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PhD Archaeology Student/Tutor at The Brilliant Club: Inspire Me

UCL Careers7 July 2015

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Vana Orfanou, Brilliant Club tutor and PhD student in Archaeology, talks to us about how she got this role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the academic sector. Vana Orfanou

How did you get into your role?

I am a PhD Archaeology student at my writing up stage and I also work as a Tutor in collaboration with The Brilliant Club. I first found out about this charity organisation through an email circulated by UCL calling PhD students to participate in a teaching programme focussing on non-selective state London schools and, then on, by visiting The Brilliant Club’s very well organised website.

The idea of conducting university-style tutorials to underprivileged pupils, and promoting their research and essay writing skills which would in turn raise their aspirations and increase their chances of getting accepted in one of the top UK universities seemed quite appealing from the beginning. What is more, teaching with The Brilliant Club provided me with the exciting opportunity of designing and delivering a course on a topic immediately relevant to my research focus.

What are the best things about working in your role?

The best thing about working with the Brilliant Club is the interaction with the pupils itself. Only too often I am struck by students’ perceptions and interpretations, while interaction with each group of pupils is a unique experience. The high-standard content taught also provides a challenging ground for some amazing discussions to take place. Watching the students producing their own, well-structured and justified arguments is probably one of the most rewarding moments. As I said to my students in my last placement, ‘my Brilliant Club day was the best of my week’.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

Amongst the biggest challenges of being a Brilliant Club Tutor is communicating to pupils complex ideas by making them approachable at the same time. Keeping expectations high could prove a challenge as usually students have already enough on their plate.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

In becoming a Brilliant Club Tutor it is important that emphasis is put on teaching and creating knowledge rather than on merely presenting it. Excellent organisation and communication skills, and a drive to create opportunities for school students will definitely help!

To talk to a Careers Consultant for further information on applying for a PhD, visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers

Brilliant Club tutor/PhD student in Experimental Psychology : Inspire Me

UCL Careers27 May 2015

As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Lucia Weinber, Brilliant Club tutor and PhD student in Experimental Psychology, talks to us about how she got this role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the academic sector. MagisWeinberg

How did you get into your role?

I am a Brilliant Club tutor and a first year PhD student at the Experimental Psychology Department. I found out about the Brilliant Club via an email of the UCL Graduate School. The relevance and suitability of the Brilliant Club as a part-time position specially tailored for PhD students motivated me to learn more, which I did through their website. I sent my application and was invited to the assessment centre to do a mini-lesson. I have just finished my first placement working with KS4 students, an enriching and exhilarating experience.

What are the best things about working in your role?

My PhD revolves around understanding teenage brain development. However, I deal with this in a laboratory setting. Having first-hand experience with adolescents in a real life setting has positively informed my research questions and procedures. I aim to do research that has applications beyond theoretical inquiries, and I believe this experience has helped me to better orient my research.

Working with students is stimulating and very fun! These interactions can be incredibly rewarding. Also, going into schools can be a welcomed break and change of setting once in a while. The programme is specially designed for PhD students and provides a flexible schedule and much of the work can be done from home or from the lab (i.e. planning the tutorials or marking). The Brilliant club is a meaningful way of engaging with the public and spreading the word about your research.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

I had little experience as a teacher for young students before starting. Designing my course and materials, specially tailored for a 15 year old audience, was a big challenge. Delivering lessons and making sure students understood and followed along was sometimes tricky. Extra work on top of a time-consuming PhD is also a challenge, and you need to develop time managing skills. Fortunately, the Brilliant Club really supports and trains the tutors, and they are always willing to help.

What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?

In academia, most of us will find ourselves in front of a classroom at some point or other. I think the PhD is a perfect time to start developing teaching skills and didactic strategies. Don’t underestimate the challenge of teaching. There is widespread belief that being a research student automatically gives you the ability to talk about your research or teach. Even if we have been students for very long, there is a lot to learn in order to become an effective teacher. It is a good idea to explore teaching assistant roles to work with undergraduate students. Structured programmes such as the Brilliant Club provide a very useful scaffold to go beyond university students and reach different audiences.

To talk to a Careers Consultant for further information on applying for a PhD, visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/careers