Alan Merritt, from Leeds undertook a PhD in Molecular Biology.
What made you choose Molecular Biology at PhD level?
I really enjoyed my undergraduate degree and was looking for postgraduate research opportunities. I had particularly enjoyed learning about the research that underpins medical advancement and so focussed my search towards Institutes and Groups carrying out translational research.
Why did you choose to come to Leeds?
I did my undergraduate degree at Leeds and my personal tutor recommended I apply for a PhD position that was available based at St James’s Hospital with his collaborators. I had come to know the subject area well and was excited to contribute to the research I had learned so much about.
In addition, the most important factor on deciding where to study was the people I would be working with. The support and advice from the people around you is essential for a successful research project – I regularly communicate with my Supervisor to discuss the project.
What was the highlight of the PhD?
The highlight so far has been a three-month visit to Harvard Medical School to work with our collaborators. It was a fantastic experience that allowed me to make some invaluable contacts in my research area.
Was there anything that came as a surprise?
I was surprised by how much my initial project plan changed. Research is always changing and a new avenue I pursued in my final year turned out to be my most significant finding.
Would you recommend a PhD to others? Why?
If you are seriously considering a career in academia then yes. However, it is a major commitment and not something that should be taken lightly. It would be a good idea to talk to someone currently doing or just finished a PhD to find out what would be expected of you.
Also bear in mind that you may be working long and sometimes strange hours during a research degree. It’s important to make sure you find some time to get out of the lab and relax. The postgraduate student representatives at Leeds do a good job of organising social activities.
What have been the benefits of postgraduate research at Leeds?
Postgraduate research has provided the necessary training and qualifications required to pursue a career in academia.
How do you think your PhD has helped you?
A PhD degree is essential for a career in research but my project has also given me numerous transferable skills including presenting work in front of large audiences, working as part of a team as well as developing the skills to independently determine the direction of my work.
Upon completion of my PhD, I plan to stay in research and I am currently applying for postdoctoral research positions.