THE Scholarly Web - 17 April 2014

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

April 17, 2014

After publishing a feature in which five academics discussed how their PhD supervisors had helped to shape their teaching, we at Times Higher Education thought it would be a good idea to ask our Twitter followers how their own supervisors had affected their work.

The response was phenomenal; more than 900 tweets were sent using the hashtag #MyPhDsupervisor, which we created to group all the testimonials together. What unfolded was a story of gratitude and thanks, with the odd cynical dig thrown in.

“#MyPhDsupervisor taught me that there are two kinds of thesis: the perfect one, and the finished one,” said Claire Hardaker (@DrClaireH), a lecturer in the department of linguistics and English language at Lancaster University. “Best. Supervisor. Ever.,” she concluded.

Brenda O’Neill’s (@therunningprof) contribution had a similar feel to it. “#MyPhDsupervisor said there are 2 kinds of scholars,” wrote the head of the political science department at the University of Calgary. “Those who demand research and those who supply it. Never forgot that good advice.”

Alison Leonard (@scandinavigator), an archaeology graduate student at the University of York, recalled how her PhD supervisor had listened as she practised a conference paper in an empty room. “I learned afterwards it was his birthday,” she added.

“#MyPhDsupervisor doesn’t treat me like an idiot, despite my unfailing ability to constantly be one,” revealed Jon Tennant (@Protohedgehog), a PhD student at Imperial College London, while Anne Galliot (@DrAnneGalliot), research development adviser in the Faculty of Arts, University of Brighton, remembered the motivational tactic used by her supervisor when she contemplated quitting. “You can’t do this to your mum,” the supervisor told her.

There was a heroic tale from Helen Webster (@scholastic_rat), academic developer at Anglia Ruskin University, who tweeted that her PhD supervisor “rescued me from an evil landlord – he turned up with a van & student helpers to liberate me & my belongings!”

Some of the PhD supervisors responded to the compliments. Leanne McRae (@LeanneMcRae), lecturer and course coordinator at Perth Institute of Business and Technology, tweeted that she had “no idea” why her supervisor told her to write a chapter that was not in her PhD outline – a chapter that she said became the “best chapter in the thesis”. Her supervisor, Tara Brabazon (@tarabrabazon), professor of education at Charles Sturt University, replied: “It only worked because you are the academic star that you are.”

Despite the generally happy tone, there was the odd critical voice. Unsurprisingly, one came from a user named Average Academic (@averageacademic), who describes him or herself as offering “the other perspective in the UK academy…For those of us [for whom academia] is just a job not a lifestyle.”

The tweet from this account read: “The three or four times I met #MyPhDsupervisor he seemed like a nice chap,” adding that he “did give me a great piece of advice: ‘always remember you are on your own’ ”.

Kingston University professor of film and cultural studies Will Brooker (@willbrooker), meanwhile, couldn’t quite fathom why his own name hadn’t come up. “Twitter must be broken,” he said. “I can’t see any of my students posting on #MyPhDsupervisor.”

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to chris.parr@tsleducation.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald