Instituto Superior Técnico

Observatório de Boas Práticas do IST

Técnico PhD Student Club

29 de novembro, 2023

Boa Prática Reconhecida | Impacto Societal | 2023

Filipe Pereira Santos, Marta Almeida Bordonhos, Manuel Relvas Sardinha, 
José Patuleia Venâncio e Pedro Gomes Outeiro



Implementação da Prática

The PhD Student Club[1] was created in 2020/2021 with the aim of maximising PhD students’ and PhD graduates’ potential by establishing a communication platform across all Doctoral Programs, Departments and Research Units at Técnico Lisboa (IST), thus building a strong community, and making it easier to collaborate and actively engage in research, pedagogical and social activities. Since then, the Club and its activities have been continuously increasing in members and attendance.

We have an online communication platform on Discord, open for all PhD students, that also serves as the main communication channel between members of the Club. We have also set up the Club on social media (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn) to have a wider means of engagement with our PhD community.

When invited by other entities of IST, we have participated in several activities. Among them, we highlight the participation in the organisation of activities for the PhD Open Days and assisting NAPE with mentoring and welcoming of PhD students. We have also participated on the debate regarding the restructuring of the 3rd cycles at IST, and helped develop/promote workshops organised by the IST Library or the TT Office. We stress that we do not intend to be identified as the organisers of these events, but rather clarify that our intent and focus has always been on how our perspective as PhD students could contribute to the existing solutions and the development of the 3rd cycle degrees at IST.

We have also promoted several internal debates to identify key areas inside IST with potential for improvement, from the perspective of current and future PhD students. From the outcomes, we highlight the elaboration of two documents, a proposal sent to the Pedagogical and Scientific Councils of IST in 2021, entitled “Teaching Assistant (TA) position call: a proposal”, and a document entitled “Teaching Assistant Frequently Asked Questions”, directed at PhD students but made available to the entire IST community.


Resultados Alcançados

We have participated in the organisation and organised several activities that promote the development of professional, social and personal skills of PhD students:

  • With Técnico Career Center (TT@Técnico) and NAPE: Organisation of the 1st and 2nd Editions of the “PhD Alumni Talks”, in which PhD students had the opportunity to share experiences, questions and doubts, and get to know prospective career paths;
  • Organisation of the round table event “Meet-up with your future” in the 2022 Edition of the “PhD Open Days” at IST, in which PhD students get to be face-to-face with companies interested in hiring PhD holders;
  • With IST Library: Organisation of the 1st (June 2021) and 2nd (July 2022) Editions of the “Scientific Writing” courses, which delved into several important topics on the production of scientific texts, namely the writing and publishing stages, the framework of a scientific essay, the use of English as a “scientific language”, and important aspects of abstract elaboration;
  • With NDA: Assisted in the organisation of courses focused on communication skills (“Communication in Public”, July 2021, and “Communication Skills for PhD Students”, June 2022) and mental health (“Is emotional intelligence relevant for PhD students? How?”, April 2022). The former was centred on how to prepare and make public presentations and deal with anxiety. In the course directed towards PhD students (June 2022), the preparation of posters and the Thesis defence were also showcased. One-on-one meetings were offered to PhD students regarding these skills. In the latter, the focus was on being in touch with one’s emotions and understanding how to deal with these experiences, especially during the PhD and in relation to co-workers;
  • With Prof. Thiago Sobral (FEUP): Organisation of a workshop on data visualisation (DV) “Introduction to Data Visualisation for Researchers: Topics from theory and practice”, September 2022. This workshop focused on the importance of DV, its theoretical background, and specific tools and tips for its use;
  • We have also organised several social events, namely: the “PhD After Hours” regular event in partnership with local pubs, in which attendants get together after work to socialise. For the past 6 months these regular social events have been growing in attendance, from on average 10 to on average 40 people. Special themed events include: PhD Open Days, karaoke, board games, quiz night. We have also organised sports events, namely, bike trips, padel tournaments, football, and bouldering, with 10-20 participants. Other events include a picnic, beach day, Christmas dinners, and a barbecue at IST that was our biggest event, with 200-400 participants.

Avaliação e Monitorização

The PhD Student Club currently has 22 members that have an active participation in the Club. The members are divided into four Workgroups, oriented towards different aspects of the life of a PhD student:

  • Institutional Affairs & BackOffice;
  • Job Market;
  • Social Networking;
  • Research Training.

Each Workgroup holds weekly meetings to manage each group’s specific needs and workload. Additionally, these meetings allow the Workgroups to discuss and plan on-going and future tasks, events and goals. Each Workgroup is led by a Coordinator and the Coordinators of all Workgroups meet once every two weeks to discuss and manage the happenings within the Club. The individual Workgroup meetings and the Coordination meetings promote the open discussion and cross-communication between all Members of the Club allowing us to move forward efficiently in a well-organised structure.

In addition to these meetings, we hold Plenary meetings every semester, open to everyone, where each Workgroup presents their work, matters pertaining to the Club are discussed and, if needed, voted on, and new members are welcomed.

Our open communication platform on Discord allows us to quickly chat with each other, keep in touch with what each Workgroup is working on and engage with our community.

In addition to this, in the spirit of introspection and self-improvement, we have recently participated in a day-long Think-Tank workshop led by the energizer Zezo Carvalho[1]. The workshop brought together our Club’s Coordinators and some of our most active members (totaling 10 participants) to whom Zezo provided valuable insights into brand culture, narrative and image, presenting examples and creative tools for our Club to define our purpose and PhD ground within IST. In addition to a series of recreational activities, in which childhood memories and personal visions were connected to the definition of our Club’s purpose, the workshop also featured an in-depth SWOT analysis and a 2023 agenda with the elaboration of strategic files (e.g., identity of our Club, history/memory, internal restructuring).

With these two different approaches – a more general, day-to-day for the former and more specific event for the latter – we continue to strive towards growth and improvement to achieve our goals.


Carácter Inovador e Transferibilidade

Our Club was created because there was a lack of a place where PhD students from all the different research units and departments at Técnico could come together to share their thoughts, doubts and experiences. Since creating the club, we have been able to connect fellow PhD students from different PhD Programmes, that likely would have otherwise never met, participated and/or organised events to foster professional, social, and interpersonal skills, and promoted the discussion of the role of a PhD student at Técnico. In particular, the several social events we have organised, that foster the social and physical wellbeing of our PhD community, represent a practice previously unheard of in Técnico’s PhD community.

At this point in time, over two years after the beginning of our club, we believe that we have made a very positive contribution to the PhD community both inside and outside Técnico.

The way we have established and organised our Club, with four Workgroups focused on tackling different relevant aspects of the life of a PhD student at IST, the establishment of our open communication platform and social media presence, and the steps we have taken towards improvement and growth can be seen as guidelines for other groups, in the same way as we may take examples from other groups to continue growing.

PhD students can be seen as the basis of the pyramid on which research and development at Técnico is set. As such, the sharing of knowledge, know-how and experiences amongst PhD students makes it possible to find synergies between different research groups at Técnico and outside, and can contribute to the establishment and development of new scientific collaborations. Similarly, the PhD students responsible for this submission believe that equally positive results could be achieved if the exchange of knowledge and development areas were to be promoted between other Researchers and Professors associated with Técnico.



Subscrever Feed de Notícias