PhD career stories

Katie Barnett, PhD candidate, College of Arts & Law

I decided to apply for a PhD around halfway through my Masters year at the University of East Anglia. I had always had a passion for my particular subject (American Studies) and it was as I was formulating my ideas for my Masters dissertation that I began to think seriously about pursuing further research as a PhD student. My career aims were quite vague at this point, but I knew I was interested in some form of teaching, and I knew getting my PhD was the first step to a potential career within academia.

I chose to apply to Birmingham as I was looking to relocate to the West Midlands. I had a few criteria in mind when looking for a potential supervisor, and I was lucky to find someone at Birmingham who was willing to supervise my research, which grew out of my Masters dissertation work. Although starting at a new institution was a move away from a familiar department, it provided a new space to develop my ideas and exposed me to a whole range of exciting research and opportunities.

I have been self-funded throughout my PhD, at first studying part-time (with a full-time job), and later moving to full-time study. Self-funding has been difficult at times, and I have maintained a number of jobs in the last couple of years. This has sometimes put a strain on the balance between research and work, but ultimately this has been offset by how rewarding I have found PhD study to be.

While the research itself is often rewarding, it is the wider experience of the PhD that has been of the most benefit to me during my time at Birmingham. Working on the PhD can often be quite lonely, and while it’s easy to distract yourself at times, the work is still there waiting for you! I have always been sure that I didn’t simply want to leave Birmingham with my PhD, but with a rich range of experiences that would help with my future career. Alongside my study, I have become involved with an academic journal, gained some teaching experience, organised conferences and taken part in a number of workshops, training courses, research seminars and postgraduate events. Together, all these things have provided a variety of experiences that will help me move beyond the PhD and into an academic career.

Katie Barnett

Katie Barnett