2018 Autumn School for PhD Student

Autumn School logo
An enjoyable day for all neuroscience -related PhD students, regardless of background
October 24, 2018
John McIntyre Centre, Pollock Halls, University of Edinburgh

Are you just starting your PhD and want to become the best researcher possible? Are you nearing the end of your PhD and want to know what happens in a thesis defence, or what career paths are out there?  No idea how to use a microphone properly or a bit shy about how to ask a question? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions then  the Edinburgh Neuroscience Autumn School for PhD Students is for you!

What is the Autumn School for PhD Students?

This training day for PhD students has run since 2012 and it is hugely popular.  It is open to all types of PhD student (basic, clinical, neuroinformatics, psychology) provided they are working in a neuroscience-related field at Edinburgh. It aims to:
  • Encourage interdisciplinary mixing from the earliest stages of a research career
  • Instil the skills required to aspire to the very highest research standards
  • Provide useful information to allow planning for the next phase of your career
  • Build confidence in approaching your future studies and career
It is specifically designed to encourage students to attend twice during their PhD:
  • at the start of your first year in order to meet students from across all research centres and learn about some of the fundermental principals and skills required to be an excellent researcher
  • in you final year to help you find out about different future career options and how to prepare for funding applications, plus impart some of what what you have learnt to the new first year students!

This full day event is a mixture of activities/talks for all students together, as well as dedicated parallel workshops specifically tailored for first year and for final years students.

The Autumn School for PhD students is very grateful to the Deanery of Biomedical Sciences and the Deanery of Clinical Sciences for their financial support for the day.


Registration is available to first and final year PhD students at the University of Edinburgh undertaking neuroscience-related projects regardless of discipline (so includes psychology, neuro-informatics, clinical etc). There will be a small £15 fee to register, which includes all refreshments and a hot sit-down lunch (which is a great opportunity to make new friends). Registration is now open, it will close at 5pm on Mon 22 October 2018 or when we are full.  Register at the university ePay site.


This is a full day meeting starting a 9am and finishing at 5pm.

08.45    Registration

09.00    Welcome from Prof Charles ffrench-Constant, Dean of Research, College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine

09.10    Speed dating 1

09.30    Workshops

Workshop 1: What is expected of a PhD student? (for first year students)
  • Why am I doing this?, with Prof Charles ffrench-Constant, Dean of Research, College of Medicine & Veterinary Medicine
  • Thinking about my Project, with Prof Cathy Abbott, MRC Institute for Genetics & Molecular Medicine
Workshop 2: Finishing your PhD and moving on (1) (for final year students)
  • My viva experience, Dr Amy Warnock, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences
  • From the examiner’s point of view, Dr Kathy Evans, MRC Institute for Genetics & Molecular Medicine
  • Getting your first grant - a first hand experience, Dr Matt Livesey, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences

10.45    Tea/Coffee break

11.15    Amplification and how to handle it! (Making yourself heard and, working with microphones), Dr Ben Fletcher-Watson, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities

11.45    Being a PhD student – what to expect, and what I wish I’d known!   An opportunity for new students to find out, from those finishing, how to survive a PhD!  We hope to build a useful resource, for other students, from your questions and observations.

12.45    Lunch

13.45    Workshops

Workshop 3: Being a successful researcher (for first year students)
  • What makes a good research study?, Prof Malcolm Macleod, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences
  • What makes a good human research study?  Dr Simon Cox, Psychology
  • The problem of replications, Professor Peter Kind, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences
Workshop 4: Finishing your PhD and moving On (2) (for final year students)
  • What does an academic do all day?, Prof Cathy Abbott, MRC nstitute for Genetics & Molecular Medicine
  • Working for funding agencies and science administration, Dr Helen Nickersen, MRC Institute for Genetics & Molecular Medicine
  • Being a Parliamentary Researcher, Dr Damon Davies, Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe)

15.15      Tea/Coffee break

15.45      Speed dating 2

16.00      How to ask a good question,  Prof Tara Spires-Jones, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences

Followed by a practice question session (with refreshments) A few final year students have volunteered to present 3 min talks of their work. Lots of questions please!

16.45      Close of Meeting

Feedback from attendees at the 2017 Autumn School

The 2017 Autumn School scored 4.5/5 for enjoyment and 4.5/5 for usefulness

  • “Helping us talk about our thesis was very useful because it's often hard in 1st year to phrase it until you've tried it out a few times and practiced. this gave us this much needed practice.”
  • “I enjoyed the workshop on the viva, as it is somehow this black box that everyone knows about, but no one really ever explains how it works in detail.”
  • "The afternoon session with Dr Ritchie and Prof Macleod was incredibly useful. Who knew power calculations could be fun?
  • "The microphone workshop was interesting and engaging. It is most definitely useful and generally not something that is taught”
  • "The microphone session was great, I was actually at a wedding the weekend after and was the one telling everyone how to use the microphone and sorting out the feedback based on what I'd learnt at the course." 
  • "I liked the size of the groups, I felt I was able to ask all of the questions I wished to ask” 
  • "The final year Q and A was also useful as we got to ask the questions we can't/daren't ask our supervisors.”
  • "I very much enjoyed the Q&A session and thinking on how I could give the first year students some advice for their upcoming years."
  • ”Overall, the day was incredibly valuable. It identified many things I didn't know and many I hadn't thought of.” 
  • "I thought a very balanced and useful choice of workshops and sessions was offered.  I particularly enjoyed the Q&A session between the first and final year students. I can't think of anything I would change."