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Students launch podcast to open up 'Planet PhD'

Two PhD students at the University of Sussex have launched a podcast to make further study feel more accessible, while providing a platform to celebrate the research of others.

Veronica Wignall and Gigi Hennessy, who study bees in the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) within the School of Life Sciences, have already released eight episodes for the podcast Planet PhD.

Released weekly, each episode lasts around 30 minutes and sees the duo interview a guest about their ‘PhD world’, sharing insights into how they got to where they are. So far, they have racked up around 280 listeners.

Veronica said: "Doing a PhD can sometimes feel like you’re on your own planet, stuck in a world of your own research, which can be isolating.

“With Planet PhD, we want to create a feeling of solidarity among early career researchers.

“We’re also aware that deciding whether to pursue further study at doctoral level can be daunting, and there’s not much information out there about what it’s actually like. We want to de-bunk the idea that doctoral study ‘is not for me’, with a particular emphasis on engaging young women who are often less likely to continue studying STEMM subjects in particular.” 

Episodes so far have explored topics such as urban pollination, the neuroscience behind spatial memory, wildflowers for bees, the use of big data in cycling infrastructure and photography in global development. Students have joined Planet PhD from the University of Sussex, University of Brighton and Royal Holloway, sharing both highs and lows from their research.  

Looking ahead, Veronica and Gigi already have their next nine episodes planned, including a live recording on Universities Mental Health Day in the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts on 7 March. During this event they’ll be speaking to two students who have both experienced mental health challenges during their PhDs. 

Gigi said: "We want to share a diverse range of stories and showcase just how varied postgraduate study can be.

“We’ve recorded episodes with children in the studio, as one student is juggling their research with being a parent, and we’ve spoken about raising the visibility of LGBT+ scientists.

"We’ve also been overwhelmed by how many people speak about imposter syndrome and anxiety. This is something we’ll be exploring in the future and hopefully continue using the platform to offer support and build solidarity among doctoral researchers from a range of disciplines.”

The podcast, funded by the Doctoral School's Researcher-Led Initiative Fundwill also be serving as a platform to share and celebrate the work of others across various subjects and institutions around the UK.

To listen to the podcast, visit the website.

More information about the live recording on 7 March 

Follow Planet PhD on Twitter: @PlanetPhD

By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Friday, 1 March 2019