Student Profiles

Isobel Ward – Research degree

Here you can find out a bit more about the individual experiences of some of our students, why they chose Cardiff University for their postgraduate study and what they enjoy most about Cardiff!

Name: Isobel Ward

Postgraduate Course: PhD Psychology

Institution where you did your Undergraduate studies: Cardiff University

Tell us a little bit about yourself, why did you chose to become a postgraduate student?

As a Cardiff University Neuroscience Graduate my desire to pursue a research career was fuelled by my interest in the brain. I am an organised, conscientious and outgoing individual, hence the idea of a research career really appealed to me. Undertaking a one year MSc in Neuroimaging course focused on the methods and applications behind various non-invasive tools to look at brain activity provided a strong foundation for subsequent research. Developing a research question and protocol for my dissertation, the ability to collect and analyse the data confirmed my desire to apply for a PhD to further my career development and specialisation within the field.

Why did you choose Cardiff University for your Postgraduate studies?

As a PhD research student I am based at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC). Working in a multidisciplinary environment with physicists, neuroscientists, psychologists and clinical researchers is completely unique to CUBRIC. The opportunities to gain experience from world-leading researchers in the field has allowed me to get involved with some of their research, broadening the variety of skills and practical techniques learnt. 

How has been your personal experience on moving from a postgraduate taught degree to a postgraduate research degree?

As a research student my work has now become completely independent. Unlike taught courses where you are provided with material and timescales by which certain skills must be accomplished, the PhD is a self-motivated mode of research. As a conscientious student I am enjoying the opportunity to take ownership of my learning and development. Furthermore, you have the ability to decide how and what you specialise in. My experiences of the support from the supervisory team has been excellent; typically I meet with my supervisor on a weekly basis to discuss what we have both been working on and the aims to be met in the forthcoming weeks. I also have the opportunity to attend many seminars and talks facilitating a broader understanding of research in the discipline.

How did you fund your postgraduate studies and how would you advise offer holders to go on about researching or finding funding for postgraduate studies?

For the PhD I have a funded studentship which means that the School of Psychology cover the costs of my fees and research materials. Additionally they provide a stipend for maintenance and living costs.

Which accommodation did you stay during your postgraduate studies at Cardiff University? What advice would you give to Cardiff University offer holders who have to find accommodation themselves?

As I had previously studied at Cardiff University I stayed in the small private house share I was already living in. I would advise prospective postgraduate students to spend some time researching the area which they hope to live in; when I was finding accommodation I wanted to ensure I was not living in the student ‘hub’ where most of the undergraduates live.

How was/is your postgraduate life at Cardiff? Please cover the following areas:
– Start of your course
– Level of studies
– University Services
– Life in the City and Wales

Starting a research PhD was very different to taught programmes due to the independent nature of the programme. The resources provided, such as a large desktop computer and desk in CUBRIC, and learning environment are fantastic. The support team in place ranging from IT through to pastoral is easily accessible and efficient. I enjoy living in Cardiff, and have enjoyed my experience even more as a postgraduate. Now living in more of a residential area I feel more at home in Cardiff; this has been a great experience and accommodation being very affordable I have a lovely house and made many new friends.

Socially there are also a huge number of things to do in Cardiff from pubs, clubs to more low key events including outdoor cinemas and lots of fitness related events including the Cardiff half marathon. And of course there is the Rugby, this is a huge sporting event with a huge number of fans in Cardiff getting tickets to the Principality Stadium, it is a must on your To Do list! There are so many opportunities within the city and places to explore that there is never a dull minute!

How do you think your postgraduate degree helped you/will help you achieve your career goals?

Undertaking a PhD was a big decision, however it will facilitate my career goals to become an Academic Researcher. Additionally, Cardiff University support the Researcher Development framework allowing many transferable skills to be developed over the next 3 years, facilitating the next stage of my career.

What best piece of advice would you give to a Cardiff University offer holder who is about to start their course at Cardiff University?

Get involved with as many opportunities as possible, both academic and social, to give you lots of chances to meet friends and get as much out from your course as possible.

What best piece of advice would you give to a prospective student considering postgraduate studies at Cardiff University?

Research your options thoroughly and ensure you are fully prepared for the course as they are very rigorous, with the subject requiring enjoyment and commitment to achieve a good grade at the end of the programme. Cardiff University has provided me with a great postgraduate education and a strong foundation for future research.