Glasgow Caledonian University PhD students reflect on their research journey and offer their advice to new students
Every October at induction, we invite current students to come and share their top tips for new research students. It’s the part of the day when anxious faces relax the most, as the new cohort get the opportunity to meet with peers who have been in their shoes and be reassured about the journey ahead.
This year, some of our wonderful students kindly took the time to write down this advice, which we have shared with you below. The students are from different schools and research backgrounds and all at different stages but the same messages are repeated; take care of yourself, find a balance that works, communicate, and take advantage of the resources and opportunities available to you.
The Graduate School would like to welcome all new students to the research community and wish you an interesting and enjoyable time as you rise to the challenges that your studies will bring and we look forward to hearing of your success.
Top Tips from GCU Research Students
Sarah Goldsmith, GSBS
Hi I’m Sarah and I want to welcome all of you onto the PhD programme. You may have heard people refer to the PhD journey as a rollercoaster ride and a marathon not a sprint and these are true! So make sure that you celebrate the highs, know that there will be some lows, but also know that you will overcome them and that they will pass. Also make sure that you pace yourself. In order to do this you need to get a good work/life balance. You don’t need to be doing your PhD 24/7. Stepping back and having regular breaks are important to keep you and your work fresh and they are essential for your mental health. As a playworker I say that everyone, adults included, need to make time to play! So whatever you enjoy doing, whether it’s getting out with your family, doing some exercise, music, art, or computer games, create time for them, make them part of your routine, stimulating your brain in a different way might well create that eureka moment!
I’m in the final year of my PhD which is entitled ‘‘Girls’ toys and ‘boys’ toys: learning through play’ and I’m in GSBS within the sociology department. My research is participatory with children in play settings, so if anyone else is doing research with children please feel free to contact me as there’s not many of us and it is a slightly different approach to other research so it’s good to be able to talk things through.
I also wanted to tell you about the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS), the GCU rep is Didi Taris. Irrespective of the discipline or school that you are in, if your PhD involves social science you can access training, summer schools and internships through SGSSS. Most of the training and events are free and they usually pay for travel and accommodation as the events are held across the country. It is also a great place to network with other PhD students who may be working in similar areas as you. Have a look at the website and sign up to the GradHub to get more information https://www.sgsss.ac.uk/.
Good luck on your PhD journey and don’t forget to play!
Benjamin Butterworth, SHLS
I’m Benjamin Butterworth and I’ve just started the second year of my PhD in Psychology, investigating the effects of alcohol on memory in the context of psychological trauma. I’m a member of the substance use and misuse team at GCU, as well as the Scottish Alcohol Research Network. I really enjoy science communication and public outreach, which I’ve been able to do as an academic tutor on the Applied Psychology BSc program, as the postgraduate representative for the Scottish Branch of the British Psychological Society, and through several GCU events here in Glasgow (e.g. Three Minute Thesis, Glasgow Science Festival, PubHD). Doing the PhD is incredibly challenging and rewarding- you’ll never get a better chance to pursue so many opportunities, so remember to enjoy it!
Communication with your supervisors and other students is very important. Sometimes we struggle to meet deadlines or situations arise, but so long as those around you know about it, solutions can be found. A PhD can be extremely challenging- allowing people to help you is a great way to meet the challenges, which can only be done by communicating your problems.
Manisha Ajmani, SCEBE
My name is Manisha Ajmani and I am an Engineer! I received my Bachelors and Master of Engineering degrees in Electronics and Communication in India. Currently, I am pursuing my PhD degree at the School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment at Glasgow Caledonian University under the supervision of Dr. Sinan Sinanovic and Dr. Tuleen Boutaleb. Our research focuses on designing algorithms to support a low-cost alternative for indoor positioning systems using optical wireless communication technology. In simple words, we are working to design an easier way to track the location of people inside a room using LIGHT! Using these algorithms we can extend help to dementia affected people by making their care better. I am a STEM Ambassador and Vice-Chair of GCU IEEE and GCU Women in engineering student branch. I would like to encourage you all to come forward and join our branch and help in further encouraging many more young women to take up STEM areas of study.
As many PhD researchers may be non-native English speakers, there is a possibility that sometimes they are not able to convey their thoughts, research ideas or results to their supervisors. In that case, my tip will be to draft your work as a document and share it with your supervisors. It might help them to understand better or further enhance your communication.
Emma McGeough, GSBS
My name is Emma McGeough and I am a final year PhD student in GSBS. My research is evaluating how food standards are enforced in Scotland and I have conducted a purely qualitative methodology and am now writing up my findings. Along with my colleague Alyson, I am co-founder of the PhD Women Scotland network and we try to create an inclusive and supportive network for all women embarking on the PhD journey – check out and follow our blog and twitter pages https://phdwomenscot.wordpress.com/.
My top tip for surviving the PhD is to find what works for you and run with it – don’t feel tied to your office desk between the hours of 9-5 if you are not being productive. Being full-time with minimal other obligations makes me able to be a bit more flexible with my work pattern but the same goes for part-time students and those with caring and other responsibilities too. Whether it’s early mornings or late evenings, at home, in cafes or in the library, find your rhythm and run with it and if it doesn’t work today, try something new tomorrow, not every day will be the productive break-through you’re hoping for.
Annelysse Jorgenson, SHLS
I’m Annelysse, a second year PhD student looking at the implementation of infection control guidelines in different countries. I’m also your Postgraduate Research Student Lead if you are within the School of Health and Life Sciences, so please feel free to contact me, stop me if you see me around the university or visit me in my office, if you have any feedback about your experience or want to talk about how GCU can support you throughout your PhD.
My top tip for new PhD students: Get to know your supervisors on both a professional and personal level. This way it’s easier to go to them if you are having any difficulties, academic or personal, and you have a really good working relationship where you feel comfortable discussing and debating your research with them.
Shuja Ansari, SCEBE
I’m Shuja Ansari from the School of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment. My research has been on mobile communications for connected and automated vehicles. During the last three years, along with my research and teaching responsibilities, I sought to professionally and personally develop myself. I’m indebted to the Graduate school and GCU for giving me the opportunity and resources to be what I am today.
The journey that will change your life has begun. It changed me, both professionally and personally. I considered the university as a fountain of knowledge and it was up to me if I just took a tiny sip or completely indulged myself into it. GCU is for the common good and the opportunities are numerous. From the Graduate School workshops and seminars to your school and departments internal professional development, the fountain is all yours. I am a member of IEEE which is the world’s largest professional body for Electrical engineers. All you need to do is be pro-active, maintain a balance between work, research and most importantly your life.
The PhD journey is one of a kind. It’s not an easy road; it’s a road full of potholes and ruts. There will be days you’ll have a block when nothing will work, everything will be at a standstill, you will feel miserable, and you’ll question why you got into this. Rise above it! For every result that doesn’t make sense, there will be something to learn, something to build upon. At the end you’ll realize that success is nothing but try, try, fail, try again, fail again, learn, fix, try again… until it makes you feel proud of yourself. Trust me when I say, the success you will achieve at the end will make you forget all the misery! I wish you all a great PhD journey.
Jamila Audu, GSBS
My name is Jamila Audu and in 2016/17 I was the Research Student Lead for the Department of Law, Economics, Accounting and Risk. I’m a third year PhD student with LEAR, GSBS and my research area is Credit Risk Management. It’s been an experience studying in GCU. I would like to advise all new students to sign up for all relevant workshops. This will really help you all to get used to the school system and make you more focused. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but Grace Poulter will really help you through this journey. I mean this because she goes through the journey with you – so again- watch out for Karen Coyle’s posts about upcoming workshops and sign up for the ones that will help you.
Finally, I would advise you to apply to be the research student lead to represent your department or school. This way, you can be involved in improving the research students’ experiences.
Zuzanna Cejmer, GSBS
My name Zuzanna Cejmer and I’m a final year PhD student and lecturer in Digital Marketing & Omnichannel Communications, GSBS.
A PhD can be a very isolating journey but don’t let it be that way – remember that whatever it is that you are going through, one of us has already been there. Talk to people if you find yourself feeling lonely or distressed. Use your free time wisely, take a good rest, and focus on yourself. And most of all, never ever let others pressure you too much. There is no need to compare yourself to someone else, just do your thing at your own pace and surround yourself with good people.
Anuradha Goswami, SCEBE
I am Anuradha Goswami, PhD final year student. I am working on drinking water treatment and modifying conventional Fenton Oxidation Process with Iron incorporation. I am a Research Student Lead for the School of Computing Engineering & Built Environment and available to work with you all during my tenure.
Today, I am here to share my experience, to help you to conquer the long journey. As Benjamin Franklin remarked, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” and I would recommend that you heed this advice for PhD success. You can never read enough. The literature survey or review never ends; you need to keep yourself up-to date on current research to actually produce an innovative PhD.
Another tip I would suggest is that you need to manage your time and take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you. I say this because I am a live example of this, where I almost finished the experimental part of my research and during final interpretation, a new mechanism was discovered which brought a brilliant opportunity to showcase an innovative contribution.
I would like to end with these final words: this is your opportunity not only to research but also for development and networking. We are lucky to have so many opportunities at GCU. I am Chair of the IEEE WIE Student Branch affinity group, President of the Women Engineering/STEM (WES) society and actively volunteer in GCU STEM activities. Fasten your seat belt for the new life ahead… WELCOME ONBOARD!!!
If you would like to contact any of the research students or the Graduate School please email us at GraduateSchool@gcu.ac.uk.