I attended MyPhD last week to explore their concept of Ph.D. student workshops and to learn from their experience. MyPhD is an informal network of professors and Ph.D. students in applied IT security in Germany. There is no legal entity for the network and collaboration happens because of a common will to bring together students from different research groups. MyPhD looks back at five succcessful workshops in the past: Passau, Erlangen, Aachen, Bochum, Hamburg. The main activity of MyPhD is an annual 1.5-day workshop for Ph.D. students from the participating universities. Typically, about 5-10 professors and 20-30 students come together.

Every participant is expected/required to contribute. Students choose from one of the following formats:

  • 10 minutes for short presentation of ideas/thesis topics (5 minutes/3 slides); MyPhD had 12 of these, and COINS student Yi-Ching Liao contributed one
  • 30 minutes for research presentation; MyPhD had 11 of these
  • 30 minutes for experience presentation, typically given by senior Ph.D. students sharing „lessons learned“; MyPhD had 1 of these

Students got constructive feedback after each of the presentations. Both students and supervisors engaged in discussion and helped to find exciting research questions and to scope topics. In addition, there was a talk on how to learn from rejected papers to improve content and presentation for resubmission. I also was given the opportunity to give a presentation on COINS. That was well received and we discussed how students from both networks could benefit from interacting with each other. On the second day, invited speakers gave presentations about research challenges in applied IT security as seen from industry.

A highlight of the agenda was a 1.5-hour panel discussion titled „Ask the professors/professionals“. Student could submit questions anonymously or by raising a hand, and all professors/industry panelists were asked to provide their opinions. Questions included e.g. „How much time do you spend advising your doctoral students and how much would you like to spend?“, „How many papers should one have accepted before submitting a dissertation?“, „How do you deal with choosing the authors of a paper?“ Answers were by far not unanimously given, so both panelists and students enjoyed a lively discussion.

There was a clear „Laptops stay closed“ policy, obeyed by almost all of the participants. Emails needed to be checked in one of the four breaks during the day. Keeping laptops closed kept everyone focusing on the talks and engaged more people in discussion than usually observed at conferences in the field.

Well done, MyPhD students, it was a great experience to see you all contribute to an intensive networking event!

About Author: Hanno Langweg

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