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Guest Post: PhD hacks

This post was written by PhD candidates Hannah Carle (RSB) and Lauren Bezzina (RSPhys). It was originally published at https://rockdocpress.wordpress.com/2021/11/03/phd-hacks/


Doing a PhD is bloody hard. The academic challenge is immense, but so is the personal one. 

2019 survey by Nature showed that more than a third of PhD students seek help for anxiety or depression, but the incidence of poor mental health is likely close to double this number. Poor mental health is difficult and it impacts research productivity and our engagement as students.

But to get the best set of advice together, I have teamed up this month with a fellow PhD student Lauren Bezzina, who has spent four years getting the balance right. Below are 8 tips and tricks we have curated together to help other PhD students operate at the top of their game. 

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Silica School 2021

Kelly-Anne Lawler & Riteshma Devi are PhD Students at RSES and are attending this years online Silica School.


Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earths crust (after oxygen) and is found in rocks, soils and biota. We (Riteshma and Kelly) work with diatoms and radiolarians (microscopic siliceous plankton) in our PhD studies, and wanted to learn more about silica – so we are participating in a four-week online Silica School “Silica: from stardust to the living world”.

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Teaching during my PhD

Yamila Cajal is a PhD candidate in the Experimental Petrology group at the Research School of Earth Science (RSES), ANU. Her current research investigates the geochemistry of the Platinum Group Elements (PGE) applied to the prediction of copper-gold fertility in mountain belts.


The first time I had the chance to apply for a tutor position at university, I was halfway through my undergraduate degree at the Universidad de Concepcion (Chile). At that point, I had no idea what it was going to be like, or if I was going to like it or not, but I decided to give it a try. I am very grateful for this experience because it made me discover my passion for teaching and after that, I continued working as a tutor every time I had the opportunity. Even after graduating, when I was working in mining, I did not lose any opportunity to participate in outreach activities with the community, bringing rocks to local schools and talking to the students about what geology was.

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Bullet journalling your PhD

Tharika Liyanage (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the Paleobiogeochemistry group at RSES. She’s super curious about the early evolution of life and searches for fossilised molecules in ancient sediments to learn about microbial life in the distant past. In her spare time, you’ll find her at Questacon working as a science communicator or in her kitchen trying to figure out the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. You can find her on Twitter @thaliyanage.


During my PhD, I had to write regular reports to keep track of project progress. I struggled to write the first couple because when I flicked back through my lab book and calendar, I felt like I had done so little each day and achieved nothing over several months! In reality, I had been doing lots of little incremental things but I didn’t have a record of it. So that’s when I came across the Bullet Journal method.

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An Amazing Race to begin a PhD at the outbreak of the Pandemic

Stacey Servito Martin is a second year PhD student in the Seismology and Mathematical Geophysics group at RSES. You can find Stacey on LinkedIn.


It’s unusually windy today”, my supervisor remarked as a choppy Lake Burley Griffin came into view from between the trees on Parkes Way. He was driving me from the airport on 20th March 2020 to my quarantine facilities at Ursula Hall in Acton. The gusty conditions also meant that the plane I was on moments before, a nearly empty Qantas QF812, made a turbulent descent into Canberra. I remember thinking, “You made it this far, this tin can better not go down now…..”. Every uneasy flyer will commiserate. But that afternoon the relief I felt far exceeded anything I normally associated with the thump of the landing gear on the tarmac. This time around the relief came from a sense of knowing that my life was going to be okay. I had made it into Australia (for the first time ever) with just hours to spare.

Continue reading “An Amazing Race to begin a PhD at the outbreak of the Pandemic”

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