By Tiffany Walmsley
After surviving your first year of a DPhil, you might be wondering whether you have made enough progress and what you need to be focussing on now during your second year. Every term, you will have submitted a graduate self-assessment, which are good opportunities to reflect and discuss your achievements and goals with your supervisor. The transfer of status is a more detailed reflection of your work that your department will use to confirm your transition from essentially a `probationary’ student to a DPhil candidate. The actual procedure differs between different departments and graduate schools.
For the department of chemistry, I had to prepare a 4-page critical analysis of my first year’s work and of the plan for the rest of my thesis. Some of my graduate friends in other subjects had to write much longer reports but condensing a year’s work-plus another 2 year’s plan-into 4 concise, inciteful pages was also a challenge. My supervisor encouraged me to start a literature review very early on in the academic year. Having all the relevant references and information ready so far in advance really helped when it was time to coalesce all my ideas and projects into one document.
A few weeks after submitting my report, I had to give a 10-minute presentation based on the report and anything extra I thought would enhance the understanding and scope of my project. This was followed by 20 minutes of questions. Because the talk was so short, it didn’t feel like there was too much pressure to go deep into the understanding of my project but being grilled on a thesis I hadn’t written yet required more preparation. If possible, you should try practice your talk in front of your supervisor a few times. They should know the aims of your project well and should be able to give very helpful advice about the kind of content you should present and questions you might be asked during the mini viva.
The final document I had to submit was a summary of all the `extra-curricular’, researcher development and training I had done during the year. This included a list of all the seminars, training sessions, and language courses I had attended, any tutoring and teaching I had done, and research specific skills I had developed over the course of a year (such as coding languages, equipment construction and maintenance, and scientific writing). One very useful habit that I’d recommend doing (and doing well) is keeping a detailed spreadsheet of all the above so that when the time comes for your transfer of status, you aren’t scrolling through endless emails trying to find the name of that professor that gave a lecture you attended 10 months ago...