wyann LT
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With a phd do you join a project that a PI has introduced or do I have to make up my own project to convince my PI to help me carry out?
If the former is true what is the point of doing a research proposal if I am just going to be joining an existing project?
If the latter is true would my research proposal be the project that I am trying to convince my PI to help me carry out?
Are all projects provided by the PI funded and if I was writing my own research proposal (project) would it be harder to secure funding?
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axxxxxa
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Both options are possible. I've applied for several PhDs whereby the PI has a set project and I still had to write a research proposal for it and another PhD where I had to come up with a project idea from scratch (but of course the PI should help and guide you with it). Bear in mind that most of the time, PhD students don't always conduct the research project 100% as written in the beginning. Often, there will be changes throughout your PhD depending on the current needs of research.

Funding is another matter. It is always a good idea to ask your intended PI if they have funding to cover the project or if you have to source your own. Most PIs will be impressed that you would consider funding at the beginning. How easy or difficult it is to fund your research depends on your field. From what I see, research funders will likely fund research that have potential to develop or is useful for the future (e.g. AI is a booming field now).

A PhD is quite subjective and there's a lot of stuff "behind the scenes" that you have to consider. PIs will vary greatly with some being very hands off while others will monitor everything you do. Some give you the freedom to choose and design your project while others are less lenient. One thing that helped me was speaking to current/ past students from the PIs lab to get an idea of the lab experience because, truthfully, you will never really know until you are actually working in the lab. Unless you can secure an internship beforehand or something then that's a good opportunity to see what the lab and PI is like.

P/S i'm still rather new to this thing and still learning about the PhD "journey" – the above is just my observations so far
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axxxxxa
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Oh and I forgot to mention, PhD studentships are usually funded but at Home (UK) tuition fees + stipend. In this case, the research project should be fully covered/ funded as well. International students will need to find extra funding to fund the difference in costs. There are also programmes where you do a "rotation year" where you get the chance to try out different labs etc. before choosing one lab and a PI at the end of the first year. Some of these programmes are called "Doctoral Training Programmes" and are usually funded by the UKRI. I've mostly seen this for the sciences so I'm not too sure about other fields.
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mike23mike
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(Original post by wyann LT)
With a phd do you join a project that a PI has introduced or do I have to make up my own project to convince my PI to help me carry out?
If the former is true what is the point of doing a research proposal if I am just going to be joining an existing project?
If the latter is true would my research proposal be the project that I am trying to convince my PI to help me carry out?
Are all projects provided by the PI funded and if I was writing my own research proposal (project) would it be harder to secure funding?
There are two ways of entering a PhD programme.
1. Self-funded route - if you are paying for your studies then you can pick a topic that interests you and you will need to submit a comprehensive research proposal. The privoso is that your topic must align to the interests of one or two potential PhD supervisors in the department you are applying to. Taking a chemistry example. If you are keen to carry out research in heterolytic chemistry then you need to ensure that the unis you apply to have professors who also have an interest in the topic. You would then join their research team.

2. Partial or fully-funded route. Some professors are able to secure research grants for research into a particular area so are seeking the best qualified students to come and work for them. Your first degree will matter but effectively you have little say in the research area because the topic has been pre-selected. The funding body is seeking research to be carried out in a particular field and the Professor is being paid to find a researcher to carry out the donkey work.

A friend of mine had studied chemistry at uni and wanted to do a PhD but could only get a funded PhD position to research into cheese. Kraft foods had given a grant to the professor and wanted some research done on cheese so my friend had no choice but to do the research in the area that had been stipulated in the grant proposal. She did not mind because the area was interesting to her and she landed a job with Kraft foods after her PhD.
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