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PhD Inspiration - Top Tips

 by Jamie Depledge
, posted on 3 Nov '16

PhD Inspiration - Top Tips

Considering a PhD, but wondering what you'll actually get out of it? We've sat down with some of the UK's top academics to hear their experiences and thoughts on postgraduate study. Here we showcase the top tips provided by Professor Gavin Schaffer, Professor Alison Woollard, Sir Paul Nurse and Simon Singh MBE.

Professor Gavin Schaffer

Director of Postgraduate Studies – University of Birmingham

"My top PhD tip is to really scope out before you start a project the supervisor and the supervisory team that you’re gonna be working with and the research team in the institution that you are going to.

A PhD is a big commitment and a long project and you’ve gotta make sure that everything is right for you before you start."

Find out what else Professor Gavin Schaffer has to say about PhD study

Professor Alison Woollard

Associate Professor of Biochemistry – University of Oxford

"My top tip for doing a PhD is to communicate with people all the time. Talk to your supervisors all the time, take to people in the lab, find out what they are doing because you will learn from them and also when things aren’t going right, make sure you talk about that as well. Don’t retreat and think it’s all your own fault if your experiment isn’t working, talk to people. Go to seminars, find out what is going on in the broader field as well because that’s very nourishing intellectually and also means you will learn things that you can apply to your own work, so communication is my top tip for doing a PhD."

Find out what else Professor Alison Woollard has to say about PhD study

Sir Paul Nurse

Director of The Francis Crick Institute and Nobel Prize Winner

"Something you have to really think about when you’re doing a PhD – a hint I can give you – is do take your data seriously.

Quite a few times I had a preconceived idea about what result I was expecting to get. I didn’t get it and I always thought I was getting the ‘wrong’ answer.

If you’ve done the experimental protocol well and you’ve got certain observations and results that don’t agree with your hypothesis, challenge it. Be sceptical. Think about what the data might mean, even if it’s different from your own idea."

Find out what else Sir Paul Nurse has to say about PhD study

Simon Singh MBE

Popular science writer and author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

"When you get towards the end of your PhD think about, do you want to pursue this further? If you do, fantastic and that’s great. If you don’t, think about all the amazing things you’ve learned and the other amazing opportunities that are out there because that decision that you’ll make in your final year of writing up will be pivotal and so just think about what you could do with the rest of your life."

Find out what else Simon Singh MBE has to say about PhD study

Interested in pursuing a PhD like one of the UK's top academics? Why not take a look at our latest PhDs on our website. You can also check our advice section for more information about studying a PhD.

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