Siobhan Schabrun is a research fellow at University of Western Sydney and works in the field of pain science. She’s been very successful in collecting money from NHMRC to support her work and is also keen on helping ECRs pick their way through kicking off their own research careers. You can find out more about Siobhan at her website (http://www.smschabrun.com/), and also about the big back pain trial she is running at http://www.upwardbackpainstudy.com/. The piece below contains some tips Siobhan has gathered from her own experience, and also appears on her website.
Getting started in research
The first step towards a career in research is an undergraduate degree (preferably an honours degree) or a masters by research (MPhil). Of course it helps if your degree is in an appropriate field for your area of research interest. For instance, if you are interested in a career in biomedical science, don’t do an arts degree! This doesn’t mean you have to do a biomedical science degree just something that is relevant (science, medicine, physiotherapy will all likely be ok).
Don’t worry if you’re not sure which area of research you’d like to pursue or don’t have a burning question that you want to answer. I meet loads of people who think a PhD isn’t right for them simply because they don’t know what they want to study. The first step towards a career in research is learning how to do research, regardless of the topic. Once you have these skills you can apply them to almost any field.
At this stage in your career your supervisor will help you to develop research ideas and formulate a topic for your PhD. So if you have no idea about the topic, but are sure research is your thing, don’t panic!
Pros and cons of a research career
|Follow your own interests||Job security|
|Creativity||Work long hours|
|Autonomy||Relatively low pay|
|Work alone and in a team||Rejection (grants, papers)|
|Utilise many different skills||Experiments will fail|
|Make a real world difference|
Starting (and surviving) your PhD
Finding a PhD supervisor
Your supervisor is the most important part of your PhD, even more important than your topic. Obviously you want a supervisor in your area of interest but a bad supervisor, no matter how great the topic, will make for a stressful and negative PhD experience. Below are some tips for finding a great PhD supervisor:
Tips for surviving your PhD
Below is a helpful guide:
Where to find a PhD scholarship
Being competitive for a PhD scholarship
As a guide you will need:
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