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Research Supervisor Symposium 2022

December 13, 2022 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm

How can we best support our growing communities of postgraduate research students, given the diversity of their backgrounds and prior experience?

How might we learn from each other what the challenges might be, and how we might best address these?

These are the key themes of our 2022 Research Supervisor Symposium. 

The Symposium offers a safe and inclusive space for University of Bristol PGR supervisors to share best practices and pedagogies, and to explore their experiences of supervising PGR students. Presentations will be grouped around two interlinked core themes: supervising international students and developing PGR research communities.

Provisional Timetable 13.12.2022

08.30 - 9.00Refreshments available (venue: Great Hall)
9.00 – 9.10Welcome (Professor Robert Bickers)(venue: Great Hall)
9.15 – 9.40Lightning Presentations (Chair: Ros O’Leary)
9.15 – 9.20
“Building confidence in PGR science cohorts through writing retreats”
Dr Tomas Martin (School of Physics)
9.20 – 9.25
“Connecting the Unconnected - The Part-Time Doctoral Student”
Dr Lucy Wenham (School of Education)
9.25 – 9.30
“Building an inclusive community and cohort identity in the EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science”
Dr Rachel Miles & Dr Kerry Knox (School of Chemistry)
9.30 – 9.40
Questions from audience
(venue: Great Hall)
9.40 – 9.45Setting Up Time
9.45 – 10.15Postgraduate Research Supervision: Q&A with Professor Andy Radford
(Chair: Dr Hannah Grist)
(venue: Great Hall)
10.15 – 10.30Comfort Break
10.30 – 11.45Short Presentations Panel 1 (Wills Reception Room)
(Chair: Aisling Tierney)
Short Presentations Panel 2 (Great Hall)
(Chair: TBC)
10.30 - 10.40
“Co-publication practices between PGRs and supervisors in the Arts and Humanities”
Dr Carol O’Sullivan (School of Modern Languages)
10.45 - 10.55
“Building a community of industrially based doctoral students”
Professor Janice Barton (Engineering)
11.00 – 11.10
“Sense and sensibility in PGR supervision: Understanding the international management (marketing) students emotional process under an Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) lens”
Dr Eleonora Pantano (School of Management)
11.15 – 11.25
“How I supported my international PhD students in building their successful careers”
Dr Lilly Liu (School of Physics)
11.25 – 11.45
10.30 - 10.40
“APPropriate?: Critiquing the use of mobile applications to communicate in written form with distance PGR students”
Dr Simon Brownhill (School of Education)
10.45 - 10.55
“Using coaching in Postgraduate student supervision”
Dr Rushana Khusainova (School of Management)
11.00 - 11.10
“Enabling student-led research clusters”
Dr Grace Brockington (Humanities/Arts)
11.15 – 11.45
11.45 - 11.50Transition time (participants in Reception Room to move back to Great Hall)
11.50 – 12.00Plenary/Closing Remarks (Professor Robert Bickers)(venue: Great Hall)


We are delighted to showcase contributions from all PGR supervisors across the University of Bristol, including well-established supervisors and those who are new to supervising postgraduate research. 

Professor Janice Barton (Engineering)Building a community of industrially based doctoral students (Short Presentation)
With a strong steer from EPSRC on relevance of doctoral education to industry it is timely to discuss the experience of the Industrial Doctorate Centre in Composites Manufacture. The last EPSRC funded student was hired in 2019 and since then we have continued to build-up the community. Our current cohort is around 25 students at different stages in their studies. We have hired 7 additional students using only industry funding and fund committed to hire an additional 14 of over the next three years, covering and enhanced stipend and fees. Our students conduct all their research in industry with a focus on TRL 3-5; they are located at their company and have an academic supervisor based at UoB and an industrial supervisor. The model is extremely attractive to industry with no shortage of companies coming forward to support the scheme. With the strong industrial emphasis on funding for future doctoral centres we would like to share our experience with a wider audience. The presentation will discuss the challenges of maintaining student interactions and building a cohort both horizontally and vertically through the programme, as well as the challenges of supervision and publishing. Emphasis will be put on building a research base in a collaborative environment by navigating the tension between academic outcome and industry need. The presentation will be based on the experience of supervisors and students with a focus on discussion, interactions, and idea generation.

Dr Grace Brockington (Humanities/Arts) “Enabling student-led research clusters” (Short Presentation)

I have tried to build community amongst my own PGR students by enabling student-led research clusters based on a common theme in their projects. My department is History of Art, so the first of these clusters focused on ‘art writing’, while the second (which I have just initiated) focuses on female artists. This presentation will ask what lessons I might carry over from the first cluster to the second – what constitutes good and bad practice in setting up and running student-led research clusters? How can they be made as inclusive, engaging, and supportive as possible? How do they promote student wellbeing? And how might they improve degree and career outcomes?

Dr Simon Brownhill (School of Education) “APPropriate?: Critiquing the use of mobile applications to communicate in written form with distance PGR students” (Short Presentation)

Masek and Alias (2020: 2497) assert that ‘the key to effective supervision lies in the…communication between supervisors and students.’ For distance PGR students, the primary mode of communication with their supervisors is through written text (Erwee and Albion, 2011). Traditional ‘paper, pen and ink’ methods have been justifiably replaced with email and word-processing software to reduce delays between reciprocal messages and cut costs. In recent years, communication technology advancements have resulted in the increased sharing of written text through social media platforms, video conferencing services, and streaming in HEIs. This short presentation reflects on an email exchange with an international PGR student, critiquing the use of ‘WhatsApp’, a multi-platform mobile messaging application, by Hong Kong doctoral candidates to communicate with their supervisors. Critical comment will be made on the demand placed on supervisors for ‘timely responses’, alongside them becoming ‘available 24 hours a day’ (Batista et al., 2021: 2).

Dr Rushana Khusainova (School of Management)“Using Coaching in Postgraduate Research Student supervision” (Short Presentation)

Coaching is a form of personal and professional development. It is a non-directive yet goal-focused conversation and is geared towards improving personal and organisational performance and developing skills (Starr, 2003). Coaching can be a great way of supervising postgraduate research students. It helps to empower students to develop such fundamental soft skills as growth mindset, ‘can do’ attitude, independent thinking and problem solving. These skills are essential in successfully going through and completing a postgraduate research journey. However, there are some boundary conditions and contextual vouchers. For example, in the short-term coaching is more time consuming than telling students what to do (i.e., giving directions). Also, not everyone is ready and is willing to be coached. This presentation will discuss the benefits and practical considerations of using coaching in the context of postgraduate research student supervision.

Dr Lilly Liu (School of Physics)“How I supported my international PhD students in building their successful careers” (Short Presentation)

I came to the UK as an international PhD student in 2009 and I received my PhD degree in Bristol in 2013. Later in my postdoc life, I was able to win three research fellowships (1851, EPSRC and Junior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford) and I was able to secure a lectureship position at Bristol in 2018. It has been 4 years since I moved back, I now become Associate Professor and build a research group of 10+ students/PDRAs funded by UK, US, and EU funding. As an Asian researcher, I struggled but I also learned how to succeed in my research area (nuclear and aerospace materials). I have a clear idea about the experience and skills international students need to acquire during their PhD to help them stand out in future job hunting. I have adopted a very range of different methods during my supervision so every student can conduct research in their own pace and at the same time to achieve their goals. I would like to share my tips and experience with other supervisors at Bristol as my contribution towards building a healthy and inclusive research culture in our university.

Dr Tomas Martin (School of Physics) “Building confidence in PGR science cohorts through writing retreats” (Lightning Presentation)

One of the challenges to supporting PGR students in science is that writing of papers and theses is a core part of the PhD experience and future career development, but students have often chosen the sciences because they are more comfortable with numerical analysis than writing. Writing is often thought of something that requires some innate talent whereas teaching students to consider it as a craft that can be practiced helps to ease their comfort levels with this important activity. In this talk I will discuss the use of writing retreats with structured writing time as a tool to help science PGRs become more comfortable with writing as a craft.

Dr Rachael Miles (School of Chemistry) & Dr Kerry Knox (University of York)“Building an inclusive community and cohort identity in the EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science” (Lightning Presentation)

The EPSRC CDT in Aerosol Science is a 7-institution CDT led by Bristol. Our students are drawn from a wide range of both disciplinary and personal backgrounds, with a significant number of overseas and mature PGRs. All students spend the first eight months in Bristol as a cohort undertaking a taught programme, followed by a three-month research sabbatical at a partner university. They then move 5 to begin their PhD at their home institution at the start of the second year. In this presentation we will briefly discuss how we have established an inclusive research community within the CDT, the support we provide to individual students and supervisors to help establish good working relationships from the start of the PhD, and the ways in which we work to establish (multiple) cohort identities.

Dr Carol O’Sullivan (School of Modern Languages) “Copublication practices between PGRs and supervisors in the Arts and Humanities” (Short Presentation)

Copublication is very common in many disciplines but has historically been uncommon in the Arts and Humanities. This is now changing, and we are increasingly seeing copublished research by teams in disciplines such as Translation Studies and Digital Humanities. This includes copublication by PhD students and their supervisors, either during or after the PhD. No guidelines are currently available to supervisors in the Faculty of Arts about best practice. This presentation presents the findings of a research project in the School of Modern Languages led by Dr Carol O’Sullivan and Dr Xiaochun Zhang with Dr Paola Ruffo. A survey of current and former PhD students and supervisors revealed, among other findings, that while many had copublished, very few (almost 90%) had access to best practice guidelines or would know who to contact in case of a dispute. Other problems and challenges were identified including the power hierarchy between students and supervisors. The research was funded by small research project funded by Research England through an ‘Enhancing Research Culture’ institutional grant.

Dr Eleonora Pantano (School of Management)“Sense and sensibility in PGR supervision: Understanding the international management (marketing) students emotional process under an Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) lens” (Short Presentation)

This research would provide a deeper understanding of the emotional process taking place between international PGR students and supervisors under an Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) lens. To this end, the research exploits the challenges in cross-cultural PGR supervisions, and the emotional process occurring during supervision relationships. Suggestions to build more effective and successful relationships under an EDI lens are finally provided.

Dr Lucy Wenham (School of Education) “Connecting the Unconnected – The Part-Time Doctoral Student” (Lightning Presentation)

Drawing from successful pandemic pedagogies – including the move to effective online supervision – can mean even less on campus participation from some doctoral students, in particular those part[1]time students with other work commitments. Thus, even the most thriving PGR communities developed in-person may exclude these more detached, harder-to-reach students. I have aimed to link such doctoral students together, forming a satellite community of their own, through the use of focussed targeted pairings, group supervisions and round-table meetings – all on-line. Students articulate that they appreciate this approach that is designed to meet their different needs. They express that they benefit from these additional opportunities, not only through feeling less alone on their doctoral journey, but also through moving their research forward to new levels.

Further details

Further details will be sent out before the symposium, if you have any questions, please contact bilt-info@bristol.ac.uk


December 13, 2022
9:00 am - 12:00 pm


Wills Memorial Building – The Great Hall & Reception Room
Queens Rd
Bristol, BS8 1RJ
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