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
  • No two PhDs are the same - So don't compare with others 
  • 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
  • Sign up to one of the Graduate School's Nature of the Doctorate, Nature of the Engineering Doctorate or online Understanding your Research Degree courses to explore the differences in more detail.

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
  • Work towards cutting loose as an independent researcher
  • Early simple ways include:
    • preparing for supervisor meetings with progress outlines, plans, checklists of items for review, sign off, approval AND outstanding questions or advice required
    • talking to presenters after seminars
    • and reaching out to academic authors online 
  • Look for leadership opportunities during PhD to demonstrate independence and in later stages cut loose from supervisor 
    • propose, contribute, convene, host, run events and student led initiatives 
    • pitch a new mini project idea to win funding via UNICAS Sandpits 
    • bridging postdoc awards – eg EPSRC Doctoral Prize 
    • 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) 
  • Attend relevant Graduate School Courses and CPD events 
  • Don't discount courses outside your discipline
  • Use Careers Service - and listen out for alumni or existing PGR insight events

Making the Most of Your PHD - Tip 4

Make the most of opportunities, CPD courses and events

  • Many previous PhD students wish they did this more whilst at University
  • Many freely available whilst 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 meeting attendance - insights into how Academia works 
  • Coding and programming, statistics training or peer communities 
  • 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
  • Travel awards and 'newbie' funding applications for Conference attendance

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 and analysis, presenting your original and novel contribution clearly
  • 'I have not failed I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work' (Thomas A. Edison) - Good science and robust research still secures a PhD