Information for new postgrads
If you've just started a MSc or PhD at our department, welcome! Here's some information to get you started.
- The department's acting postgrad coordinator is Zhiyi Huang. The coordinator is chairing a Postgraduate Committee which consists of Claudia Ott, Haibo Zhang, and Stefanie Zollmann. Feel free to contact them about any postgrad-related issues. The Postgraduate Committee also includes postgraduate representatives David Wang, Reuben Crimp, Shenghuan Zhang, Tapabrata Chakraborti. Feel free to seek help from them or ask them about postgraduate life at the department and the University of Otago.
- You're joining a large community of postgrads! You'll meet many more of them as soon as you arrive — there's a complete list on the department's current postgrads page.
- What happens when you first arrive: the department's routine for new postgrad students.
- All postgrad students (MSc and PhD) must submit a written six-month report. These reports appear on the department's current postgrads page. (They are only visible locally within the University.)
- PhD students have regular progress meetings during their course, and must be confirmed at an intermediate point in the course in order to proceed to the PhD degree.
- All postgrad students must complete a student-supervisor agreement within the first weeks of starting work. You can use the University's official agreement form, or a (much shorter) form that's customised for our department, or you can adapt either form to your own needs. MSc students should send the signed form to the department secretary; PhD forms are processed during the student's first Progress Meeting.
- It's a good idea to look at the University Handbook or Guide for your degree. (MSc handbook, PhD guide)
Postgrad academic events
There are various seminars and meetings which postgrad students are invited to attend---or are sometimes obliged to attend!
- The department runs a regular seminar, which is held on Fridays, 1:00-1:50pm, during semesters. The seminar series is organised jointly with the Department of Information Science. Postgrad students are expected to attend these seminars.
- Many of the department's research groups organise topic-specific seminars. You should certainly attend the seminars organised by the group you're in, but you're most welcome to attend other groups. If you'd like to be added to the mailing list for a particular group, here's who to contact:
- — Biological data science: Alex Gavryushkin
- — Information retrieval: Andrew Trotman
- — Graphics, vision and artificial intelligence: Steven Mills
- — Systems: Zhiyi Huang
- Every year in Semester 2 the department organises a Postgrad Research Symposium. All postgrad students must give a presentation at this symposium, unless their supervisor specifically says they don't have to. At this seminar we give two prizes. The 'best presentation' prize goes to the best presentation on the day. The 'publication prize' goes to the student who has had most success in publication during their time in the department, based on publications uploaded to the department's current postgrads page.
Postgrad social events
- We're computer scientists, but we still try to be social from time to time. The throbbing heart of social life in our department is the tea room on the 2nd floor. As postgrads, you're welcome to use this room whenever you like: tea, coffee, milk, sugar and hot chocolate are all free. You can also use the cooking facilities here, and the fridge. (Please name and date anything that goes in the fridge!)
- The department organises a few social events for postgrads, mainly involving eating. You should hear about these through the postgrads mailing list. If you want to organise something yourself, we would be delighted!
- Otago's Postgraduate Society also organises various activities which provide an opportunity to meet postgrads from other departments.
- Otago's Recreation Services organise lots of activities.
- OUSA's Clubs List is also worth checking out.
There are a few jobs that postgrad students traditionally do.
Help with being a postgrad student
- Otago's Graduate Research School has a series of seminars specially for postgrad students.
- HEDC has a page of useful resources for postgrads, including a series of workshops.
- The researcher's bible: some famous advice from Alan Bundy and colleagues at Edinburgh University's Department of Artificial Intelligence. (Some of this is AI-specific: but see Sections 3 and 4 for excellent advice for all PhD students!)
- Here is an overview of support available to postgraduates of the university.
Publications, conferences and travel funding
Whether you're a MSc or PhD student, we encourage you to be proactive in publishing papers about your work. It's increasingly important for a career in research that you have a publication record. The point of doing research is to communicate your results. (If you don't publish a description of your work, it's as if it didn't happen!)
- When you publish a paper, you should email our web administrator, providing a citation and also if possible a link or a PDF. The web administrator will put the paper up on the department's current postgrads page (contact details are on that page). Information about students' publications on this page is only visible locally within the University.
- We also encourage you to attend workshops and conferences while you're studying. Your supervisor can advise you about which are good ones to attend.
- For PhD students, the Division of Sciences provides funding towards attending one workshop or conference during your study. This funding is normally conditional on you submitting a paper to the event, or otherwise participating (e.g. by giving a presentation). The event doesn't have to be peer-reviewed. The funding can also be used to travel to a summer school or training course. Travel to visit another lab can be part of conference travel, but the funding can't be used solely for this. If you're going somewhere expensive, make sure you use this first! You'll need to complete an application form (available in Word) in advance: this should be given to the Head of Department for signing and given to the postgrad coordinator, again well in advance of your travel (and will then be submitted to the Divisional Office). Note that a PhD student who has just submitted can also be supported by this funding. The Division’s Leave form is in the RSL and Conference Leave section of their Staff page here. If you will need a visa to attend the conference get on to obtaining one immediately, as tickets will not be purchased until we are sure that you can attend the conference.
- The department also has its own budget to help students attend workshops and conferences. If you have a paper accepted, we will do our best to help you to attend, though we can't make any promises, as the budget is limited. Again, there's an application form. This should be filled in and given to the office, again well in advance of your travel.
- Otago's HEDC (Higher Education Development Centre) offers a course on publishing and conference presentations for postgrads.
- Thesis writing is a very important part of postgraduate study. It should start from day one of your study. You should take your research proposal as the first draft version of your thesis, even though the initial proposal may change significantly. During your study period, you should keep expanding your thesis and adding chapters, such as literature review and references, while reading related works. You may add a new chapter immediately after publishing a paper. The message is "DON'T leave your thesis writing to the last few months of your study period". Below are some useful information and resources for thesis writing.
- We encourage students to write their thesis using LaTeX. There's a useful Otago LaTeX thesis template which conforms to the University thesis regulations. Also see our LaTeX resources page.
- In the PhD handbook, it is worth reading the chapter of Format of the Thesis. Particularly, it addresses issues like plagiarism, citing of references, inclusion of material from published papers, etc.
- The University has strict rules about plagiarism, which apply to postgraduate theses as to all work done by students. If plagiarised material is found in a submitted thesis, in serious cases the University has the right to reject the thesis, as discussed in Section 7(c) of the University's academic misconduct procedures.
- HEDC has some useful online resources about writing (see in particular the 'Writing, Language and Presentations' section), and also often has relevant workshops.
- The Graduate Research School organises various useful workshops for postgraduates.
- The University Library pools substantial information on thesis writing here.
Submitting theses, and information about the examination process
When you start to think about submitting your thesis, here's a guide to what will happen:
Post-thesis bursaries and scholarships
When you've finished your thesis, there are a couple of opportunities for additional funding.
Postgraduate Publishing Bursary
For PhD students: if you finish your thesis within 4 years, you can apply for a Postgraduate Publishing Bursary from the University. Details here. These are awarded automatically to those who apply; there are no selection criteria beyond finishing within 4 years.
These bursaries are also available to MSc students: see the same link.
Grants to help new PhD students into companies
The Callaghan Innovation Grants are available to companies who want to employ a new PhD student to work on a R & D problem. It's the company who applies for the grant, not you: but if you have contacts with a company, or are interested in working for a company, it's worth letting them know about this.
Resources for international postgrad students
General resources for international students can be found on Otago's International Office Website.
One specific issue worth mentioning concerns the procedure involved in extending a thesis submission deadline. While students are expected to complete within the standard timeframe (3 years for a PhD, 1 year for a MSc), there are sometimes academic reasons why a student requires an extension. Applications for extensions are only granted on academic grounds, naturally, and require the support of a student's supervisor(s). However, international students on visas must additionally apply for a visa extension. Our department will support students in their application for a visa extension, if there are sound academic reasons for extending their submission deadline. Nonetheless, students applying for a visa extension must show evidence they can support themselves financially during the extension period. Details about the evidence needed can be found on the International Office's visa/immigration page (see particularly here). Students with visas should think ahead about this contingency: it may be possible to set aside some scholarship income, or to undertake some part-time work to supplement income.
- If you have issues, e.g. difficulty with a supervisor, feel free to contact the postgrad coordinator who would be happy to discuss the issue with you.
- Otago offers many postgrad support services, relating to accommodation, scholarships, Maori and Pacific students, international students and disability and health services — we recommend you take a look!
- Otago's official PhD page and MSc page.