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Liz - PhD experience
Name: Liz
PhD discipline: English Literature
Area(s) of work: Heritage
Year of graduation: 2004
Date of Interview: 30/06/2008

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Liz gives an insight into her PhD experience.

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What was your PhD experience like? 

At times exhilarating and at times very frightening. I'm a very sociable person and because I went back to university as a mature student to do my undergraduate degree and my PhD, I'd had the experience of working in organisations where I was part of  large team especially when I worked for the water authority here in this area. I was part of a 110 strong team where we all worked very closely every day in a laboratory environment. I found the solitary aspects of doing the PhD research quite hard.  Of course, I was isolated more than other PhD students probably because when we'd finished working at the end of the day at half past three, four o'clock, if I'd been in the library at the university or we'd been at seminars, I had to go home because I had two sons to care for. I couldn't join in with the social aspect of the experience as much as people who were single and without children could. I was the first student my PhD supervisor supervised. She did supervise another student later who actually completed their PhD in advance of me and it was quite difficult, I think because she was female and I was an older person, I don't know whether there were feelings of competition there or insecurity or what it was but our relationship was difficult on and off. She was very good at damning my work with faint praise at times. That is really frightening when you're a PhD student because your work, your research becomes everything to you and your identity is very much bound with it so criticism from your supervisor, if it's not very well put or very well placed, can be quite a difficult experience. Then, of course, you go and give papers at conferences maybe and it's very well received and that's the exhilarating part. Or when you might have been dealing with a fairly knotty theoretical problem or something and all on your own you come to work your way out of it. That can be exhilarating.

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