Expanding my worldview on the A*STAR PhD programme


Edward Pallister is a postgraduate research student from Redcar who is on the A*STAR PhD programme, which enables students to spend two years each in Singapore and Manchester. For those interested in the A*STAR PhD programme then look no further, as below, Edward provides a detailed account of how he’s found his A*STAR experience so far…

Why I chose the A*STAR programme

After completing my master’s at The University of York in 2014, I spent two years working in industry before applying for this PhD in 2016.

I firstly wanted to challenge myself to see if I could complete a PhD, and secondly, those I worked with in industry who had a PhD seemed to have reached more senior levels in companies than those without. Therefore, I felt obtaining a PhD would accelerate my career progression.

I was looking to apply for PhD positions that sounded exciting and offered more than the standard 3-4 years stuck in one lab. The A*STAR/Manchester PhD programme offered the exciting opportunities that a normal PhD just can’t offer. A*STAR also has excellent facilities and good ties with industrial partners.

Manchester also has great research credentials, and has excellent connections with other collaborators. This usually means there are lots of exciting projects and opportunities to connect and develop research ideas.

About my research

My PhD project focused on the study of biological sugars known as glycans, and developing analytical techniques to divulge their complex structures.

I mainly chose my project/supervisor as the project area was similar to the research project I had studied and enjoyed in my master’s. However, it was different enough to allow me to develop new skills in the area.

My PhD experience so far

I think the initial few months of a PhD can be quite a challenge. Having to move to Singapore after one year in Manchester means you have to do the newbie in the office experience twice. However, it has been a great experience. My supervisors and colleagues have been very encouraging and have really engaged with my work and I feel like they genuinely want to see my work published. It’s a great environment to work in.

At the same time, it is worth noting that a PhD is an independent endeavour. A key aspect of the PhD is learning how to push forward your own ideas and projects, and figuring out who are the right people to talk to if you need additional advice.

I have enjoyed getting stuck into some difficult problems and, on the odd occasion, finding some solutions. Also, learning how to use state of the art technology is very exciting.

Spending time in Singapore and Manchester

Singapore is a great country to live in. It is safe, clean and very easy to get around due to the excellent public transport. It is also a great gateway country for the rest of south-east Asia, with the opportunity to visit new and exciting places.

Manchester is well connected with an airport, multiple train stations and tram. There are lots of sporting and fitness options also. I enjoyed joining the local tag rugby tournament, visiting the Manchester City football ground and watching an England Test at old Trafford, all of which can be reached via the metrolink.

The future

I think having spent two years in both Singapore and Manchester completing my PhD that my CV will hopefully stand out more compared with people who have done a standard PhD at a single institute.

I also feel it has helped develop a much broader worldview of how scientific research is carried out. In addition, having worked in two institutes in two separate countries, the connections and collaborations I’ve made are much more varied, and potential opportunities in the future should be more plentiful.

My future plans are to move back into industry, ideally in the area of research and development.

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