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A Research PhD at 30? (well, mid 30s by the time I'm done!)

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A Research PhD at 30? (well, mid 30s by the time I'm done!)

Old 23rd Dec 2014, 01:52
  #1 (permalink)  

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A Research PhD at 30? (well, mid 30s by the time I'm done!)

Hi guys,
Thought I'd drop in and ask. Some of you might remember me as a teenager dropping in here before this social media lark came about. Well, the years have passed, and after 7 years working off debts & keeping afloat, I'm on my 2 year gap in Canada. (Vancouver to be exact.) Turned 30 last November, and after a long think, I've had a thought.

Ever since my first days here, there's always been an aspect of aerodynamics that I think has been woefully understudied. It's always been something I've looked at & thought "why haven't they done....?", shrugged my shoulders and got on with making rent. Looking at the various transport modes here in Van, the thought came up again, and I thought "why not look into it yourself?".

So, I have an idea for a Research topic. Academically, I'm a little stumped. I have a two year HND in Mech Engineering, which my post-college job had nothing to do with, which means I'm a little worse than a fresh graduate going back to school. I attempted to get the Ord Degree in Manufacturing, but I ran out of funds & couldn't return. Took a 6 month airport job that turned into 7 years.

I realise to get to PhD would need at the minimum an Ordinary Degree, and my Alma Mater I think would take me on to finish my Degree. It might take one year, or three, but I'd make it in. Also I think I've a fairly rockstar project idea that would stand well in the PhD application.

Now, my questions.

Am I being realistic to think I can get onto a PhD program after either (a) one year getting the ordinary with an amazing project or (b) after a ho hum run-of-the-mill top mark 3 years getting a masters?

My visa finishes in Canada in June 2016. I'm planning to start back to college in my Alma Mater in Sept 2016. What can I do between now & then to improve my shot at getting this degree, adn getting onto that PhD programme?

This PhD will be done in the UK. I hope to get access to good wind tunnels for it (depending on the terms of reference of course). where should I aply to when the time comes?

And lastly, am I off my head?

Thanks guys.
nosefirsteverytime is offline  
Old 23rd Dec 2014, 09:17
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Somewhere beyond the sea
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Here my two cents, if you feel strong enough and have a real interest in research, just do it.
mackoi is offline  
Old 23rd Dec 2014, 09:56
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Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: New Zealand
Age: 67
Posts: 74
If you really like research then go for it. I returned to study 2 years ago at the age of 59 to do a research PhD in Climate Science. I'm still working full time, so my study is part time and I should finish it when I'm 66.

Best move I ever made.
Ka6crpe is offline  
Old 23rd Dec 2014, 19:50
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Join Date: Feb 2000
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I did my PhD - in Aeronautical Engineering - part time starting aged ~27 and finishing ~35. It started with a burst of enthusiasm, and I finished it in sheer bloodyminded determination to finish.

It was a massively rewarding and life changing thing to do, and I have absolutely no regrets about doing it. It changed me as a person, and changed my professional outlook as well.

So, I'd certainly not talk you out of that.

However, I doubt that many supervisors will accept you with only an ordinary degree - you'll certainly need an honours degree, and many universities and/or supervisors will want to see an MSc as well.

In terms of your skillset - there are two major areas where there are likely to be significant gaps between where you are from your HND and a BEng(Hons). The first is that your maths will probably be a long way behind the standard of an honours graduate, and realistically for a lot of modern aerodynamics research you'll need to be rather beyond that standard anyway. So, the first thing I'd say is that you want to put some serious effort into raising your standards there. Pretty much everybody in higher education uses Stroud's "Mathematics for Engineering Students", which will cover everything you want in one book.

The second is that you won't have done an individual dissertation - the personal research project which is an essential part of any honours or masters level engineering or science degree in the UK. Unless you have equivalent experience in a professional environment, then any prospective PhD supervisor is going to want to see that.

A couple of bits of advice also if they're any use to you:-

- Clearly you want to know your subject. Really know your subject.

- It doesn't really matter what university you do your PhD with so long as it's fairly reputable and you have access to the facilities you need. But it really really matters that you have supervisor with whom you can work well for the whole of the programme of research.

- Good quality wind tunnels are seriously seriously expensive. To get that sort of access needs a lot of money, so you need to be doing this one of:- (1) part time with backing of your employer, (2) with a huge amount of personal money to fund it, or (3) within a well resourced project. (2) is the only one of those which gives you a lot of personal flexibility.

That said, if you have a really good idea, and can really show your ability to deliver on that, there are scholarships available - but don't underestimate the difficulty of getting that scholarship.

Most opportunities get advertised here:-

PhD Programmes, Research Projects & Studentships in the UK & Europe

or here:-


Good luck, but your first stage is definitely to get yourself up to BEng(Hons) standard as a minimum, with top-drawer maths, and ideally you want to be targetting a 1st or 2:1 to have much chance of getting into most schemes.

I do supervise PhDs (currently two students on the go at two different UK universities, both in aviation topics), but have given up doing aerodynamics as, frankly, I find it massively less interesting than flight mechanics or human factors. However, I'd be happy to talk through the issues and realities of it further here or offline.

Genghis the Engineer is offline  

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