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Showing posts from 2012

Getting a PhD: Doing it depressed?

A PhD student wrote:
"[Because of the workload/deadlines] I'm feeling overwhelmed and I've entered a depressive cycle. I feel depressed about having to do the work, so I put it off by working on other little projects or through garden-variety procrastination: surfing the web, catching up on e-mail, reading the newspaper, etc. Then the deadline pressure builds up to the point where I just break down and sob quietly about all the work I have to do..."
 Apparently this is quite a common feeling (really good post; this one too, and could I add that being an international student also adds to the "impostor syndrome", but I've found helpful tips here and here).
Pause and reflect: It's not all doom and gloom A few weeks ago I attended an interesting workshop aimed at improving PhD student morale. It was a good mix of very new and not-so-new students from various departments, and our facilitators asked us about what expectations people generally have of us a…

Getting a PhD: Working with your Supervisor

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(If the level of attendance for workshops on how to work effectively with your supervisor is anything to go by, I would say this is one of the biggest challenges faced by postgraduate researchers, so let's explore it a bit).


PhD research requirements and learning outcomes At my university, a Master of Research, Master of Philosophy and Doctorate all require you to produce original work with potential for publication but what differentiates a Doctorate from the others is independent critical ability. It is important for you to be aware of your university’s expectations because anything your supervisor asks of you should fit into the learning outcomes set by the university. Knowing your ‘rights’ helps because if your supervisor is asking you to go beyond your learning outcomes and you have a problem with this, you have the right to query it. Generally, PhD learning outcomes include your ability to discover, understand and communicate new knowledge; develop plans for implementing your…

Getting a PhD: Stress management – A balancing act

While doing postgraduate research, sources of stress can be academic, personal or work-related (if you’re working and studying at the same time). If you are an international student, you could also experience the stress of culture shock and not having close family around, so a few practical tips on stress management:


Be aware of your response to stress before you get into stressful situations:  
Do you tend to eat/sleep a lot or too little? Grow irritable? Forgetful? Experience neck pain, tension headaches, skin problems? Hiss and sigh a lot? Identifying your symptoms beforehand helps you control them when you begin to encounter stressful situations (quite like getting kitted for war before the battle begins, not after).
Take care of yourselfEat sensibly, exercise, take breaks- it is said that most postgraduate researchers are highly driven people, so tend to find it difficult to switch off from academic work or subconsciously feel guilty for doing so. A commenter in one of The Guardi…

Getting a PhD: Critical research reading

Welcome to the world of Research, where you must read so much in limited time, and where a thorough review of literature is what differentiates the freshers from the experienced. I appreciate the way Gordon Rugg and Marian Petre put it in their engaging book, The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research:

Initially, a new student/fresher: understands his/her research areareads to discover what is known in this area and gathers this informationis concerned about organizing literature sources
Then the slightly less-new student: understands his/her research topicis able to organise information betteris concerned about identifying the research problem
And as more time goes on, the student: understands his/her research questiongathers information that is relevant to his/her research questionis concerned about identifying what has been said about the research problem
And then close to completion, Mr/Ms Researcher: understands his/her research evidenceaims to discover new information and is capable of critica…

Getting a PhD: Starting strong

First week over...

Since I'm still very new at this, I am basing this first post on advice from supervisors, successful PhD holders, a book, as well as my fly-on-the-wall observations of PhD students (based on a six-month internship I did at the University):

You have to be mentally prepared.

1. Brilliance is not everything. You need to have a determined attitude as you will experience highs and lows in the process- your findings will occasionally disappoint you, and you'll feel stagnant at other points. In fact, the one question I've learned not to ask PhD students is "how is your work going?" But determination and personal interest in the project seems to be enough to keep them going.

2. A PhD involves a lot of independent thinking and working. Detailed work plans and progress reports are your friends.

3. Develop clearly stated research questions to help you produce an original contribution to research- the quickest way to reach your research's conclusion is…

Getting a PhD...

I'm starting my PhD today, and I thought it would be a good idea to document some of my relevant personal experiences as an international student embarking on the UK PhD process in order to shed more light on the process, expectations, work required (and to keep myself focused, truth be told).

I hope you benefit from it as much as I will...


Building sustainable houses with waste plastic bottles?

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While recycling plastics and other materials which do not degrade easily makes a lot of sense, the high costs associated with such processes restrict its implementation in many developing countries. In Nigeria, used plastic bottles are discarded at alarming rates but organizations like the Developmental Association for Renewable Energies (DARE) are interested in minimising such wasteful practices. They have embarked on a house-building project that shows potential to meet such targets and provide job opportunities at the same time. The head of DARE,Yahaya Ahmed, stated that "compacted sand inside a bottle is nearly twenty times stronger than bricks". 
What's more, houses built with these sand-filled bottles are said to possess superior insulation properties. A house could be made from 14,000 sand-filled plastic bottles.The house pictured was constructed at a village in Kaduna State, Nigeria.

Discussion: "Creating a culture of collaboration in universities"

According to David Ferrucci from IBM, "scientists, by their nature, can be solitary creatures conditioned to work and publish independently to build their reputations [and] while collaboration drives just about all scientific research, the idea of 'publishing or perishing' under one's own name is alive and well". This situation can be attributed partly to discipline-based UK research regulations, so that academics interested in inter-discipinary research have a number of challenges to overcome. There has been a recent enlightening discussion by academics from different UK universities on practical ways to encourage interdisciplinary research here.
In related news:
"...many politicians are so ecologically illiterate they would think that a food chain is a line of supermarkets," Myers Kent said in a 2008 press release discussing the absence of effective institutional settings that encourage public participation for sustainable development. Thus while academ…

CHP Plants: Potential emissions and policies

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants are well-established in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and other parts of Northern Europe owing to the presence of vast amounts of forestry which serve as ready bio-feedstock for cogenerating electricity and heat. Efficiencies of these plants are dependent on biomass quality as well as plant size, and when used to generate solely electricity, efficiencies have been observed to improve. Today's post briefly explores the potential emissions from such plants, and highlights the benefits of feed-in-tariff policies.  Most CHP plants can utilize waste matter from forestry and agricultural operations, thus reducing the amount of waste going to the environment. However, biofuel utilization in these plants are not 100% carbon dioxide emission-free, as some fossil fuel is often required to facilitate the pre-treatment of bio-feedstock as some may require size reduction, screening and pre-drying, while others may have compounds that need to be removed to prevent…

PTDF PhD Interview Format

Like other potential employers, the panel of interviewers at PTDF PhD interviews usually want to know how aware you are about their organisation, so it is advisable to research their website thoroughly- their mission, vision, key people and activities.
They also want to know if you are worth being invested in (obviously), so they will ask you several questions about:

Yourself (Are you lecturing? Tell them so. If not, what other useful thing have you been up to?)Your proposed project and its relevance to the Nigerian oil and gas industry (Tip: I suggest that you start your pitch by pointing out your project's relevance to the oil industry first).How you  intend to carry out your project (i.e. methodology)? How you intend to communicate your findings? (Tip: saying you'll attend workshops, conferences, and write papers doesn't quite cut it. Be sure to add that you will be actively working with Nigerian researchers/organisations). Finally, the PTDF PhD interview style is desig…

Geoengineering the Climate

There has been increasing awareness of the fact that the climate is warming at a faster rate than ever – a temperature rise between 0.2-0.8(± 0.2°C) from the pre-industrial era till date which paints a bad picture of flooding for some nations, droughts or harsh winters for others, and economic problems for all.
Several proposals have been considered by various Governments who, in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, have set up policies to mitigate gases such as sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, nitrogen oxides, methane and carbon dioxide that absorb and emit infrared radiation back to the earth’s surface. Developed nations have successfully reduced every other greenhouse gas except carbon dioxide, whose level has increased by over 108 parts per million (ppm) since 1850 due to ever-increasing emissions from fossil fuel-based plants and vehicles which, left unchecked, could result in a global temperature rise of about 2-3°C by the next century- a very significant rise in temperat…

OFID Scholarships

OFID (The OPEC Fund for International Development) is pleased to announce that qualified applicants who have obtained or are on the verge of completing their undergraduate degree and who wish to study for a Master’s degree are welcome to apply for the OFID Scholarship 2012. The OFID Scholarship will be awarded to support two students or candidates for Master’s degree studies. The applicant may be from any developing country, and he/she must first obtain admission to pursue a Master’s (graduate) degree in any recognized university/college in the world. The Scholarship is open to those students who wish to pursue studies in a relevant field of Development or Energy Studies.

Through its scholarship scheme, OFID aims to help highly motivated, highly-driven individuals overcome one of the biggest challenges to their careers – the cost of graduate studies. The winner of the OFID Scholarship Award will receive a full tuition scholarship of up to US$50,000. The funds will be spread over a maxi…

More PTDF past questions!

Yay! Thank you so much TC for sharing more MSc past questions (Environmental & Safety Engineering field)!! Very kind of you! So here they are.. the exam is tomorrow if I am not mistaken, so I'm afraid I don't have enough time to search for all the answers. They should be easy enough to find though (thank you Google :)
Other PTDF past questions here and here.


ANSWERS MINE, SO PLEASE FEEL FREE TO VERIFY:
1. What is the value of 4 score minus 2 dozen? (4 x 20) - (2 x 12) = 56
2. Who designed the Nigerian flag? Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi
3. When will the next Halley commet appear? 2062. It orbits the sun every 75-76 years.
4. Japan's tsunami shifted the earth by how many centimetres? "Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters)... [and] moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters)." (CNN)
5. World population will be 7billion in what year…