Name: Prasanna Sooriakumaran
First degree: Bachelor and Master of Medicine (plus surgical exams) at Nottingham University
Postgraduate: PhD in prostate cancer, Surrey University
Currently: Specialist registrar in urology at Royal Surrey County Hospital
Why did you choose your first degree?
Some of my relatives are in medicine and I’d had some exposure to their lives. I enjoyed the science, but I didn’t want to sit in a lab. I wanted to help people and use my brain.
Did postgraduate study meet your expectations?
It was very frustrating at times. There are many times when you have to do research and you are left alone. At undergraduate level you are often spoon-fed lectures. The PhD was uncharted territory. But Surrey was very supportive and I got good supervision.
How did it differ from undergraduate study?
The main thing is working independently. If you choose not to get up until 10am no one will say anything. But if you do that for three years you’ll have nothing to show for your time. You have to be more self-motivated.
How did you fund your postgraduate study?
Mine was funded by a charity called Prostate Project. They had a vacancy for a research fellow, and I applied the same way as anyone else would.
What skills did you acquire from the study?
Technical skills – such as lab techniques. In terms of knowledge gained, I gained generic skills such as time management, motivation, organisation, setting my own deadlines, and presentation skills. I also wrote papers – so
I also picked up writing skills, critical analysis, and research methodology.
Did your PhD help you to gain employment?
It will probably help in the future. I hope to go down the line of academic surgeon. It also helped in other ways: in my current job if I do some research on a clinical matter I have a good grounding in analysis.
Do you have any advice for students considering postgraduate study?
You need to be self-motivated. You are pretty much left to your own devices. The other thing is funding: you should try to get something where funding is already in place rather than having to apply for grants. I have friends who spent their time applying for funding, rather than researching.