So the first point of this blog is to chat about the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate (hopefully PhD). A lot of people are experiencing an awful lot of stress during this time so it seemed like a good idea to tell you all about my experience so that future students will, hopefully, feel more at ease 🙂
I started seriously considering my PhD choices during the summer. It was always in the back of my mind as I was sure that it was the best for me but I had been putting it off. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do but knew I was interested in neuroscience and behaviour (thanks to a few great modules I took in my third year!). With that in mind, I scrolled through pages and pages of profile pages from any university I could think of which has research related to behaviour and neuroscience. There were a lot of nice looking options, what should I do? I took the key individual researchers (still at around 40 or so) and listed them by preference (using a nice little, albeit juvenile, colour-coding system). I contacted my top choices with a personalised enquiry as well as my academic CV to see if I could get the ball rolling early. I got a decent collection of responses, most of which amount to “not at the moment, will get back to you” or “I won’t know until later but thank you”. A couple were more promising. A researcher from Nottingham wanted to call me, which was the most terrifying thing to do at the time! We talked and he told me he’d get back to me later in the year if he obtained funding. The other, from St Andrews, exchanged a few emails with me and directed me to the studentships available. I also found a few 1+3 MSc+PhD programs, including Wellcome Trust programs at Oxford and Cardiff, and thought these were excellent (more on these another day).
So that was my summer. what about now? Since september I have been working largely on my masters thesis (in fact I REALLy should be doing my introduction right now…oops *work will be done*). A couple of weeks ago the researcher from Nottingham got back to me with a project proposal. It wasn’t quite my thing, unfortunately, so I had to turn him down but it was incredibly nice that he kept me in mind and made the effort to contact me again. The work of the St Andrew researcher (Apologies for saying “researcher” so much, I am unfamiliar with what is acceptable in the blogging world regarding naming individuals) became more appealing to me so I got back in contact and she suggested a skype chat. This had me all nervous again! The skype chat happened and it went great! I even had homework! I needed to write up a 500 word research proposal for her to go over. It was kind of scary, coming up with something which will be truly my own, but brilliant at the same time! That story is still at that point (in fact she emailed me this morning to say that I haven’t been forgotten!) I have also since applied for the Wellcome Trust 4 Year DPhil in Neuroscience at Oxford. Really straight forward application process but 21 pages! It’s done now though and they interview by the end of the month! Still in the process of applying to a similar course at Cardiff though I was stalled by the need for proof of English Language proficiency! (I do have GCSEs in English but I’ve misplaced the certificates somewhere…). The deputy course director said that my idea of submitting recently assessed work as evidence was a good one so I’ve gone with that! We’ll see! Have been toying with the idea of applying to a 4 year PhD at UCL as well…still not sure to be honest!
So after all of that what’s next? Well I have my project to continue working on (will post a bit about this at a later day but I’ll give you ‘synaptic plasticity’ as a starting phrase). I will get this Cardiff application done (and perhaps the UCL one). Also, I should really hammer out this thesis introduction. I’m having another skype chat about St Andrews and will be submitting that by February! It never stops! Hopefully it’ll all go well but either way I will tell you all about it!
Thanks for reading 🙂