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What do i need to do a phd

Learning 10 things you need to know before starting a PhD degree So you want to do a PhD degree, huh? Here we've got everything you need to know about getting started.

Are you sure about that? I have recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a PhD in Plant Sciences after four difficult, but enjoyable, years. You get the gist. However, at Earlham Institute, we have a growing body of scientists who have completed PhDs, or are currently pursuing their postdoctoral degree, with a wealth of knowledge and advice on how best to handle what can seem like a gruelling three or four year adventure.

What follows is a list for those untrammelled souls, brave enough to embark on what can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime.

Are you sure you want to do a PhD degree? There will be times when you feel like Wile E Coyote chasing after the Roadrunner — a little bit out of your depth a lot of the time. It is possible to make great inroads into industry without a doctoral degree. That said, a PhD can also be a very useful qualification with many transferable skills to add to your CV.

Choose your project, and supervisor, wisely. This is very important. I was always interested in calcium signalling I even have a paper on it! Not only does this help you to keep engaged with your project even through the painstakingly slow times, it also greatly enhances your ability to sell yourself in an interview.

You have to be the best out of many, often exceptional candidates. However, as important as it is to be passionate about your project, make sure that the person who will be supervising you is worthy.

Does your potential supervisor have a prolific track record of publishing work? What is the community of scientists like in the lab you may be working in? Are there experienced post-doctoral scientists working in the lab?

10 things you need to know before starting a PhD degree

Who will your advisor be? Is your supervisor an expert in the field you are interested in? Is the work you will be doing ground-breaking and novel, or is it quite niche?

There is nothing more frustrating — and I know many PhD degree students with this problem — than having a supervisor who is rarely there to talk to, shows little interest in your work, and cannot help when you are struggling in the third year of your project and some guidance would be much appreciated. Between my supervisors, I had two people with expertise in different fields, who could give me some fantastic advice from different perspectives.

This also meant that I had two people to check through my thesis chapters and provide useful comments on my drafts. And there will be many drafts. Treat it like a job.

  • Take an hour on a Monday morning to come up with a list of short-term and long-term goals;
  • Keep your options open.

Granted, you are still a student — and a PhD degree still offers many of the perks of a student lifestyle. However, while you may have breezed through your undergraduate degree with the occasional all-nighter at the library and three weeks of frantic reading towards the end of each term, there is no room for cramming during a PhD. Make sure you are passionate about your subject before taking it to PhD level. And by passionate I mean really passionate.

For a start, you will most likely have to write a literature review in your first three months, which if done well will form the main bulk of your thesis introduction and will save you a lot of stress and strain when it comes to writing up.

At the end of your first year, you will have to write a continuation report, which is your proof that you deserve to carry on to the end of your three or four years. Fundamentally, never, ever rest on your laurels! Take an hour on a Monday morning to come up with a list of short-term and long-term goals. If you have a PCR, maybe you can squeeze in another experiment, read a few papers, start writing the introduction to your thesis, or even start collecting the data you already have into figures.

What might seem like a great idea could turn out to be as bad as choosing to bat first on a fresh wicket on the first day of the third Ashes test at Edgbaston. Yeah, we don't know what that means either - Ed. Resilience is key while completing your PhD. Be open to change and embrace the chance to experiment in different ways. You might even end up with a thesis chapter including all of your failures, which at the very least is something interesting to discuss during your viva voce.

Learn how to build, and use, your network. As a PhD student, you are a complete novice in the world of science and most things in the lab will be — if not new to you — not exquisitely familiar. This matters not, if you take advantage of the people around you.

  1. Here we've got everything you need to know about getting started. What is the community of scientists like in the lab you may be working in?
  2. This is a little more like PhD reality.
  3. Finally, ask questions — all of the time.
  4. Most PhD graduates, eventually, will not pursue an academic career, but move on to a wide range of other vocations. One such conference, the Second Student Bioinformatics Symposium, which took place at Earlham Institute in October 2016, was a great place for candidates to share their projects with peers, who are often much more friendly than veteran researchers with 30 year careers to their name when it comes to the questions at the end of your talk.

Firstly, there are lab technicians and research assistants, who have probably been using the technique you are learning for years and years. They are incredibly experienced at a number of techniques and are often very happy to help show you how things are done.

  1. Although you will have almost zip to work with, time away from your PhD is vital to recharge what's left of your batteries. Many of the participants from the challenge have gone on to set up successful businesses and have even found jobs as a result of the competition.
  2. Take an hour on a Monday morning to come up with a list of short-term and long-term goals.
  3. I have recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a PhD in Plant Sciences after four difficult, but enjoyable, years.

There are postdocs and other PhD students, too. Not only can they help you with day-to-day experiments, they can offer a unique perspective on how something is done and will probably have a handy back-catalogue of fancy new techniques to try.

  • I have recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a PhD in Plant Sciences after four difficult, but enjoyable, years;
  • They are incredibly experienced at a number of techniques and are often very happy to help show you how things are done;
  • You never know who you might meet and connect with over a few drinks once the talks are over and the party commences;
  • Is the work you will be doing ground-breaking and novel, or is it quite niche?
  • I was always interested in calcium signalling I even have a paper on it!

There are also a bunch of PIs, not limited to your own, who are great to talk to. There are a massive number of science conferences going on all around the world. Some of them, such as the Society of Biology Conference, take place every year at a similar time in different locations, attracting many of the leaders in their respective fields.

If you are terrified by the prospect of speaking at a full-blown science conference and having your work questioned by genuine skeptics, there are also many student-led conferences which will help you dangle your fresh toes in the murky waters of presenting your work. One such conference, the Second Student Bioinformatics Symposium, which took place at Earlham Institute in October 2016, was a great place for candidates to share their projects with peers, who are often much more friendly than veteran researchers with 30 year careers to their name when it comes to the questions at the end of your talk.

Another great reason to attend conferences, of course, is the social-side too — make the most of this.

2. Choose your project, and supervisor, wisely.

You never know who you might meet and connect with over a few drinks once the talks are over and the party commences. Keep your options open. Most PhD graduates, eventually, will not pursue an academic career, but move on to a wide range of other vocations. It might be that Science Communication is more up your street. This was certainly the case for me — and I made sure that I took part in as many public engagement events as possible while completing my PhD.

Most Universities have an active public engagement profile, while organisations such as STEM can provide you with ample opportunities to interact with schools and the general public. You might also consider entrepreneurship as a route away from academia, which might still allow you to use your expert scientific knowledge. There are a variety of competitions and workshops available to those with a business mind, a strong example being Biotechnology YES.

I, for example, took part in the Thought for Food Challenge, through which I have been able to attend events around the world and meet a vast array of like-minded individuals.

Many of the participants from the challenge have gone on to set up successful businesses and have even found jobs as a result of the competition.

1. Are you sure you want to do a PhD degree?

This is a little more like PhD reality. We've toned it down a little though.

  • This also meant that I had two people to check through my thesis chapters and provide useful comments on my drafts;
  • There are postdocs and other PhD students, too.

Remember that you still have a life outside of your PhD degree — and that this can be one of the greatest opportunities to make amazing friends from around the world. A science institute is usually home to the brightest students from a variety of countries and can provide a chance to experience a delightful range of different people and cultures. There are usually academic happy hours happening on Fridays after work where you can buy cheap beer, or some lucky institutions even have their own bar.

Plus, the people you meet and become friends with might be able to help you out — or at least be able to offer a sympathetic shoulder. Although you will have almost zip to work with, time away from your PhD is vital to recharge what's left of your batteries. Firstly, make sure your data is backed up. I did this, the bag was fine, I was in a state of terror for at least half an hour before the kind person at Weatherspoons located said bag.

Finally, ask questions — all of the time. At the end of all of this, it has to be said that doing a PhD is absolutely brilliant. By the time you come to the end of your PhD, you will be the leading expert in the world on something. Until the next PhD student comes along … Article author.