SJ: My name is Simon and I’m a final year PhD student in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences. I’m in a department called Medicine, Ethics, Society and History. I’m looking at fertility treatment and my project is about they way that sperm and eggs should be allocated in fertility clinics in the UK and how decisions are made about them.
I think, the main piece of advice is to be honest and by that I mean, be honest with your supervisors and with yourself about what you know or what your shortcomings are. So, something that really struck me in my first year especially was that I felt like that I didn’t know this, that or the other and then I should already know that and it’s very easy to, kind of, keep things like that secret from your supervisors and then, just, kind of, try and sit on those things and just be like, okay, I’m going to figure this out by myself because I’m behind with this obviously and I’m expected to know this but, your supervisors aren’t always great at knowing what you do know and what you don’t, so they might, sometimes assume you know this, that and the other. It’s worth just coming clean with them at the start of things, you know, where you are and what you’re confused about, so you can get, kind of, you know, help right from the start, rather than putting things off because it will always come back and get you in the end.
So, I’m really lucky with my supervisory team, I have three supervisors and, two of them work in the same building as me, so I see them all the time, whether I want too or not, but, I’m in communication with quite regularly by, I mean, I have all of their mobile numbers on my phone, I know some people might not be a fan of that and I just think, you should not be afraid to ask for, for communication and ask for meetings, because, there’s a certain amount of contact time that you’re entitled too as a student and so, you shouldn’t be shy. If you think something’s going wrong and you need an emergency meeting and it’s worth, it’s worth letting them know.
Well, so, one thing I suppose I wish that I’d known is that, something that I remind myself almost everyday now, is that everything takes longer than you think it will. So, if your budgeting time for something, you always need to leave, what my supervisor calls ‘slippage time’, which is, so, you know, you have in mind, okay, I’ve got a week to do this, so, that you know, on paper and in your calendar it looks absolutely fine but then, when it actually comes down to it, such and such comes up, someone sends you an email, you get side tracked and all of a sudden that time’s slipped away, so you always have too remember that, if you think something’s going to take a certain amount of time, it’s going to take longer.
Well, you know, in terms of social advice, people listening to this might laugh, but, it was said to me when I first arrived and it’s a very specific thing, which is these coffee mornings that are arranged for new postgraduate researchers. My colleague who is a year ahead of me, who started a year before me, he said, go to this coffee morning and just, you know, don’t be shy, get everyone’s number at the end, it may seem really forward, but if you don’t do that then you won't see most people again and I did that and basically, my whole friendship group here is based on that coffee morning and so, we kind of laugh about it now but these, and I’m sure there are other events as well, are really useful for people, so I would recommend that people just go to as many of those things as they can, when they’re first starting.