For my project, I am researching how to alleviate urban poverty in Ghana by improving access to sustainable energy sources. There are two primary ways of achieving this: improving income generating activities, or improving public infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.
After graduating from my BA Politics with Economics at Loughborough University, I worked at MBA Trading, a global commodities and currency trader, before working as a Research Assistant at the Departamento de Estado Cuernavaca in Mexico. I then returned to Loughborough for my MSc International Financial and Political Relations and went straight into my PhD from there.
I initially chose Loughborough for my BA as it seemed to have the best student experience, at least better than other universities I was considering at the time including Aston, Exeter and Nottingham. For my PhD however, I chose Loughborough over going back into full-time employment because the standard of living is very high as a PhD student here, as well as the independence, flexibility and passion for my work. Also, I am happy in Loughborough; it is now my home, and I looked forward to working with my supervisors who I knew from my MSc.
I am passionate about my research area, but what I enjoy most about doing a PhD here is working alongside the other PhD students and staff members. We have a fantastic culture here that most other departments and universities lack. A close-knit, friendly community of very intelligent, cultured and inclusive individuals all supporting each other and doing countless group activities together including sports, reading groups, pub quizzes, nights out, department socials etc. A support network is vital for not only successfully writing a quality PhD, but enjoying and growing as a person throughout these years.
I would describe my PhD as more like a job, but without a boss! It's very flexible and as long as you have the drive, organisation and independence to keep on top of your workload, working with and learning from your supervisors and colleagues, making and keeping to deadlines and writing at a high standard, it can be a very rewarding 9-5 experience. It differs from undergraduate/master’s study because they are mostly teaching-based, whereas a PhD is entirely working on your own thesis. No classes, exams or coursework, just 100% your own original work.
My day as a PhD student consists of getting in for 8.30-9am, spending 30 minutes to an hour chatting to other staff members and PhD students, making coffee etc. Between 9-12.30, I will be working at my computer, reading, writing, completing administrative tasks or attending meetings (maybe an average of one or two per week). We always meet for lunch at 12.30pm in the foyer or, if it's a nice day, outside in the sunshine. 1.30-5pm is time for working/meetings again. This may include some teaching, exam invigilation (all paid) or attending seminars or workshops run by the Doctoral College (a great way to meet PhD students from across the University!). After work, we play sports at least twice a week, attend a pub quiz or have a night out at least once a week, all open invitation; some people come to everything and others to none - it's very relaxed and informal.
For my research project, I am funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
I decided to undertake a PhD as in the short term it was things like personal interest, a rewarding subject area, good living standards and the opportunity to be paid to research in Ghana, a country I have never visited before.
In the long term it was things like future jobs prospects (sustainable energy is a growing industry), future university prospects (potentially going into academia) and knowledge of the subject area.
In five years’ time I am not sure where I will be, perhaps one of the following: working as a Research Assistant here at Loughborough, a think tank, journalism, government department relating to either energy or poverty reduction, NGOs, intentional development etc.
If you are looking at doing a PhD, do it here!