10 ways to keep sane during your PhD

The following is a list collated by a number of PhD students almost at the end of their program. This is usually the most stressful time and these are the best ways we’ve found to keep sane.


1. Keep your hobbies

Don’t give up on the things you love. Make time for them.


2. Go to tea!

There is tea time in the J1 seminar room every day at 10:30-11:00am and its a great opportunity to decompress and chat with colleges

3. Remember to exercise

Exercise improves your mood and can clear your mind.


4. Walking and talking

If you’re starting to stress out, walking and chatting with a friend is a great way to vent all your frustration and pry you away from your desk.


5. #SanitityInNumbers

There are many students in the school and the rest of ANU that are going through the same things you are. There are many opportunities to “shut up and write” including; shut up and write nights, shut up and write days, and if you need an extreme kick up the butt, thesis boot camp. You can also start your own writing group/working group to get some productive peer pressure. Remember #sanityinnumbers


6. Achieve some small tasks

If you break everything up into to tiny task you can bring a little joy into your project by ticking off small tasks. These include life tasks if you really need a break from the PhD


7. feng shui your office and home

If you organise the space around you, your thoughts will follow (probably)


8. Make plans that you can look forward to

Make some plans. A nice weekend. A night off. Dinner with a friend. Look forward to these things and enjoy them when you’re there!


 9. Learn to switch off

If you can switch off, it will do your brain wonders


10. Seek help when you need it

If you’re really struggling and don’t know how to make yourself feel better, make sure you seek help. There is a counseling center at the university with same day appointments.


Staff vs Student Lawn Bowls

The Research School of Earth Sciences has a long history of pitching the staff against the students in a biannual sporting competition. The staff have dominated in the last few student vs staff sporting competitions, especially cricket, where many of the student team had never bowled a ball or held a bat before. Read more about last year’s cricket match here.

This year strategy overtook tradition and the students challenged the staff to the inaugural student vs staff lawn bowls tournament. There was more participation than ever before with even a few of our youngest coming along to support their parents.

The weather was a sunny 29 degrees as we all made our way down to the RUC. The tension was thick and strategies were forming as the instructor explained the rules of lawn bowls.

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Skills to pay the bills

By K. Holland and J. Stephenson

We attended a workshop called PhD to present, and while the title is rather uninformative and ambiguous, we managed to learn a thing or two about writing a CV, about networking, and the limit of how many scones one person can eat in a sitting. Here we will share our highlights.

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Fighting animal cruelty with Cupcakes

by Louise Schoneveld

Throughout August the students and staff of RSES have been baking cupcakes to raise money for the RSPCA shelter in the ACT.

We had a magnificent team of bakers that operated under the team name RSES Cupcake Warriors.


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10 ways your PhD is like a puzzle

-by Louise Schoneveld

1. You are sold the final product

The Picture you are sold

You are sold the final image before you start your PhD. Lovely isn’t it. You’ll spend up to 4 years of your life sorting this out.

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5 ways to get your thesis to write itself

-by Louise Schoneveld

There are many ways to get your thesis to write itself. Technology now-a-days is so advanced there is no need for you to be spending time editing and organizing your thesis, get the computer to do it for you. These tips are mainly for those who use microsoft word.

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How to write a scientific journal article

-by Louise Schoneveld

Last week I snuck into the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science’s scientific paper writing workshop, held here at the ANU. I thought I would share a few of the nuggets of wisdom I learnt during my 3 days at the workshop. I am not a climate scientist but was lucky enough to score a place in this workshop.

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How to cope with failure

-by Louise Schoneveld

Being an experimentalist, coping with failure is something I have to do on almost a daily basis. When I started my PhD, coping with failure was not one of my strengths, but practice makes perfect I guess.

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Radioactive Glass that glows

By Louise Schoneveld.


Currently showing at the  National Gallery of Australia  is the wonderful artwork by Ken + Julia Yonetani entitled – The last temptation. The artwork is make up of beautiful uranium glass chandeliers, with each chandelier size representative of a country’s nuclear output. There are 31 chandeliers in the collection, however only a small selection are shown here in Canberra.

While walking amongst the chandeliers, I began to think; how does the glass glow?

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by Louise Schoneveld

Anthophyllite asbestos SEM
Anthophyllite asbestos in SEM image (scale 50microns)

Asbestos has become a scary word, but do you know what it is? It is actually a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals that have an asbestiform crystal habit. This habit describes crystals that have a roughly 1:20 aspect ratio:

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[gemstones] Emeralds

by Louise Schoneveld

Out of “the big 4” gemstones, we’ve already learnt about the two corundums; ruby and sapphire, now it’s time to go green with emerald.

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[gemstones] Corundum

Ever heard the words “I would like a corundum ring please”? Probably not. Maybe because when corundum found in gem quality it is often called sapphire or ruby.

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Mid-Term Review

Having just finished my mid-term review I thought I would give you some advice and observations from my experience. Your mid-term review will be completed at 16-18 months into your PhD. Lucky me, I got to do mine at 15 months, but most people wait for the later option.  I feel like my biggest source of anxiety was not knowing what exactly to do/expect. I hope this little article hopes you to understand what to expect.

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The Art in Science

Aloha, Mahalo and Goodnight!

By Jo Ward

I was lucky enough to go on the recent Geological Society of America’s Hawaiian volcanoes field trip with a fabulous bunch of students from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.  It was an amazing geological experience and a fantastic opportunity to meet people from around the world. For those of you who are not familiar with Hawaii, the culture is unique and exhibits a lovely blend of Polynesian traditions and if you think you can’t take a good photo, it is the place for you! I challenge anyone to take a bad photo of the Hawaiian landscape, it won’t happen.


There is an uncanny fondness for Chihuahuas across the island state and a reverence when referring to Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and the creator of the islands. The mythology surrounding her describes her as a fair but fiery lady who is not to be trifled with. She is so highly respected that during volcanic activity, locals in Kona visit the henna parlors to have images of her and the volcano imprinted on their bodies.  The locals are conscientious in their attempt to not lose their cultural roots and are happy to chat about almost anything, for a place that is so regularly devastated by natural hazards the spirit and generosity of the people was absolutely phenomenal to experience.

The trip was organized by Gary Lewis of the GSA and co-run by the lovely Amy Magoo, the whole trip was well planned and expertly executed. I’m an ore-focused geologist and had a limited knowledge of volcanology but that did not inhibit the experience or my understanding on this tour. Like many geo’s it is not until you go out into the field that you gain a deeper understanding of how all the features for a deposit/ landscape fit together.


The trip delivered awesome activities like hiking some truly incredibly impressive lava fields and volcanoes, coastal treks, whale watching and an amazing ‘doors off’ chopper ride over the currently active Kilauea volcano summit with an adept Belgian pilot named York who provided an excellent playlist. I can honestly say the combination of Jonny Cash’s Ring of Fire while flying over ropey Pohoehoe flows decimating a pine forest and feeling the heat and smoke off the ground was a once in a lifetime experience, and what can I say I love volcanic gasses in the morning.


We also ventured to an ocean worn  ancient lava cove which holds one of the world’s only green beach, or for the discerning geologist a beach with sand consisting entirely of olivine. The water was unlike any colour I’ve seen and there was something almost trippy and definitely enjoyable about lying in green sand.


The sunsets are spectacular, the cocktails were creative and tasty (I suggest trying a ‘Lava-flow’) and the geology was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. I’ve snorkeled with a 3-legged turtle, learned many things and seen the ‘glow’ of a volcanic crater at night. I had an absolute ball and cannot more highly recommend having a geo-venture in Hawaii.


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