INFORMATION FOR PROSPECTIVE RESEARCH STUDENTS
How to choose a supervisor
Rarely do students come into the School without some idea of the research they wish to undertake and the person they wish to study under. The latter often involves contacting beforehand the academic who may have industry or DETYA-funded scholarships that require a student to work in a particular area of research. The School in the past few years has attracted four-to-five University and Government scholarships annually. A case supporting a potential student in obtaining one of these scholarships is better constructed when the academic knows the capability of the student and has consulted them regarding possible topics beforehand.
The research activities of the School are highlighted extensively on our research pages
See the Academic Staff pages for information on their research specialities
Completing a research project
Successful completion of a research project is one third motivation, one third hard work and one third academic excellence. The School prides itself on being accessible at a day-to-day level to postgraduates and believes that our postgraduates, who number 25-30 students, have excellent cohesion and camaraderie. Postgraduates have the same access to facilities in the School as academics although they may be requested to go through their supervisor if they are requiring the use of equipment for a long period of time, making large demands upon the time of general staff or running up large expenses. Given the fact that we have veteran students in our postgraduate program, and that some of our students have come into research programs from their undergraduate studies at this university, new students from outside the university or Australia find it easy to integrate into the routine and procedures of the School via contact with their fellow postgraduates.
Students who enter from undergraduate studies or who are attached to a specific research topic find it easier to get into their program of research than students who have to define their topic based only upon a generalised idea or field area. Most of the research degrees performed in the School are field-based and students are requested to get into the field as soon as possible either with their supervisor or another student who has field experience. Normally students begin their programs in March and the winter months are climatically favourable for field-based research. The School discourages field research in isolated regions in summer. By the end of their first year in a three-to-four year research program students are expected to have refined their topic, begun to collect data and to have prepared the core of their literature review. At this time PhD. research students are expected to present a seminar to the School and their peers. Currently the postgraduates run a seminar series themselves where many of these talks are honed before going before a wider School audience. In their third year, students will be finishing analyses and writing their thesis. It is assumed that students will not be performing any additional field research and hence drawing excessively upon the School's funds for support. Sometime in the middle of this writing phase, students are expected to present a final seminar to the School and their peers outlining the major results of their research.
Resources and facilities
The School is well equipped in facilities. These facilities encompass Dating Facilities for Thermoluminescence and Optically Stimulated Luminescence, modern Geochemistry Laboratories, a Spatial Analysis Laboratory for remote sensing and GIS, computing facilities in a Science Teaching Laboratory, extensive map resources in a Map Library and Cartographic Unit, various instruments and computers dedicated to Microscopy, a separate postgraduate computing room, and Drilling and coring equipment. In addition the School maintains a fleet of 4-WD vehicles and mini-buses. All of these facilities can be accessed by postgraduate students.
A more detailed list of equipment can be found on the facilities page.
All students have access to the postgraduate research fund which is allocated to the School by the university depending upon the number of resident postgraduates still within the 31/2 year timeframe. At present each postgraduate brings in about $1,000 per year from this source. These funds are managed by the Head of the School, and have to be directed towards postgraduates and their research. Two other funds exist in the School that can be used for postgraduate research. To some extend these funds are used for either the benefit of the majority of postgraduates or for those students without access to research funds. A significant portion of the School's housekeeping budget and equipment allocation goes towards postgraduate research. Many postgraduates are attached to industrial scholarships or their supervisor's research programs, and thus have access to significant funding from these sources. Some students are also attached to research centres in the School but this funding is not major. Students, in consultation with their supervisor, can access the postgraduate research funds through the Head of School.
Research postgraduate students have access to the School's stationary supplies, computer labs (if they are not being used for teaching), vehicles, photocopiers, printers and telephones. One phone is debarred for STD calls and is located in the postgraduate computer room. There are five offices dedicated to housing research postgraduates. Each student is entitled to desk space in one of these rooms as long as they are resident on campus. Each student is provided with a key to their room and the building. In addition keys are available to other facilities in the School for out-of-hour use. Students however do have restrictions imposed on their access to some labs because of Occupation Health and Safety reasons, or because these facilities are in use for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. Access to interlibrary loans and library database searches are also freely available to research students. The School presently believes that research students responsibly handle their open access privileges in the School and this policy will continue as long as the system is not abused.
Writing up your research
Many of the policies on writing up research and intellectual property are university policies. If students have problems they are asked to look at the university web pages regarding these regulations.
Research students are building a career portfolio and are encouraged to publish their research from day one. At present an application for an ARC postdoctoral fellowship will not be looked at if an applicant doesn't have at least five referred publications. Twenty years ago successful academics hired in the School of Geosciences had a minimum of eight refereed publications.
While a student owns their research, the supervisor often has supported that research through grants. The supervisor is trying to establish a research profile that allows them to obtain future nationally competitive research grants. To this end the supervisor may ask for joint publications with a research student. Joint authorship is a type of apprenticeship. The senior author on a paper often has publishing experience, knows what will sell and what will not, and knows how to structure the paper, how many figures should go in and how the material should be referenced. The senior author also may have a presence in the field that can expedite a paper into publication easier than if it was submitted by an unknown person.
A fair system of sharing authorship is for the supervisor and the student to rotate the position of lead author on papers. Some supervisors may be more magnanimous and give the student lead authorship on all papers. Rarely will the supervisor insist on lead authorship on all publications.
If personal reasons are affecting a student's progress, then the university is well structured to assist and advise students. Many students find that their three-to-four year stint does not pass by uneventful. Rarely do these problems go away and they are better solved if you confide in your supervisor or the Head of School.
Scholarships are often deferred and many students have found that it is better to take a period of part time study rather than continue overburdened. The School's aim is that each student is entitled to reach their goal of obtaining a higher degree and we will try to assist as much as possible.
Some students require more attention and resources than others, such that inequalities in the way postgraduate students are contacted, mentored or resourced are inevitable. The School uses annual performance planners for postgraduate research students. These are filled in towards the end of each academic year jointly by the student and the supervisor. The Head of School and the Dean of the Faculty then approves the performance plan. Problems with a student's progress or with a supervisor can be identified via this mechanism and steps taken to rectify them. Insufficient progress can lead to six monthly evaluations of performance. Of course, if a student believes that a problem exists with supervision they can approach the Head of School at any time. The Head is required to take action at this point. If still not satisfied with this outcome a student can seek the advice of the Dean of Science or the Dean of Students.
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