We aim to create an inspirational, supportive and stimulating research environment for our doctoral students.
Our Supervisor of the Year Awards recognise academics who have a pioneering approach to supervision, facilitate the presentation and dissemination of research, offer constructive employment and career advice, or provide effective and timely support, helping students successfully achieve their goals.
This year we were incredibly proud to receive 28 nominations from our postgraduate researchers and selected award winners across our Faculties - Science and Health, Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences, and an overall winner. Each nomination was reviewed by a selection panel including our Dean of Postgraduate Research and Education alongside our Deputy Deans of Postgraduate Research and Education for the Faculties of Arts and Humanities, Social Science, and Science and Health, and Deputy Dean for Postgraduate Research Training.
The academic year 2019-20 brought more challenges than could have been anticipated, with supervisors developing new ways to support and enhance their students' research and learning opportunities. During such challenging times, we feel it is more important than ever to recognise and celebrate the incredible work that is undertaken on a daily basis.
We are proud to announce Professor Paul Hibbard, of the Department of Psychology, as the 2020 Research Supervisor of the Year. Professor Hibbard has received independently written nominations from postgraduate researchers he supervises, with Deputy Deans unanimously agreeing his appointment. Professor Hibbard will now be put forward as the Universities nomination for the Times Higher Education award.
These enthusiastic, detailed, and convincing statements indicate his consistent going “the extra mile”, thinking hard and proactively about supervision, and committing passionately to support of postgraduate researchers. Over a number of years, five successfully completed and three ongoing PhD supervisions, he has consistently gone over and above the expected to create and maintain the most enabling research and education environments and facilitate best career prospects for his supervisees and all PGR community.
His commitment to the support of early career researchers is accompanied by an aspiration to broaden the opportunities for students from underprivileged backgrounds and an interest in continuous development of researcher supervision—an attitude that bespeaks the best practice in the sector.
"I was quite shocked [to learn I had won Supervisor of the Year], then proud that my students had clearly put together such a convincing case for support. This should stand them in good stead for their job and funding applications. Particularly at this time, when we are rushing between zoom meetings and re-planning everything, it was a good reminder that the core of the academic job is to support the academic and professional development of our students.
"I have been so lucky with the students I have been able to work with here, all of them reflecting true Essex spirit in their own unique ways. It’s been great to watch them following their own ideas, and their pride in achievements such as conference presentations and publications. It has also been wonderful seeing them working and collaborating together without needing their supervisors to take the lead, and in turn mentoring and educating undergraduate and postgraduate students. Their own achievements, and the strong network they have built across postdoctoral and postgraduate colleagues, has served them very well right now. I am proud of their resilience, creativity and overall positivity.
"The small islands of supervisory time provide a real haven from the hustle and bustle of office life, a chance to reengage with research, and also to catch up on their achievements."
"My advice to students would be to make the most of all the opportunities to learn from one another and all your colleagues, and to develop your research skills as much as possible. But of course to also think about what comes next – learn from the successes and failures of your established colleagues so that you can take control of your future."
The winner of the Supervisor of the Year for the Faculty of Science and Health has been noted for going ‘above and beyond’ in terms of the supervision provided.
Some examples are of support provided in obtaining grants, encouragement to give guest presentations at other institutions, and providing emotional support and encouragement to continue when students felt they had no option but to leave their studies.
The winner of the Supervisor of the Year for the Faculty of Science and Health….for the second time is ….Dr Marie Juanchich.
“[Upon hearing I had won this award] I thought that my PD students, past and present are absolutely wonderful. I am so grateful that they took the time to complete yet another form when they are already so busy! I feel lucky to have the most amazing research community and I cannot wait to celebrate this with them in person!
"I think PGR students are doing an incredible job in tough conditions. Even in ‘normal times’, being a research student is a very tough job, where students experience intense pressure without knowing exactly what the rules of the game are. Academia is a bit of a maze where PhD students are thrown in blindfolded. They then have three years to find the exit while rushing through a great number of hurdles and obstacles… and all this with no clear job prospects! Deciding to become a PGR student means having an incredible motivation and passion, being driven and deeply committed to research. I respect and admire this commitment very much
"In the last few weeks, the situation of PGR students has worsened, with job and budget freezes, and I deeply hope the university steps up its game to provide PGR students with the opportunities and support they need. I am not talking about charity here, investing in our students is a win-win situation – as I have learnt it - PGR students give back whatever you give them tenfold.
"I love working with students, I appreciate their passion and their fresh perspectives. I actually still feel like a student myself, as we are in the business of creating new knowledge as researchers.”
“I hope that students find the support they need – in their supervisor, in their colleagues, and in their community.”
Many congratulations to Annecy Lax on winning Supervisor of the Year in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. This is a very valuable achievement, particularly because it is awarded on the basis of what students think about their supervisors and their impact on them and their work. Annecy’s students spoke very strongly of her continued support and encouragement, which was inspiring and how she went well beyond what would normally be expected.
“Winning the award was a wonderful recognition of the important and urgent work that I am undertaking with my pioneering PhD students, and humbling to be in such illustrious company, following so many exceptional supervisors who have previously won this award. I know that there are research supervisors in Essex who are much more gifted and sure-footed than I am, but I also appreciate this acknowledgement of the partnerships that I work in with postgraduate students who are pushing forwards the boundaries of the discipline, of creative practice and who are also redefining the form of research excellence. I don’t supervise any of these students alone, and therefore the work of insightful and inspiring colleagues has also immeasurably improved their PhD journeys.
“The postgraduate community has experienced such difficult and testing times this past year, many of whom heroically continue to work on their research through uncertainty, caring responsibilities and around frontline and community work. I have been infinitely impressed by the ability of our postgraduate researchers to find creative solutions, to pick up new research questions, and to support each other. Though this has been a dark and challenging period, I have had the privilege to witness a hundred acts of generosity and fortitude amongst the PGR community that demonstrates that our postgraduates make important contributions to the life of the University of Essex beyond the richness of their research. Our PGR students are an inspiration to me as they continue to walk forward with clear intent and purpose, and it gives me hope that they are the group that will enable a phase of renewal.
“Being a supervisor is both a serious responsibility and a truly joyful relationship. To be allowed to be in a world of ideas and emerging languages with someone else is an incredibly special place to spend time. As the research journey progresses the student becomes the expert and that increase of ownership demonstrates that they have been the right person to lead on this topic, in this area, all along… Being a successful postgraduate researcher is not just about generating results or text, it is also about nurturing and developing a whole range of interlocking skills and defining your values."
"I want to emphasise that research needs unique voices as much as it needs unique ideas and though excellent research is founded on the best evidence, it is the distinctive perspective of the researcher that lights the picture. Your voice matters in the making of your research."
The supervisor of the year for Social Sciences is Professor Peter Patrick from Language and Linguistics. His dedication to student and early career researchers’ supervision is attested by the enthusiastic statements of his supervisees. He has shown exceptional interest in helping students’ research, mentoring and fostering their international networks, and supporting them both personally and professionally through their PhD journey. His numerous PhD students have become successful researchers and scholars all over the world.
"I was a bit shocked at first to hear I’d won this award. There are so many colleagues doing really good work! And probably too little recognition.
"On the other hand, I’ve known for the last few years I am working with a superb group of PhD students, and we all know when you are part of an excellent team, it’s easy to do your best work. I’ve had the great pleasure of teaching together with them, too, for the last couple years, and it’s been one of the great experiences of my work life. Siham, Carmen and Amanda are not just insightful and hardworking researchers and teachers – they are intellectually generous, passionate, possessed of great character, and take joy in their work, and our work together.
"I'm so glad I’ve been able to help, and I continue to enjoy it as they speed to the end of this first phase of their really promising careers."
“After nearly 30 years of teaching and research, and in a moment of tremendous difficulty for us all – and especially for budding academics and student teachers, who truly deserve all the support we can offer right now – it gives me great hope for the future. Thanks, everyone.”