The Tenacity of a Bulldog

The bulldogs are known for their tenacity. They never let go. This can be likened to postgraduate life. A common trait with successful postgraduate students is tenacity – the capacity to be committed to your goals without giving up in the face of challenges.

The brilliance of the undergraduate experience is not enough in graduate school. Postgraduate study demands more than brilliance. The student that wants to excel in graduate school needs to be dogged and be willing to go the extra mile in the pursuit of his/her goals. Your endurance and stress level will be tested and stretched like never before. So expect it and prepare for it. You know Billy Ocean was right when he said “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” On your postgraduate journey, you will need to get going when the going gets tough. That’s the trait that distinguishes you from the rest of the pack.

Looking over the years I have been on this journey, more than anything else, my doggedness has kept me going. There will always be “opportunities” to give up along the way. But you must assure yourself that it’s worth going on with your dream of excelling in graduate school. Don’t allow the challenges that will cross (or have crossed) your path discourage you. Rather let such a challenge become a stepping stone towards the goals of your postgraduate life.

I tell you what; you will smile at the end of the day if you don’t give up.

All the best with your studies,


MA Intelligence and Strategic Studies – Daniele Irandoost

As a taught Masters student in Intelligence and Strategic Studies, I have found the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University an ideal place for pursuing postgraduate studies in subjects relating to politics and international relations.

For one, this is because prospective students will find a wide range of modules to choose from, including international relations theory, security, intelligence (as an espionage), postcolonialism, military history, and strategy amongst others.

Just to illustrate, I have taken the following modules: Thoughts of War: Strategic Theory & Thinkers; Postcolonial Politics; Violence and Civilization in World Politics; Intelligence, Security and International Politics since 1945; Contemporary Strategic Problems; and Cyber Security.

It is worth noting there is also the possibility of choosing one module from another department, be it law, geography, languages or otherwise (this could be either in the first or the second term). Although in most cases modules do run every year some may be on rotation, meaning they are only convened every other year. Before enrolling, I would certainly suggest asking the Department for confirmation to avoid disappointment.

One reason why I chose my degree scheme was because after having undertaken several closely-related modules as an undergrad in ‘Aber’ (within International Politics and Intelligence Studies), I was confident of the Department’s expertise in the field of intelligence and strategic studies. Furthermore, the prestige of the programme amongst private and state intelligence agencies, not to mention think tanks, security firms and the armed forces worldwide seemed particularly sensible for the future.

With respect to the Department as a whole, I have found its friendly atmosphere and the fact that there is always someone to help particularly important as a postgraduate student. Indeed, not only will students have their own individual supervisor, they could also get help from their module convenors in their office hours (which run twice per week).

A further benefit for doing a Masters at ‘InterPol’ is that the focus of all the modules is purely on independent study. In other words, rather than having any lectures which provide a general background to a specific topic, we are only required to attend seminars. This means of course that student will need to work harder to understand various topics effectively from scratch before they discuss them in seminars. Though, it should be mentioned module convenors will provide the necessary guidance and reading list in their respective module handbooks.

To complete the programme students must pass six modules plus a final dissertation overall. So, three modules in the first term, another three in the second term, and the dissertation in the summer term. The dissertation will be between 14,000 to 15,000 words – excluding bibliography and references – and will count to one-third of the overall grade. Also with respect to assignments each module will usually require two essays varying between 2000 to 4500 words. If not, grading could also be based on seminar performance, book review, report writing and presentation amongst others. The focus therefore is on producing quality work over the long term.

Before I finish off I should also mention several noteworthy facts which could prove useful. The university and the Department offer generous scholarships and bursaries for both international and domestic students. A brief look at the ‘funding and scholarship calculator’ page found on the university website is especially worth considering. Moreover, during term time the library and all its facilities are open 24/7. Students may also take out 25 books at a time from the library, which is usually more than enough, bearing in mind all the available online resources found in the university’s Primo search engine, not to mention the amazing National Library of Wales, which can sometimes be a lifesaver for postgraduates.

Daniele Irandoost
Taught MA Intelligence and Strategic Studies

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