Postgraduate Life – Emmanuel

Postgraduate life is such an exciting stage in the life of a student – be it a taught or research programme. Having done a taught programme and currently on a research one, I must say I have enjoyed the ride so far but not without challenges on the way. For instance during my MSc taught programme (not in Aber) the perceptions of lecturers was a totally different experience from my time as an undergrad. Even though it was the same university, same department and pretty much the same lecturers and staff, some things were different. The attitude to us became different and the interactions were more like that of ‘junior colleagues’ to ‘senior colleagues’. That experience had a positive influence on my studies and my interactions with lecturers and the memories are ever beautiful. And now as a PhD student at Aberystwyth University, it’s even more refreshing for me.

Apart from the instance above, there are other factors that make the experience of postgraduate life a lot different from that of the undergraduate. While there are obvious similarities between both, the average postgrad is saddled with higher expectations and responsibilities when compared to the average undergrad. For instance, the postgrad is expected to be more independent in his studies with respect to lectures, research, time management and self-management.

An appreciable level of understanding of this notion by every postgrad helps to position him/her for a successful time during their studies.

So going forward, I would like to share a few tips on the postgraduate life in a series of some sort subsequently on this platform. I’ll be drawing on my personal experiences and those of others.

Do visit this blog frequently and be rest assured that you will find good value for your time.

PhD Research Student – Computer Science

Alexander Pitchford, Postgraduate Life at Aberystwyth

I’ll give some background as to how I ended up doing a PhD here in Aber.

After about 15 years doing software type jobs in industry and commerce I found myself looking for a new path. I had started a Physics degree back in 1992, but left during the first year. I had often thought to have another go.

I moved to West Wales around 2008, and wanting a change, I decided to look at the local university and see what the Physics department was like. Turned out it was pretty good, so I applied. I started on a 4 year undergraduate masters (MPhys) in 2010. I did pretty well throughout. I selected a project with Daniel Burgarth in my final year on quantum optimal control.

In my final year of MPhys I was of course giving some thought to what I would do next. I had always hoped for a career in research, and quantum information seemed like a good direction, considering my background in computing and a degree in Physics. Daniel Burgarth’s research into quantum control seemed to be helping towards the goal of a scalable quantum computer, and so we looked for opportunities for funding for a PhD, building on the work we were doing in the master’s project.

The first avenue we considered was the Doctoral Career Development Scheme (DCDS) here at Aberystwyth (this scheme is now called AberDoc). We were not hopeful for gaining this, as the competition is very high, and Daniel already had one DCDS student – Christian Arenz, who incidentally is now at Princeton working as a post doc. However, we put together research proposal that we hoped would appeal to the panels. I made it through departmental interview and the application was put before institute. I was ranked second by the institute, and we thought this was probably the end, with 6 institutes and 12 places. However, our proposal was accepted by the University wide panel, and I was set to start a PhD at the start of the 2014/15 academic year, which I duly did.

To view Alexander’s individual blog, see