I completed my PhD in 2014, looking at the wound micro-environment of the diabetic foot. This involved ‘bench to bedside’ research taking samples from patients' wounds and analysing them in a lab. I am frequently asked for advice from podiatry graduates who are contemplating this PhD pathway of post-graduate study, here are my thoughts.
First of all, let’s look at what is involved in a PhD, how to enrol and how long it takes to complete. A PhD is an academic degree focused on original research, data analysis, and the evaluation of concepts. Along the way you will be expected to advance the body of knowledge in your field through original research, and be able to communicate effectively to an academic audience and general stakeholders. You will also likely learn a whole lot about statistics!
Involving at least three years of concentrated research, you’ll need to produce a genuinely original contribution to your academic field to be awarded a PhD. Getting accepted to undertake a PhD can be highly competitive. Firstly, you will need to find a supervisor who is willing to take you on. PhD scholarships are advertised by universities and sometimes by not-for-profits, and of course networking with academics whose research interests align with your aspirations is key.
The most important advice I can give at this point is to seek a supervisor who has a good track record, or PhD completion and publications in the field that you wish to enter. Someone you get along with and who has a deep understanding of the subject matter for your PhD. Some PhD candidates are very fixated about what they want to study, but if this is not closely aligned with your supervisor's agenda, then it will be very difficult for them to offer the level of supervision that all PhD students need.
Before being accepted as a PhD candidate, you will be required to demonstrate a track record of having completed some kind of prior research. For example, an honours degree (2:1 or greater) or a Masters of Research; having published journal articles will also help to strengthen your application. Occasionally, other demonstrable experience of research may be able to get you over the line, such as authorship of peer reviewed publications, but usually a formal post-graduate qualification is the gateway to a PhD.