I’ve a few friends who are currently trying to find a PhD, and hearing about their efforts to find a good project for themselves, it reminded me of my own search. I’m in the final year of my project, and whilst I’m enjoying it, there are a few things that I wish I had thought about or known to make a good decision about finding a PhD, and even a few things that I would’ve done differently had I the chance. So, if for no other reason than to get me to write something on this blog, here’s a few tips I divulge to you, dear readers, about how to decide if you want to do a PhD, and how to find one that you’re going to love doing (or at least tolerate).
Monthly Archives: January 2011
Hello, and welcome to the science blog “Coffee & Cake, Pizza & Beer”. To best answer what this is all about, it might be a good idea for me to introduce myself.
I’m Richard, and I’m a final year Biology PhD Student at the University of York. PhD’s are funny beasts – when asked by friends what a PhD is, I’m often a bit stuck as to how best to define it – I’ve often said something fairly dull, like “it’s a three year research project”, or something wide-eyed like “it’s like an apprenticeship to become an actual scientist!”, like it means something to real people. Truth is, as much of a massive cliché it is to say, you don’t know what a PhD’s like until you’re in one. And even now, it’s hard to put into words what you do as PhD student.
It’s not a real job (though you are underpaid and overworked). It’s not a university degree course (though you are still the bane of most university lecturers’ working days, after undergraduates). It’s neither a training programme (you’re not formally taught anything) nor work experience (though you will be making a lot of tea and coffee). It’s certainly not the be-all-and-end-all, but it certainly is all-consuming.
It is a lot of hard work, but it is a lot of fun. It is tedious, but also possibly the most stimulating thing you might do for a few years. You’ll be working with some of the most foolish people in the world, and some of its best minds. It’s frustrating, and rewarding. It’s probably a little bit better than working in a bank. Maybe it is a big waste of time, though you do get to write a big ol’ book at the end of it (—nah, that’s still a waste of time). All I know is that I love what I do, and I genuinely can’t imagine myself doing anything else that I’d enjoy more.
But we’ve all got to have our outlets – we can’t be in the lab the whole time, can we? – so I thought I’d put a little bit of my spare time into writing this here blog, and why not? As to what this blog will cover, it’ll probably be a whole range of things – I’ve been advised to just write, so here I am. I don’t intend on making this my space to whine and moan about my project – I did plenty of that as a moaning and whiney teenager over on livejournal, thanks very much, though I guess that was less science-related and more i-don’t-know-who-I-am-anymore-and-why-won’t-that-girl-like-me-my-comfortable-life-is-so-unfair-waaaaah-related. I guess it’ll be whatever comes into my head. Maybe it’ll be a little insight into what it’s like to be a young scientist. Maybe it’ll be my slant on current affairs in science. Maybe I’ll get other people to write something occasionally. Maybe it’ll be a bagful of nuggets of advice for anyone thinking of doing a PhD. Maybe it’ll be a page full of rubbish my friends and colleagues and I chat about. Maybe it’ll be all things… much like a Ph— nah it’ll probably be a waste of time.
As for the name? Coffee & Cake, Pizza & Beer? It’ll mean something to science PhD students worldwide. It’s our fuel. Science-fuel.