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    Hi everyone

    So I have an interview on Thursday for a PhD studentship in a neuroscience related study. Needless to say, I am very keen to make a good impression, as the area of the PhD matches exactly what I hope to focus on throughout my career.

    My major concern is that I currently have no experience within a lab environment. It is an MRes/PhD, so I'm not sure if training would be provided. But would it be worth explaining this when asked about my weaknesses, and stating that I'm more than willing to self fund any relevant courses before beginning the studentship?

    Also, any other hints and tips for showing my passion without coming across in the wrong way?

    Tia!!
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    (Original post by cee.cee)
    Hi everyone

    So I have an interview on Thursday for a PhD studentship in a neuroscience related study. Needless to say, I am very keen to make a good impression, as the area of the PhD matches exactly what I hope to focus on throughout my career.

    My major concern is that I currently have no experience within a lab environment. It is an MRes/PhD, so I'm not sure if training would be provided. But would it be worth explaining this when asked about my weaknesses, and stating that I'm more than willing to self fund any relevant courses before beginning the studentship?

    Also, any other hints and tips for showing my passion without coming across in the wrong way?

    Tia!!
    No research experience (beyond undergraduate labs) isn't a major issue. Labs under an experienced PI will know this, and all new lab members typically get some form of training (safety, reagent locations, different equipment etc). People without any lab/research experience will receive more - possibly follow a senior PhD candidate or post-doc for 4-6 months in order to learn techniques as well as gain a deeper understanding of the research topic. Although the basics are usually identical, each lab generally has their own tweaks to known protocols in order to maximize yield/expenditure. For example, I've been in a lab where the protocol for one procedure has been extremely well optimized. In another research group, the same procedure consumes 10x as much reagent.

    I would suggest reading some recent publications from the lab, as well as others in a relevant area. It would provide some background knowledge of the research focus. What it also does is show an initiative and motivation to learn on your own, something I feel is key for anybody entering research.
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    (Original post by zombiejon)
    No research experience (beyond undergraduate labs) isn't a major issue. Labs under an experienced PI will know this, and all new lab members typically get some form of training (safety, reagent locations, different equipment etc). People without any lab/research experience will receive more - possibly follow a senior PhD candidate or post-doc for 4-6 months in order to learn techniques as well as gain a deeper understanding of the research topic. Although the basics are usually identical, each lab generally has their own tweaks to known protocols in order to maximize yield/expenditure. For example, I've been in a lab where the protocol for one procedure has been extremely well optimized. In another research group, the same procedure consumes 10x as much reagent.

    I would suggest reading some recent publications from the lab, as well as others in a relevant area. It would provide some background knowledge of the research focus. What it also does is show an initiative and motivation to learn on your own, something I feel is key for anybody entering research.
    Thanks zombiejon, the experience is the one thing that was causing me real concern, so knowing this isn't necessarily a bar takes a real weight off my shoulders! Would it be also be worth having at least a basic knowledge of the relevant processes and how they would be carried out, or would it be best focussing on the existing research and my own motivation?
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    (Original post by cee.cee)
    Thanks zombiejon, the experience is the one thing that was causing me real concern, so knowing this isn't necessarily a bar takes a real weight off my shoulders! Would it be also be worth having at least a basic knowledge of the relevant processes and how they would be carried out, or would it be best focussing on the existing research and my own motivation?
    I am of the opinion that knowledge of research and motivation are more important at your current stage. The basis of a PhD thesis is identifying a question, or a gap, in the literature. The next step would be to pose a question which would then fill this hole. As such, knowing the field is important. Most of the time, incoming students don't always have the necessary background, and spend a month or two catching up via reading papers all day. Having some knowledge of this area, and prepared questions shows commitment, motivation, and interest to a potential supervisor. Also, in the research world, Sod's law will kick you at every given opportunity, and this is where you have to have the motivation to continue, even if it means having extremely odd hours, coming in on the weekends, or sacrificing nights at the pub.

    You should be able to pick up on some processes and their general uses by reading papers. Considering your background, I do not think a supervisor would hold it against you for not knowing the details. However, if the group you are applying for uses a technique repeatedly that isn't mentioned in other papers, look into it. It could be something cutting edge.
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    If it's an Mres/PhD program then you will get research training as part of the program so don't worry about that and certainly don't say something about wanting to self-fund training courses. Most of these programs also come with funding for conferences and/or have internal opportunities for development.

    Good advice above about being motivated and interested in the project and doing your research about what methods are in use. Make sure you ask questions as well.

    Just a note about research experience, PhD programs are very competitive now and while not having research experience shouldn't be a problem/barrier in theory because after all you're doing the PhD to gain research skills, you may find that people with more research experience do get ranked higher in recruitment processes. This is because it's easier and quicker to train someone who has prior experiences and they're more likely to finish on time (which affects future funding). However, a lot depends on how the PI views PhD students i.e a pair of hands (so they'll want someone experienced and who will say yes to everything) or someone whose career they're investing in (someone they will invest time to train). So it's as important for you to get a feel for the lab and PI as it is for them to get a feel for who you are at interview.

    Either which way, prepare well and good luck!
 
 
 
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