Tell us a bit about yourself – what was your PhD about and where did you study?
I have a PhD in Digital Media – specialisation in Technology. I studied in the University of Porto (Portugal), having the Interactive Technologies Institute (ITI/LARSyS) in Madeira Island (Portugal) as my host institution. This doctoral degree was held in partnership with the UT Austin | Portugal program. My PhD research revolved around how to enhance the museum’s experiences for teenagers (15-19) through gamification and storytelling frameworks. I involved 382 teenagers, 3 museums and 12 curators in different parts of this research. The contributions of this doctoral thesis can be summarized as: (i) one framework to co-design mobile museum experiences and enable teen participation; (ii) twenty-four requirements to design mobile museum experiences for teenagers; (iii) two mobile apps – story-based and game-based*; (iv) six classifications of teenagers’ behavioural dynamics in museums; and (v) twenty guidelines for the design and deployment of game-based and story- based strategies in museums targeted at teenagers.
*The mobile apps were developed in collaboration with the team “Sense&Tell” from ITI/LARSyS.
What do you do now? What did you decide to do next after gaining your PhD?
I am pursuing my academic career as a Postdoc in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) in an EU project. At the same time, I am aiming to teach in universities subjects related to User-centered design, Interactive media design, Interaction design methods, History and trends of digital media, Interactive narratives, Communication and multimedia, Research methods.
Has having a PhD helped in developing your career? If yes, what has been the biggest impact? If no, why do you think that is?
I am not sure if I can answer this right now as I have my degree since May, and we are in July! 🙂 But for sure it will have an impact in my academic career, as is the one I want to pursue and you do not do it without a PhD.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer prospective students considering a PhD?
Enjoy your research topic! – I think this is the most valuable advice any PhD student should follow. The worst thing that could happen is for you to support someone’s research ideas and not yours… If you are not passionate about what you are doing, probably this journey could be harder than expected.
And what one thing would you suggest that new PhD students should consider doing?
Be active! – If you are waiting around for someone to tell you what to do, you are doing it wrong. So wrong. Note that, however, it is very likely you actually will START by having someone telling you what to do.
Manage your supervisor! – Still, as you progress in your research life you should listen to what your supervisors tell you but take it as just as advice. They have a role in advising you and not to own you as their employee. You will be an expert in your field, not them. And they (should) know this! I see the relationship between grad students and their supervisors as a marriage with ups and downs. There will be a moment where you both could not agree… In the worst of the unfortunate cases, you should get a divorce! But I believe communication would work in most of the cases.
Own your own research! – Over time, as you become more familiar with research methods and what was done in the past, you need to take more leadership and control of your work. As a consequence, you have to own your own research. And you have to do what it takes to get it done.
Have an “admin day”! – schedule a time to take care of those minor tasks. Every time you remember another activity you are supposed to do, write it down in a specific to-do list. When the scheduled “admin day” comes, you can go over your list efficiently without getting in the way of other work.
Find a PhD buddy! – Find a PhD buddy to bitch about PhD stuff. Let those negative feelings out!! You shouldn’t keep them inside. Share them with somebody that understands your position as a PhD candidate!
Don’t forget about yourself! – I had and have weekly slots for fitness, weekly slots for friends and monthly slots for beauty” 😀 I add all these to my calendar. It’s very important to have other activities than a PhD, otherwise you will lose your sanity earlier! Haha. 😜
Lastly, what’s your favourite memory from your time as a PhD student?
I travelled A LOT for presenting my papers at conferences (13 travels!). Every conference was an adventure.
Thanks Vanessa! How can our readers learn more about you and get in touch?
My instagram has helpful tips for PhD students: #DRvanessaTIPS#DRvanessaQUOTES
Also, my personal website has all my info regarding academic publications and background: www.vanessacesario.com