Some undergraduate and master’s students are likely considering the option to further their education. The next decision is, of course, whether or not to remain at Warwick for the next stage of their studies. The Staff at the Library will not try to persuade them when a fellow student can do it so well!… by James Blake
“Why on earth would you want to stay at Warwick for eight years?” This is a question I’m often asked. In fact, it’s a question that took up a whole third of my PhD interview. At the time, I managed to stumble my way towards an answer, though I hope to provide a more complete version here. After all, writing in the comfort of your own home with a nice cup of coffee allows for slightly deeper contemplation than a half-hour interview with your future supervisor!
Despite my decision to stay, I appreciate that there are two sides to every story; staying at the same institution for eight years certainly won’t suit everyone. Indeed, a couple of the counter-arguments I’ll outline in this post came close to convincing me to look elsewhere. Of course, I applied to other places (you should never put all your eggs in one basket, after all), but ultimately, I knew where I wanted to be. That said, the age-old dilemma posed by The Clash all those years ago played on my mind throughout the entirety of my final year: “Should I stay or should I go?”
Such a difficult decision is often paired with a complex network of factors to consider, and this was no exception. Given that I don’t want this post to bore you though, I’ll narrow things down to the top three things that swayed me towards staying…
Reason 1: My ignorance!
As much as I’d like to think I had everything set in my mind when I started my undergraduate degree, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do in the future. A couple of summer research projects helped me realise that my true passion lies in astronomy, mainly in the field of exoplanetary science. Fortunately, Warwick has one of the best exoplanets groups in the UK, with members at the forefront of the field. Most recently, the Warwick group have played a leading role in the Next Generation Transit Survey, which is currently searching for Neptune- and super Earth-sized planets around other stars. The telescopes for this project are based in Chile (see cover image). My projects enabled me to form various links within the group, and this was one of the main things that drew me towards staying.
Of course, there were many other fantastic institutions to choose from, both home and abroad. I toyed with the idea of the latter, telling myself that it would help me broaden my horizons and see more of the world. In the end, however, it proved difficult to deny the security that came with knowing I’d have a supervisor that I’d previously worked well with, alongside an entire group that already treated me as one of their own. Finding the right supervisor is, in my opinion, one of the most important things to consider when looking for postgraduate positions. What’s more, I’ll still be doing plenty of travelling to attend conferences abroad, so in a sense I get the best of both worlds!
Reason 2: I’m settled here… for now!
My situation also played a massive part in convincing me to remain at Warwick. After four years, I’d become quite attached to the place! With friends and family nearby, decent travel links to those that aren’t and a girlfriend who’s also planning to stay at Warwick, everything seemed to just fit.
Many will long for a change in scenery upon finishing their degree, as did I for a short while. It’s true that joining another institution would have introduced me to a different research environment, a process I’ll have to undertake several times if I’m lucky enough to stay in academia. But staying won’t inhibit my ability to network; I’ll still have ample opportunity to discuss my research with people from all over the world and see how they work differently.
Societies also played a part. I was a member of the founding exec for Warwick Astronomy Society, which we set up last year (see below). As I’m still at Warwick, I can now continue to watch it grow as a society and experience it as a non-exec member for the first time.
Reason 3: I love Warwick…
What can I say? I guess I’m just a fan of Warwick. Alongside finding the right supervisor, it’s also essential to ensure that you feel comfortable in the environment you’ll be working in. For me, Warwick’s beautiful campus teamed with its excellent research community has made it the perfect place to work; I’ll continue to preach this, as I’ve been doing for the last four years as an outreach and recruitment ambassador! See below for one of the many teams of wonderful people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with in this role.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that the “should I stay?” dilemma is a very personal one to solve, hence why I’ve only been able to speak from my own experiences. The important thing to take away is that it wasn’t merely a matter of convenience; I’ve been able to join an exciting and dynamic group, under the supervision of a professor I know and trust, without leaving the place I love.
So, for those looking to do a postgraduate course in future, if you feel settled in a group, or are tempted by a particular project at your current institution, there’s no harm at all in staying!
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Other images: Provided by author.