Top 5 pieces of advice to aspiring or first year PhD students

by Naomi Nabi

If you’re currently looking for a PhD project or if you’re in your first year, I hope this blog can give you some guidance and useful advice on what to expect during your journey as a PhD student. I’ve just started my 3rd year of my PhD at the university of Huddersfield and I hope I can shine some light on what life as a postgraduate researcher is like.

  1. Make sure you choose a good supervisor!

This is my main piece of advice without a doubt. You are going to be spending 3/4 years with this person, you will have regular meetings and you will share ideas. In my opinion, if you don’t have a good supervisor it could make your experience so much different. I think it’s important to make sure that your supervisor is right for you. Do you want them to be very supportive and hands on or would you prefer them to give you a little more space? All supervisors are different so make sure you have found the right one for you before you start your PhD.

  1. Be prepared to work hardNaomi 1

Experiments don’t tend to stick to the same schedule as us, so sometimes you may need to do longer days, and sometimes on a regular basis or even need to work on weekends and evenings once in a while. In the weeks that you are utterly exhausted remember why you are doing your PhD and the great sense of happiness you get when your experiments finally work.  Remember to take breaks, sometimes the long days are needed but sleep is more important! Setting clear goals and targets can help with focus and direction. Picture credit:The Times Higher Education (2016)

  1. Be passionate

If you are choosing to do a PhD because you think “it’s the right thing to do” or because you think it will make your parents happy then stop now. You will not make it through 3/4 years of continuous hard work and experiment failures. There will be many highs and lows of your PhD, so you need to be passionate about the field that you’re in and dedicated to what you do.

  1. Overcome the self-doubt

naomi 2During your PhD you may feel inadequate from time to time. I think that this can be totally normal. A PhD isn’t supposed to be easy so throughout your journey not only will you have to work hard but you will also overcome some personal challenges. As you progress you will gain more knowledge and more confidence so hang on in there! Picture credit: The Times Higher Education (2015).

  1. Enjoy it!

Last but not least make sure you enjoy your experience. This will most likely be your last time as a student so try to enjoy every day, don’t forget to take care of yourself and look forward to the future. Your PhD will not only make you an expert in your field, but it will also teach you important life skills.

picAbout me

I am a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Huddersfield working on the structural and biochemical characterisation of a protein involved in chromatin remodeling. I did an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Wolverhampton and an MRes in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Birmingham. I moved to Huddersfield in 2016 to start my PhD.







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