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"The skills I have learned here, and the academic culture around me, make me think more critically. My experience as a PhD student at Queen’s, will no doubt benefit my CV and my future career."


I can’t believe that I have been studying at Queen’s for almost one and half years. Firstly, a little bit about my background. Before arriving at Queen’s, I completed a Masters in Public Health at the University of Dundee. Following a crazy trip to Spain in January 2015, I sat down and started to consider my future plans. 

A friend of mine completed his PhD at Queen’s, and kindly forwarded on an email to me about a PhD opportunity in the faculty of Medicine, Health & Life Sciences. I contacted the project supervisor, who was extremely friendly and helpful. I got to know that the project would be related to diabetes – something that I has always been interested in, so I was thrilled to make an application. 


Game of Thrones - Dark Hedges Scene    Jinnan Zang - PhD student, with her mum outside the Lanyon    166x_life-nireland-living_3V

The Dark Hedges, as seen in GOT, are just an hour from Belfast; My mum and I in front of the Lanyon Building; The Titanic Belfast Visitor Centre

Excuse my ignorance, but I didn’t know much about Belfast. So I got straight onto Google, and so many things drew my attention. The first thing I noticed was the high ranking and excellent academic reputation of Queen’s around the world, which obviously excited me. The University Campus is beautiful and almost every student must have a selfie with the main Lanyon building, and with Galileo.


Here’s what I think the main differences are:

Flexible Study: There are a number of classes and lectures that are mandatory for first year PhD students, including; an introduction to PhD study, creating posters using PowerPoint, medical statistics and so on. But apart from that, there are no other set lectures for PhD students. So no more 9 to 5, and no more classrooms. Most of the time, I arrange my own schedule and PhD study is very flexible. I found my PhD life has become more about self-motivation.

Goodbye Exams: For my PhD, there are no written exams, but the school do have annual assessment procedures to ensure that I am completing my work. I have finished a 3000 word literature review, an oral presentation, and have had a first year review. At Queen’s, we need to undertake 30 days of training during the whole PhD, which I found very easy to access. 

No More Classmates: I was allocated to a desk in a central writing area in the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s. Even though we don’t have classmates, all the other PhD students, as well as the Postdocs are also located here. When I first started my PhD, I had no idea how to complete my lab work, but the Postdocs within my group and the senior PhD students were extremely helpful. They demonstrated and supervised me until I had the confidence to conduct the lab work by myself. 


I am really enjoying my PhD life at Queen’s so far. It’s definitely one of the best places you can come to complete Postgraduate Research. My life here is plain but wonderful. I have not yet decided what to do after my study, but I am positive about the future.

The skills I have learned here, and the academic culture around me, make me think more critically. I found I am becoming more capable and confident to manage my work. My experience as a PhD student at Queen’s, will no doubt benefit my CV and my future career.

My journey to PhD still to be continued! I hope that it is just as wonderful as it has been so far, and I can’t wait to share more with you all.

Photo: Jinnan Zang
Jinnan Zang
2nd Year PhD Student, from China