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Over de start van de Digitale PhD Groepen

De eerste Digital PhD Groups startten eind maart 2020. Ja, dat klopt, middenin de Corona lockdown. Ik verwachtte dat er veel promovendi zouden zijn die vanuit huis moesten werken, voor het overgrote deel van de tijd opgesloten in huis, fysiek gescheiden van collega’s, vrienden en familie. Deze eerste groepen waren specifiek gericht op promovendi die het lastig vonden om te focussen op hun onderzoek in deze bizarre tijden. Samen met de input van deze groepen, heb ik een programma opgezet van 6 sessies.

Wat is het idee?

Je wordt onderdeel van een kleine groep promovendi. We hebben 5 wekelijkse digitale sessies, om je plannen voor aankomende week op te stellen en je resultaten van afgelopen week te bespreken. Het doel is om energie te laten krijgen van de meetings, en om je gemotiveerd te laten voelen. Daarnaast behandelen we iedere week een ander onderwerp.

Welke onderwerpen worden er behandeld?

  • How to set realistic goals
  • How to focus
  • How to be motivated and how to deal with frustration
  • How to plan
  • Work-life harmony

Hoe ik werk en wat je kan verwachten

Ik geloof dat wanneer je een promovendus bent, of een afstudeerstudent, je al veel hebt bereikt in je leven. Daarom geef ik je veel eigen verantwoordelijkheid in het proces. Ik zal eerlijk zijn tegen jou, en jij kan eerlijk zijn tegen mij. Daarnaast sta ik altijd open voor structurele feedback. Omdat ik zelf ben gepromoveerd, kan ik me goed inleven in jouw proces en gevoelens.

In het geval van de Digital PhD Groups, verwacht ik dat je je verantwoordelijkheid neemt met betrekking tot het voorbereiden van een sessie, en een actieve houding. Dat is de manier waarop je het meeste uit de groep haalt!

Is de Digital PhD Group iets voor mij?

De Digital PhD Group is iets voor jou als je:

  • Je soms aan het worstelen bent met hoe je kan focussen, je niet precies weet hoe je kan starten, of je je af en toe verloren voelt binnen het proces
  • Je het gevoel hebt dat je extra begeleiding zou kunnen gebruiken
  • Je open staat voor nieuwe inzichten en je ze graag zou willen uitproberen
  • Je graag andere promovendi leert kennen van over heel de wereld
  • Je bereid bent om je eigen ervaringen te delen
  • Je ervan houdt om van anderen te leren

Wanneer kan ik mij beter niet inschrijven?

  • Als alles heel goed gaat en je niet het gevoel hebt dat je extra begeleiding nodig hebt
  • Als je er niet voor open staat om je eigen gedachtes en ervaringen met je groepsgenoten te delen
  • Als je anderen veroordeelt en/of vergelijkt
  • Als je niet wil werken aan je aandachtspunten gedurende de week
  • Als je graag je onderzoek inhoudelijk wil bespreken (als dat het geval is: fantastisch! Check daarvoor mijn individuele academische begeleiding)


For several weeks, Tonke provided us with excellent guidance, support, and encouragement through a weekly scheduled digital PhD group. Each session was organized and provided a safe space for each member to discuss how they were feeling, what their progress was on last week's goals, and what they would like to accomplish for the week. The moderator planned for specific topics, providing resources to facilitate each discussion. Tonke was an excellent facilitator and leader of this group, ensuring that each member could share their thoughts, and did a wonderful job of motivating us to remain positive, productive, and to keep improving our work-life balance. I mostly enjoyed being held accountable by peers and being able to talk about issues we face as PhD students, especially during a difficult time like a pandemic. The most valuable takeaway was the fresh perspective I gained on writing, planning, motivation, and self-care from PhD students abroad! My favorite session was the planning topic - we were able to share our screens and share different methods for short and long-term planning, some of which I am incorporating into my own time management practice!

Lietsel Richardson - University of Central Florida, USAMechanical Engineering

The PhD Group was a real life-saver - not only because there was/is a corona lockdown in Germany, but also because it took effort to adapt to a new home-office situation. The weekly meetings helped me to take time for my own projects (in and outside of work), set goals for the week and even reflect on the long term perspective. I valued most that it wasn’t about our actual Phd topics, but rather how we bring harmony to our daily life. Everyone of us shared our successes, failures and goals without being ashamed and I felt supported by my group. I loved to see that although we were all from different countries and disciplines, we could all relate to the others' feelings. Tonke is a great group mentor, she makes sure each and everyone gets to talk, responds to individual situations and struggles and doesn’t only share her experiences on finishing a PhD, but also blends into the group, letting (conversational) hierarchies disappear by never loosing them out of sight. PhD groups on Monday were a good start into the new week!

Constanze Küchler - Universität Augsburg, GermanyMedia, Knowledge, and Communication

I would recommend these sessions to any PhD students who are looking for a bit of support in their PhD journey but also who are willing to share and learn from others on a similar path. Tonke is very welcoming and friendly so you feel at easy quickly.

Emily Thomas - University of London, UKPsychophysics and Neuroimaging

It was so lovely to connect with other academics, who were at different stages in their programmes, who could share their advice and experience. Our sessions were well planned and well researched, and you did a great job at chairing them so that everyone got to talk. It was so helpful to set aside a time each week where I could think properly about how I work, how I can be more productive and how I can maintain that essential work/life balance. You shared so many good tips and tricks and I have enjoyed implementing them! Finally, you’re approachable, kind, friendly and always so happy!

Harriet Earle-Brown - University of Exeter, UKGeography

The Digital PhD Group was a really nice way to connect with other PhDs from all over the world and talk about topics that we could use some extra help with such as time management, planning and motivation.
The fact that Tonke asked us what we wanted to discuss each week ensured that we discussed topics that were relevant to us. The size of the group and the way she moderated the conversation helped create a safe space where everybody shared openly about their progress and goals.

Deborah Sumter - Delft University of Technology, the NetherlandsIndustrial Design Engineering

As a PhD Group we had a wonderful support participating at Tonke’s PhD Digital Group. She was professional, conscientious and hard working preparing each week different topics that empowered a dynamic process towards our PhD focus. The Group was scientific content free and that was the secret of its success, as it has given us important tools how to cooperate with things that really matter, such as time management, motivation, focus, balance work-life etc.

We really appreciate Doctor Tonke and her commitment to our focus.

I trust her and therefore I highly recommend her!

Melina Laina - GreeceApplied linguistics

Participating in the Digital PhD Group was a very valuable experience for me. On the one hand, it provided a unique platform to discuss struggles and challenges regarding the PhD process with peers from different disciplines. On the other hand, it helped me to formulate short and long-term goals and to reflect on them throughout the weeks. Overall, it provided me with valuable insights on where I stand in my PhD and how to stay motivated and focused. Tonke facilitated this experience brilliantly.

Karlijn Hoyer - Tilburg University, the NetherlandsSocial Psychology

I really found the techniques useful and it indeed worked for me. Setting up self-care and short term goals helped me to better plan my activities. Now, I feel it's up to me to stick to that routine.

Tonke is a really sweet person. She ensured that everyone had there ideas or opinions heard, and provided useful tips to make our life a little better during the tough times stuck at home. She made the environment really comfortable to share our thoughts and overall the meetings were a very pleasant experience for me. I would definitely recommend her course for anyone who wants to plan their research better or just to sit and have a nice talk with PhDs from other countries.

Nandalal Girichandran - Delft University of Technology, the NetherlandsLarge Scale Energy Storage

I got to know a lot of traits that will be very useful during the time of my PhD journey. Some of them include planning well in advance, how to do effective planning, how to focus without distraction, how to be strong mentally and motivated during this long journey at times of failure etc. Most of the suggestions were spot on when actually reflected upon a time later. I hope you organize these kinds of events many more in the future that will help many PhD's struggling all around the world.

Vikram Korede - Delft University of Technology, the NetherlandsProcess & Energy


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