We do not often get to hear about the experiences and challenges of undergraduate students and new graduates. In #GraduateStories, we share the ‘behind the scenes’ stories of recent graduates and hoping their journeys and experiences are beneficial and to motivational to current students. In the first of our #GraduateStories, Robert Sampays, recent graduate (class of 2016) from the UWE Bristol, UK shares the motivations and journey to success. Enjoy reading!
Since a young age I have always been fascinated with products and the way they work, it was this inquisitiveness that stemmed my passion for design. I find inspiration in the work I produce knowing I have the chance to help people and make their lives easier. It was the notion of being able to make this a reality that made me study Product Design and is still the reason behind my work ethic today.
I was taught to draw by my aunt during family visits to her house in South Wales; being an artist she had both the patience and the skill to teach me various techniques that would later serve as one of my main attributes as a designer. I furthered my interests at school where I studied art alongside graphic design and resistant materials. Product design at A-Level allowed me to bring all 3 of these disciplines together, I was sold in an instant and made this one of my main subjects to study at college.
PhD candidates may have a lot in common but are by no means a homogenous group. In today’s #PhDChat, we share the ‘behind the scenes’ stories of our successful PhD candidates and graduates. We hope that their honesty and openness will encourage and motivate you as you proceed on your journey. In today’s article, Amina, a final year PhD candidate shares her experience of combining parental responsibilities with studying full time as an international student.
The pursuit of a PhD is a huge investment in your career and yourself. I had applied for a scholarship for Nigerian based academics to finance a PhD program that I had my sights on in the United Kingdom. When I learned I was successful, I was overjoyed yet pleasantly surprised, as it was keenly competitive. After the initial euphoria wore off, the enormity of what I was embarking on became apparent. This article is meant to share my experiences and offer some advice to mature students with similar plans.
Strain on Familial and Social Ties
A PhD will test your relationships, it is important to find balance. Working towards a PhD abroad will be even more exacting. Leaving my parents and other relationships for 4 long years; adjusting to a new culture and environment; the strain on my husband, our marriage and on our 3 kids as he travelled back and forth between both countries was going to be hard. I tried to minimize these challenges by relying on modern telephony.
Settling into the Program
Do a lot of research. Carefully examine details of the campus and community you will study and live in. I consulted widely before commencing the program, weighed the pros and cons with my husband, and we tried to mitigate all challenges. However, every PhD experience is different so we couldn’t foresee the peculiarities of my own PhD, particularly the severe and persistent economic crises that would make it almost unbearable. I didn’t realise my campus was not even in the same county as the main campus of the University. This is where a little research could have made things easier. I was to be located in a beautiful rural campus a 30 minute shuttle away from the main campus which itself was 45 minutes from the inexpensive home I secured prior to arrival. Relocating closer to my campus wasn’t an option, as it was expensive (yes, rural living costs a lot in the UK) and too isolated for my children.
Last week, Amara and I had the pleasure of sharing a platform with other blogging “experts” at the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) summer conference at Edinburgh to chat all things blogging with a group of early career scientists… Edinburgh itself is a really good welcoming city, with great sights to see and lots to do and if you are a big fan of shopping, well, you might quite like it..oh and the scottish shortbread biscuits..enough said there!!..
The conversation about blogging was varied and went from the simple to quite complex. I’d like to share some of the questions which were asked and responses from the session and for the benefit of our readers, some extra useful information Enjoy reading!
Starting from the basics, what is a blog?
There are different definitions of what a blog is – according to the Oxford dictionaries, a blog is “A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group that is written in an informal or conversational style.” Blogging can be formal or informal – blogging can be as simple as having an online diary where you share your thoughts or experiences on a regular or irregular basis (whatever is convenient for you) or it could be something much bigger e.g. blogs run by University departments, biopharma companies sharing information with shareholders and consumers or simple trivia blogs with lots of fun things. In effect, a blog could be whatever you want it to be and that is what makes blogging an exciting and often rewarding activity.
I have a personal blog, is there a space for it out there and how do I grow it?
In today’s #MyCareerStory, the APH had the opportunity to interview Dr Douglas Okor. Douglas is a brain surgeon in the UK and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (the oldest Surgical College in the World).. In this insightful interview Douglas offers his perspective about life as a neurosurgeon and demystifies this pathway for aspiring surgeons. Enjoy!
APH: Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
I am Douglas Emeka Okor, Nigerian born, in Benin City in Nigeria. I am a brain surgeon and a passionate Nigerian health sector advocate and an entrepreneur. I grew up in Nigeria and had my education in Nigeria. I saw there was a significant gap in the healthcare space in Nigeria hence my decision to become a brain surgeon.
APH: Can you tell us about the different stages of your educational career to date?
Douglas: I had my nursery, primary and secondary education in Nigeria. I went to a grammar school in Benin City and the University of Benin where I graduated in 2002. I worked for a couple of years in Nigeria then left for the UK where I spent 8-9 years training to become a brain surgeon. In the last year I started my sub-specialist training in two areas – skull based and vascular neurosurgery.
APH: When did you decide you wanted to become a medical doctor?
In today’s study chat, Amara shares her discussion with Cynthia Ochoga, the President Elect of the Student Union at the University of Salford. Cynthia shares from her perspective as an international student and offers advice on managing the opportunities and challenges within Higher Education to maximise your experience. Enjoy!
APH: Can you tell us about your educational and professional background?
CO: My educational pursuit began at Home Science Nursery and Primary School, Ikoyi Lagos. In 1998, I moved on to Queens’ College Lagos for my secondary school education.
In 2006, I attended the University of Lagos where I undertook a diploma in Cell Biology and Genetics. By second year it became apparent to me that science was not a field I wanted to pursue and then left Nigeria to Middlesex University (MDX) Mauritius campus in 2010 and studied Psychology and Counselling. In 2014, I went to Oxford Brookes University and did a conversion to Law degree (GDL) as my 2nd degree and in September 2015, I came to University of Salford for my MSc in Media Psychology and I’m half way through it at the moment.
I have worked in a number of different roles too. My first job was a three-month internship at Action Health Incorporated. In 2010, prior to moving to Mauritius, I followed my passion in journalism and worked as an intern at a radio station in Nigeria.
While studying at MDX, I was elected president of the International Students’ Society for Mauritius campus. I also joined AIESEC, an international youth development organization and rose to become Vice President of External Relations which I did simultaneously with my role as President. In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I worked for a month with the Mauritius Institute of Directors as part of a team that delivered an international conference.
After graduation, I went to Nigeria to participate in the NYSC programme. Since then, I have worked with BBC Media City as a research assistant for Mozfest 2015. I have also worked in a customer services role for Doddles Parcels in Manchester. I recently resigned to take some time out to prepare to take on my new role as the President of the Student Union at the University of Salford.
You started out your Higher Education journey in the Biological sciences, what spurred the switch to Psychology? Was it a smooth transition?
I have observed a few cases where PhD candidates either not completing or failing at viva stage. A common theme was a major breakdown in the relationship between the candidate and their supervisor(s). In this article, I share four ideas, from my experiences as a former PhD candidate who’s now learning the ropes of PhD supervision that I hope can help prospective and current PhD candidates manage this very important relationship.
Choose wisely – In the PhD survival guide, I shared why it is important to spend quality time while making this decision. You will have a smoother journey if you have a good working relationship with your supervisor. I decided to join my PhD supervisor’s group after I had spent a year working on my undergraduate project with him. Some people call this luck but I call it choice. I decided to work with him and he decided to work with me.
If your PhD is funded, your PI is usually your de-facto Director of Studies and you may not have much choice in the matter. However just like when you attend an interview, the choice to work with an organisation is still yours. Two or three member supervisory teams are now more common so it is worth asking if there will be some leeway in choosing your other supervisor(s). For self-funded PhD candidates, you have a choice in where you spend your tuition fees, so do not be scared to ask for who you need. A PhD is an apprenticeship not indentured slavery (at least it should be). Invest time in getting information about your supervisor, research group etc. Speak to postdocs. You can find them at conferences and early career researcher networking events. Ask questions;
How many PhD candidates have you supervised?
Who else will be on the supervisory team?
How many successful completions?
How many didn’t complete and why?
Do your students publish during their PhD?
Do not be so ‘hungry’ for a PhD position that you dismiss the information your research pulls up. I know a PhD candidate who left after six months because she could not get on with her supervisor. Successful completion is Win/Win for all parties involved so choose wisely.
Be proactive – After a skill training session I recently conducted, a 2nd year PhD candidate walked up to me and spent about 15 minutes sharing all the issues he was having with his supervisor. Poor communication, poor supervision, dismissive attitude…the works. I let him speak because I could tell he was very distressed and then I told him ‘Be proactive.’ I could tell he was puzzled by my response but I told him that the only part of the equation required for his successful completion that could be modified was his courage, attitude and how he responded to the issues he was having with his supervisor.
Recently, Emmanuel caught up with Dr Loretta Ogboro-Okor, a medical doctor in the UK specialising in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. We have had several discussions around different professions, career expectations, good practice and tools for developing the aspiring professional. I am very glad Loretta has chosen to share her views with APH readers on what it is to be “a professional”
When I was approached by the APH team, I decided to write about something I have often pondered about over the years.
“When aspiring to be a Professional, to what end is it?”
‘Who is the Professional?’
“What does the word professional bring before our mind’s eye when we hear it?”
Why become a professional to start with?
Wikipedia states that a professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns their living from a specified professional activity. The Business dictionary online defines it as – a person formally certified by a professional body for belonging to a specific profession by virtue of having completed a required course of studies and/or practice and whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards. These definitions give the impression that Professionals should be elite groups, who have met some certificate requirements, who meet some tick box criteria, who in addition, speak and act in a particular way.