether doing a PhD was the right next step for her.

 

 

Nicol

All three of us are the first in our families to do a PhD and we struggled to make sense of the different PhD programmes, funding options, application processes, career pathways and other things that are difficult to figure out without having a friend or relative who can answer your questions along the way. There is information online, but we wanted to create a platform where diverse student voices could be heard. Being avid podcast listeners, we decided to start a podcast ourselves.

 

 

 

Katie

About PhDeets

PhDeets is the podcast we wish we had when we were applying for our PhDs. Its target audience is current PhD students at all stages, as well as people who are deciding whether or not to apply, or those currently going through the ups and downs of the application process. We interview current PhD students, postdocs, lecturers, professors, people who left academia during or after their PhDs, those who are recruiting people with PhDs into industry positions, career advisers and really anyone who has any useful insights into the academic journey.

 

Previous episodes

We use our experiences to inform the topics we cover, but we also reach out to people to ask what topics they’d like to hear about. Some of our previous episodes are:

  • Neurodiversity at university – Panel discussion of neurodivergent researchers Claire, Katrina and Sheila about what being neurodivergent means to them, how it impacts their university life, what support they find helpful, diagnosis and labels, and more.
  • Luke’s journey to becoming a lecturer – We interviewed Luke Devereux, a lecturer at Middlesex University about his journey from PhD to becoming a lecturer, changing topics between undergrad ad postgrad, getting teaching experience, and balancing teaching and research responsibilities.
  • More than one way to do a PhD – Another panel discussion with PhD students Jaya, Shaheim, Victoria and Fiyory about the differences and similarities between their PhD programmes, including a partnership with the industry, self-funded PhD, 1+3 programmes, student versus supervisor driven applications, our reasons for doing a PhD, and applying for funding as an international student in the UK.

 

If you’d like to propose a topic for a future episode, or get in touch about anything to do with the podcast, you can message us on Twitter @PhDeets_podcast or you can email us at podcast@phdeets.com

 

 

 

You can find the podcast on our website phdeets.com or wherever you get your podcast.

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