Author Topic: Any PhDs out there?  (Read 2237 times)

Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #25 on: 01 June, 2019, 11:10:49 pm »
Some PhD observations (I have one and have supervised and examined them for the last 25 years):

* The nature of a PhD experience varies hugely be discipline, by university and by supervisor, so I'd be wary of too many generalisations (including those I make below).

* Your relationship with your supervisor(s) will shape your experience massively. Are you wanting someone who handholds, who commands what you should do, or lets you get on with things? If there's an opportunity I'd encourage you to make contact with potential supervisors and talk with them directly.

* In my experience of supervising mature students doing PhDs, the commonest risks are (a) a lack of self-confidence in things academic can sometimes be paralysing and lead to kind of writer's block. Keeping an honest relationship with your supervisor and being able to express your fears when you have them can help considerably. They are there to help you. (b) other aspects of life can get in the way of PhD study, and if the qualification isn't central for your career, there is a greater temptation to let the PhD drift.

* Skills that really help in a Phd: (a) Academic curiosity - having a genuine thirst to find stuff out will get you through the low points and make the overall experience an enjoyable one; (b) organisation and drive to complete things. This often pulls in the opposite direction to (a). It's quite rare to have both these skills, but awareness that you need elements of both can help; (c) ability to synthesise. You are likely to read massive amounts of research literature, especially in the social sciences and humanities. It is impossible to hold all this knowledge in your head and make use of it unless you can bring ideas together, compare them, evaluate them, contrast them and organise them. This is ultimately what a PhD thesis will need to demonstrate.

* When applying for a PhD think about how you can demonstrate those skills, or at least show you have a willingness to develop them. Most PhD applications have a 'research proposal' section where there is an opportunity to do this.

* A PhD can feel very isolating. Try to get out to conferences, to build a network of other researchers, including other PhD students. Get your work seen and published as soon as you can - there's no reason why this can't start to happen in your first year. Feedback from peers is valuable, both in shaping your own ideas, and developing your academic self confidence.

* Enjoy it! It will be a significant milestone in your life.

Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #26 on: 02 June, 2019, 09:24:14 pm »
Thank you everyone for your replies. Lots to think about but fit this PhD I've left it too late to get everything together by the deadline. As said with mature students finding life has taken over and the deadline loomed without anything being done on it. Tbh I think I didn't feel I stood a chance and it wasn't really right for me. It was interesting though.

I'm thinking I will take this PhD advert and prepare the necessary parts of an application together ready for another PhD that might come up. Things like transcripts of my two degrees are needed, they will take time to get since I never needed them before. If I look to write something based on my masters dissertation specially for PhD applications since this application asked for something I've written.

I guess getting prepared makes sense. The cv is one difficulty. I really don't know what kind of cv style is best to sell yourself for a PhD, especially when you're a long time out of an academic setting.

Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #27 on: 03 June, 2019, 04:52:57 pm »
For a mature student returning to academia, a skills-based format would probably work well. If I were recruiting a PhD student I'd expect most serious candidates to get in touch beforehand for a discussion, even if that's only some questions over email.


  • SR x 3 - PBP fail but 1090 km - hey - not too bad
Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #28 on: 03 June, 2019, 05:00:54 pm »
Yeah, the only problem with that is that I get about 200 speculative PhD applications a month (mostly from India or Africa - they seem to just scatter bomb to every academic in the UK - at least that's my suspicion) - I read almost none of them.  I even got one guy asking me to help fill out his application form and cover letter. Hmm, if you can't do that on your own....

Look at who you want to work for and go through the proper application process as the University requires would be my advice.  Certainly though, you'd want to be getting into personal contact at some point during the application process.

Might be a different scenario in humanities of course.

That's a shame you seem to have let it slide for now - interesting project and a hot topic in chemistry currently.

It's a reverse Elvis thing.

Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #29 on: 03 June, 2019, 08:50:22 pm »
Yeah, quite possibly that's more of a humanities thing - in fact for many studentships the ads will say something like 'for informal enquiries contact xxx'. I did a 1+3 Masters+PhD; I was switching disciplines and coming in a couple of years after my undergrad, so I made a speculative phone call to the potential supervisor to ask about whether I'd be suitable and to find out a bit more about the project. I got invited to see the department and meet some of the staff, and ended up in the pub chatting; the fact that I was a real ale drinker was clearly a point in my favour for my supervisor...

Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #30 on: 03 June, 2019, 08:56:27 pm »
Unless you have ambitions as a quantitative analyst or something and do a maths Ph.D, it's not generally going to make you more employable outside academia.
And Darkness and Decay and the Coronavirus held illimitable dominion over all.

Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #31 on: 03 June, 2019, 11:30:29 pm »
It's not about the employability but a change in direction. Following a redundancy I got into a career rut and it's less of a risk to me to do a PhD. Money isn't an issue. If 3 years on o end I needing another year to write up the PhD I'll get a job or teach it something. Even if I live off savings a bit too it's a lower risk than sticking where I am. Plus if I get a research associate position after it and on to academic job all the better. I am not thinking it'll get me a job outside of academia. Even degrees alone don't get that.

This advert have contact emails for both supervisors but day contact one of them. I'm too late for this PhD though but I've learnt a lot lately and plan to get organised for the next great opportunity. Although I'm also looking at jobs too.

This topic seemed a hot area to me. The novel aspect was that this research group is looking at developing the plastics but also looking at the other aspects relating to use, demand and life of the plastic. If you like what is needed and how is going to be used and disposed of. It's the business side of things. I suspect there's a lot of research into developing biodegradable plastics that degrade more quickly but less on the other aspects of using it or the business models behind the plastics. Less chance of you getting beaten to the punch in publishing your research.

As I said before, a friend got a very good career out of falling into climate change research when there was a big drive to research it in many ways. If you get in early on hot topics there's a chance of a good academic career while he gravy train runs. Not sure what he's doing now though I suspect because he was more into developing his own research teams than actually doing it himself I think he's still in a good job. If you bring in million pound research funding you're not going to get sacked soon.

So degree transcripts need to be obtained from both universities I studied at. Write something up that shows what I can write up like / develop ideas, etc. Cv improved with more emphasis on what could sell me for another PhD. Basically get ready for future applications.


  • SR x 3 - PBP fail but 1090 km - hey - not too bad
Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #32 on: 04 June, 2019, 09:59:28 am »
I would contact the research leaders anyway, reading what was said after me about humanities, perhaps the spam level is not so high as we get with applications.

If a supervisor likes you, they will find away to fund you  - if you can fund yourself, then well, hey - why *wouldn't* they take you.  I would be very much interested in a student who has said what you have.
It's a reverse Elvis thing.

Re: Any PhDs out there?
« Reply #33 on: 04 June, 2019, 01:36:42 pm »
I could only fund one extra year not a full 4 years (AIUI most PhDs take 4 years). Wish I could though. I'm one big lottery win from a PhD spot!