Thursday, 4 May 2017

Making the Most of your PHD - Tip 1

Re-adjust and reset your perspective and mindset ASAP

  • PHD is a whole different ball game to UG or PGT study 
  • Apprenticeship in 'Scientific Thinking' - a transferable skill set
  • Unstructured days to be structured by you 
  • No exams, modules, worked examples, set learning pieces, grades or known answers 
  • Feedback supplied differently - via supervisor relationships, confirmation and end of year reviews and peer review
  • Don’t compare your PHD to others

Making the Most of Your PHD - Tip 2

Prepare to lead and lead to prepare 


  • prepare to lead your own research-enterprise from the start - take control
  • don’t depend too much on your supervisors
  • and work towards cutting loose as an independent researcher
  • early simple ways include:
    1. preparing for supervisor meetings with progress outlines, plans, checklists of items for review, sign off, approval AND outstanding questions or advice required
    2. talking to presenters after seminars
    3. and reaching out to academic authors online 
  • look for leadership opportunities during PHD to demonstrate independence and in later stages cut loose from supervisor 
    1. propose, contribute, convene, host, run events and student led initiatives 
    2. pitch a new mini project idea to win funding via UNICAS Sandpits 
    3. bridging postdoc awards – eg EPSRC Doctoral Prize 
    4. spin out your research idea or extend research reach and impact -your research may ultimately have greater impact outside your field

Making the Most of Your PHD - Tip 3

Be a reflective and strategic practitioner regarding your own development, training and career

  • Conduct your own Training Needs Analysis, identify gaps
  • Think about your career as early as possible and as you go along
  • Work out what you do or don't like doing - try to keep an open mind you may be surprised
  • Hatch a plan and build capacity alongside PHD 
  • Be guided by the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) 
  • Graduate School Courses and CPD events 
  • Courses outside discipline
  • Use Careers Service - and listen out for alumni or existing PGR insight events

Making the Most of Your PHD - Tip 4

Many previous PHD students wish they did this more

  • Many freely available at University
  • or at reduced rate when 'still a student'
  • Make sure you are aware of what’s available to you
  • Faculty PGR training programme 
  • Graduate School courses, Professional Body CPD
  • Competitions/awards, short-term paid placements 
  • Shadowing and attending meetings 
  • Coding and programming 
  • Monitor Engineering and Science Graduate Centre events
  • Gain teaching experience - via teaching new or existing courses on the PGR Engineering Training Programme; Applying for demonstrator/tutor roles; Follow Associate Teaching Pathway for accreditation
  • Professional bodies - join and subscribe to take advantage of student member rates

Making the Most of Your PHD - Tip 5

Project Manage your PHD 

  • helps you manage research project and time effectively
  • goals, planning, sequencing activity, structure for your working day, deadline charting, milestone marking
  • sought after employer skill
  • gives you a level of control and sense of direction
  • helps you monitor progress and keep motivated
  • can ensure you don’t burn yourself out too soon

Making the Most of Your PHD - Tip 6

Deal with Deadlines 

  • Don’t let them slide  
  • Set your own and make them known! 
  • Crack down on thesis submission deadlines and timescales 
  • Don’t leave writing to last 6 months 
  • Lots of formatting, referencing, story crafting and editing to be done in final stages 
  • Check availability of supervisors and factor this in to any deadlines you set 
  • Work out how you work best – with pressure or with time to spare?

Making the Most of Your PHD - Tip 7

Park perfectionism and develop a thick skin

  • Allow for failure without feeling like one 
  • Half-baked ideas, editing and changing plans are all part of the process 
  • From big fish to just a fish – imposter syndrome common 
  • Ok to make mistakes – avoid repeating though 
  • Ok to ask for help 
  • Expect a plan B, C and D and critical, constructive feedback 
  • Recall perfectionism when needed i.e quality of argument, methodology, critical thinking, research ethics and integrity, data management