It can be challenging deciding if you want to continue higher education and pursue a PhD. It was not an easy one for me, but I knew after I started research my first year of undergrad that I loved it and wanted to pursue it in some way. Going to graduate school was the way I got to do research as a pseudo-job after undergrad. However, I found out the hard way, that doing a PhD is a very isolating experience. It wasn’t until I started this blog and my Instagram page that I learned about so many other graduate students who are all dealing with similar issues and talking about it on social media. I am proud to join a group of PhD students from all over the world, in different fields, and different stages of their PhDs to demystify the PhD. From students for students. #PhDTag & #PhDTagLife
I have answered your questions about the PhD process as well as included some of my own:
From 1d_gsmmabena21: What program are you in? Why do you study what you study?
I am in my third year of studying Chemical Engineering (ChemE) (go engineers!)
In my undergrad I actually studied Biomedical Engineering (BME), and when I decided to apply to graduate schools I knew the type of research I wanted to work on. I wanted to do research in nanomedicine which is somewhat interdisciplinary between ChemE and BME. So when I was offered a position in ChemE with a great PI I decided to make the change.
From Murielmben & Nerdtofit: What do I need to consider before engaging in a PhD program?
I think you really have to understand what you are getting yourself into with a PhD and what you are potentially giving up. Typically, a PhD program can last anywhere from 4-7 years. In my case, with ChemE it takes 4 years if you have a masters and 5 years if you only have a B.S. Because it is such a significant time commitment you need to make sure that this is something you are seriously willing to pursue. It honesty does feel like a pause on your life in many ways. Another major consideration particularly to your field of study is if getting a PhD will get you ahead or can you do what your interested in with a B.S. or M.S.
From Nerdtofit: How to choose the supervisor best suited for you?
I have told the same thing to undergrads who have asked me and I will tell you. This is 100% the key part of getting through your PhD. Your advisor is your golden ticket to surviving and getting the Dr. before your name. Pick your advisor with care, they are “hiring” you are much as you are “hiring” them. Use your instinct to see if you get along. Ask other graduate students in the lab about the environment and the expectations of the PI. Personally, if you have the option to do a lab rotation before committing to a PI, take it.
About graduate school/PhD
What is your typical day?
I recently saw a comment on a YouTube video recently that sums up a typical day of a PhD perfectly, “What is a routine anyway? It’s a day with a couple of planned usuallys and a whole lot of suddenlys!” Some days are spent doing experiments while others I am solely sitting at a computer. Its probably 30/70 experiments to writing/reading. And more often than not, my advisor asking me to work on something, so I have to shift things around to accommodate that.
One of my favorite things about grad school was being able to do outreach with elementary and high school students to teach them about STEM and nanotechnology. It makes me so happy to see their faces light up when they get to do hands-on experiments or understand how something works.
It’s hard to pin-point one thing exactly haha. But if I had to choose, I would saythe amount of writing you have to do while pursing a PhD in ChemE. I am not a great writer by any stretch of the imagination nor does it come easily to me. My undergrad education has given me plenty of technical writing experience, but it was, and still is, a serious learning curve. It takes a lot of effort to get myself to sit down and write. You are probably asking yourself, then why did she start a blog?, I know, I ask myself that too haha. The lesson I learnt is the more you do it the better you get and the more stuff you have to recycle between your papers (lol, but seriously).
From Vegangrad: What are some viable options to finance your graduate studies? Weigh-in the pros and cons of loans, fellowships, graduate assistantships, working full-time while studying part-time?
In engineering the majority of PhD programs are funded which mean they include a stipend and paid tuition. You won’t be living like a queen on that budget but it will get you by. It doesn’t stop me from feel like a princess on the rare occasion.
Most universities will require some amount of time for you to work as a teaching assistant (TA). It can take a significant amount of your time, but if you are interested in continuing in academia I think it’s a worthy while experience.
Would you choose PhD again, if you had to do it over again?
There have been many difficult times in my PhD thus far. Many times, I thought about what my life would be like if I decided to get a job after undergrad instead of graduate school. But things happened as they did and some many wonderful things happened because of the choices I made. At the end of the day, I would choose to do a PhD again. The career I want would not be possible without higher education. I am anxiously awaiting the day I get to start a real job (mostly so I can do a Gucci or LV haul haha!)
I hope this post has answered some of your questions about the PhD or if you are just curious about it. I will be doing a second blog post in the next few weeks discussing work-life balance and many more of your questions. If you have any other questions for me feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are on Instagram, follow the hashtag #PhDTag to learn from the other talented and inspiring graduate students participating in this tag. I will be linking their content below!