Let’s face it: doing a PhD isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. The process can be painful and annoying, and at some point you’re probably going to get completely stuck. If you’ve ever done any research, you definitely know what I’m talking about.
There’s something you need to do, usually some task that was supposed to be easy – a toy example, an almost standard code, a “quick” experiment to check your hypothesis. And here you are, spending long hours, days, weeks, even months, not even closer to solving your problem. You’ve tried everything, used all possible sources you could find, but this devil isn’t giving up.
Best part of doing a PhD? Conferences! When you finally manage to do some meaningful research, it’s time to present it to a wider audience. In other words, pack your suitcases and bon voyage! I know that attending conferences might be a bit overwhelming in the beginning, so here are a few tips to make the most of them.
- Find a good conference. If you’re as lucky as I am and have a great supervisor, she or he will suggest interesting events to you. Otherwise you’ll need to do the work yourself. However, at Imperial we’re flooded with e-mails advertising scientific events, there’s also Google and your colleagues who can give you some advice.
I’m sure that your English is fluent enough for you to study in the UK (if you aren’t confident, take a look at my post about studying in English). I’m also sure that you’re able to communicate with international students withouth any problems. But do you understand what locals, i.e. English people really mean? It took me a while (and a few awkward situations), so here are a few surprising things Brits say.
- How are you? You’ll hear this question dozens of times every day. In the beginning I thought: “wow, these Brits are so nice, they really care about me”.
It’s not a secret that grad school might be dangerous for mental health. In recent years people started to talk about it openly, numerous studies on this topic have been done (eg. on suicides or depression). The awareness of mental health is rising, which definitely makes it easier to get help when needed. However, this isn’t the full story.
A few years ago I started to consider a possiblity of pursuing a PhD. So I googled around – big mistake. Phrases such as “grad school mental health” returned thousands of websites suggesting that the coming years will be filled with pain and tears.
While for undergrads university means plenty of tests and homework, PhD students spend long hours marking their work. If you’re the one submitting solutions, these are ten ways to annoy the marker.
- Write your solutions in random places of the page. Don’t waste any space – make sure that this little gap in the middle of question 1 is filled with your answer to question 3.
- Use a pencil or, even better, a red pen. Don’t forget about correction fluid! Surely the instructions to write only in black or blue were just a joke.
- Provide a few answers to the same question, with a comment: “Choose the correct one”.
A PhD is hard. Plenty of people have blogged about mental health problems while doing a PhD e.g.
In some ways I have an advantage as in addition to my Asperger Syndrome diagnosis I have a long history of anxiety and depression going right back to my early teens so am already equipped for dealing with mental health difficulties. Here is what I have found:
You have your undergraduate degree, you’re about to finish your masters and you aren’t sure what to do next. Get a proper job or maybe become an eternal student and apply for a PhD? I opted for the latter and so far I don’t regret (ok, I do regret sometimes, but more about it later).
Doing a PhD is something between studying and working, which surprised me. I expected a similar experience to my previous degrees. I thought I would still study, just the subjects might get harder and more detailed. I was so wrong!
If you want to pursue a PhD in order to explore your area, then I’d discourage you from this decision.
Soon you’ll be studying in the UK, but English isn’t your native language. If it’s something you’re worried about, this article is for you.
First of all, if you’re able to read this text without major problems (and dictionaries), you should be fine. To study maths or engineering you don’t need tricky sentence constructions or sophisticated vocabulary. Communication is the key! As long as you can read a textbook and take notes during your lecture (not necessarily understand it, because the content might be the obstacle, not the language itself!), you shouldn’t struggle too much. It doesn’t mean you’re not encouraged to improve your language skills!
Firstly, a disclaimer. I am in no way trying to slander Imperial College London and the Physics department. They are being very supportive and understanding of my newly developed situation. This is more of a personal account of what’s been happening in life, because answering the question ‘Hey, you’ve not been around…what’s going on?’ gets tedious a hundred iterations in.
Around June, I had my last two exams of first year postponed to the September re-take period. I spent a healthy chunk of the summer revising and felt on track to do just well enough to be ready for second year.
You can find the official stuff on horizons here, but I’ll try to give an idea of the experience behind it. Either way, I’d recommend the course, as it’s a nice non-course-related thing to do with your life.
Background: as part of the Year in Europe part of my degree, I have to study the appropriate level of the appropriate language (as well as a special language course which I’ve mentioned elsewhere). For me, this was level 4 German, since I had studied it up to A-level. The course outline, assessment details and learning objectives for this particular course: bam.