PhD in United Kingdom.
1. Which country and university did you choose for your PhD and why?
I chose UK, University of Leeds as a) I already had my Master’s degree from UK (MRes Nanomedicine, Newcastle University) and b) wanted to work specifically with mesenchymal stem cells and osteoarthritis with full funding. I was able to receive full funding with my supervisor’s help in University of Leeds.
2. How the education system is different from your home country?
There are some major differences. With respect to a PhD, I notice the following differences.
A) In UK, full-time PhDs usually range from 3-4 years whereas in India they are usually 5-6 years long.
B) The attention paid to writing the thesis is much more in UK, while in India, the maximum effort is on doing the work/data collection/analysis. Personally, I think that both are equally important.
C) As UK takes writing very seriously, every student has a designated student space with their computers. This is usually not the case in India and there are communal desk spaces shared between large numbers of PhD students.
3. How smooth was your PhD years and how long did you take to finish it?
My PhD experience was extremely fulfilling and enriching, even in the final stretches of writing. My main supervisor was always supportive, encouraging and critical at the same time. I was also lucky to have colleagues who were extremely helpful. There were ups and downs in terms of some experiments not working and me personally having a roller coaster ride with the thesis writing bit, but PhD journey is overwhelming and it made me look at things with a very high level of scrutiny. Staying self-motivated and reminding myself that failure and success are both equally important was the key to staying focussed. My laboratory work was relatively smoother than my writing but from what I have seen in my experience in 4 different research groups, a PhD is not meant to be smooth. I faced maximum hurdles during my thesis writing but I have learnt plenty (and still learning) from the process. I will be finishing in 4 years’ time.
4. Which scholarship did you apply for or was it self-sponsored?
I applied for the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine (LIRMM) departmental scholarship from Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Leeds in June 2015 and started my PhD on 1st March 2016.This was a fully funded scholarship and it covered my International tuition fees, PhD stipend and lab consumables.
5. What would you suggest for the students who are looking for a PhD abroad?
A few things for sure!
A) DO NOT DO A PHD WITHOUT FULL SCHOLARSHIP! I have met a few people here in Leeds who were self-funded. Please take out time, look for scholarships and talk to your potential supervisors about full funding! If nothing works out, take up a job to pump your profile and apply again next year. It is a lot of work and you must be paid for it!
B) University rankings are important but your supervisor is more important! Communicate your expectations from the PhD to them and see how they respond. If they respect your views and sound encouraging, then go for the next steps.
C) Pay attention to your motivation letters/statement of purposes. Universities want to hire people with vision and ambition. Speak to previous senior students in your field/University of choice.
D) It is not going to be easy. Make sure you choose a subject/topic you are willing to go through with for at least the next 4-5 years. There will be ups and downs but do not take them personally. Don’t let success get to your head or a failure get to your heart. Be passionate, respect the process and always believe in yourself.