Please ask questions: Investigating your own future PhD ideas.

Doing a PhD is an interesting experience – not least because lots of people (including myself pre-starting to have any real interest in research) do not really know what it is! In fact I would say I didn’t really know how research worked and am still finding these things out. But since starting my PhD I have had a number of people asking the same questions, including:

“How are your assignments and exams going?” (There are none)

“Is your course longer than one year?” (Yes I am doing it part time for 4 years)

“Do you get a student discount?” (Yes in some shops!! yay)

“So what days do you actually work?” (My PhD IS my work- and I work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and the occasional Wednesday)

“Who is paying you?” (The NIHR- the research arm of the Department of Health, and they pay my annual leave, sick leave and pension contributions)

“What about your clinical skills- do you miss patients?” (I remain HCPC registered and I am using clinical skills with research work with participants in my research: win-win!)

“Who’s idea was it?” (Eh mine- but it has evolved with advice from my supervisors)

These are actually all very valid questions.

I really feel there are a pool of potential researchers among the allied health professions who just don’t know much about how to get involved with research or even who to ask. And when I answer these questions they frequently lead to more questions. SLTs are often investigating their own options – they have great ideas and would love to realise them as a PhD! It can be valuable to share experiences to buoy others up to have a go. So many people gave me advice and I am always keen to pay it forward. I would always encourage SLTs to come along to the annual doctoral information session at UCL (just passed but keep an eye out on the RCSLT Bulletin mag in April/May next year). Also come along to an event at UCL- such as the Aphasia Research Group at UCL. This is a great place to network and meet academics. You will need to be supported by an academic who is somewhat interested in your project so they can support and advise you. This type of networking is key. The next Aphasia Research Group meeting is tomorrow at UCL from 3-5pm. Come along and hear some inspiring talks from research SLTs and network. They run 4 times a year and are free to attend. There are also opportunities to discuss any of your own budding ideas and get feedback at our regular research generator workshops:

On the other hand My friends and family are simply fascinated by this apparent torture (in their eyes) I have let myself in for! They are more likely to ask:

“You’ll be how old when you finish?” (FYI I won’t yet be 40 when I finish so I’ll be really really young still ok!!!!)

“Do you seriously think that a PhD is more flexible for childcare?” (Yes I do! I can make up my hours around my children’s needs and I don’t have to cancel patients so often when they get sick!)

“Are you actually really enjoying it?” (YES I really do love it! I am 21 months in and I still love it)

Do we have to call you Doctor Volkmer when you finish? (Eh YES! But not when there is an emergency hence I will not be using Dr on any airplane ticket purchases!)

These are also all valid questions: And YES seriously I do enjoy it- I feel incredibly lucky to be doing something I enjoy and I feel is going to make a difference to more people’s lives (I hope).

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