As I approach the last stages of my PhD, I think I have some understanding through my own experience of the good and the bad it brings, so I thought I would share my thoughts with you all……..
– For me, one great advantage of being a PhD student is the flexibility it offers. In general, I have found that I can work where and when I want, so long as my work gets done and I’m consistent and reliable my supervisors are happy and don’t feel the need to wonder around and check up on me. Obviously, many people choose to/need to/are contracted to work 9-5 and so if you need the help of others then this is a good routine to get into. However, if you need to come in later or go home earlier and work somewhere else you can do. You can make your schedule to suit your life and your PhD.
-Another good thing is the independence a PhD offers. For some, this is quite a scary prospect as it is nice to have the support of others on a project. But don’t be intimidated by this as often, you have a research group that works on topics or uses methods relevant to you to offer support and advice. However, ultimately the project is yours and you are the driving force behind it, so it is you who needs to find the people and equipment you need. Do not see this as a bad thing though, it helps you learn a lot more and saves you waiting on others.
-A PhD also offers a wealth of opportunities. You can get involved in lots of social activities, societies and sports. You can travel to new places and meet lots of different people at conferences and science outreach events. Universities also offer all sorts of expertise to help you with career decisions and run a range of training courses that are free to attend.
-I have also found that my PhD has pushed me and helped me to face my fears and try more new experiences. For example, I’ve scarily had to present posters and give presentations, work out how to do things by myself and meet lots of new people and learn lots of techniques.
– A PhD project is also quite personal – like I said, you are the driving force behind it. Hence, I think that gives you that boost you need to keep on plugging away as you more than anyone else will want it to succeed.
– Overall, I think my PhD has made me a stronger person. It has enabled me to travel to lots of different places, meet a whole range of people and personalities, learn more about myself and helped me manage my time and stress levels better.
The not so good
– I think the main downside of a PhD is the general worry and anxiety about the progress and success of the work you are doing. As time goes by, you can start to become worried about how much of the work you have done will actually end up in your thesis and whether it is good enough to do so. I know there is no point in worrying so the best strategy I have is to plan and work through tasks to do all that I can to make sure my project addresses at least some of the optimistic aims it set out to!
– There can also be some frustration in many forms. For example, waiting for chemicals/equipment to arrive or to use. Waiting for feedback. Chasing other people for help or equipment use. Then there is frustration at yourself when you end up procrastinating!
– It can also be disheartening when experiments don’t go to plan, things take far longer than expected or supervisors can’t agree on which path to take. This can make maintaining a sunny outlook and staying motivated a challenge! Sometimes a day off is needed!
All in all, it’s not that bad! The enjoyment, satisfaction and what you can learn from a PhD make that potential pitfalls worth it!