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PhD interview finally!!!

My golden rule number 1 top of the table premier tip...

If they ask "Why do you want to do a PhD?", it's not a good idea to say "I don't know what else to do", or "There aren't any jobs available"...

What to wear - whatever you feel comfortable in.  Smart trousers and a shirt looks good, but a suit isn't necessary. If you feel better in a suit, though, then wear one.

Preparation - depends on what kind of PhD the interview's for, but generally as long as you know a bit about the area the PhD is covering, a bit about the department, what they specialise in, and you know why you want to do a PhD, that's the main thing.

Universal questions - "Why a PhD?",  "Why this subject area?", "What can you give to a PhD?", "What will you get from a PhD?", "Why this university/department?", "What background do you have in this area?".

Good luck, and remember, even if you don't get it, it's valuable interview practice and experience :-)

Journal abbreviations

This is an obscure way of doing it, but if you go into EndNote (I'm guessing it's probably the same for RefManager) and search for the article, the journal name is given in its abbreviated form, if such a form exists.

Just for fun - citation counts

I was chatting last night to a friend who is also doing a PhD, in an unrelated area, and we were discussing impact factors, citations, and so on. This got me thinking - what's the greatest "citation count", that is the number of times a particular article has been cited by other articles, that you've ever seen?

Post here, with a link to the paper/abstract if you can!

To start the ball rolling, here's mine...

Bradford M (1976). A rapid and sensitive method for the quantitation of microgram quantities of protein using the principle of protein-dye binding. Analytical Biochem 72, 248-254.

Times cited - 123,156

Party Music

Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes

Glass of Champagne - Sailor

Red Red Wine - UB40

Any more?

Which school

I went to a single-sex state grammar school, where people could board, but most, including me, went as day pupils. It gave me a great education, and I think grammar schools are an excellent idea, but I'm less sure about the single sex aspect, certainly from 16-18.

Excel Alternative

Are you certain that, after the one month trial, you just remove and reinstall for another month, and repeat as necessary? I don't want to try this and then find I can't reinstall, making a month's worth of graphs unusable... If so, I'd definitely get this, but my uni doesn't supply it, and I can't buy it...

Missing out? (Particularly for those of us with biological clocks)

I think I know what you mean. I'm a bloke, so the biological clock thing isn't quite so fundamental for me, but I'm going to be 30 by the time I finish my PhD. Then a couple of post-docs with limited-length contracts and the financial instability that comes with them, and I won't be earning a proper guaranteed wage until I'm getting on for 40. I don't know yet whether I want children, and I'm single so it's not relevant at the moment, but I do feel that working in academic research can really impact upon your hopes of having a settled family life. I have friends who work in law and banking, and they're my age, but own houses, are in long-term relationships with stable employment, and it all feels somewhat unfair really.

Creating graphs

This question is mainly aimed at those studying in medical/biological sciences, and probably also those in other branches of science too. I'm currently trying to create graphs out of my first set of data, and I was wondering what packages people use for this. We've had a week of tutoring on SPSS, mainly on stats though, and I still find it very hard to use. Additionally, no one I know in my area seems to use it - the preferences seem to be either Excel or GraphPad Prism, which I don't have access to. I'm comfortable using Excel, but some people seem to look down on it and claim it's not powerful enough. Is this true? Should I struggle along with SPSS, or use Excel?


Why wouldn't you? I'm presuming you're not part of their union, so it's surely nothing to do with you? I agree that, in the case of university staff, pay and conditions are not adequate. However, my own opinion is that strikes are generally run by egomaniac union leaders who hate anyone other than themselves making money. Look at train strikes, cabin crew strikes, baggage handler strikes. These are people with few qualifications who want paying well over the odds. Frankly, they should be sacked.

However, I suppose if you do support the uni staff strikes, you could stand about with them, although it wouldn't do anyone any good, and would only harm your own work.

Endnote question

When I read a paper, I attach it to the relevant Endnote entry under the "File attachments" heading. Is this adding the actual file to my library, so that it becomes part of the library, or is it merely attaching a link to the file stored elsewhere on my computer? I ask because I'm worried about transferring my library/papers to a different folder or drive, and losing the link between them.


Advice for Interview

Hi Chococake (mmm, I'm hungry now!),

The first thing to say is exactly what you're asked - why do you want to do a PhD. You obviously need to be honest, but things to avoid saying IMO are things like "I don't know what else to do", "I don't want to get a job", or "My friends are doing one". I think good reasons are a passion for the subject, interest in research, and of course it's also a stepping stone if you want a career (researcher, lecturer, etc) which requires a PhD. You could maybe talk about something you did as an undergrad which made you want to learn more, and while some stuff is subject specific, I think that a lot of PhDs develop your powers of analysis, critical thought, and also sheer doggedness. I had about four PhD interviews, and they all went fine, so I reckon this is a decent outline, but of course it depends on the subject, and the supervisors too. 5 minutes does seem rather short though!

Using standard curves in Excel/SPSS

Hi all,

I have data for a standard curve, which is linear from the origin over the majority of its length, and certainly over the length which contains the readings I want to take. At higher x-axis values, it tails off to an asymptote. Is there any way to use Excel or SPSS to interpolate/extrapolate my readings off this standard curve, remembering that my readings are in the linear part of the curve? Excel seems to take the higher points into account too much, giving results which are clearly incorrect.

Can anyone help?

Thanks! :-)

Bioinformatics/array question

I have a large set of results from some samples run on a microarray to show induction/suppression of levels of a large number od microRNAs in response to certain conditions, and I was wondering if anyone knows of any free net-based programs which are good at taking this data and condensing it into something more easy to work with. As it is, I'm looking at each of the 600-odd microRNAs separately, and then looking at which genes each of the microRNAs affect, and it's like trying to find the haystack in which the needle's buried before even beginning to look for the needle...

Any help much appreciated...


Feeling ugh

Hey everyone,

I'm doing one of these 1+3 PhDs, and am in the first year, doing lab rotations. I've just finished my first lab rotation and have moved on to the second, but am feeling really rubbish. I've been working really hard on the write-up for my first project, which I've now handed in, but I feel like I'm on a continual treadmill of work, and that if I take any time off to relax, I'll fall off and be unable to get back on. I'm not very good at all with new stuff and change, and I'm unsure of whether I'll be able to match the expectations of my new supervisors and the other people in my new lab, or whether I'll just be shown up as being incompetent and lazy. Added to this, I've got a really bad head cold (man flu :p) and so I don't feel too well physically, which is just making me feel even worse mentally.

I feel like I need a holiday, but apart from just under a week at Easter, I don't think we have any holiday time scheduled until the end of August, and feeling like I do now, I just want to curl up in a dark corner somewhere and hide :(

Sorry for the rant...

Berdfordshire, Sheffield,Surrey and La Trobe in Australia, where do i go for Ph.D please help

On the subject on places, from a purely lifestyle point of view, I think Sheffield is a wonderful city. I spent my undergrad years there, and a year afterwards too - more students stay in Sheffield post-degree than anywhere else, and it's no wonder. Great facilities, cheap-ish life, friendly locals, not bad weather, good access to other cities, top notch university, redevelopments going on all over the uni and city, and excellent transport.