Thursday, December 8, 2016

The "PhD experience" at ICARUS

My name is Simon Noone and I recently successfully defended my PhD thesis. I am writing this blog to share some of my experiences throughout my PhD which might help prospective PhD candidates. I undertook the Certificate Return to Learning Course in Maynooth University in 2008 as a mature student after spending 18 years running my own business. I really enjoyed this course and learned important new skills which help prepare me for academia. The following year I began my undergraduate degree and studied Geography (major) and Spanish (minor). I had always been interested in the climate so during the 3 years as an undergraduate I focused on taking physical Geography modules. After my undergrad I was accepted on the MSc in Climate Change and on completion I was awarded the John Hume Scholarship to begin my PhD at ICARUS in 2012 entitled "Development and analysis of a homogeneous long-term precipitation network (1850-2015) and assessment of historic droughts for the island of Ireland". I applied for the Irish Research Council Postgraduate funding and on my second attempt I was successful, which took over my funding for the final two years of my PhD.
PhD Experiences
I feel that obtaining a PhD is a "process" and not just about conducting your research. Firstly, it is very important that you choose a supervisor that you can work and get on well with. My advice would be to speak to PhD students and others who have finished and ask about their supervisor experiences, so you can make an informed decision. I was lucky enough to have an excellent supervisor, Dr. Conor Murphy who expertly guided and advised me throughout my PhD. Secondly, make sure choose a topic that you are passionate and enthusiastic about, otherwise you won’t enjoy your research or even risk losing interest. 
Early in the “PhD process” I was asked to get involved in tutoring, the pay wasn’t great and it was challenging, but it gave me confidence teaching and was very rewarding. I was regularly expected to present my work at conferences and workshops or even just to my colleagues, which really took me out of my comfort zone. However, presenting my work added to my confidence and gave me great experience in speaking to large groups. I was also invited to sit in on research meetings with my supervisor and the research team at ICARUS, this was an important part of my development and where I gained crucial knowledge. 
It is important that you try and publish your work as early in your PhD as possible. During my PhD research I was involved in the peer reviewed publications listed below as either lead author or as collaborating senior author. This was a great way to help you really focus on a specific part of your research, learn new skills, work with other researchers, get your work disseminated and understand the peer review process while building on your writing skills. In addition, it gives you a huge advantage when applying for academic positions after you have finished your PhD, as publications are crucial in this very competitive employment environment.
Finally, I have a great relationship with my PhD colleagues; they have been a great source of advice, encouragement and friendship. Most of all I really enjoyed the “PhD process” it has been a tough journey, but with huge rewards.
Publications that have stemmed from my research.
Noone S, Broderick  C,  Duffy C, Matthews T,  Wilby RL, Murphy C. 2016. A 250 year drought catalogue for the island of Ireland (1765-2015) Int. J. Climatol. Accepted with minor corrections.
Murphy C, Noone S, Duffy C, Broderick C, Matthews T, Wilby RL. 2016. Irish droughts in newspaper archives: Rediscovering forgotten hazards? Weather. Accepted.
Wilby RL, Noone S, Murphy C, Matthews T, Harrigan S, Broderick C. 2015. An evaluation of persistent meteorological drought using a homogeneous Island of Ireland precipitation network. Int. J. Climatol. doi:10.1002/joc.4523
Noone S, Murphy C, Coll J, Matthews T, Mullan D, Wilby RL, Walsh S. 2015. Homogenization and analysis of an expanded long-term monthly rainfall network for the Island of Ireland (1850–2010). Int. J. Climatol. doi: 10.1002/joc.4522.

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