Doctoral College

Doctoral Researcher Presidential Team monthly blog update (December 2020)

Written by Nathan Ritchie and Callie Merrick

Hello everyone!

This is my second blog summarising our monthly activities. Sorry we missed you last month, but hey at least we got one out before Xmas! On that note, I want to wish you all a great Xmas vacation. Whether you are staying at home in Loughborough or spending Christmas with family, we all deserve a break from our research and time to reset before we embark on a new year. I don’t wish to jinx it! But hopefully 2021 will be at least more predictable and safer for us all.

The past month and a half or so have been a combination of developing pre-existing goals and identifying and formulating new ones as the Presidential Team now has a great team of Lead Representatives to feedback to us some really important issues from each school.  I will now briefly summarise my activities – the reason for this, is to provide some transparency of activities, so if you do have any questions about the below, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at

Lead Representative Committee meeting

The first lead rep meeting of the year took place on the 9th December. It was scheduled for two hours and still we did not manage to get all the topics on the agenda! I am really pleased to see how active and engaged the reps are this academic year and it feels like we have a real supportive team ethic that will ultimately help with representation of our Doctoral Researchers. We hold the lead rep meeting to share good practice between lead representatives, identify and discuss collective issues and to relay this information onto the appropriate members of staff. We were able to identify some collective aims that we could work together on to help our doctoral researchers. Putting on more career’s events both in the school and the university was identified as something that was desirable. We also created a working group to discuss PGR relations with supervisors. There was also a lengthy discussion around how to help first years integrate into our school communities. I want to thank all the Lead Representatives for all their input and for their energised engagement so far this year.

Meeting with Welfare and Diversity Postgraduate Officer

On the 4th December, I met with Hannah Smith, the new Welfare and Diversity Postgraduate Officer along with W&D Executive Officer, Alex Marlowe and PhD Support and Social Network Chair Tymele Deydier. To provide some background.  The W&D Exec officer Alex Marlowe established a new postgraduate position at the Loughborough Student Union called Welfare and Diversity Postgraduate Officer. This is a really welcome appointment and adds to Postgraduate representation at the LSU. The Presidential Team are situated in the Education wing of LSU, so it is awesome to have a position in Welfare and Diversity wing also. The meeting was held to establish how best to use this role and for what purposes the SSN and The Presidential Team would find it useful. Many ideas were discussed including developing a Postgrad LSU booklet, holding panels with minority DRs to better understand the needs across our community and working together on issues regarding mental health.

Meeting with SSN Academic Development Co-ordinator

This year the SSN committee expanded to include several new roles. One that was established was the Academic Development Co-ordinator. Melissa Schiele took the role on and has already held a really successful careers event with James Colgate, the Chief Operating Officer at F1 Williams with over 40 attendees! There is also a reading group in January where the book ‘Find your why’ will be discussed. I met with Melissa, former DR president Tom Baker and SSN Vice Chair, Tasha Kitcher to discuss ways in which we can collaborate this year. It was brilliant to hear all the ideas for events in semester two and I am very much looking forward to getting involved and contributing to the feeling of Research Culture across the University. A big congratulations to Melissa to a successful beginning to the role and a thank you to PhD SSN for creating such a key role for our community.  

A Day in the Life of a Doctoral Researcher

I was pleased to be invited to attend the 6th ‘A Day in the Life of a Doctoral Researcher‘ organised by the Doctoral College. This event brings together staff from the University and at Loughborough Students Union and the aim is to spread awareness of our Doctoral Researchers i.e., what different challenges do PhD’s encounter, how can services be adjusted to suit DRs. The event consisted of talks from Doctoral College staff, Doctoral Researcher Development Officer, Dr Katryna Kalawsky, Head of Researcher Development, Dr Kathryn North, Senior Assistant Registrar, Dr Sam Marshall and Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Liz Peel. We then heard from three of our PGRs, Chidinma Okorie, Chloe Blackwell and Fiona Meeks who discussed both their own experiences and more widely about what PhD life entails. We also had the opportunity to discuss with staff in breakout rooms about their perceptions of what a PhD is. I really enjoyed the event which is an important annual fixture in the calendar for spreading awareness of our DR community.

Other meetings

On the 25th November I arranged a ‘Meet the Presidential Team’ event where Callie and I set out our vision of representation for this academic year with all representatives. At the forefront of our thinking is developing a team ethic so that we have a dynamic and supportive collective of representatives that will voice the viewpoints of our DRs. I attended the second Research Committee of the year on the 24th November where all Associate Deans of Research meet with the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research, Professor Steve Rothberg to discuss various research related developments. The first Presidential Team meeting with Liz Peel was held the next day. I also attended the Executive Officer Accountability Forum on the 2nd December, in this event, we were able to ask questions of the Exec to hold them to account for their manifesto commitments. Of course, we have kept up with our regular meetings with Education Exec Ana-Maria Bilciu and worked together recently on revising the PGR Staff-Student Liaison Committee.

Many thanks to everyone who has worked alongside Callie and I for the past couple months. It has been an adventure establishing myself in the role and I can’t wait to carry it on in 2021! Speak then!

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