Shaohua Hong (June 2011)

First of all, I would say good communication with my supervisor was the most important factor to contribute to passing the panel. I had been meeting with my main supervisor almost every week in the months before panel.   We tried our best to make the research plan logical, went through the contents in power point slides, considered all the potential questions the panel committee might ask and had a mock one week before the presentation. We met at his office on the panel day and went to the presentation room together. All this help from him made me feel more and more confident and comfortable to face the panel. I guess I am just so lucky to have suitable supervisors with right supervising styles for me, which is comforting and encouraging.

Secondly, when we got into the panel room, my supervisor introduced me to the committee and then the chairman introduced all the committee members. Physically, the room was not big and the tables were placed as a U-shape, which helped me feel more relaxed as I personally preferred to be questioned or interviewed in a relatively short distance with the interviewer. 15 minutes was given for the presentation, followed by another 20 minutes for questions. The whole process, to me, was to try my best to explain what I would like to do, why I planned to do in that way, any problems foreseen and how to solve them.  The most important thing to keep in mind should be to try to convince them the research plan is feasible, workable and manageable.

At last, I left the room and my supervisor had another 10 minutes discussion with the committee members, then we met again in his office. He commented my performance and mentioned some suggestions from the committee and then encouraged me to have a rest before restarting to consider their suggestions. In this phase, I would like to readdress the importance of communication with your supervisors, as I believed my supervisor had convinced the panel committee a lot about my research plan. Since he had a clear sense of what would be going on in my research, he could positively play a backup role in the whole process of panel presenting.

Even though the panel has been passed, it does not mean to me that I could immediately start my fieldwork. I spent another month reconsidering the points raised from the panel to modify my research plan while filling in the UREC form.  Doing this gave me a clearer sense of re-thinking on my research. In short, the entire experience seems like an annual check to discuss might be going wrong and recommend what should be paid more attention to, which I think is really encouraging rather than challenging.

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