Finding a PhD


Finding a PhD you are both going to enjoy and find interesting is quite difficult. The advertisements for PhD positions often sound very specific to a certain field. In actual fact they are probably quite vague titles, compared to the very specific area you will work in in that field.

There are a few important things to think about while applying for a PhD.

Firstly, if you are going to enjoy working in that area. Three or four years is a huge commitment you really have to enjoy what you are doing or you may quit. This applies to both the subject matter, but also the techniques you will be doing (i.e. don’t apply for an PhD heavily involving electron microscopy if you can’t stand it!). Make sure you thoroughly research what it is that the lab you are applying to does, including reading all their latest papers.

Secondly you need to know whether you are going to get along with your supervisor and the rest of your work colleagues. If you are given the option to have an informal interview or a look around, then it is definitely work taking. If you are not offered the option then make sure you ask, it is also a way of showing how keen and interested you are.

Thirdly, something you don’t think about at undergraduate, but research is expensive, it is worth finding out if the lab you are going to work for actually has a grant to spend money from. If the lab you work in doesn’t have much money you may find you are limited in what experiments you can do. A well funded lab will also mean you will probably get to go to more conferences, in particular international ones on expenses.

Good places to start hunting for PhDs are the university websites, but also places like and FindaPhD have a good selection of PhDs available. If you are particularly interested in an area of research carried out by someone then it is definitely worth emailing them to ask if they have a PhD position available or if they would be interested in creating one.

If you are unsure of where to apply then ask your tutor or a member of staff whose work you find interesting if they could help you find a suitable PhD… you never know they may offer you one!


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