August 21, 2020 | Published by |

by Melissa Hart
I write this update from my home office, a.k.a. my dining room, typing over the top of my office mate, Harry-The-Cat, in between Zoom meetings. As a cross-institutional centre, we went into this pandemic already used to videoconference meetings, seminars, and training. What has been lost, however, was the important, and often ad-hoc, supportive and collaborative conversations with peers and colleagues at conferences and workshops, or simply with your officemates in the work kitchen. We have node slack channels, virtual morning/afternoon teas, Wednesday ECR lunches, and many other strategies to stay engaged. However, it still doesn’t quite replace the in-person option of being able to lean across to the person sitting next to you and ask a quick question.

Harry the Cat
Harry the Cat joins the annual CLEX Winter School.

As we continue to navigate, as a centre, this new working environment we have all found ourselves in, we will continue to explore new strategies to ensure engagement, e.g. the CMS team is now running drop-in sessions where you can drop in to seek help with any of your technical issues, and at our virtual winter school, we made use of Zoom break out rooms to allow small group engagement among our students. This is all still a work in progress though, and I am sure there are opportunities we have not yet thought of, or are aware of. So, if you have an idea to foster engagement, be it either work-related or social, across the centre, please feel free to drop me an email, or set up a Zoom, and share your ideas.

Even though a lot of our centre activities run virtually, we have had to shift some of our usual face-to-face activities online. In the researcher development program, this has been our writing workshop and winter school.

In May, I ran a virtual version of the writing workshop introducing an interactive method to develop the outline of a paper using a storyboarding technique. In the olden days, when we could all meet in person, we would do this using post-it notes. In our current reality, we did this electronically.  Thirty-three participants joined the session and after some short instruction from me, worked on their storyboard with feedback from a buddy and CLEX researcher mentor.

I will hold this session again in the coming months, and I am also developing additional sessions covering other sections of our writing workshop,  e.g. abstracts, introduction, discussion, journal selection etc.  These sessions are open to all centre students and ECRs. Keep an eye on emails and the weekly update for further details.

In June, the cornerstone of our researcher development program, our annual winter school, went online. The virtual event touched on all three pillars of the Researcher Development Program: science fundamentals, communication, and professional development. The science fundamentals lectures were a teaser to our planned Atmospheric and Ocean Dynamics school that we will hopefully be able to hold in-person next year. My thanks to Annie Foppert, Marty Singh, and Navid Constantinou who had us comparing non-rotating fluids on our desks to the rotating fluids in Navid’s loungeroom. Alvin Stone and James Goldie presented sessions on writing for a public audience and data visualisation, respectively. And in a time of such employment uncertainty, we held an inspiring and interactive session where three of our centre alumni shared their advice and strategy on life post-CoE. Steph Downes joined us from Hobart where she discussed her roles in academia, government, and now industry, with her role as a Specialist Master at Deloitte. Steph Jacobs joined us from Melbourne where she talked about her role as a Consultant at Mosaic Insights. And Peter Gibson joined us from San Diego where he talked about his roles at NASA JPL and now Scripps where he has recently started as a senior researcher.

My thanks to all of our presenters that helped pull this event together under quite trying circumstances, and to our graduate students who were all so engaged. Special thanks to Jenny Rislund for helping sort all the logistics.

A reminder that I am always available to meet with our students and ECRs at any time. I am here to advocate and provide support for you all.  Simply drop me a line and I’ll send you a Zoom link. If you’re really lucky Harry-The-Cat will make an appearance.