Wednesday, 4 June 2014

PhD Experience: I wish I knew....

Recently I participated in a session for Post Doctoral Researchers on supervising PhD students. Along with me there were about 20 attending the workshop. One of the first activities we had was to list down the best and worst three experiences of our PhD journey (relating to supervision). I've said this before and I am saying this again, I had the best supervisory panel that a student could ask for. I started with two supervisors: Prof. Andrew Adams as my first supervisor and Prof. Naz Rassool as my second supervisor and ended with three: Prof. Shirley Williams as my first supervisor with Andrew and Naz as my second supervisors due to change of circumstances. All three supervisors are unique in their own ways and experts in their area. As I was working across disciplines it was so enlightening to have had such a brilliant combination of supervisors. They were so supportive through out and even after completing my PhD I am still collaborating with them on various publications. Given my extremely positive experience throughout, I found it very difficult to come up with 3 worst experiences.

CC Image by: Alfin Flare
However, not everyone in the workshop has had such positive experiences;I felt sorry for some of the people who have had tough time. I did have difficulties during my PhD not due to supervision I received but due to my own personal circumstances, for example caring for baby twins.

Participants listed things that they thought would be helpful had they known it earlier. From my notes I am noting them here hoping that someone will benefit from them.

Year 1
Start writing early
Use your time off
There is nothing called criticism it is all feedback
It is not Nobel prize - it is an apprenticeship
Having right resources

Year 2
Time spent planning is never wasted
You don't have to do it - if you don't want to
It is OK to disagree with supervisor

Year 3
You never actually finish it - learn to write up - it is good enough
Think hard about disagreeing with supervisor (you may have missed the point)
PhD isn't the end
First chapter will be full of red ink

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