Academic Culture

Farewell to Rod Snow and Andrew Dawson

I’ve spent 8 of the last 9 years at Deakin; the entirety of my tertiary education. In that time, Rod Snow and Andrew Dawson have been constants in my experience as an undergraduate, and now postgraduate student in exercise and sports science. This afternoon, it was wonderful to send them off onto their next adventures – Rod to enjoy a well-overdue gap year with his family, and Andrew to start his new position at Victoria University. But I can’t quite picture what the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences will look like without them in 2015.

Farewell for Rod Snow and Andrew Dawson from Deakin's School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences

What I can say, without reservation, is that they have both had a massive influence on my own career. Rod and Andrew deserve enormous credit for the progress of countless others who have come through the Deakin Sport programs, and for their part in building the reputation that this School now deservedly holds within Deakin and beyond. So to two trusted advisors and friends, I won’t say farewell but “seeya later”… 🙂

Farewell for Rod Snow and Andrew Dawson from Deakin's School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences
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Respect Research Forum – 6th November, 2014

We are a country bursting with intelligent, inquisitive, passionate people who undertake research in order to make a positive contribution to our world. And yet, the state of science and research in Australia is dire:

  • Funding is ever-declining and there are clear biases in its distribution.
  • Work performance models do not incentivise researchers and academics to translate their knowledge into “real world” outcomes.
  • The workforce that conducts research and teaches the next generation of researchers has become increasingly casualised and reliant on fixed term contracts.

Tonight’s Respect Research Forum brought together Prof Peter Doherty (Nobel Laureate and immunologist, @ProfPCDoherty), Dr Krystal Evans (CEO of BioMelbourne and medical research scientist, @dr_krystal), Adam Bandt (Greens MP, @AdamBandt), and Jeannie Rea (President of the National Tertiary Education Union, @NTEUNational) to discuss these and other major challenges facing researchers in Australia.

If we don’t support research in Australia, we won’t have innovation. Without innovation, we won’t have the kind of society that we aspire to achieve and maintain: a society that makes a meaningful contribution to the state of the world. Without innovation, without the growth that new ideas promise and deliver, how can we expect our economy to flourish in the modern age?

Here are my sketchnotes from the forum. Please share widely and talk to your colleagues, friends, and family about why research in Australia is critical to our country’s future! Log onto the Respect Research website to learn more about Australia’s incredible history of research innovations that have made lasting positive impacts worldwide.

Respect Research Forum, 6th November 2014 | Sketchnotes by Jacquie Tran

Click to view full size.

“Sketching it out: How doodling communicates science” (Deakin Scholars Week 2014)

Over the years, I’ve had lots of interest in my sketchnotes and am always happy to share insights into my motivation to create and publish sketchnotes, as well as my process. To this end, I was honoured to be invited by the Deakin University Library (@deakinlibrary) to present as part of Deakin Scholars Week 2014 on sketchnotes as a science communication tool. Here are the slides from my presentation:

Got questions or comments? Continue the conversation on the Twitter hashtag #DUScholarsWeek, send a tweet to @jacquietran, or email me: jac [AT] jacquietran.com.

European College of Sports Science Congress 2013: Gathering my thoughts

We’re about 40 mins away from the closing Honorary session of this year’s European College of Sports Science Congress, to be delivered by Bengt Saltin. Time enough for me to jot down some quick thoughts about my experience of this year’s conference…

I used to think of conferences as a really big deal. And I still think they are…to an extent. I feel absolutely privileged to have my work accepted for presentation before my peers, and I can hardly complain that this process of research dissemination involves international travel as well. But with a few conferences under my belt now, I am beginning to understand that these events serve not as a capstone on research projects, but as a chance to sow seeds. The chance to propose your unique ideas, to push your chicks out of the nest and see if they fly, so to speak.

I was happy with my mini-oral presentation. Said what I wanted to say, and got a couple of good questions afterwards which will inform my write up of the study. I was also pleased that the mini-orals were presented in separate rooms. Last year’s multi-purpose room setting was chaotic to say the least, so I’m glad that the conference organisers listened to the feedback and did things differently here in Barcelona.

Good to see an improvement in social media use by the conference. Evert Verhagen (@evertverhagen) and myself had a great chat about this earlier in the week, and we both agreed that there is plenty of room for improvement (less broadcasting, more interaction) but I think it’s a step in the right direction. Particularly pleased to track the #ECSS13 hashtag and see lots of other Twitter handles aside from my own. A different experience to what happened with #ECSS2012 😉

Barcelona is simultaneously wonderful and terrible as a conference location. It is wonderful because of the gorgeous weather, the long sunny days, the friendly people, the incredible food, the efficient transport. But it is terrible because I couldn’t help but feel a little torn between wanting to catch conference sessions and yearning to go exploring outside the walls of the conference venue… #firstworldproblems!

More to come over the next few days, as I get time to catch a breath and let my ideas germinate. While I haven’t been as intensely involved as a conference participant this year, it has been a productive time nonetheless, and encouraging to feel that my research questions (big and small) are heading in the right direction.

In Debt

I have an acute awareness of fairness and equity.  If you’ve ever shouted me a coffee, given me a lift, or covered the cost of a gig ticket for me, your kind gesture has not been forgotten.  And since I also hate feeling like I owe anyone anything (even if it’s only me making me feel that way), I’ve probably already paid you back or returned the favour in some form.  It’s only natural*, then, that my sense for what’s fair and right extends to my conduct as a PhD student.

Having recently passed the “halfway mark” of the PhD (1.5 years in to a 3-year full-time PhD scholarship), I often find myself taking pause to reflect on the incredible support I’ve received to this point in my candidature.  I’ve had great guidance from my supervisors to guide me through the process to this point (shout out to Paul Gastin, Tony Rice, and Luana Main!).  I’ve been “mentored” by other academics and professionals, both within sport science and completely outside of it!  I’ve learned from the experiences of postdocs and other PhD students a little further down the track than myself.  And of course, there have been those transient but nonetheless valuable supporters with whom I’ve connected through the interwebs 😉

The challenge that remains for me is to feel like I am giving back.

Paying it forward

What could I, a lowly PhD student, possibly offer to balance the ledger with the esteemed professors, the established academics, and other clever people who have helped pave this path I am on?  Having little of value to give back, it seems to me that the only fair solution is to pay it forward.  I’ve tried to live much of my life with this in mind, and my life is only richer for it.

As I neared the end of my days of playing junior basketball, I decided to become a volunteer coach for my club.  I wanted to give back to the sport that taught me to value teamwork, persistence, organisation, foresight.  For four years, I coached boys and girls, kids as young as 7, young adults playing at Under 20s level, and everything in between.  In the process, I acquired and developed skills and knowledge that continue to bolster my work today – communication across a wide range of ages, patience, forward planning, conflict resolution, group management, young athlete development, body language awareness, and much more.

Ironically, in coaching to give back, I only received greater rewards.  Every experience I have as a PhD student continues to reinforce the same message: paying it forward is even more powerful than paying it back.  I think my PhD life has been so rich this year because I’ve been in a position to pay forward the lessons I’ve learnt from others.  The power is in the spreading of wealth, in bonding over common challenges, in sharing the kind of insights that come with having inched a little further along the path.  And of course, there’s a lot to be said for the kind of support we have in our School: a culture that encourages autonomy within community.  It’s a heady mix and an intoxicating environment, in the best possible way.


* I couldn’t let this blatant Crowded House reference go by without explicitly commenting on it.  Lately, I’ve been falling in love with Crowded House all over again, with “It’s Only Natural” being one of my all-time favourite CH tunes.  I feel like the voices of Neil and Tim Finn have soundtracked much of my life, but it still amazes me that I can pop my earphones in and immediately settle into relaxed focus.  To steal a line from Inger Mewburn, there’s a blog post in that! 🙂