You are here

PhD Student Case Studies

On this page some of our current postgraduate research students talk about their own areas of research and their experiences at the University of Suffolk.

Jennifer Coe - PGR Rep

Academic School: School of Psychology and Education

PhD Supervisors at the University of Suffolk: Professor Penny Cavenagh, Dr Manos Georgiadis, Dr Rachel Grenfell-Essam

PhD Supervisor at the University of Essex: Dr Gerulf Rieger

Why did you decide to do a PhD?

I chose to do a PhD because I want to become a Psychology Lecturer and this is the main route into this career. I also decided on a PhD and a life in academia because I love learning and love engaging in research in the field of Psychology.

Why did you choose the University of Suffolk?

I chose the University of Suffolk because firstly, it had a number of staff who could academically support my chosen research interest. Secondly, because of its personal nature. It is a smaller institution and therefore with fewer PhD students the support and the community feeling you get from the University really helps to foster a good PhD journey. The alternative of studying at a large institution where you get lost in the numbers with limited personal experience wasn't as appealing to me. 

How has the University of Suffolk supported you throughout your PhD journey?

Academically, the University of Suffolk has supported me by ensuring that at all stages of my PhD process I am provided with the training I need and that even during supervisory team changes I feel calm, relaxed and confident.

They have also supported me personally throughout the journey. In 2016 I fell pregnant and was very concerned about how I would continue with my PhD during pregnancy and following the birth of my baby. They supported me by providing a range of information on what I was entitled to for maternity as well as ensuring that I did not feel overwhelmed or over worked at any stage.

Have you had a personal highlight so far during your PhD?

A personal highlight for me so far was successfully gaining the position of PGR Representative. This meant that I was able to support all PGR students throughout their journeys and had an opportunity to support, encourage and deliver growth and change within the PGR community. A second highlight for me was being appointed as intern for the UEA delivered COURAGE Project. During this project I will be delivering a range of activities to support and foster a strong PGR Cultute and Community within the University of Suffolk as well as supporting and improving PGR student wellbeing.

How have you found balancing your studies with your day to day life?

I am a part-time student, I work full time and I have a husband and young child. With all of these different hats I feel I am still able to successfully engage in my PhD.

It is important for you to know that despite other family or work commitments a PhD IS POSSIBLE. At times you may need to park some time for your PhD specifically but the important thing for this is time management as well as knowing how you work as an individual. For example, I need to block off time to be able to do PhD work – I am much better at getting a large chunk of work done when I block out a few days or a week just for my PhD as opposed to trying to do some PhD work on a family day or a work day. You will learn this yourself but however works best for you, it can be done. Myself and other PhD mentors will be happy to help support all students with work life, and day to day life balances.

Would you recommend studying for a PhD at the University of Suffolk?

I would highly recommend not only studying for a PhD – as this is in an ever-changing world an important academic step for you, but specifically at the University of Suffolk because they support and foster strong and well-rounded academic students.

Through the training provided by the University you can develop a range of extra skills whilst also benefiting from the interaction, communication and student led change that occurs within the Suffolk PGR community. The University of Suffolk are still growing and the benefit of engaging in PGR study at this time is that your feedback and comments are very much taken on  board and actioned upon to improve not only your experience but the experiences of others. You will be seen by the whole university, not just your academic school, as a valued member of the institution and you will feel a part of the University wide team of academics and not just a student.

How have the training opportunities you have access to at the University of Suffolk and the University of East Anglia helped you?

There are several training opportunities from both the University of Suffolk and the University of East Anglia available to PhD students. Attendance at PGR sessions has helped me to understand the PhD process much better, important things such as knowing the supervisory role as well as research ethics. With the training sessions running throughout the year, it helps to know that there are several opportunities where engagement with the Graduate School team and other PGR students is scheduled in. 

At the University of Suffolk if there are any training sessions that you feel would be useful, but are not yet arranged, the team will work with whoever they can to try and get that training session in place for the next academic year.

 

Karen Hinton

 

Academic School: School of Psychology and Education

PhD Supervisors at the University of Suffolk: Professor Mohammad Dastbaz and Dr Clare Gartland 

I recently completed an MBA whilst working full-time, and loved the experience of studying again and doing my own research for the dissertation. I remember talking about it to a member of the academic team at Suffolk, who suggested I consider a PhD.

I’d never thought about it before but after discussing it with friends and family, I decided it was worth a try. I had recently become heavily involved in the development of Degree Apprenticeships as part of my job, and began to question how Apprenticeship policy could work in practice. Before I knew it, I had written my proposal and been accepted onto the PhD!

I am now 16 months into a part-time PhD, and I am really enjoying it. I have loved getting into the relevant literature and now feel ready to start my primary research – even though I still have lots more to read. I am excited about getting started on the research.

The biggest challenge for me has been managing my PhD alongside a busy full-time job and home life. I find that I have to be very strict with myself about creating time for the PhD, and very focussed when I do it, but I think I am managing it relatively well. There are some bits that I have found more enjoyable than others, but I think that’s normal!

I’ve enjoyed the support in the PhD community and the training sessions at the University of Suffolk, plus the online training from the University of East Anglia, has been really helpful. A PhD is a massive commitment, but I would highly recommend it. No-one knows what life will throw at them in the future, but I think if an opportunity comes your way (or you THINK an opportunity is there) then you might as well grab it with both hands. What have you got to lose? The support at Suffolk is excellent and if you think your research topic will keep your interest for a few years, you might as well give it a go.

Granville Sutton

Academic School: School of Law and Social Sciences

PhD Supervisors at the University of Suffolk: Professor Emma Bond and Dr Paul Andell

PhD Supervisor at the University of Essex: Professor Nigel South

Why did you decide to do a PhD?

I graduated with a very good undergraduate degree and then did equally as well at master’s level. I felt that doing a PhD would be a logical progression.

Why did you choose the University of Suffolk?

I work full time in Ipswich and to some extent the location of the University of Suffolk was really important. PhD study is tough enough without travelling long distances to meet with supervisors and engage in university activities. I was an undergraduate at the University when it was University Campus Suffolk and the experience was very positive. I did consider the University of Essex, but a friend mentioned that UOS was offering PhD's at Ipswich in partnership with the University Essex. So, as far as I am concerned, everything worked out well. I have the convenience of being registered with both the University of Suffolk and the University of Essex and can draw heavily upon resources provided by both institutions. 

How has the University of Suffolk supported you throughout your PhD journey?

Financially the University of Suffolk has supported me through the alumni programme by reducing the fees to an affordable level. Academically, the support has been exemplary. My supervisors have been extremely patient and inspirational.

Have you had a personal highlight so far during your PhD?

Being accepted onto the programme was awesome but passing progression board was a real highlight as I am now a ‘proper’ PhD student. However, I think the real highlight was gaining ethical approval and then starting to gather research data from participants.

How have you found balancing your studies with your day to day life?

Despite working full time, it has not been too traumatic! I am genuinely interested in my topic so it relatively easy to stay motivated. A little and often is my advice.

Would you recommend studying for a PhD at the University of Suffolk?

I would only recommend a PhD to students who are genuinely interested in exploring a subject in great depth over a protracted length of time. If your primary motivation is to be called Dr then you won’t get very far as the workload is like nothing you have experienced as a student before. Studying for a PhD at the University of Suffolk is great, it’s a small Graduate School so you don’t just get thought of as a number.

How have the training opportunities you have access to at the University of Suffolk and the University of Essex helped you?

The training on offer at both UOS and Essex is fantastic. The in-house training at UOS is very good quality indeed and covers all the skills you will need to succeed.

Katie Tyrrell

Academic Institute: Suffolk Institute for Social and Economic Research (SISER)

PhD Supervisors at the University of Suffolk: Professor Emma Bond, Professor Andy Phippen and Dr Fiorentina Sterkaj

Why did you decide to do a PhD?

I decided to do a PhD to progress in my career within academia. As a researcher at the University of Suffolk already, this was the next logical step as part of my professional development. I was working previously on a project investigating university students experiences of online harassment, I am building on this topic for my PhD, focusing specifically on student online relationships.

Why did you choose the University of Suffolk?

The University of Suffolk is awesome! We are based in a beautiful location on the Ipswich Waterfront (in the summer, I like to pretend that we are residing on the French Riviera) and we have wonderful staff with significant expertise within my chosen field of study.

How has the University of Suffolk supported you throughout your PhD journey?

The university provides numerous training opportunities led by academic staff, we also have active PGR reps, who organise an abundance of social and study events to ensure PhD students are supported throughout their journey. The Graduate School staff are also incredibly friendly and able to answer any queries you may have throughout your time at Suffolk, not only this but you also have access to UEA training and resources too!

Have you had a personal highlight so far during your PhD?

Being a part of our growing vibrant PhD community! We meet regularly within our postgraduate library space, working and taking time to discuss and reflect on our PhD journeys together. The PhD is challenging, particularly when working full-time, but I am really enjoying the experience of learning and building new understanding, expertise and knowledge within an original area of study, as well as cultivating opportunities for personal development.

Joel Nemukula

Academic School: School of Science, Technology and Engineering

PhD Supervisors at the University of Suffolk: Dr Nic Bury, Dr Fandi Ibrahim and Dr Suha Al-Naimi

Why did you decide to do a PhD?

I have been a pharmacist for more than 23 years and wanted to change my career path. As I would like to be an academic, I see the PhD as the path to my career aspiration. Now that my two older sons have graduated and flown the nest, there’s no better time for me to do my PhD.

Why did you choose the University of Suffolk?

The University of Suffolk is my local university. My wife studied and graduated to Masters level at UOS. Her experience was excellent, and it inspired me to join the UOS community. As one of the fastest growing academic institutions in the UK, I find it very motivating to part of the University of Suffolk.

How has the University of Suffolk supported you throughout your PhD journey?

After having a break from active studies for more than a decade, I was a bit sceptical about doing any further study. The graduate school have been very supportive with the resources to help me settle back into active studies. The encouragement from my supervisors is invaluable, they are always there whenever I need help.

Have you had a personal highlight so far during your PhD?

When my supervisors took me to meet my Internal Assessor at the University of East Anglia. The meeting was very productive, I really enjoyed it. It made me understand how UOS collaborate with other academic institutions. My other personal highlight was when I presented my first ever poster as a PhD student. I really enjoyed engaging with delegates who are experts in different fields.

How have you found balancing your studies with your day to day life?

Balancing studies with everyday life needs thorough planning and honest communication with those closest to you. The plan is for me to do my first two years part time and my final two years full time. My first year went very well and I’ve just started my second year. Being a family man, married with another set of two young children and a full-time job is a challenge already. I have had to make some adjustments, including reducing my working hours to reserve some time for my studies. Fortunately, my wife has been a mature student herself and is very supportive, actually she is the one who tempted me to go for it with UOS, so we are in it together. 

Why you might recommend studying for a PhD in general or specifically at the University of Suffolk?

The support and extra training provided by the University of Suffolk helps make studying easier. All you have to do to is to ask whenever you need help. The library is loaded with resources required to aid your studies. You also have access to resources from UEA which I find very helpful. The Graduate School staff are very helpful and supportive. For someone who is ambitious enough, I would definitely recommend the University of Suffolk as you will be a part of one of the fastest growing institutions in the UK.