My research involves growing chains of molecules (polymers) from smaller simple molecules (monomers); these polymers can be visualised in a similar way to strings of beads. The way in which the monomers are assembled and their underlying chemistry can be controlled to impart specific properties to the resulting polymers. I design polymers that when dissolved in water modify the viscosity (thickness) of the solution whilst also introducing other tailored properties. These polymers have a wide range of applications from use in medicine to control drug delivery, to modifying drilling muds used in the oil and gas industry.
Having studied for my undergraduate degree at Loughborough, I made many friends around the University and in my department. The University has a friendly atmosphere and a great campus as well as providing many excellent services. The Department of Materials is also ranked very highly for its academic and research prowess. The culmination of these points made it the logical place to continue my studies. I enjoy my PhD for a number of reasons, mainly due to the excellent facilities around campus and in my department. There is a diverse range of research being conducted at Loughborough and consequently a wide range of academic speciality knowledge universally and in my department. This knowledge proves invaluable when undertaking a PhD.
Studying a PhD is unlike undergraduate and master's study, as you have greater input and more freedom to guide the direction of your research. During undergraduate studies you have a network of support in place. As a PhD student this is still the case, however you gain a greater level of independence day-to-day. PhD students often have the opportunity to supervise undergraduates and support them through their own projects which can also be rewarding. A usual day for me would entail arriving at work and checking through emails, followed by planning my reactions for the day. I then usually spend around 4-6 hours in the lab combined with analysing data and reading literature. I also often engage in group discussions with other PhD students to pool ideas for potential research avenues and to solve problems. My day is then usually rounded off by socialising with friends.
Having studied general chemistry at undergraduate level, I wanted to branch out into a different area of research. Materials science seemed to have the balance of chemistry and engineering I was looking for. In the next five years, I would like to undertake several short term postdoctoral research projects of a chemistry/materials engineering nature. After that I would ideally like to continue similar research in the industrial sector, possibly in the USA or Europe.
If you are considering studying a PhD I would recommend you pick a PhD topic that you find interesting, one that will continue to inspire you for three to four years. If you manage that then a PhD can be enjoyable and rewarding, but it takes a lot of commitment.