hallamstudents
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A day in the life of a PhD student
By Alex Andrews



Tell us why you decided to study a PhD?

Before deciding to undertake my PhD, I spent a year completing a Masters by Research in cell biology at Manchester Met. This was a taster into what a PhD would be like, and it really gave me the bug for research. I really enjoyed working within the research environment and I was hoping to forge a career in either an academic or research field, so all in all, a PhD was the best career move I could make.

However, getting a PhD is very difficult and as with most things, highly competitive. The most sought after PhD's are those that are fully funded either by universities (scholarships) or research councils, as these cover all of your university fees and normally pay a bursary that acts as a tax free wage. These PhDs receive a high density of applications that usually result in a 2 stage interview process, considering only the top applicants.

I applied all over the country for around 20 PhD's and only got 2 interviews, so, do not be disheartened at the knockbacks you receive.

What did you expect from a PhD, and has it lived up to your expectations?

After undertaking my Masters by Research, I knew to what to expect from a PhD, but it does take a lot of people by surprise.

One area I think some people overlook is funding. To me, a PhD is a full time job and I would not have been able to find the hours to self-fund my study without exhaustion setting in.

There are multiple means of funding such as scholarships, the newly introduced UK PhD Loans and self-funding by completing the project part-time alongside another job. It's also worth noting that just because you receive funding, does not mean that you will be funded for the entire duration of your PhD. For example, officially my PhD is 4 years long but I have only received 3 years of funding from the university, so I can choose to either write up and complete within 3 years whilst I'm still receiving bursary payments or find another job and write up alongside working full time. However by securing funding, it has allowed me to concentrate solely on my research and science is now my day job.

Another area that most people overlook is how demoralising research can be. There may be times that you are struggling with your research but when things do actually work, there's nothing more rewarding!

How do you find your workload and how do you manage your time?

My workload varies from week to week and would say that no 2 weeks are really the same. I can also work any hours between 40 and 60 a week, including weekends. This is mainly because, my working week is dictated by the experiments I'm doing and plainly how long they take. So for example if your experiment needs data collecting every two hours for 12 hours, those are the times that you need to be in the lab. The rest of my working week then slots in and around my experiments, to you make the most of the time.

PhD research is also very self-driven. I have regular meetings with my supervisory team, who offer professional guidance, but ultimately I am responsible for my own working week and the results I produce.

What’s next for you?

This is the big question! What's next holds a lot of possibility but unfortunately not much certainty. I would love to stay in research but post-doctoral funding is even rarer than PhD funding, so for a lot of people, waiting for the dream post-doc to come along just isn't feasible once your PhD funding ends. Another option for me would be to leave academia all together and look for a job either in private research or just within scientific industry. PhD graduates are also becoming more and more attractive to general employers as we come from a degree that promotes a self-driven work ethic.

Finally do you have any advice for those who want to carry out a PhD?

My advice is go for it! After all the ups and downs of my PhD, if I had the choice I would definitely do it all again.

With regards to applying for PhD's, some advice I was given is to not concentrate solely on the subject of the project but also consider the lab skills it involves. This is because the lab work is what amounts to ~90% of your PhD and if you take up a project that has hours and hours of a technique you hate, you'll won't want to get out of bed in the morning.

My other piece of advice is to research the project. Tailor each application to the project you're applying for, have a specific academic CV and if you are lucky enough to be selected for interview, try to put across that you have some in-depth understanding of the project and the previous publications of the research group.

All in all, apply to as many PhD's as possible, tailor your applications, take rejection on the chin and consider the day to day lab work!
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HateOCR
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(Original post by hallamstudents)

A day in the life of a PhD student
By Alex Andrews



Tell us why you decided to study a PhD?

Before deciding to undertake my PhD, I spent a year completing a Masters by Research in cell biology at Manchester Met. This was a taster into what a PhD would be like, and it really gave me the bug for research. I really enjoyed working within the research environment and I was hoping to forge a career in either an academic or research field, so all in all, a PhD was the best career move I could make.

However, getting a PhD is very difficult and as with most things, highly competitive. The most sought after PhD's are those that are fully funded either by universities (scholarships) or research councils, as these cover all of your university fees and normally pay a bursary that acts as a tax free wage. These PhDs receive a high density of applications that usually result in a 2 stage interview process, considering only the top applicants.

I applied all over the country for around 20 PhD's and only got 2 interviews, so, do not be disheartened at the knockbacks you receive.

What did you expect from a PhD, and has it lived up to your expectations?

After undertaking my Masters by Research, I knew to what to expect from a PhD, but it does take a lot of people by surprise.

One area I think some people overlook is funding. To me, a PhD is a full time job and I would not have been able to find the hours to self-fund my study without exhaustion setting in.

There are multiple means of funding such as scholarships, the newly introduced UK PhD Loans and self-funding by completing the project part-time alongside another job. It's also worth noting that just because you receive funding, does not mean that you will be funded for the entire duration of your PhD. For example, officially my PhD is 4 years long but I have only received 3 years of funding from the university, so I can choose to either write up and complete within 3 years whilst I'm still receiving bursary payments or find another job and write up alongside working full time. However by securing funding, it has allowed me to concentrate solely on my research and science is now my day job.

Another area that most people overlook is how demoralising research can be. There may be times that you are struggling with your research but when things do actually work, there's nothing more rewarding!

How do you find your workload and how do you manage your time?

My workload varies from week to week and would say that no 2 weeks are really the same. I can also work any hours between 40 and 60 a week, including weekends. This is mainly because, my working week is dictated by the experiments I'm doing and plainly how long they take. So for example if your experiment needs data collecting every two hours for 12 hours, those are the times that you need to be in the lab. The rest of my working week then slots in and around my experiments, to you make the most of the time.

PhD research is also very self-driven. I have regular meetings with my supervisory team, who offer professional guidance, but ultimately I am responsible for my own working week and the results I produce.

What’s next for you?

This is the big question! What's next holds a lot of possibility but unfortunately not much certainty. I would love to stay in research but post-doctoral funding is even rarer than PhD funding, so for a lot of people, waiting for the dream post-doc to come along just isn't feasible once your PhD funding ends. Another option for me would be to leave academia all together and look for a job either in private research or just within scientific industry. PhD graduates are also becoming more and more attractive to general employers as we come from a degree that promotes a self-driven work ethic.

Finally do you have any advice for those who want to carry out a PhD?

My advice is go for it! After all the ups and downs of my PhD, if I had the choice I would definitely do it all again.

With regards to applying for PhD's, some advice I was given is to not concentrate solely on the subject of the project but also consider the lab skills it involves. This is because the lab work is what amounts to ~90% of your PhD and if you take up a project that has hours and hours of a technique you hate, you'll won't want to get out of bed in the morning.

My other piece of advice is to research the project. Tailor each application to the project you're applying for, have a specific academic CV and if you are lucky enough to be selected for interview, try to put across that you have some in-depth understanding of the project and the previous publications of the research group.

All in all, apply to as many PhD's as possible, tailor your applications, take rejection on the chin and consider the day to day lab work!
Thank you. I like your insight
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hallamstudents
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(Original post by HateOCR)
Thank you. I like your insight
That's great to hear! Let us know if you have any further questions and we can try to answer them for you
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