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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Advancing by Retreating

05
Sep 2018

Posted By

Lucy Rosamund

It’s not normal for PhD students to step away from their laptops and take their minds off study, but that was the requirement of the 2018 Coral CoE Student Retreat, hosted in Brisbane this past July as part of the Centre’s annual symposium events.

Organised by the Student Committee, the Student Retreat is the one day a year that Coral CoE students from around the country can get together, network and learn about topics ranging from mental health to creative communication.

This year the retreat was held at the University of Queensland, where more than a dozen staff and students of the Centre are based.

The day started with presentations by two Coral CoE alumni. Giving their spin on careers outside of academia, Dr Chris Doropoulos, currently an employee at CSIRO, and Dr Pete Waldie an employee at The Nature Conservancy, spoke about the skills that helped them get their jobs.

Both speakers reflected on the value of transferable skills developed during their PhD including project management, team work, and science communication, and the advantages these skills provided in their post-PhD work lives. They even discussed the silver-lining of failure: that unsuccessful grants can lead to more practice and better writing skills in the long run.

Next, participants engaged in a session exploring the often-overlooked emotional side of undertaking a PhD. Mental health professionals, Stephanie MacMahon and Annita Nugent, discussed how to cope with the ups and downs of the PhD journey. Students were given the opportunity to talk about different ways to understand problems, get support and how to manage their mental health proactively. Also discussed were strategies to fight procrastination and improve productivity using ‘shut up and write’ groups.

The retreat concluded with a final workshop ‘How to make a Comm-OCEAN,’ led by science communication super-star, Dr Sue Pillans. Students visualised their research with a sketch lesson and learned how to communicate to different audiences using storytelling. Sue demonstrated how using art and creative thinking can complement scientific research and help scientists have an impact in the real world.

All-in-all the 2018 Student Retreat was a great way to meet other students, try new things and gain wisdom from people who intimately understand the challenges and opportunities of pursuing a PhD…

Credit: Sue Pillans
Credit: Sue Pillans

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au