February 10, 2014, by Guest blogger

Love studying outside of the lab

Katherine Haywood explains how life outside the lab can help your studies and research.

When most people think of a Chemistry PhD they probably think of hours on end in the lab, stuck to your bench, churning out reaction after reaction, and this might turn some undergraduates off continuing a subject they enjoy. Although this can be true in some cases, here at Nottingham there are lots of opportunities outside of the lab which make studying a PhD much more varied and enjoyable, which I was pleasantly surprised by when I started my course, and is a reason why I love it.

I decided to take a PhD because I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate course, and wanted to continue studying a subject I love. Although I enjoy the practical aspect of my course, it’s great to have the chance to take part in other activities around the School, to get out of the lab and make the most of my time here. PhD students are encouraged to study extra, non-examined, modules to add more to our studies and give us extra skills and experience. I recently enrolled on a module which allows me to take part in a variety of outreach activities with children or the general public – it’s great for anyone wanting a non-research career, such as teaching or science communication, or just for students like me wanting to experience something new that they might enjoy.

My PhD has also given me the chance to visit new places and meet people from other research groups and in industry. A lot of people cringe at the word ‘networking’, but it’s vital for starting your career, and luckily a Chemistry PhD gives you plenty of chances to do it. I’ve already been to two conferences, where I had a great time, and I’ll be going to another this year. Not only do these allow you to network and see interesting research in your field, but they allow you to visit cities which you wouldn’t normally see otherwise. In November last year I was able to visit the BASF headquarters in Germany, which was daunting at first but turned out to be an amazing experience. I got to see how the biggest chemical company in the world functioned and meet some great chemists from the UK and Germany. I’ve also been able to learn a lot about the chemical industry, partly because my PhD is completely funded by an external company. This means I can get valuable industrial experience doing lab work there, and learn what a career in the chemical industry might involve.

Hopefully, this post has shown how a PhD can be so much more than just lab work – and how choosing to continue studying a subject you love can open up a world of opportunities!

Read more from other students, academics and employers on the Study What You Love pages.

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