Will: Your blog is PhdTalk.blogspot.com. What made you decide to blog about your doctoral experiences?
Eva: I had been on and off with blogging in the past, and after a year into my PhD, I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned about getting on track with my work, and doing experiments in the lab. I started writing just for my mom and a few friends, who read my earlier blogs, but a few months in and the audience turned out to be a little bigger.
Will: What did you blog about first? How long did it take you to get comfortable with a direction for your blog?
Eva: I started writing about my Day Zero project (which never really took off), and I also wrote about my way of planning my days/weeks/months and working in the laboratory (my PhD was based on experiments).
Will: What do you like blogging about the most? Is there one post that surprised you by the amount of feedback it received?
Eva: I enjoy writing about a variety of topic (one of the reasons I ended up applying to become a writer at Lifehack.org ). I would say that I enjoy most of all writing posts that answer questions from my readers - kind of makes me feel that I’m “helping” somebody, rather than just writing about what has worked for me in the past.
One of my most popular posts is “How to write an abstract in 30 minutes” - and I never expected it to become so popular. I wrote it really quick after writing an abstract myself, using my tried-and-trusted method, and I think it has helped a lot of people. I never put much thought into that post, but it grew big.
Will: Do you have a schedule for blogging, or do you write when the mood strikes?
Eva: I used to write a couple of posts ahead on Saturdays, and sometimes as well throughout the week as I had inspiration. During my PhD, I had a pretty good schedule to get my work and hobbies balanced. Unfortunately, starting my new job as a professor and moving countries shook things up a bit (I’m still not fully settled into my new place, so it will take a little more time). Nowadays, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my posting schedule (I air posts 3 times a week). I don’t have the big buffer of posts that I used to have, but at least I try to write for the week ahead over the weekend.
Will: What made you start writing for other blogs other than your own?
Eva: It started by people asking me on Twitter if I wanted to share some of my experience on their blog (Peoplegogy was -I think- the first place where I wrote as a guest blogger), and after a while I started sending pitches to other blogs as well whenever I had an idea I thought would fit better on their page than on mine.
Will: After graduating you took to Twitter to ask about the direction of your blog. What has the transition been like from blogging about your PhD journey to now as an academic?
Eva: It evolved very naturally - I've had more posts about teaching, and making the transition from PhD student to assistant professor on the tenure track, which are the things that are going on in my academic life at the moment. I've also been crowd-sourcing ideas on Twitter with regard to teaching, academic workloads, and balancing teaching and research, which lead to Storify stories that I used for blog posts.
Will: What haven’t you blogged about that you want to? Where do you see your blog going in the future?
Eva: I have a whole lot more ideas than time to write, so there are quite a number of things that are left to be written. More than just writing, I want to experiment with different styles of posts. I've done an interview time ago, and would like to do more interviews, vlogs, webinars and the like. I’d like my blog to become a go-to resource for doctoral students and early career researchers, so -if ever I find the time- I’d love to write an e-book and share some worksheets with my readers.
About the author: Dr. Eva Lantsoght is a structural engineer specialized in structural concrete bridges and working as an assistant professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and researcher at Delft University of Technology. Originally from Lier, Belgium, she received an Engineering Degree from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, MS from Georgia Tech and PhD from Delft University of Technology. At her blog PhD Talk, she blogs about her research, the non-scientific skills you need in academia and living abroad (currently in Ecuador).