Shut Up And Write!

Today I did my first #SUWTUK. For those not au fait with twitter hastags, Shut Up and Write Tuesdays (SUWT) is ‘a virtual writing workshop for academic folk’. The first and third Tuesday of every month you spend an hour writing – in two podormos of 25 minutes – with a virtual writing coach and community via the Shut Up and Write Tuesday UK twitter account (@SUWTUK) and the #SUWTUK hashtag. My purpose was twofold:

  • to get down on paper some critical reflections about my own professional development, with some dedicated time to do so – it’s difficult when your job is developing others, to give time over to developing yourself
  • to explore how we might develop a #SUWTUK community in the Doctoral College

I have to say, I didn’t start in the best place. I had spent the morning irritated after finding out tasks had been deleted from my Outlook calendar, and as such I hadn’t remembered to do something. It was the kind of think that has no real life consequences, but put me in a rather frustrated mood. As I spent the 15 minutes before #SUWTUK started madly pulling some notes together so I had something to right about, I didn’t think it was going to go well. Like most people, I have this perceived need to be in the ‘right frame of mind to write’. Nonetheless I dutifully closed my email, set-up a Hootsuite stream for #SUWTUK and opened a new word document.

What surprised me was how quickly I became engrossed in writing. I think it helped that I had been mulling over my own professional development needs for a while, and so had ‘stuff’ in my head that needed articulating. 578 words later, I found that I had I missed the end of the first podormo by 4 minutes. Something about the focused, condensed amount of time seemed to switch me in to gear – but it was difficult to keep an eye on the tweets (@SUWTUK give you instructions of when to start and stop writing) and time, as well immerse myself in my writing.

After a 5 minute break, part 2 got off to a bad start. It was difficult to get back in to writing – I felt like I had lost my momentum. But I got it back, and I spent the second podormo mostly editing what I had already written. This resulted in 200 more words, and something more focused and purposeful.

I can’t remember ever writing 774 words so quickly. Whilst they may not be Nobel prise worthy, they are useful. These ideas are finally ‘on paper’, and I have something to back to and edit again later. I stopped writing with a real sense of momentum and focus – so much so that I immediately started writing this blog post. So, combined with my #SUWTUK, I have written 1351 words in under two hours. And countless tweets (collated as a storify here). That ain’t bad.

One of the really great things about the twitter side of #SUWTUK is the affirmations you get from @SUWTUK – encouraging the whole community, but also congratulating people individually on their achievements. Having @SUWTUK as moderator and coach is invaluable – I’m not sure it would work without it.

The fact that I have outcomes (as in words on paper), enthusiasm and momentum makes me really keen to buy in to the #SUWTUK. The next one is on Tuesday 1st November at 10am. I’ll be (virtually) there. Will you?

Author: Kelly Preece is the Researcher Development Programme Manager for Postgraduate Researchers in the Doctoral College. You can follow her on twitter – she tweets as @Preece_Kelly and @ExeterDoctoral!

Researcher-led Initiative Awards: Funding for Postgraduate Research Students and Early Career Research Staff

Would you like to be involved in professional development here at the University of Exeter?

Researcher Development has a fund to support the development and cascading of personal, professional and career management skills by and for postgraduate research students and early career research staff across the University of Exeter.

The Researcher Led Initiative awards are intended to enable postgraduate research students and early career research staff to be creative, proactive, and empowered, through the process of initiating, designing, managing, and delivering new professional development activities for their peers that will develop the skills and experience needed to progress their careers.

The awards will support short-term, well-defined initiatives that develop and deliver transferable skills training experiences and/or resources to the applicants’ peers across departments. Collaborative applications are encouraged. Applications will be reviewed on a case by case basis and all applicants will receive feedback after the awards have been allocated.

 There are 16 awards available:

  • 8 x £500 awards for Postgraduate Research Students in their 2nd year or above and registered at one of the Exeter Campuses
  • 2 x £500 awards for Postgraduate Research Students in their 2nd year or above and registered at one of the Cornwall Campuses
  • 6 X £1000 awards for staff on Research Only contracts on grade E to G

 Award Categories:

There are four award categories and applicants must state clearly which award category they are applying to on the application form. The categories are:

  • Non-academic career development
  • Academic career development
  • Professional development of researchers in the Humanities and/or Social Sciences
  • Promoting the development of women in the sciences

To find out more, including how to apply, visit the Researcher Development website.

A Day in the Life

Want to know what it’s like to do a PhD at Exeter? We caught up with the Mathematics department’s Simon Clark and the Archaeology department’s Emily Johnson to find out what makes an average day in the life for them as a PhD candidate here at Exeter.

Want to find out more about Simon and his research? Follow his YouTube channel.

Want to find out more about Emily and her research? Follow her blog.

To find out more about postgraduate study at the University of Exeter, visit our Postgraduate Study and Research website.



New Bioarchaeology Postgraduate Reading Group

A new addition to the department, the first meeting of the Bioarchaeology Reading Group on the 7th October, was a great success. A mix of postgraduate (masters and PhD) students and staff members, fuelled by biscuits, discussed the implications of Gowland’s (2015) paper on bioarchaeology and the life course. It was perhaps interesting to note that this week the reading group’s participants were 90% female, which could have implications for the direction of the discussion as there was focus on maternal health.

You can follow reading group related posts on twitter using the #BioarchRG hashtag.

The topic of the paper was agreed to be extremely interesting. Gowland’s central argument was that stresses affecting a pregnant mother, such as famine, disease or social stress, can cause different phenotypic expression in the foetus due to epigenetic plasticity. Later in the foetus’s life these developmental stresses could cause greater susceptibility to diseases and may affect future generations as the foetus itself was affected. If socioeconomic circumstances can have intergenerational effects, including disease susceptibility and growth stunting, archaeological skeletal osteobiographies can no longer be considered individually. The paper had particular impact for all participants in the discussion as we thought back to our own family histories of stress, wondering if we had been affected, and perhaps worried (probably needlessly) about how we were already making our future generations susceptible to disease!

Discussions on the paper centred on some key themes. Beginning with the strengths and weaknesses of the paper, participants quickly picked up on some striking ethical issues that would be encountered in taking this work further. These particularly related to placing blame on an individual, particularly on the mother, for the health of an infant. Also, in testing historically stressed populations to find the long-reaching consequences of pan-generational stresses, would we somehow imply that population was biologically inferior? This discussion was lengthy and slightly off topic, so PhD student Belinda Tibbetts, who was running this week’s session, brought us back on track.

We questioned what the study means for the field of human osteoarchaeology. It was generally agreed that it would be particularly hard to apply the theory of pan-generation phenotype plasticity (and expressions thereof) in a ‘standard’ bioarchaeological situation, where the identity of the individual and their relationship with other individuals in the sample is unknown. We also worried about markers of palaeopathology, particularly stress indicators like enamel hypoplasia and lesions, which considering Gowland’s article could now no longer relate directly to an individual’s life conditions, but indeed to their mother’s and grandmother’s. We settled that until more work is carried out in this area we must continue to describe instances of palaeopathology as before, whilst keeping in mind that it could be an expression of generations of developmental stressors.

In short, the Bioarchaeology Reading Group had a great first meeting, with good discussions and well-made points. Keep an eye out for following sessions if you’re interested! While aimed at postgraduates, the session is also open for keen undergraduate students.


Gowland, R.L., 2015. Entangled lives: Implications of the developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis for bioarchaeology and the life course. American journal of physical anthropology, 158(4), pp.530-540.

Author: Emily Johnson is a Postgraduate Research Student in Archaeology at the University of Exeter. Interested in Emily and her research? Why not read her blog, or follow her on twitter!

Originally posted on Archaeology at Exeter.