David is an assistant organic analyst within the scientific department of the National Gallery. His first degree was an MChem, with a year in industry at Edinburgh University. He graduated in 2002 and undertook a chemistry PhD at Edinburgh. Its title was ‘development and application of analytical methods for the identification of dyes in historical textiles’, completed in 2006.
"I decided to continue my studies because I’d enjoyed studying chemistry and I’d done a year in industry working for AstraZeneca. When I came back for my final year, although I had enjoyed working, I wanted to do further study. I wanted to find a project that really interested me and spend three years doing that.
"The project was paid for through European funding. It was part of a larger project,
for which the University of Edinburgh had some money.
"I didn’t personally have to apply for any money – the funding had been found before I arrived. The university then wanted a PhD student to fill the role.
"The workload was OK – the nature of project meant it was multidisciplinary with lots of partners. Because it was an EU-executed project there were various deadlines. It was quite unlike other PhDs; it was more structured than those of other people that I know.
"The deadlines were independent of how the work was going, which meant I had to present work when I was told. Overall, I would say the workload was manageable.
"Between finishing my first degree and my PhD, I took a part-time job. I didn’t have to move, so there was no great upheaval.
"The biggest difference between undergraduate and postgraduate study is the freedom to take ideas and work through them without always knowing what would happen. At undergraduate level it can feel like there is always a correct answer.
"My advice to those considering taking a postgraduate course would be although
the name is the same, not all PhDs are the same. It is worth chatting to your prospective supervisor to find out how the group works and what the project is about. Once you’ve found a project then go for it!"