Queen Mary University of London postgraduate student, Angela, shares with us her experience of studying for a PhD in the Media, Arts & Technology.
How long was it between your Undergraduate and Postgraduate course?
“I worked for more than a decade which was definitely the right thing for me to do.”
Did you have any doubts about doing a postgraduate course?
“None bar the financial adjustment from working part time to being on a small stipend, when I have financial commitments like a mortgage!”
What was your motivation/reason for doing a PhD?
“I had been working in academia as a lecturer and wanted to have more options as to where I worked. A PhD is essential, and I had the confidence I would be funded otherwise couldn’t have done it.”
When did you start to think about postgraduate study?
“I love learning so had been in and out of formal and informal courses since graduating. I started a second undergraduate degree, and realised it’d make more sense to do a Masters. After that the next logical step was the PhD.”
How did you search for a PhD?
“I looked at the supervisors I potentially wanted to work with, in combination with the institutional reputation and funding options.
Each application takes time and ongoing investment from you and the faculty you talk to, so I think it makes sense to do your homework first, then approach a few select supervisors. Strategy was key!
My priorities were funding and location.”
Any tips on looking for funding?
“I consulted department and research centre websites in the first instance. If you leave searching too late you are on the back foot. Get in early, even in advance of graduating from master’s level.
Talk to potential supervisors, to determine if where is a good fit (for you or them) and to build a relationship where they can give you feedback on your proposal (if you are making one, common in the arts, not so in sciences) and on your application.
I found some faculty super helpful, and others were swamped with applications. Don’t be put off by rejection. I strategically went for an arts-tech PhD and got it. I think it was a great move for many reasons, not just funding.
Each funder has their own process. Funding can be part, full, it can cover equipment, attending conferences, or not. You may have a panel interview, may need to produce a proposal, or not.”
You have done a Masters. What were the different priorities between your choice of master’s and PhD?
“For masters it was really an enjoyable course, without a clear objective in terms of outcome, though that changed when I applied for a PhD and wanted to gain a distinction. For PhD it feels like a much (much!) bigger commitment, not just in terms of the course, but beyond. It’s going to impact my career options significantly!”
What best helped you on your search for the right PhD?
“Talking to peers going through the same process, people who’d commenced PhDs, and also faculty at prospective universities.”
So how has the first year of your PhD been?
“It’s been a lot more intense than I expected it would be. The main difference from my previous studies is my own motivation, the relationships with academics, and the level of peer support. The skills, experience and peer-based learning is awesome.
I have already undertaken a placement this year which the university provided it as an option. I tried finding my own, but ultimately it was quite cumbersome to get approved. There were also number of issues regarding logistics, so I would definitely recommend getting full details of the ‘what and how’ of any postgraduate placement or internship offered.”