Leah Henrickson

PhD student

Can you explain what your research project is about?

My research is about reader responses to computer-generated texts.

More broadlyand in more technical terms, I consider the social and literary implications of natural language generation. 

Although I’m based in English, my work wouldn’t be possible without regular collaboration with folks from computer science and the social sciences. 

What were you doing before you started your PhD?

I earned an undergraduate degree in Book & Media Studies from the University of Toronto, and then a master’s degree in the History of the Book from the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

After my master’s, I took a year to work in commercial real estate in Toronto. During this time, I kept bees, sold some rare and antiquarian books, and fell in love with the stock market. 

Why did you choose Loughborough University?

Honestly, I chose Loughborough for practical reasons.

I had met one of my current supervisors while studying in London and our research interests aligned. He let me know about some paid studentships that were available, and I was awarded one after a successful interview (I had one unsuccessful interview before that).

I had never actually been to Loughborough before I arrived for my three-year doctoral programme, but my gut said go for it. 

How are you funding your studies?

I’m fully funded through a University studentship, but as an international student this means that most of my stipend goes towards paying the difference between domestic and international rates. 

To save money on housing and food, I work as a Sub-Warden at one of the undergraduate halls on campus. 

To earn some extra money, I do casual work across campus: open days, receptionist coveragebought-in lecturing… that kind of thing. 

What do you enjoy the most about studying a PhD with us?

I’ve really appreciated the incredible amount of support the University provides for doctoral researchers. 

My supervisors have been professional and personable. The staff at the Doctoral College offer high-quality trainingwhich has helped me became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

The Doctoral College and my own School also provide financial support that has allowed me to present at numerous international conferences – I’ve been able to disseminate my research while exploring the world. 

Describe what it is like to study a PhD, and how this differs from undergraduate/masters study?

Doing a research degree is a completely different experience from doing a taught degree.

There’s no one standing over your shoulder saying do this, do thatYour supervisors are there to provide guidance, but your research and progress are ultimately your responsibility.

As a result, doing a PhD requires substantially more self-motivation and self-discipline than doing an undergraduate or master’s degree. 

Describe a day in the life of a PhD student?

I treat my PhD like a full-time job, so my days are pretty routine.

I get up around 7.30am. I arrive at the office around 9am and work until about 6pm. I spend my evenings hanging out with friends at the real ale pubs in town or relaxing at home. I go to the gym for around an hour each day, but the time of day varies depending on my commitments. 

Why did you decide to undertake a PhD in your area?

I’d known for a long time that I wanted to pursue a career in academia, so that dream drove me to undertake a PhD. 

Now that I’m actually doing a PhD, I see that there are so many other places my doctoral experience can take meI’m still interested in an academic career, but I’m much more open to other opportunities. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’m waiting for a sign from the universe. I’ll probably be keeping bees. 

If you could give one piece of advice to a future PhD student, what would it be?

Establish a routine that works for you as early as you can, and try your best to stick to it. Treating your PhD like a day job helps you stay on track with your progression.

Yes, you’re still a student (enjoy those student discounts!), but don’t let the scheduling flexibility afforded by your student status hold you back from getting things done.