• Postgraduate Student Profiles - Science and Engineering

If you're wanting to find out what it's like to be a postgraduate student in science, maths or engineering subjects, then what better way to find out than seeing what some postgraduate students have to say? Below are some comments from TSR members who are either current postgraduate students or have recently finished their postgraduate studies.

If you're a postgrad student and have more to say then edit the page to add in your own experiences. If you've got more questions on postgraduate study, then visit the Postgraduate forum on TSR and ask the postgrad members who use that forum.

Username: Arkbar

Age: 22

Studying: MSc Transportation at Imperial

Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course?

Because I'm interested in further learning and study and wanted to learn more about a different area of study than from my undergrad

How did you choose the subject/course type/uni?

Talked to a previous lecturer I had to get information on the best courses once I'd decided what area I wanted to go in. Decided the area by reading papers and books in the relevant field and realising that it was something that I was interested in.

How are you funding the course? How easy was it to get this funding?

EPSRC Studentship, it was easy this year as my course had quite a bit of money to throw around, but the EPSRC have announced they're no longer funding masters level courses, booo!

How is being a postgraduate student different from being an undergraduate?

I now hate undergraduate students. More is expected of you in terms of workload and independent work, closer relationship with lecturers and smaller class sizes.

How are you managing with the work load?

Found it alright, probably greater volume but less difficulty than the final year of my undergraduate course. Funding allows me not to need another job, if I did then I'd find it a lot harder.

What challenges are there with being a postgraduate student?

Motivation is pretty tricky as your enjoyment for the subject will fade in and out. Also money, which pales massively by comparisons to what your friends earn and is thus a little dispiriting.

What's the best thing about being a postgraduate student?

You get to do what you actually enjoy, have a more independent attitude to studying and closer relationship with lecturers et al and conduct your own research. And you don't pay council tax.

What do you hope to do after you finish your course?

PhD-further research albeit in a different area of study.

Do you have any tips for someone considering postgraduate study?

Be really sure it's what you want to do, choose your course carefully and really look at your funding options, there are a lot of things hidden that you might be able to use to pay for your study.

Are there any other comments you wish to share about postgraduate study?

It's quite good. It's made me even grumpier than I was before.




Username: Chemistboy

Age: 28

Studied: PhD in Physical Chemistry

Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course?

I have long wanted to have a career in a scientific/technical field and a PhD seemed a natural extension of my education to achieve that goal.

How did you choose the subject/course type/uni?

I became interested in the field of surface science during a lecture course on the topic as an undergraduate. After deciding that I fancied a change of institution I contacted the surface scientists in my department to ask them for recommend good research groups in the rest of the UK. I then visited these research groups and made applications to the ones that offered interesting projects. I finally chose the actual institution based on my thoughts about the potential supervisor and project.

How are you funding the course? How easy was it to get this funding?

My PhD was funded by the EPSRC through their doctoral training scheme. Funding in my area of research is essentially guaranteed for all PhD entrants.

How is being a postgraduate student different from being an undergraduate?

In many, many ways. I think the key ones are the lack of externally imposed structure and the requirement to work more regular hours during the week (much more like a job). The first is an especially difficult change for science students who have generally come through highly structured degree programmes.

How are you managing with the work load?

I think I managed the work load well, the evidence being that I got my PhD! My research area involves intensive periods of experimental work followed by longer periods of data analysis which can be very slow at times. I learnt that during the intense periods it was important to remain focused on the task in had and to get as much done as possible. During the longer periods of data analysis it was obvious that one could only achieve something if you were in the right frame of mind - some times taking a day or even a week off would actually help you in solving the complex problems presented by the analysis by letting you take a fresh look at things upon your return.

What challenges are there with being a postgraduate student?

For science students the key one is learning to cope with the very much increased amount of independence - learning to manage your work yourself, take ownership of your research project and to stick up for your ideas when you believe they are correct and can back it up.

What's the best thing about being a postgraduate student?

Being in an environment with some extremely bright and talented people driven by the desire to intellectually challenge themselves. Being able to enjoy some of the benefits of being a student without having to go through the pain of written examinations.

What do you hope to do after you finish your course?

Well I've already finished so I'll give you a low-down on what I did after my viva. I spent about 20 months working as a research fellow in a physics department and now I'm working as a technical consultant in the energy sector.

Do you have any tips for someone considering postgraduate study?

Make sure you have made an active choice to continue studying, don't drift into it.



Username: MrShifty

Age: 30

Studying: Phd in Mathematics at the University of East Anglia.

Why did you choose to do a postgraduate course?

It's something I've always wanted to do. I enjoy my subject and want to be able to work with the material up close, rather than merely admire it from afar.

How did you choose the subject/course type/uni?

Originally I was going to go into a different field, but was smitten with representation theory after having done a course in it during my MSc. I chose UEA because I love the department here and the fact that my supervisor's area is virtually identical to my own preferences.

How are you funding the course? How easy was it to get this funding?

My fees are paid by an Isle of Man government postgraduate grant, and I receive a maintenance grant on top of that. Although Manx postgraduate funding is discretionary, the criteria for receiving it is very different in so much as it's not competitive and not based on an assessment of your research topic. The main requirement is to show that ordinarily you're a resident on the Island and have been for at least three years prior to the start of your course.

How is being a postgraduate student different from being an undergrauate?

There's more work, but it's a lot more interesting. Generally, it feels much more like learning than as a undergraduate, where things felt more like knowledge was something to be passively absorbed whilst being cajoled and coached through the course syllabus. Also, we get a special room to sit in (and the chance to work from home more often, which is my preference).

How are you managing with the work load?

It varies. I did recently feel myself starting to slip, though that was more due to having taken teaching assistantships in both semesters and having a heavy marking workload. Wont be doing that again.

What challenges are there with being a postgraduate student?

Keeping up with the reading, and getting over the initial fear and trepidation that everything you read must actually be a thousand times more difficult and complicated than it seems at the time and the irrational idea that when things do seem straighforward it must be because you don't understand them properly! Also, resisting the urge to go off on tangents and start reading up on every minor detail and related field that you're not familiar with.

What's the best thing about being a postgraduate student?

The flexibility and the feeling that you're actually working towards something and being judged on the merits of your own ability, rather than an ability to jump through hoops and play the exam game .

What do you hope to do after you finish your course?

Initially I wanted to go into academia. Lately I've been having some doubts about it, although I'd still like to at least try it out.

Do you have any tips for someone considering postgraduate study?

If you're going on to a PhD straight from an MA or MSc, seriously consider taking a January start date over one in October. At times I regret leaping straight into it only a few weeks after handing in my masters dissertation.

Also See

Got postgrad questions which aren't covered above? Then visit the Postgraduate Forum to get your answers.


Other articles:


Try Learn together, TSR's study area

35,701
revision notes

39,319
mindmaps

39,721
crosswords

15,206
quizzes

create
a study planner

thousands
of discussions


Poll
Do you think you'll achieve your predicted A Level grades?
Study resources

The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE