November 22, 2019, by Jackie Thompson
There’s More to a PhD than Studying
By Rowland Seymour, PhD Mathematical Sciences
I chose to do a PhD because I enjoy doing research, but I didn’t realise the other skills I would develop along the way. Doing a PhD has helped me become a better public speaker, be more creative in my thinking and most of all, be more confident about my research.
Choose your supervisor wisely
When starting out on your PhD, a good question to ask yourself is what kind of supervisor you want. I wanted a good mix between theory and application and I tried to find supervisors whose work spanned both areas. When looking at potential supervisors, take a look at their published work. It may seem daunting, but it can help give you a flavour of the work you’ll be doing.
Be in charge of your research
One of the best things about doing a PhD is that you can decide where you want to take your research. Try and keep an open mind at the start of your PhD because you don’t know where you’ll end up. Your supervisors are there to help, and I always talk to my supervisors about ideas I’ve had and the next steps I’m taking with my research. This has helped me learn how to manage a project and improve my decision-making skills.
Get out of the office
The University offers lots of opportunities to develop your skills outside of research. Taking these opportunities can be really enjoyable and help you develop your CV at the same time. Demonstrating on undergraduate courses is a lot of fun, and not only does it look good on your CV, but it also earns you some extra money. The Graduate School runs a code club where you can get advice on your code problems as well as give advice to other researchers. Taking part in the club has helped me to become more creative in my problem solving, as I have to help researchers in disciplines very different from mine.
Find researchers in other areas
One of the most enjoyable projects I’ve done is to get involved with the University’s Research Priority Areas. These are ways of bringing researchers from across the University together to work on new and exciting projects. I was able to work with researchers from the Business School and School of Computer Science developing new methods for analysing data from developing countries. This has been incredibly rewarding and has really helped me develop research skills for my career.
Try and think ahead
I always think of where I want to be in a year’s time and what I need to do to get there. After my PhD, I want to carry on in academia, so I’m now focusing on making the most of my PhD research by writing papers and developing my research into postdoctoral projects. The University’s Careers and Employability Service has been incredibly helpful for this, from running courses on applying for jobs in academia to giving me one-to-one sessions on how to improve my CV, personal statements and grant writing skills.
If you’re considering a PhD, find out whether this is the right option for you, how to apply and funding options. If you’re already studying for a PhD, check out our PhD website for information, advice and videos on your career options whether you are thinking about continuing in academia or exploring careers outside academia.