Five free personal training courses you should sign up for.

Personal Development training is one of the requirements that we as PhD students need to fulfil before we can fully complete our PhD programme. But beyond that, these training courses also help us to develop and grow as a professional by giving us various transferable skills, which will come in handy when applying for jobs. I would like to share with you five free training courses I found very useful, either provided by John Innes Centre or UEA:

  1. Career Service Mentoring Programme by UEA career central

I joined the programme in August 2015 and initially it was set up as a 6-month, one-to-one mentoring programme, with Career Central finding you a match based on your interests and what you would like to get out of a mentor/mentee relationship. However, after the official period of the programme finished, my mentor and I decided to keep in contact and continue to do so. I have a mentor who is an expert in industry and has been giving me advice on the career path into industry, how to form a valuable network for your career advancement, some insights into the industry settings and also some tips on constructing an action plan to achieve your dream job. I have learnt so much through this process and it only takes an hour meeting each month with the mentor to discuss my plan and progress. I highly recommend this course, especially if you are thinking of going for a career outside academia or simply want to keep your job options open.

  1.  Turbo Charge your Writing by Hugh Kearns, Think Well

This is the training course that got me started assimilating my experimental data (even the negative ones) into thesis format and made me feel more positive about writing. It changed my perspective from “I will write when I’m ready” to “I’m writing now even if I don’t feel like doing it” and also trying not to make the first draft perfect but instead going through multiple drafts and trying to get feedback from supervisor as much as I can. It is a short course which only lasts one morning, so definitely worth signing up!

  1. Scientific Writing Academic Papers Workshop by Sophien Kamoun

This 1-day workshop goes through some examples of the dos and don’ts when writing a scientific paper, with the aim of helping you better understand the structure of scientific papers and identifying writing techniques that are required. I found this very useful when it comes to writing not only manuscripts, but also thesis chapters.

  1. The Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Biotechnology YES) by John Innes Centre or UEA

Technically it’s not training, but a competition that allows you to go wild with your crazy scientific idea and try to to convince venture capitals to invest in your management team. I learned a lot about commercialisation, intellectual property, marketing and finance through the preparation for this competition. The competition itself only requires 2 days, during which your team get help and advice from the experts on commercialising your idea. My team didn’t win the competition, but I can happily say that it was a worthwhile experience.

  1. Developing Teaching Skills by the Centre for Staff and Educational Development (CSED) and the School of Education and Lifelong Learning (EDU), UEA

This is a Masters equivalent module that explores various aspects of teaching, such as giving effective lectures, demonstrating in the lab, leading seminars and assessment and evaluation of student learning while considering the student needs and their learning styles. It is designed for postgraduate students and postdocs with little or no prior teaching experience (like me) who would like to go into teaching and academia later in their career path. I really enjoyed how this course was delivered through practical and discussion-based approaches rather than a lecture-based seminar, which we get mostly in other training courses. It is quite a time consuming course though (3 hr/module + 1 portfolio assignment on the teaching experience that you participate in) so you might need to ask for your supervisor’s permission for this one, but in my opinion it is a valuable course that you should not miss if you have some spare time.

Sue is a 3rd Year Rotation PhD student in Biological Chemistry department at John Innes Centre.  She is on LinkedIn as