Hi, I’m Felicity! I’m a first year PhD student funded by the Trials Methodology Research Partnership in the School of Sport, Exercise, and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham.

As I’m a new PhD student I thought it would be useful to share with you how I chose my PhD project and what I do now that I’ve started, to give you an insight into the life of a PhD student.

How did I choose my PhD?

After completing an undergraduate degree in psychology, I knew that I enjoyed research and wanted to undertake a PhD. Therefore, after narrowing down my topic area of interest to health and wellbeing in older adults, I started browsing for projects a year before I wanted to start my PhD. This allowed me plenty of time to find a project that was right for me.

Three key areas were important to me when choosing my PhD:

  1. The project – completing a PhD takes a minimum of three years, so I knew that I had to choose a project that I was genuinely interested in, and excited to learn more about.
  2. The people – having a good relationship with my supervisors was important to me. As I had already completed a research degree, I knew that I needed supervisors who were supportive but allowed me the freedom to explore new ideas. I also wanted to be part of a wider research culture at the University.
  3. The location – I wanted to feel ‘at home’ wherever I decided to study. The facilities at the university were important to me, as well as the wider area.

With these requirements in mind, I focused my search for PhD projects on www.findaphd.com, which lists hundreds of potential projects. You can search Birmingham projects on the University’s website. Once I had found a project that interested me, I contacted the supervisors listed on the application. I met with them online to discuss the project in more detail. To learn more about what was on offer in the University and city, I also attended an open day.

I really liked the project, the supervisors, and the University so I decided to apply for my PhD. Luckily my application was successful!

So now that I’ve started my PhD, what do I do?

This is a difficult question to answer, as my days are so varied! For example, in the first week of my PhD I attended an international conference, but I spent the majority of last week in the library. As my PhD focuses on both theoretical and practical aspects of clinical trials methodology, I am currently working on several projects at once. It can be difficult to juggle but is really enjoyable.

There is lots of flexibility when studying a PhD to make your own timetable. Personally, I like to start working early, around 8am (08:00). I then enjoy time to myself or with friends in the evening. With that in mind, I often spend my mornings in the laboratory, practising techniques that I need for the practical section of my PhD. Or I’ll be in the library, reading academic papers and catching up with emails.

My day is sometimes broken up by various meetings, often with my supervisors. We have a lab group meeting every week. It’s a nice opportunity to share what we are working on and help each other with any issues. I also regularly attend research seminars in my department. It’s refreshing to learn about other research that’s happening, especially if it’s not related to my own project.

Alongside this, I also try and take some time each day to try and develop my transferable skills. At the moment I’m completing an online coding course. This will be useful when analysing data from experiments in my PhD and applying to various tasks in the future. It’s also a nice opportunity to connect with other researchers from outside of my department.

Overall, I really enjoy life as a PhD student. There is lots of freedom to explore the topic that you’re interested in, whilst gaining lots of skills along the way. I hope you found this blog interesting, and it gave you some useful tips for choosing your own PhD project!

Felicity is a first year PhD student funded by the Trials Methodology Research Partnership in the School of Sport, Exercise, and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham