There’s been a lot of talk online recently about what people are doing after finishing a PhD, particularly those who are involved with science communication alongside their academic research work. I’m now less than a year from my planned thesis hand-in date, so I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do afterwards.
I want to stay in academic research.
After speaking to a lot of fellow PhD students that are around the same point as me, my choice seems a bit weird now. Every single person I’ve spoken to wants to leave academic research. As you might expect, lots of the students who are involved with science communication alongside their PhD work are aiming to go into science communication full-time, but there are a few who want to leave the science world entirely. I figured now is a good time to explain why I want to stick with what I’m doing, and why I don’t want to make science communication my full-time job.
I enjoy the work I’m doing
Sadly, I think this is rare. The pressure that a PhD can put students under can be massive, it can be overwhelming, and if you don’t enjoy the work then you can get pretty miserable when you’re stuck doing something you hate for 3 years. I’m lucky in that I really haven’t had that experience at all. I genuinely love the work I’m doing, I find it exciting and challenging, and I want to stick with it until I’ve cracked the problems I’m focussing on – which could be my entire career.
I do science communication because my research is important
I enjoy doing science communication; it gives me a creative outlet that is linked to my work, and can therefore improve the quality of my research. For me, that’s a win, win. To begin with I started doing scicomm because I thought it’d be a good way to push myself out of my comfort zone – see The Chatty Scientist’s YouTube channel – I never thought I’d be recording myself talking about science and happily posting about it on the internet! Now, I’ve gained confidence and I continue to be active in the scicomm world because I think my research is important. I really feel that people should know about the work that we’re doing to improve the way we design, run and report clinical trials. I’m not sure I’d feel so passionate about science communication if I was communicating research that I wasn’t linked with.
I don’t want to move for the sake of moving
Not only do I want to stay in research, I really want to stay at the Health Services Research Unit at the University of Aberdeen too. The team are brilliant, the working environment is supportive and exciting, and I really think that I could do well here. Whilst moving out of Aberdeen would be exciting, I don’t think it’s worth leaving such a good team behind just for the sake of moving; if I did move, I think I’d have missed an opportunity here. Plus, in grown up life there’s other people to consider. My boyfriend has a job here he enjoys, we’ve got a flat that we both love, and friends and family relatively nearby.
So, what next?
Over the next few weeks I plan to scope out funding sources – these could be fellowships, project grants, or smaller pots of money that can be put together to keep me going for the next year or so. I’m very aware that fellowships are competitive, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up. That said, I’ll be working on applications over the coming months, and keeping my fingers crossed!
If you’re a PhD student, what do you plan on doing next and why? I’d be interested to hear about your experiences with this 🙂