I was an undergraduate student studying towards a Geography BSc. During my time as a student, I also completed various placements and paid work which equipped me with a variety of skills and helped me to realise the future direction that I might want to go in. I chose Loughborough to do my PhD because I was inspired throughout my undergraduate degree by the enthusiasm, knowledge and research of my lecturers. I felt that my own research interests have been largely shaped by my time at Loughborough, whether that be through lectures, the research specialisms of those in the department or events that I have attended, and it felt appropriate to continue my research journey here.
My research aims
My research investigates how race and gender shape young women’s career decisions, expectations and experiences. My project focuses on the transition between higher education and graduate employment to understand how young women view their own positions during this pivotal, and often uncertain time. In particular, I aim to explore (i) how young women believe that their gender and race has impacted, or will impact their career progression and workplace experiences; (ii) how university environments shape young women’s expectations and experiences of their working lives; (iii) the impacts of young women’s perceptions on their career outlooks, decision making and feelings. To conduct my research, I am carrying out interviews with young women who are in their final year of an undergraduate degree or recent alumnae from one university in the UK. I was awarded a studentship from the University. I also apply for external sources of funding to assist with my fieldwork and conference costs.
Highlights of doing a PhD
I most enjoy the freedom to explore a topic that I am passionate about. It is rare to be able to dedicate to three years to one single piece of research and I am always grateful to be able to have that time to pursue my research interests. The staff and fellow PhD in Geography and Environment make it an extremely supportive and positive place to work in and the regular coffee afternoons, playing sport together and conversations in the corridors keep me going! I also love the chance to mix with the wider PhD community and to share our experiences with one another.
Doing a PhD involves a tremendous amount of independent work and requires you to be able to motivate yourself towards a long deadline. Unlike taught degree programmes, PhD research requires a much greater sense of responsibility towards teaching yourself new theories and deciding what it is important for your research. The level of independence that you get with a PhD can be both liberating and terrifying! Being the only one working on your research topic can be a challenge and it can feel quite solitary sometimes, so it’s important to develop a strong support network and get talking to other people about your research when possible. Furthermore, without the same deadlines and ‘end point’ as undergraduate and masters study, it can be difficult to know when to step away from something that you are working on and move onto the next phase. Often the more that you look into something, the more you realise there is to do, so knowing when you have done ‘enough’ is also key and an important skill that I had to develop when I started my PhD.
It really does depend on your own working style and your project, but I generally try to treat it as a job. I tend to start fairly early in the morning and finish by the end of the usual working day. I try to write something every day, whether that be part of a chapter or notes from an article that I have been reading, otherwise the thought of writing an entire thesis can be rather daunting! If I am conducting interviews a large part of my day might involve travelling to places that I have never been to before and talking to young women across the country, which is a part of the research process that I particularly love.
In five years’ time I hope to have made a meaningful contribution to my research area and be in a position to pursue my research area further, whether that be directly through another research project or indirectly through working for a government or non-governmental organisation on something such as policy.
My advice for a future doctoral researcher is that planning is key – and not just for the tasks that you want to complete, but also to create time for yourself too. Sometimes your PhD seems to grow into a potentially endless amount of work and knowing when to step away from it and give yourself a break is vital. Additionally, when you are working on your research, planning a variety of tasks for yourself is extremely important because sometimes you just won’t feel like ‘writing’. Having a list of ‘low intensity’ tasks that don’t require quite as much mental energy can help you to feel productive whilst also giving your brain a break.