Research assistant + PhD?

posted
24-May-15, 13:17
edited about 2 seconds later
by Alanine
Avatar for Alanine
posted about 5 years ago
Has anyone completed a PhD while working as an RA? (In the biological/medical sciences...)

I have an interview for a position like this next week. When I spoke to the supervisor he said the funding was available for 3.5 years, and the candidate should be able to complete a PhD in this time, if they wanted to.

Is anyone completing their PhD this way or know of someone who is? What are the main pros and cons?

As far as I can see, the obvious advantage is a much higher pay and possibly more structure. But I am not sure what it would mean in terms of workload and stress!

Any advice would be much appreciated :)
posted
24-May-15, 14:25
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 5 years ago
I don't know anyone doing this but I imagine the difficulties will be defining your research contribution when you are assisting with other people's work. Also depends on whether they let you participate in training conferences etc and whether they let you write up during the working day or if this needs to be done in the evenings.

I guess the pay works out about £200-400 pm more than a PhD stipend considering you would be on a salary of £22-25k (?) and paying income tax, council tax and NIC.
posted
24-May-15, 14:31
edited about 3 seconds later
by Alanine
Avatar for Alanine
posted about 5 years ago
So I guess from what you're saying it broadly depends on how supportive the supervisor/research group are?

Pay is listed as 30k- is this higher than average for an RA? I thought 22-25 was more in the research technician bracket.
posted
24-May-15, 15:18
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 5 years ago
Oh ok, it's probably higher in biomedical sciences. I've seen biology RA jobs advertised from £22k but going up to £30k occasionally.

Yeah I think it depends on how supportive they are. This is difficult to gauge in an interview though as obviously they are just going to say they are supportive, so unless you can speak to other researchers in the lab it's difficult to know for sure.
posted
25-May-15, 14:48
by Alanine
Avatar for Alanine
posted about 5 years ago
Anyone who has personal experience of this- would be great to hear from you :)
posted
25-May-15, 15:00
edited about 4 minutes later
Avatar for KeaneFan
posted about 5 years ago
Yes I have experience of this a few years ago. I was an RA on a fixed term contract at a former poly but a decent enough one. My colleague was doing a PhD. I was not. He was an RA too on a different project. I had loads of extra time waiting for survey results to come in and little to do at times. I put a lot of weight on actually waiting around - boredom sat in office completely unoccupied and the university knew I had nothing to do and did not expect me to do any thing either. Plenty of time to do a PhD on our projects. Pay was less at £18,000 a year. Depends on project. My work came in waves; you've have to stagger your commitments
posted
25-May-15, 17:56
by Alanine
Avatar for Alanine
posted about 5 years ago
Quote From KeaneFan:
Yes I have experience of this a few years ago. I was an RA on a fixed term contract at a former poly but a decent enough one. My colleague was doing a PhD. I was not. He was an RA too on a different project. I had loads of extra time waiting for survey results to come in and little to do at times. I put a lot of weight on actually waiting around - boredom sat in office completely unoccupied and the university knew I had nothing to do and did not expect me to do any thing either. Plenty of time to do a PhD on our projects. Pay was less at £18,000 a year. Depends on project. My work came in waves; you've have to stagger your commitments


You're in the social sciences field right? Had a look at your other posts :) I've never worked as an RA but have a feeling it will be more time intensive in my field, I have friends who regularly work evenings and weekends....

How long did it take your colleague to finish his PhD?
posted
25-May-15, 19:02
by RinaL
Avatar for RinaL
posted about 5 years ago
I am sort of an RA (actually thats what they are paying me, in reality I am technician, labmanager and phD student all in one). I won't lie, its one hell of a job, especially when the lab is on fire, you have courses to attend and deadlines pending.

My weekly workload is around 50-60 hours, depending whats going on in my lab life. I plan to finish within 4 years - thats what my boss offered me. At the moment I think its doable - actually I was working on the project for a year before I upgraded to the phD. Without the extra year upfront it would me more tricky to finish on time.

Make sure to know exactly what is expected for you to complete the phD. For me its two first autor publications, 20 ects points in course work, weekly attendance of labmeeting and the institue seminar, as well as 2 conferences that I should attend per year.
posted
25-May-15, 20:02
by Eds
Avatar for Eds
posted about 5 years ago
If the lab is on fire, I would have thought that was the perfect opportunity to email the fire brigade, and then settle down with your thesis elsewhere.
posted
25-May-15, 20:31
edited about 14 seconds later
by RinaL
Avatar for RinaL
posted about 5 years ago
If it is that simple ... actually, it was quite the opposite - we had a leakage in one of the labs above us which left us with a nasty surprise on monday after the weekend. And since I am responsible to get all devices up and running again, it was a lot of work (and dozens of phone calls with service teams)..

Have I mentioned that this was the week where I was expected to give a presentation which was crucial for the decision to receive money from the funding body for the next three years (or not)? ;-)

My advice: Hold tight and pretend it's a plan ;-)
posted
25-May-15, 21:40
edited about 10 seconds later
Avatar for KeaneFan
posted about 5 years ago
Yes I am in the social sciences (criminology). I think that my colleague must have taken 4-5 years but he was jumped up the career ladder to senior lecturer before finishing. He did his undergrad. degree at the university and was very popular - gave his heart and soul to the faculty and visited the department aged 12. Unusual story he is.. I, on the other hand, lived 5 1/2 hours away from the university (e.g. my home town) and had no connections, was delighted to land that job. Would be harder now.
posted
26-May-15, 20:21
edited about 33 seconds later
Avatar for KimWipes
posted about 5 years ago
RA as research assistant or RA as research associate?
At my institute, usually PhD student after passing their candidacy are called research assistant (a weightless title) until they finish their PhD. So no additional salary is given to research assistant title.
On the other hand, research associates are people who usually have a PhD and hired to do research for a professor or the department (they have no TAing or teaching responsibility unless included in a separate teaching contract ). Postdocs are also included in this category. They usually get salaries much higher than PhD students and they are technically employed by the university so they get some university benefit as well.

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