Perhaps the most daunting choice facing any PhD student is where to go following their PhD. Discussions among PhD students in my time at Durham seemed to focus on the binary choice of either staying in academia or moving to London, both of which have positives and negatives. Hopefully I can convince you all that by no means are you restricted to these choices alone.
First things first, a little bit about myself. I’m a recent PhD graduate from the Institute of Particle Physics Phenomenology (IPPP) at Durham. My thesis focused on modelling the underlying physics of proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider. Before that I completed an MPhys in theoretical physics, also at Durham, an area in which I still live. I think it’s fair to say I’ve been in Durham a long time!
I’m sure my reasons for staying in the city of Durham so long are similar to yourselves – a small community feel in conjunction with high quality academic research was exactly what I wanted during my studies. Also, the North East has become my home and I wanted to stay in this beautiful region of the UK.
Going into the PhD, I’d be lying if I said I’d had a ‘plan’ on what to do with my life afterwards. Doing a PhD for me was about continuing with what I found fun – physics! It wasn’t about starting a glowing academic career or getting a quant job and earning millions. I wanted to experience the world of research and see where it took me in the short term.
Ultimately, it became clear to me that academia was not where I wanted to take my life. Like many PhD students, the post-doctoral career and the uncertainty surrounding didn’t appeal to me. I was ready to settle down and didn’t feel I could do that in academia.
Many PhD students end up pursuing careers in London or the South East region, but moving to London felt like I’d be compromising my personal life for the sake of the perception of more career opportunities. Instead, I wanted to find a North East company that could provide a stimulating working environment – and I did!
I came across a software development consultancy called Scott Logic at a Durham University careers fair, and was pleased to hear it is based in Newcastle. The company was looking for PhD graduates to work on software development projects largely focused on investment banking. The programming skills I had developed during my PhD were ideal for the role, so I decided to apply. After a short interview process, I was made an offer, which I gladly accepted several months before my PhD was completed.
I’ve been a Scott Logic software developer for over a month now, and overall, it’s a fantastic company to work for! There’s a very relaxed atmosphere, with a stimulating working environment, and I’m currently working on an introductory project with three other PhD graduates who started around the same time as me.
It can be scary thinking about your post-PhD life and where to go after your studies, but needless to say there are more opportunities available to you than ‘London or academia’. You shouldn’t feel you have to compromise your private life for the sake of more job offers, because there are companies everywhere looking for the skills you’ve used and developed throughout your PhD.
Thomas Morgan, 26, is a graduate software developer at bespoke software development consultancy Scott Logic. Still living in the Durham area, he is based at the firm’s Newcastle office after completing a PhD in Particle Physics at Durham in 2016, working primarily with Fortran and Python. During his research, Thomas worked on computer simulations and high performance computing. Prior to his PhD, Thomas, who is originally from Loughborough, completed an MPhys in mathematical and theoretical physics, also at Durham. Thomas will be awarded his doctorate in the Winter Congregation ceremonies to be held in January 2017.