PhD: A reflection on Year 1

David Adams, reflects on his first year as a PhD candidate in the School of Geography.

In a couple of weeks I’m facing the first major milestone of PhD – confirmation. During this process my academic preparedness and the quality of my research idea will be assessed. At this point in my project, it’s a good time to reflect on my experiences over the past year, and provide some insights to prospective or new students.

My name is David Adams, a first year PhD student in the School of Geography. My research is in the field of fluvial geomorphology, the study of rivers. Specifically, I’m working on developing novel ways to analyse the physical structure of river beds, and how these structures affect flow resistance.

Image: David Adams on fieldwork

The Doctor of Philosophy is an independent process, in that the ability and the motivation need to come from within. In my experience, however, this is only part of the story. A successful first year, and a successful project, depend on a range of resources available across the University and beyond.

Like most PhD projects, the first several months of my time was dedicated to intensively reviewing the literature surrounding my topic. The most important resource during this time was the University Library, which allowed me to access journals and books on campus and online. Through the ArticleReach Direct service I was even allowed to access publications outside the University’s database. As my project has progressed, the emphasis has shifted from reviewing the work of others to producing my own. Recently, I’ve been analysing spatial and statistical data using ArcMap and MATLAB, which I was able to access through Student IT and eLearning Support.

Image: Gravel Bed River, Tasmania

Throughout my first year I’ve had access to a wide range of training programs designed to improve my research skills. Recently, I’ve attended training sessions provided by Research Bazaar (ResBaz), which is run through the University’s Research Platform Services (ResPlat). Here, I was able to improve my research skills, for example, by learning more efficient ways to analyse data using coding. Through my participation in the Faculty of Science’s Ambassador Program I’ve had access to training in leadership and science communication skills. I’ve also had the opportunity to tutor two subjects, and attend training sessions on how to approach teaching undergraduate students.

I’ve found that the most vital resources and support has come from within the School of Geography. Foremost, my supervisor is an immense source of knowledge and guidance, and the research group I am a part of, 3RG, is full of people who are willing to provide advice and discuss ideas. My role in the Geography Postgraduate Society (GPS) has instilled a sense of balance to my time on campus. Lastly, I’ve enjoyed engaging with the broader academic activities within the School, such as weekly seminars and tea-room discussions, and forging relationships with academics.

I’m confident that if you take the time to immerse yourself in the full range of services and activities available, there is no experience quite like the first year of a PhD.

David Adams
PhD student, School of Geography