Salman Arif

August 22, 2023, by Leah Sharpe

Why a PhD Was Right for Me

By Salman Arif, Optimisation Scientist

A PhD is the highest level of academic qualification in the UK and it involves three to four years of original research on a specific topic. There are lots of reasons why you may be considering a PhD and you’ll need to carefully consider how it could help you achieve your ambitions.

Read on to hear why, Salman decided a PhD was the right step for them. 

Why did you choose to undertake a PhD?

I had heard incredible stories of the great scientists and philosophers from my civilisation who laid the foundation of modern science, arts and cultures that thrived with time in the Middle Ages, and later flourished under western civilisation in modern history. My passion, validated by my religion which encourages the discovery of the secrets of the universe, found its way to mathematically model things of daily life, starting from the shape of a mug or motion of a pendulum to the complex physics of electromagnetic waves and trajectory. I developed a strong grit and a plan at the age of 13 years old to get my PhD finished between 25-28 years.

How did you find the transition from a master’s to a PhD?

Since my school-level education, I worked hard to get into the top engineering university in my country on a scholarship and I succeeded. My friends and family motivated me to publish papers during my bachelor’s degree. I started preparing to study abroad in the second year of my bachelor’s and therefore kept working on getting a good GPA in parallel. I spent my second and third-year summer holidays publishing international conference papers as a main author and was honoured as the youngest researcher in my university during my bachelor’s. I graduated with the Vice Chancellor’s Medal for achieving second highest CGPA and, with a medal of excellence for my research and for winning a fully funded Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship for a PhD at the University of Nottingham, without doing a master’s.

What have you gained from your studies?

I believe I have the potential to do anything in the world. I know the language which the universe speaks and deals in, that is mathematics, which lays the foundation of all modern science and technology. Also, doing a PhD during Covid-19 helped me to renew and strengthen my patience, grit, and consistency to achieve goals since I started my journey at the age of 13 years. 

How has the PhD contributed towards your career goals?

My PhD has equipped me with the tools and skills to find modern solutions to modern problems. For the first time in history, I worked on the daily occurring air traffic problem of Track Shortening and proposed a mathematical model for automation, which estimated annual savings of US$ 29-32 million. I started working as a full-time Teaching Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire right after one month of completing my PhD, due to the consistent and quality guidance of the Careers team.

I engaged with the Careers team after my PhD thesis submission and applied to different universities for teaching and research positions, but I was only able to get shortlisted in interviews after passing my PhD viva. Throughout this whole process, their team helped me to learn how to analyse job advertisements and refine my application documents accordingly. Early and effective job hunting led me to officially work in a full-time job in one month after my PhD completion, which wouldn’t have been possible without their professional help.

Any advice for current students considering undertaking a PhD?

I advise you to get into part-time teaching modules in UoN during your second or third year of your PhD, even if you are on scholarship. This adds to your CV as UK work experience, accepted throughout the world, and will help you to enter the academic job market which is the most difficult and an exhaustive step. Once through, you can easily transition through various academic jobs. Alternatively, try engaging in relevant industrial projects during PhD to get jobs outside academia. The Careers team will guide you through!

If you’re considering taking a PhD, take a look at our dedicated webpages to investigate whether or not it is the right option for you and check out the careers support available to you if you undertake your PhD at Nottingham

Posted in Further studyPhD Students