Naval Bhandari studied Computer Science at Leeds, graduating in Summer 2015. He was interested in going straight into work, but also really interested in research and doing a PhD. He wrote two posts for us last summer. In this first post, he outlines how he chose, and landed, his EngD opportunity at the University of Bath and what he found useful when considering doing a EngD.
Whilst at university, I was anxious to get into the real world and get a job, but I loved my academic studies and learning in this environment, so I was torn between a PhD and working after I had finished uni. In my second year, I had spotted a flyer on one of my lecturer’s doors and inquired about it. It was for an EngD (Doctorate of Engineering) in Computer Graphics/Digital Entertainment. EngD is similar to a PhD but aimed more at those with future interests in industry (there is further information about the differences here). The course structure had the first year be similar to a research masters degree, and the final three years in industry, whilst completing your thesis. It was aimed more towards industrial research as opposed to purely academic research. This seemed like the best of both worlds for me, as I could do full time work, as well as do research! The lecturer who advertised it explained a lot about it to me, including the hardships that come with doing a doctorate and how intense they can be. At that point I already had a placement year lined up, and I was only a second year student, so would have to wait 2 years to apply. I made sure to keep tabs on it until I entered my third year.
In my third year, I went to many lecturers and spoke to many different staff at the university, like the CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training) Co-ordinator, and the Careers Centre again for advice. I had even gone to several PhD students in my school and the more I heard, the more I wanted to do it. I went back to the same lecturer who first advertised it and he listed EVERY single university in the UK, including the noteworthy staff there, that were worth going to for a computer graphics doctorate. The University of Bath was the best for it here, with UCL, Cambridge and Sheffield after it. I contacted all of them asking about their opportunities, and Bath came back to me straight away asking for an interview.
At this time, I had also been approached by Google asking for a phone interview, after they found me on LinkedIn. Both opportunities were great. The EngD to go to one of the best universities in the UK, and the best university for this subject, or to go to the biggest tech company in the world. My Bath interview was a couple of days after my Google one, so I had attended both. I didn’t perform as well I’d have liked for my Google interview. As one would expect, the technical questions asked are hard, and although I managed to solve them, I didn’t solve them in a particularly good manner. My interview at Bath went much better! They showed me around their wonderful campus and showed me some of their really interesting and cool projects. They offered me the place informally, as they weren’t allowed to offer it officially without the university’s approval. I waited to hear from Google first, and they rejected me a couple of days later. In a lot of ways it made it much easier, as I didn’t have to juggle the two offers, and my heart had originally been set on Bath in the first place. I accepted the offer, and got an official offer a few weeks later, with full funding offering a lucrative tax-free grant of ~£16,000 a year, plus a ~£4,000 stipend offered by the companies affiliated with the program. I start in September 2015 and can’t wait!
Tips for anyone considering a PhD:
- Talk to people: Tutors, current PhD students, Careers staff, Doctoral Training Centres and others will all have useful information, advice and insights into what it entails.
- Follow your passions: If you find something you’re interested in, explore it; speak to relevant academic staff and identify institutions researching in that area.
- Information events & open days: Are really useful sources of information; look out for events at Leeds as well as open days at your institution/s of interest if applying elsewhere.
- Keep your options open: There is nothing to stop you applying for jobs at the same time as applying for PhDs if you haven’t quite reached a final decision about what you want to do next.
- Take a look at the Further Study section of our website