23 PhD students of different universities throughout Europe did participated successfully in the PhD workshop held in Kostelec, Prague 19-21 June. There were 4 mentors (resource person) to guide the workshop. Most of the participants did arrive on 18 June and had opportunity to explore Prague city on 19 June then participated in workshop on 20-21 June..
Formal opening of the workshop was in the morning of 20 June by welcome speech of Prof Karel. Each author/participant did present their research (poster) very briefly between 9 am and 10 am. Then Prof Vincent Nadin gave a plenary session lecture on ‘Research design- setting the frameworks’. After this plenary session, all students and mentors discussed about the problems often the PhD students faces during their research. After the short coffee break, the mentors explained various aspects of setting the objectives, hypothesis, research goal or objectives and methodology, scope, and outcomes of planning research. After the lunch, the participants worked in four different groups with the guidance/supervision of four different mentors. In each group, the student at first presented their research (previously presented the poster) more elaborately and the group members as well as the mentor did raised different questions for clarification of various issues and also made some valuable comments for the research. After a short coffee break in afternoon, all the mentors talked about planning education (Prof Vincent talked about tradition of planning in Western Europe, Prof Bruce talked about global inventory of planning education, Prof Karel and Prof Maros talked about planning in central Europe). The discussion was until 7 pm and then Prof Karel gave an assignment for each student to review at least two of their colleague’s paper. Everybody went for dinner; however, all the students (dedicated and enthusiastic) went back to the workshop venue again at about 9:30 pm to work on their assignment and continued working until 00:30.
On 21 June, each group started the work of group discussion again. Two reviewers did give their comments for each paper and the mentor also gave his comments and suggestions. After a short coffee break, each participant worked on their own research work for adjustment of their research and re-design their poster in tressing paper. After the lunch break Prof Bruce gave lecture on communicating/publishing the research (importance of publishing, different stages of publishing, audience, etc). Again, the students did present their reflections on the comments received in the workshop and revised version of their posters until the coffee break. Almost everybody mentioned that the discussion made in workshop will be very helpful for their research. After the coffee break, both the students and mentors discussed about the experiences from PhD study. Finally, the speakers of the student groups talk about the workshop sessions and then closing remarks by students as well as mentors and evaluation of the workshop by the participants. The program of very long day was about to finish at 8 pm. At the end, all the participants did attend at drink and dinner of concluding ceremony of workshop and until midnight they were drinking and chatting. Some of the participants left Kostelec next day morning and the remaining joined in post-workshop program.
M. Shafiq-Ur Rahman (University of Leeds)
Being a PhD student in Europe: networking our research and our experiences.
The AESOP PhD workshop 2011 at Prague was a fabulous opportunity for us, and the post-workshop trip, too.
Firstly, the selection of venue was really nice, not just for the well known Capital, but also staying at Kostelec and Olomouc: probably we would have never visited these two small and beautiful cities that demonstrate the very Czech tradition; and probably we would have never met each other, kept in contact and enriched ourselves thanks to our fruitful discussions (the official ones and also the informal ones, enjoying a good Czech beer or just during a walk...).
The main workshop was for three days packed with presentations both from participants and mentors. It started with a comprehensive poster exhibition: each of us was allotted three minutes time to very briefly introduce our topic of research and it was a good beginnings session in terms of knowing what others are working on and get an overview of their research.
The small group discussions were really helpful as we got our papers reviewed by two peers and one mentor and, at the end of the workshop, we were able to reframe our thoughts and got new good ideas for our research; not just mentors, but also colleagues’ advices were great and let us reflect about our works.
There were good presentations and discussions from the mentors (we personally found the session on publication related issues very useful!): the last one was very amazing, when some students themselves were asked to be discussant for a couple of hours and have a deep and emotional conversation about the meaning and the feeling of a PhD student in Planning, nowadays in different countries. We felt free to express our difficulties and our willingness, sharing our stories: we think that this kind of debate is also very important among researchers, as it helped us to well define our “PhD way of being” (not just students, but curious and creative and hopeful people).
Even if the workshop schedule was very intense, we didn’t feel stressed and we were happy of working hard, till midnight sometimes, because we understood that we were doing something really important for our studies. The schedule was intense but not so strict: as Professor Karel said: “we made the plan, and we changed the plan during our work...and actually this is Planning!”
The post workshop event was a great opportunity for us, too: we enjoyed working on urban design project after long time; in fact, although we are architects, our research is on planning and we hadn’t worked on Architecture or Urban Design project for long. The overall experience was excellent: working with peers from different countries, visiting the city, presenting in front of professionals from a planning organisation and people of a local grassroots associations (in a very comfortable location, a local tearoom).
We were very glad to be involved in both experiences: we had a great time, we improved our research skills, design capabilities and, above all, we started networking with colleagues (also friends) all over Europe!
Chandrima Mukhopadhyay (Newcastle University)
Giusy Pappalardo (University of Catania)