Should I do a PhD?

November 18, 2016

Are you a 4th year MEng student or MSc student? Considering doing a PhD but not sure? Have questions to ask but no one to answer them?
We at the orb had the privilege of interviewing 2 of our very own PhD students – Benjamin Bird and Nawapong Unsuree- about the benefits of a PhD and how to know if you should go down this path. Benjamin Birds’ PhD is in robotics field with its centre focus on the optimization of cutting platforms for nuclear decommissioning whilst Nawapong Unsuree is acquiring a PhD in graphene-based photonic devices, with a special focus on integrating graphene into micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS) for high-performance portable spectrometers.
When asked about why they decided to go down the PhD route, they gave different reasons. Mr Birds’ being that he has always had an interest in robotics and this has been influenced by his dad who is an electronic engineer, whilst Mr Unsuree is simply fulfilling a childhood dream. Despite their different reasons, one thing remains clear – they both have passion.
Though the academic benefits of a PhD are clear such as being an expert in your field, the non-academic ones may not be as clear. From Mr Birds perspective the non-academic benefits are near enough endless. ‘It’s an easy job. Even though you work a lot it is quite flexible, helps with credibility, I get paid to do a job I actually like AND I don’t get taxed!’ Mr Unsuree proceeded to answer the question as follows: ‘I love the PhD life. It has improved my logical thinking, it’s a more realistic representation of the work world and I am actively involved. It also helped manage my emotions as well as time management as it can be very frustrating at times’
My final question to both gentlemen was ‘what advice would you give to prospective PhD students?’ The advice from both parties was witty, creative and most of all, priceless.
Mr Unsuree : ‘ You will have to work really hard, but it doesn’t guarantee success. You will fail many times. Take time to think about the problem, re-do it. It will be incredibly frustrating and you will feel hopeless. You have to learn how to boost yourself and push yourself through it. Depending on what you want to do I would say get a PhD. In the future some companies may require it so more opportunities available to you.’
Mr Bird : ‘Imagine a big tree. The end result the leaf at the tip of the tree. You start from the base of the tree and move upwards, encountering many different leaves which as dead ends. The aim is to get to the top leaf without making too many mistakes, so pick something you enjoy. It will be the best time of your life.’
Mr Bird plans to go into defence and aerospace after his PhD. Mr Unsuree plans to go back home ( Thailand) and work for the government to improve current technologies and be part of the innovative processes.
If you have any other questions you would like to ask feel free to drop Mr Bird or Mr Unsuree an email – Benjamin.bird@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk
nawapong.unsuree@manchester.ac.uk

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