Early submission of your thesis is what most PhD students can only dream of, throw in a trip to Australia and now I’m really getting jealous. Final year PhD student Claire Madigan tells us how it’s done…
I started my PhD in primary care in September 2011. Unfortunately and fortunately (I will explain later) at the end of November 2011 I fractured and dislocated my foot whilst trampolining. As you can imagine this was a painful and distressing time, however I had my PhD to focus on and that’s what I did. I have always been a planner and have always tended to hand in assignments early. I attribute this to never wanting to miss trampolining training and therefore having to get my work done. Whilst I was on crutches and in plaster, I created a Gantt chart for my whole PhD period. I also investigated conferences and found one in Malaysia in 2014. I mentioned to my supervisors that I would like to go and they thought I was a bit barmy but appeased me and said it was unlikely.
Due to my foot and hard work I managed to get ahead of my PhD and in early 2013 I decided to apply for the University 21 scholarship to visit another university. I asked my supervisor if she had any networks that I could go and visit and luckily for me she had a colleague who had studied at the University of Birmingham but was now based at the University of Queensland, Australia. Professor Wendy Brown set up the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health (ALSWH) in 1996 and the study is a cohort study of over 40,000 women. I prepared a research proposal and applied for funding. I did not get the funding from university 21. However I had also applied for external funding from the Menzie bicentennial scholarship and was awarded £1000 – this would pay for my flight. I then applied for the travel fund from the Medical school and was also successful.
I planned my trip to Australia to coincide with attending the International Conference of Obesity in Malaysia on the way back. In total I was away for seven weeks and took a couple of week’s holiday in that time. I am also helping to organise the first UK Congress of Obesity which is being held in Birmingham this coming September. My involvement has led to networking opportunities with other researchers, and Professor Susan Jebb arranged for me to give a seminar about my PhD work at the University of Sydney. This was an amazing experience and the team at the University of Sydney were great. I also had people come up to me at the conference in Malaysia to tell me they had come to my talk. I will be going back to build future research collaborations.
I spent a month at the University of Queensland, conducting analysis on the ALSWH dataset and I am currently writing this up as a paper. This work I have been doing is separate to my PhD work, but has given me an opportunity to work with a large data set. Additionally I handed a first draft of my thesis to my supervisors before I went and it was nice to have a break from it. I also gave another seminar at the University of Queensland and met more people to collaborate with.
The whole trip was about networking and creating collaborations. I just need to finalise my PhD before I can start on developing these next research collaborations and apply for a post doc. The trip gave me greater confidence in my ability and knowledge and I feel prepared to defend my research when I have my Viva. I would recommend planning in advance and taking every opportunity whilst completing your PhD.