Welcome to the next installment of "my PhD journey"!
As you can imagine I've had a range of responses from people when I tell them I'm doing a PhD - from "Wow, you must be so clever" to "You're just avoiding work aren't you?" I guess I wanted to address these, by saying that no I don't think I'm super clever, but I do enjoy research and the academic environment. Read on for some more of my thoughts and reflections on my PhD journey so far.
Lots of people will argue that a PhD is just an excuse to stay in academia and hold off entering the real world. Well let me say it now, they're not entirely wrong but there's so much more to it than that! As an undergraduate you are experiencing the beginning of what's possible within academia. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love studying. Being able to read and immerse myself in knowledge is just rather rewarding. I've always been an advocate for reading, I still have a shelf full of Jacqueline Wilson books next to my bed (along side some more gripping stuff like the Belgariad series). So imagine having a whole academic library at your finger tips! One day you could be reading about modelling carbon footprints in supply chains and the same afternoon you could have a cheeky read up on the effect of cortisol in the body.
So I guess what I'm saying is that whilst a PhD is an extension of postgraduate taught and undergraduate study it's got some major differences. Firstly, there is no such thing as a syllabus, this can be both a blessing and a curse, on one hand you have the freedom to study whatever you wish but on the other hand you can lose so much time to reading irrelevant papers! It's a mentally resource intensive journey, I've only been at it for three weeks but from my experience and from observing those around me I can say it takes commitment and drive. For the first few weeks I'm trying to establish good practices now so that when I'm slightly further in my journey I don't have to force myself out of bad habits (if you're interested in reading about such habits check out my earlier post - Old habits die hard).
Besides being less guided study what's different about a PhD from undergraduate study? Well for one, the opportunities to work collaboratively with researchers from other disciplines. This isn't something I have personally done however I have witnessed multiple exchanges where researchers have discovered someone else in a different discipline looking at similar areas of research. Totally furthering my love for knowledge sharing, it's great to see how people are open to communicating and sharing their ideas! One of the other pluses is the ability to check out what else is happening as in other departments, I reckon this is true for most universities but I'm not sure how many undergrads would take advantage of this - as a member of the university you can attend any lecture you wish. I've toyed with the idea of attending lectures probably not directly related to my field of research but are in areas I find myself interested in. Obviously my research comes first but I read some advice somewhere (don't worry if this was a legit paper I'd reference this 😏) that mentioned how it was important to read and study things other than that directly related to your research.
Sorry if this post has been super boring and less emotionally intensive than you were anticipating! I do hope this isn't the case and I hope someone out there is enjoying this and getting some insight into PhD life!