What is a PhD?
It stands for Doctor of Philosophy and involves a huge research project but beyond that I didn’t really know so I went and asked a friend who’s currently completing one.
What is involved in a PhD?
A research project* that you work on with the guidance of a supervisor.
* A research project generally involves coming up with a theory or something that you want to investigate such as an unknown feature, and then pursuing this through an experiment. Not all PhD projects will involve a laboratory based experiment.
How is it different to an Honours project?
It really is up to you to research the appropriate literature and come up with your experimental design (the method of testing). While you have a supervisor for both courses, a PhD requires you to be far more independent.
An Honours project is generally one year. How long does a PhD take to complete?
Around 3-4 years.
What is your PhD about?
I’m looking at a particular neuron (a type of cell in the body). These cells are located in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and I want to investigate the path they take. I’d like to complete an anatomical (structural) survey for this cell as nobody really knows where it goes. If we can work this out then maybe we can work out it’s physiology (what it does).
How do you do this?
I inject a virus into laboratory rats. It attaches to these cells making them turn green. This helps me see which structures they go to.
How long is a thesis (written report of all your work)?
What was your pathway into Science?
I completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology in America. It involved a neuroscience component which I really enjoyed, partly because I had an inspirational professor. What I really like about science is that there is a lot about it that is unknown.
What happened after you graduated?
I was a research assistant for a few years. You get to learn a few investigative techniques as well as contribute to some publications. Then I came to Australia and began my PhD.
What is an average day for you?
A balance between writing, experiments, teaching, and reading. Most PhD students will work as a demonstrator (the teacher in the prac classes). It’s great to see a student understand something new and I really enjoy sharing what I’ve learnt with them.