This week was the first teaching retreat for teachers in USV, Lund University's division for faculty-free centers ranging from the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies to my own department of LUCSUS, the centre for sustainability studies. About 25 teachers stayed at a former church in the town of Höör, 25 minutes by train from Lund.
Over two days, we learned new tools and approaches for teaching, and had time to share our ideas and learn from each other. Some of the main tools I learned about:
I'm excited and honored to be attending the climate summit in Paris as an accredited observer from Lund University. This is where nearly 200 countries will come together and aim to reach an agreement about how to change the path we're now on (a business-as-usual world headed for +4-5°C) to a more sustainable world that avoids the worst impacts of climate change.
This will be my first time attending the United Nations climate negotiations, and I am looking forward to learning more about the process and how to make my research more relevant to policy, as well as to serve as an advisor to the Youth in Landscapes initiative at the Global Landscapes Forum, and take part in the Anthronaut Experience- a virtual reality hackathon with scientists, artists, designers, and virtual reality experts to make climate science narratives a 3D experience.
As I'm busy packing my bags, I'm gathering reading material for the 16-hour train ride to Paris. Here's what I'll be reading up on:
Preparing for attending the meeting:
Keeping up with the negotiations in real time:
Here are some tips I compiled with my friend and colleague Josh Goldstein when we were both finishing our PhDs and tackling the job market. Good luck, job seekers!
Here are some of my top tips, and a suggested template of a letter to contact a potential advisor at the end:
I came across your work through X (conference/paper/my professor X’s recommendation). I am very interested in your approach to (topic) using (method/specific thing they do that interests you).
I’m writing to inquire if you are accepting PhD students in your lab for fall 2016?
I am aiming to pursue a PhD dissertation focusing on X topic, specifically looking at the question of X puzzle in X case for X purpose.
My background is in X bachelors from X university/Y masters from Y university. My research to date has focused on X, which I investigated most recently in my master’s thesis on X topic in X place, finding that X key highlight (please see attached thesis FYI). I have written about this work in a popular science blog here (link) and am currently preparing the manuscript for submission to the journal of X with my supervisor X.
I also have experience in X business/NGO/policy/government, where I accomplished X. For more details, please see my attached CV.
Regarding funding, I am currently applying for funding from X, X and X scholarship agencies to support the project I’ve outlined above. If there are any additional funding sources that you think might be a good fit to support this work, I would really appreciate any tips. And of course, if you have any currently funded projects that could support a PhD student, I would love to hear about them.
Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
If you don’t hear back from them in 2 weeks, resend your message with a polite note at the top: “Dear Dr. X, I thought my earlier message may have caught you at a busy time. I’m still very keen to pursue a PhD in your lab, and hoping you can let me know if you are accepting new students next fall. Thank you, X”
If there’s someone you’re really excited about who hasn’t gotten back to you, consider picking up the phone to call them. Bold move, but it just might work! People get a bajillion emails, but few phone calls nowadays. Practice a shortened version of the text above to ask them.
It’s smart to apply to at least several schools (I just checked and I applied to seven PhD programs, which now seems excessive- but at least three is good). You don’t know where you’ll get in, and you’ll have to consider personal factors about where you want to live, so it’s good to have options.
Most advisors will be contacted by many students and will have many applicants for each open position in their lab. So, you both are on the lookout for the person who will be the best fit! Most advisors will understand this (some may even ask where else you are applying).
That said, if you apply for external fellowships, you may have to specify your top choice for where you want to go and who you want to work with (depending on the fellowship). In this case, it’s important to share your plans with your potential advisor and get their agreement to support your application. In any case, if you really click with a potential advisor, consider asking them to give you feedback on your external fellowship application (for something like NSF GRFP, not for their own university applications where they would have a conflict of interest). Hopefully their comments can help you strengthen your proposal.
In any case, good communication with a potential advisor is important, so ask them questions to clarify expectations or any points of confusion.
Hope this helps- let me know if you have any comments!
It's thesis season! Our LUMES master's students are turning in their last six months of academic blood, sweat and tears (AKA, their theses) in nine short days.
Just in time- here's a checklist I've developed to help students give appropriate credit to their original sources. This is one of the most common problem areas I see in student writing. Following this checklist will help you contribute to scholarly conversation and avoid problems from unclear citations.
This checklist aims to serve several purposes:
1. Demonstrate appropriate research ethics in fairly crediting ideas to their original authors.
2. Give more credibility to your research by grounding it in established literature, and showing where you have added new knowledge.
3. Help your reader follow your logic and understand your main claim, based on the evidence that supports it.
4. Follow a well-established format for citation (APA style), to help readers find and understand the sources you have used and the way in which you've used them.
5. Avoid plagiarism (which is every student's responsibility to avoid- even unintentional plagiarism can carry a penalty of up to six months' suspension at Lund University).
Comments or corrections welcome. Happy revising!
LUMES Commencement Speech