Graduate Collective

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Doctoral students need to acquire a large skillset to meet the numerous and diverse challenges they face during their studies. Struggles are inherent in this phase of life, but the pandemic led to further complications. Above all, the opportunities to create networks with co-workers, which are key to scientific success and personal development, have been dramatically reduced. By introducing a new teaching format dedicated to doctoral students from similar thematic backgrounds, we aim to (re-)connect students that started their doctoral project during the pandemic. Furthermore, we make use of the common thematic framework to provide them with tools and resources they need to navigate their graduate studies and complete their projects successfully.

Several research groups within D-ERDW which work at the intersection of geology, biology, and chemistry (GBC) have gathered to form a Graduate Collective. Our goal is to install functional units that span the gap between the group level and the department level, i.e., to create a forum for interaction that is sufficiently large to have critical mass (i.e., > a single group) without losing coherence (i.e., < an entire department). A scholarly education will be pursued through interaction between students, faculty and external speakers in a series of workshops and seminars, on topics such as scientific writing or presentation skills. Students will work closely together on the various topics in groups of different size, thus enabling them to build up a strong network with co-students from related research fields.

Overall concept of the course before the pandemic

To provide doctoral students with the skillset they need, we initiated a new teaching format within the Earth Science Department. Five research groups at the intersection of geology, biology and chemistry launched a “Graduate Collective” providing a simple and effective framework that promotes close networks among their doctoral students. This will promote easy communications that transcend traditional research group boundaries but involve a common thematic framework that is more focused than scientific research at department level.

A scholarly education will be pursued through interaction between students, faculty and external speakers in a series of workshops and seminars. These will cover topics ranging from scientific writing and presentation techniques to practical issues including data and literature management tools. The program will be rounded up by training focusing on “soft skills”. Various organizational units of the ETH will be involved: the ETH Library, IT Services, and the UZH and ETH Language Center; in addition, external professionals will be invited. Students will work closely together on various topics in groups of different size, thus enabling them to build up a strong network with co-students from related research fields. For many seminars and workshops, it is a great advantage that students come from similar backgrounds, as it will facilitate their ability to convey related content.

How was this course implemented during the time of distance learning?

The GBC Graduate Collective is a format that has been specifically introduced to (re-)connect doctoral students after the pandemic. Hence, the live participation of students in person is one essential part of our course.

However, all topics covered in this course have been previously taught remotely in other contexts and can be easily adapted to online teaching via zoom within the Graduate Collective. Through the use of break-out rooms and formation of small study-buddy groups of three to four students, the networking of students can be promoted even if distance learning must be reinstated. If circumstances allow, we intend to conduct a fun team-building excursion such as an escape room or a high rope course, where the latter should be possible even during restrictions.

Our thoughts and ideas for after the pandemic

Until early 2020, teaching in presence had been taken for granted and as the only option to most of us. In contrast, the last two years showed how fast this paradigm could change and opened the doors to surprising opportunities and creativity in online teaching. Nevertheless, the pandemic has reminded many how valuable and important teaching in presence is to students and lecturers. Even if some courses could benefit from online teaching and will continue (at least partially) in this format, for most courses the direct interaction between the students, such as the moments before a lecture start or the time during breaks for personal exchange, are irreplaceable. The GBC Graduate Collective makes the networking of its participants its central focus. By creating the time and space, where students can meet in person and work on common problems in various formats, we enable them to connect even beyond this course and we acknowledge the importance of teaching in presence.




Course Description

A Geology-Biology-Chemistry Graduate Collective within D-ERDW
The goal of the Collective is to give PhD students the tools and resources that they need to successfully complete their projects and to develop as scientists. The collective will promote close interaction between students, faculty and (external) speakers in a series of workshops and seminars on topics including scientific writing, effective communication and good scientific practice.
Students will gain tools and strategies needed to work as scientists as a basis to successfully complete their PhD projects. They will specifically be able to
• scientific writing: efficiently manage the writing of scientific texts, be able to structure each section effectively and produce fluent and reader-focused sentences and paragraphs
• effective communication: use language in a way that helps them achieve their goals
• good scientific practice: discussion of scientific ethics and topics of good scientific practice relevant to earth scientists.
Students will have an overview of organizational units available at ETH for different concerns and build up a network with co-students.
651-4910-00 S
Doctoral students