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To be a research assistant or not to be a research assistant...


User: PhoenixFortune - 23 October 2020 10:44

I've recently spotted a relevant research opportunity in my discipline, and it's all online due to COVID-19. That's great for me as I don't live near the particular university offering the role, and I am self-funded.

However, I am slightly concerned about the number of hours the role will take per week (as I am doing my PhD full-time). I would have to work every day for 3.5 hours, as well as some Saturdays. I'm worried that my own project might suffer, although the position is only for 3 months and therefore wouldn't be forever. I also don't know how happy my supervisor would be about it.

Has anyone been a research assistant during their PhD? How did you find it in terms of workload etc.?

User: Jamie_Wizard - 23 October 2020 17:07

When I was doing my Ph.D. I did about 9 hours of labs and a few hours of marking - often just a weekend day for marking. In my first year and second years about 3-4 of us Ph.D. students would deliver the Java programming labs which were originally a full 5-hour single session with the whole of the undergraduate Computer Science students. I and another student helped deliver the M.Sc Data science labs (large-scale computing stuff, distributed computing, bigdata etc..), designed and marked the coursework. It didn't negatively impact on my own work, but I stopped all teaching during my write-up at which point I recall just marking for just two modules.

User: rewt - 23 October 2020 18:39

I am currently doing a full time research assistant role and have suspended my studies. Fortunately, it is with my PhD supervisor at the same uni on a project that is close enough to my PhD that I can include it in my thesis.

If you are self funded already, request a suspension of studies (or whatever your uni calls it) and keep working on your PhD. 3.5 hours a day is a significant amount of work and will delay you even further but if you can suspend you don't lose any money or PhD time.

User: PhoenixFortune - 23 October 2020 21:08

Quote From rewt:
I am currently doing a full time research assistant role and have suspended my studies. Fortunately, it is with my PhD supervisor at the same uni on a project that is close enough to my PhD that I can include it in my thesis.

If you are self funded already, request a suspension of studies (or whatever your uni calls it) and keep working on your PhD. 3.5 hours a day is a significant amount of work and will delay you even further but if you can suspend you don't lose any money or PhD time.

If I take the assistant role, that 3 months should be when I'm starting my first round of data collection, so I'm not sure how that would work re: suspending. I've heard that you're technically not meant to carry on doing any PhD work during a time of interruption/suspension, so I guess I would have to put off data collecting until after the 3 months are over...

User: Jamie_Wizard - 23 October 2020 22:36

I meant I did 9 hours per week.

User: rewt - 25 October 2020 13:49

That is a shame PhoenixFortune that a suspension would not work. Though if the 17.5 hour a week job is going to land during data collection anyway, that is going to be a crazy amount of work simultaneously. If you need the money to enable yourself to finish the PhD, I would talk with your supervisor if there is anything you can do to make it work. You might have to modify your planned timeline slightly but there should be a way to for you do take the opportunity, without burning out.

User: PhoenixFortune - 25 October 2020 14:39

Quote From rewt:
That is a shame PhoenixFortune that a suspension would not work. Though if the 17.5 hour a week job is going to land during data collection anyway, that is going to be a crazy amount of work simultaneously. If you need the money to enable yourself to finish the PhD, I would talk with your supervisor if there is anything you can do to make it work. You might have to modify your planned timeline slightly but there should be a way to for you do take the opportunity, without burning out.

I don't desperately need the job, so it's not vital that I apply, it's just a shame that it's landed at a time where it's not particularly viable. I've never seen a research assistant role that was part-time which had so many hours before, as in my discipline they are typically 8-10 hours per week. I may have to give it a pass, but I will talk to my supervisor about it and see what they suggest.





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