Introduction Day for new PhD students 2019 - 'Enhancing Well-Being'

Enhancing Well-Being

Supporting employee mental well-being in the workplace is, rightfully, a growing priority.

The 2019 edition of the Introduction Day features an innovative mix of science, practice, and interactive learning, for the purpose of improving young researchers’ well-being and productivity.


Research & Valorization

Programme 7 February 2019

9:00 Registration

Campus Aula,       Volderstraat, 9000 Gent


Prof Mieke Van
(vice-rector, UGent)

Welcome address

Dr Kate Jones (Vitae, UK)

Keynote lecture

The unspoken challenges of research life: researcher wellbeing and mental health

Recently there has been increased interest in the wellbeing and mental health of students in higher education, particularly of undergraduates. Less attention has been paid to the wellbeing and mental health of the postgraduate researcher (PGR) population and very little into how these issues affect early career researchers (ECRs) and research staff.

A 2017 literature review for the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust found that staff in higher education report higher stress levels and lower wellbeing than staff in other sectors. Are there specific challenges in research life that cause this stress? If so, who is most at risk of poor wellbeing and mental health and what can we do to reduce the risks? And how does this link to the work on career and professional development for researchers done by Vitae and its members?

10:55 Prof Katia Levecque (UGent)

Keynote lecture

How are you today?

In daily life, communication on the work floor is often initiated by “how are you?” or “ça va?”, but very seldom these questions have the intent of triggering a comprehensive and honest answer. Equally part of daily practice is to answer with a simple “I’m fine thanks”, a “ça va” or a description of what one is doing instead of one’s state of (well)being. This latter seems especially true for PhD students, who frequently describe their state of wellbeing in terms of the state of their PhD progress. But what if we were to get a comprehensive and honest answer?
12:00 Ms Sara Drieghe (Health and Safety Office, UGent) Well-being at Ghent University, an important policy theme

Ghent University wants to be a caring employer that creates a healthy, safe and pleasant workplace. Researchers must be given the opportunity to further develop themselves in a stimulating environment.

In our daily practice as confidential counsellors, we notice a that doctorate is not always an easy path to follow. This also became clear from the well-being survey that was conducted at Ghent University in May 2018. The results were discussed in focus groups and doctoral researchers offered suggestions for solutions. Action plans are being developed.
In the meantime, Ghent University is expanding its network of support so that, in addition to preventive actions, there is also room for care.

12:30 Mr Tom De Moor (UCT, UGent) Transferable skills @ UCT
12:45-13:45 Networking lunch  
14:00-17:00 Parallel workshops Various locations
Option 1

Dr Jeanne Boden (Cultural Quantum® | ChinaConduct®)

Feeling at home at UGent: looking from a cross-cultural perspective


People from all kinds of cultural backgrounds come to study at UGent. They come with expectations inspired by the cultures they have been raised in and were educated in. Internationalization is not only about attracting foreign students, it also means looking after them, connecting with them, and making sure their stay at UGent will be fruitful for themselves and for UGent. International students are the basis of international cooperation, but internationalization also implies responsibilities and opportunities for Belgian students and researchers. In building close relationships, they can plant the seeds for future international research and long-term sustainable cooperation.

International and intercultural cooperation demands awareness about working and communication styles, and management of mentorship, independent work, taking initiative, ownership, conflict management, time management and more. This workshop will raise cross-cultural awareness about academic culture at UGent as well as culture more general in Flanders/Belgium. It will add to wellbeing and to efficiency in research and cooperation.

Campus Aula, Academieraadzaal
Option 2

Dr Nele Bracke (Research Department UGent)

Start to discover your competencies During this workshop you will discover the competencies that you acquire during your PhD. You will use a competency profile designed for PhD researchers to identify and name your competencies. You will develop strategies to grow your competencies and you will get a clearer picture of your individual strengths.

Oude Infirmerie, Het Pand, Onderbergen 1

Option 3

Dr Kim Cao-Van (De Verdieping)

Stress-free living

You've learned so many things the past months / year(s), but presumably not how to properly deal with stress. It is however a basic skill that you can learn, and like any other skill, it's something you need to practice and keep practicing until you master it.

Although there exists of course a definition of stress, almost everybody has their own subjective feel and interpretation. Moreover, we all respond differently to what we perceive as stress. So if you want to deal with it, you need an individual approach, depending on who you are right now. That’s why a workshop around stress can never give you a foolproof answer.

So this workshop will offer some for everybody. A few slides on the history and biology of stress, the ingredients for stress and so on to quench the mental mind’s thirst. You’ll  also be offered some practical questions and quick win tips for the hands-on people. And there will be exercises on breathing, movement, awareness and emotion, so you can experience what is helpful for you and what is not.

In the end, you should have a clearer understanding of your stress, and what could be your first steps towards stress-free living.

Priorzaal, Het Pand, Onderbergen 1
Option 4

(UGent Dept. of Personnel and Organisation)

Dr Dieter De Bruyn (UGent Doctoral Schools Office)

Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail: what to expect from your supervisor?

The working relationship between supervisors and doctoral candidates plays a pivotal role in the timing and quality of the doctoral project and can influence the candidates’ well-being. Both the PhD candidate and the supervisor are responsible for establishing a productive working relationship. One of the key elements in developing a good relationship with your supervisor is how you communicate and discuss your expectations.

In this interactive workshop we will discuss what you can expect from your supervisor in terms of guidance, coaching and support with regard to managing the doctoral project. At the end of the workshop you will have a set of strategies and concrete tools at your disposal to discuss your expectations with your supervisor when you go back to work.

Zaal Dormitorium, Het Pand, Onderbergen 1
Option 5

Ms Els Deboutte (Make me Fly)


How to stay sane during your PhD According to a recent study of 2017, one in two PhD students experiences psychological distress; one in three is at risk of a common psychiatric disorder. This rate is significantly higher than in the rest of the higher educated population. So what can you do to remain healthy, happy and sane? During this interactive workshop you will discover when positive stress becomes negative stress, why it is important for your health and productivity to be aware of your stress signs, what you can do to keep negative stress under control, allowing you to fully enjoy the work you do and be productive without wearing yourself out in the long run. We’ll also let you explore some simple techniques to instantly relax. Campus Aula, Aula Ceremoniezaal
Option 6

Dr Elke Smeets (Better Minds at Work)

Putting the oxygen mask on yourself first


Where is your focus in times of stress and disappointment? On others? On solving problems or on yourself? The chances are high that your focus isn’t on yourself often enough. Recent research shows that maintaining your optimum oxygen level by developing a better relationship with yourself is essential to sustainable resilience. Elke will provide you with handy tools to improve your quality of life and handle your feelings of stress and insecurity differently. Zaal Jan Gillis, Het Pand, Onderbergen 1


Morning programme: Campus Aula, Voldersstraat 9, 9000 Gent

Afternoon programme: Campus Aula, Voldersstraat 9, 9000 Gent or Het Pand, Onderbergen 1, 9000 Gent depending on your choice of workshop

Doctoral Training Programme

PhD researchers who attend the morning session as well as a workshop in the afternoon can include the Introduction Day in the curriculum of their doctoral training programme.


To register please use this link:

PhD researchers can register for the full day or only for the morning programme. Full day attendance is required if you want to include the introduction day in the curriculum of your doctoral training programme.

Due to the limited capacity of the event, PhD researchers who register for the introduction day but fail to attend, will be charged a no show fee of €100 (except for valid reasons, e.g. illness with doctor's certificate).

Workshop of your choice fully booked or only interested in the morning session and networking lunch? Register here: