Thursday, 12 January 2012

Why are you doing this?

When I started my PhD in September, I was doing a PhD because I wanted to do research. I wanted to be an academic. I wanted to not be working in Asda for the rest of my life. I'd been focused on getting to that point for almost a year (and on-and-off for maybe longer). At that point, the PhD was really the end-goal, rather than the beginning to something new.

My research, broadly, looks at social attention. Specifically, it looks at how magicians learn to manipulate social attention. My research is not going to cure cancer, win a Nobel Prize or help us figure out how to make Star Trek a reality. My research will, hopefully, tell us something interesting about how we deliberately use gaze and other things to manipulate someone else's attention. It could have interesting ramifications if we find something, it might not.

Now that I'm not a "new" PhD student anymore, I've been reconsidering why I'm doing this and where I want it to lead. I still want to be an academic. I still want to do research in the Psychology of Magic. I'm beginning to realise though, that there's other things I want to do too.

I want to teach. I want to make an impact on students' lives by showing them a field of Psychology they'd probably never considered and sparking interest in them. I want to mentor them through their own research beginnings, be that in fourth year dissertations or PhD students themselves. I want to be an advocate for students, because somewhere out there, there is someone who is going to find the cure for cancer, who will win a Nobel Prize and who will make Star Trek a reality.

Ok, they probably won't be studying Psychology. But when I was an undergraduate and feeling a little lost, it was the lecturers who were passionate, who had time for students' questions, who made you interested, that inspired me. That made me want to do what I'm doing today. I have a lot of ambitions for my research, but these are ambitions I hadn't considered before. I want to help a future generation of academics find what they truly love and give them the confidence to follow that dream, as was given to me by my own lecturers and supervisors.

And while that might be a long way off yet, I feel it's a pretty good reason for why I'm doing this.

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