September 24, 2021, by Joseph Walters

Reflections on My Postgraduate Placement

By Joseph George Walters, PhD Engineering Surveying and Space Geodesy

Following my successful search, I have come to the end of my six-month postgraduate placement. In this blog, I reflect on the career implications of the placement and whether the experience met my expectations.

Engagement with industry

The project was instigated by MEMRAP, the campaign group for the railway reinstatement of the Peaks and Dales Line in the Peak District National Park. My role was to model the potential carbon emissions savings from modal shift to the proposed railway. MEMRAP’s members come from a range of backgrounds and businesses in the transport and rail sector. Engaging with MEMRAP, local councils, and industries affected by the plans was exactly the kind of opportunity I was looking for in a placement. I learnt how to engage with these stakeholders and get the most useful outputs from them. This required me to be specific and concise in my requests and communications.

Experience of real-world data

This placement provided plenty of opportunities to explore and discover various open data sources and types. These included government data and archives, maps, transportation statistics, and academic and industry studies specific to the problems I faced. I also discovered how secretive different industries can be about their data and their reluctance to share it.

Flexible working

Although the project was flexible it took longer than expected. This resulted in a heavy workload towards the end. With projects like these it can be difficult to draw the line. I have learnt that to keep on track with a project good planning and an understanding of the limitations are needed. I am now more aware of how to effectively manage and complete projects like these.

Links with PhD

This project had strong links with my background in civil and environmental engineering and with my PhD in future rural transport. This meant that I felt comfortable with the data and content of the project. However, I remained challenged by the task of modelling and learning about how the industry works. This helped to highlight my strengths but also the areas in which I could improve in the future.

Learn something new

At the very least I wanted to learn something new during this placement and this blog mentions a range of things. I learnt things at different levels from subject matter about railways to management skills and communication.

Having completed this project, I now feel more confident about a greater range of employment options. I am more assured in my knowledge, skills, and capabilities to seek employment opportunities after my PhD. I also have a substantial piece of work to reflect on and add to my portfolio. If there is an opportunity to complete a placement during your studies, I would highly recommend taking it.


Are you a PhD student thinking of applying for a postgraduate placement? Take a look at Researcher Academy Placements. If you are coming to the end of your studies, you can find out more about employment options and opportunities by booking a one-to-one appointment with our advisers.

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