November 29, 2017, by Agata

Thinking about a PhD?

A week ago I had an opportunity to participate as one of the panellists at a careers event ‘Thinking about a PhD?’. That event gave us a fantastic chance to share our thoughts with students considering PhD as a future career step and talk with them about our experience regarding PhD student life!

In this post, I would like to briefly summarize what conclusions we came up with that afternoon as I believe not everyone heard or had a chance to participate in the event and maybe still interested in pursuing PhD in the future!

Together with three other PhD students from various STEM disciplines, we discussed some aspects such as:

– why did we decide to do a PhD?

The reasons behind making that decision are always very individual and personalized. From very first childhood dreams through interest toward science born during high school, meeting right supervisor for PhD whilst being at University to just thinking about an academic career in the future. However, the decision on taking PhD is not simple and easy and probably is being questioned multiple times in our head not only before but even during our PhD studies!

– what it’s like on a day to day basis?

On daily basis PhD does not sound that exciting, usually, it consists mainly of work on (often repeatedly) experiments, many optimisations until the really exciting result comes into our hands. Apart from spending time in the lab, we have meetings with our supervisors, collaborators, we attend lab meetings and seminars. Occasionally we travel to conferences (within the country and abroad) to present our research projects.

– what are our challenges?

PhD has many challenges. Some of them are very common across PhD students while some are very individual. Definitely challenging is keeping the constant motivation to research and improve your work. Self-motivation is a very important as our supervisor’s role is advising and guidance, they are not our bosses who pay us for work.

– what are positives sides of doing a PhD?

Apart from the fact that our PhD is meant to push current knowledge, discoveries and technology forward it also provides us with a set of skills that may be very valuable in a future career. Time-management, communication, self-motivation are definitely these skills that doing PhD teaches the most.

– what is our funding and how the application process looked like?

PhD funding may be very very different. There are individual PhD positions available straight from supervisor grants or there are programs such Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) or Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) that offer money for students who then choose the laboratory they want to do their PhD in. Funding may also depend on the citizenship of the student.

Application usually consists of several steps, which usually starts from the online application (CV, cover letter, references and uploading documents of obtained degrees), and finish with the Skype or personal interview.

As you can see, the panel covered the most important and frequent questions students usually ask before they decide to do apply for a PhD!

Do you think such Q&A would help you in making a decision on taking PhD? What would be your further questions?


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