So you’re thinking about doing a PhD, eh?

It’s that time of year, the undergraduates are finished and wondering what to do WITH THE REST OF THEIR LIVES OH NOES! So a number of them have been directed to me, and told “ask her what it’s like, see if she’d recommend it”. I shall restate most of my advice below, for those of you who haven’t got to hear it from my face and because, apparently, it’s not bad advice.
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Masters are hard

So I’m finishing up my masters programme out in DCU. It’s a taught MSc. that culminates in a 12 week research project.
Semesters one and two were (to me anyway) not too hard going. The modules were interesting, some of the topics I had covered before, and most of the workshops and assignments were also … emmm interesting (for want of a thesaurus, and it’s actually the exact right word I want). The taught portion was sort of like doing final year again, except with more modules that interested you.
The research project takes place over the summer, so the masters doesnt finish up till the beginning of September. I was assigned a very interesting and challenging project that should have me doing the proof of concept of an assay my supervisor had conceived (really, not enough words in English/my head for things). The people in the lab I work with are great and really helpful, but the assay itself didn’t want to comply. With a number of hurdles including being sick a lot, contamination, and reagents that suddenly didnt want to work, I haven’t completed all the work I intended doing on the project. On top of which, again due to being unwell a lot, I haven’t got as much writing done in advance as I’d have liked. The deadline is in two weeks (probably shouldnt be writing this post) and a fair assessment might be “I’m bolloxed”. The project component of the masters is designed to give you a good taste of research and an understanding of techniques in the laboratory, it is fair to say I have gotten a good dose of both.
That said, I really enjoyed the masters programme (DC727), and would happilly recommend it to anyone interested in diagnostics. Just get started on writing up your research project earlier than I did….

The PhD hunt

So further to my IRCSET application, I was turned down.  Which was pretty crushing at the time, given how much effort I had poured into it.  I’m still waiting to get feedback on my application, so that should be pretty interesting.  When that arrives, the IRCSET chapter should be closed (until I need to look for more funding in the future).

 

In the meantime I had applied for the BioAT programme.  It’s a multi-disciplinary programme that combines research with addtional relevant taught modules.  The idea is to give the student a better range of skills and exposure to more than one research lab.

Happilly I was granted an interview, just before Easter.  At the time I wasn’t sure how well it went (I waffled on quite a bit about science).  I think my enthusiasm didn’t put the panel off however, as I was offered a place on the tenth of May.  Naturally I am over the moon!  Taking up the place means I can stop hunting for funding and that I have a rough plan for my next four years.  While I don’t have an exact project, it will hopefully be in diagnostics or a closely allied field.