Equipping doctoral research students at King's College London to excel

Tag: Development

Research Reflections from Yanqing Wang, Part-Time PGR Student in the King’s Business School

Hello, I am Yanqing and also known as Callie. I am a part-time PhD student in Banking and Finance Research Group in the King’s Business School. My research interest lies in financial technology, risk management, macroprudential policy and financial stability. I am passionate about applying research-based learning to solving real business problems.

It is my pleasure to be invited to write a blog for the Centre for Doctoral Studies. Inspired by my PhD peer, who kindly shared his reflections on his adventures as a lifelong learner, I thought it would be a good idea to share my part-time PhD journey over the first few months. So far, my journey can be summarised in two words: “balance” and “impact”.


How to balance work and life, and how to balance what you want to do versus what you can do?

Personally, I don’t think there is a single agreed recipe to get this right. For me, it usually involves lots of planning ahead and prioritisation, among other things. I have done a lot of learning and knowledge refreshing over the last few months on many training modules. Although it is hard to fully grasp all of the content if it is a new domain to me, I still try to follow it and at least build my awareness of what is feasible and available if needed for my future research project, so that I can revisit it when necessary. In addition, I strongly feel that research is different from learning, although we continue self-learning during research projects. Sometimes I have found that doing research can be a lonely journey, as you won’t always be sure what you will find out; much thinking is involved in defining your questions before considering ways to resolve it (or providing insights into the puzzles).


What impact do you want to have?

I first came across this question in the research training module for all new PhDs; it appears to be a straightforward question but it is not easy to answer on the spot. Luckily, I had the opportunity to write a blog for my university on climate change before COP26, looking back on the impact of previous climate change accords and what we should consider in the future. It was a good experience for me to realise that the impact of any research goes far beyond academic citations. It is critical to demonstrate the benefit or changes caused, or contributed to, by the specific study in society, the economy and the environment. From my point of view, the research impact pathway is non-linear. We need to plan for impact, engage with stakeholders and consider active communication. As a PhD candidate, how we create a long-lasting impact for research studies is a key question that I need to continue revisiting.


From industry back to academia, what to prepare?

You need to prepare yourself physically and mentally for the challenge in front of you. For example, you need to work with your supervisors to set up reasonable expectations with continuous reality checking (even saying ‘no’ to tasks, as there is no need to satisfy everyone, at least not all in one go). I think we do not need to be perfect and ‘good enough’ is fine (be comfortable, at least don’t panic, when you feel you are lost and unsure where to go next). Given part-time PhDs are also likely to be working full-time or have other life commitments, it is important to set up a boundary and retain a balance between work and life. I hope my insights will debunk some common myths you might have on the PhD journey.


Do you need some help?

Doing a part-time PhD is a life-changing experience with many considerations and commitments. My personal experience told me that the application journey is not always easy, so we may all benefit from being able to ask a few questions or sense-checking a few things with people who have just gone through the process.

You are not alone in your part-time PhD journey. There is now a Teams channel set up for KCL PT PGRs. Everyone is welcome to join this group (you can request to join via MS Teams).

Please come and join this growing part-time PhD community. We all need to have a safe place to discuss concerns or ask for advice.

Let’s enjoy our part-time PhD journey.  All the best!




7 top tips when applying for a job (and the guidance for a grant isn’t too much different!)

Blog post by Dr Nigel Eady, Director of Research Talent, Centre for Doctoral Studies.


I’ve been reading quite a few job applications recently. In some instances, there were people who might perhaps have been a good fit for the role, but really didn’t justify being selected for interview, so I decided to write these quick tips.


  1. Evidence the competencies required – don’t just repeat the job description back to the employer! Make every word count – show how your prior experiences and education have prepared you for this role.
  2. Keep your covering letter to a sensible length – 1 side is too short and 4 is def too long! For most roles, 2-3 sides is about right, depending slightly on the level of seniority of the role.
  3. Use your network – if you’ve got colleagues, former colleagues and friends who know people in the sector you want to move to, then let them know you’re looking for interesting roles.  You’ll probably find out about roles much more quickly this way. You might even get recommended to people who are employing.
  4. Ask for more info – if there’s a contact name on the job ad, then drop them a line before the deadline and ask for a chat. A short conversation will ensure you’re clear on what the role really involves, and therefore whether you’re a good fit or not (though the person you speak to is unlikely to tell you whether to apply – that’s your choice, based on your interests & skills and their match with the role, or not). Who knows what you might find out that’s not 100% clear in the job ad. There might be a particular emphasis that the employer is looking for, perhaps there are even other roles on the horizon that you wouldn’t have known before you picked up the phone.
  5. Make use of any help available – King’s has a wealth of careers resources, whether you need help with CVs and covering letters or are still trying to work out what you want to do next. Make sure you get some advice so that your application doesn’t miss the mark because you didn’t present yourself in the best possible light. King’s Careers & Employability provide resources for applications and interviews for researchers, available through KEATS here, and you will find online workshops to support you as a researcher through King’s CareerConnect.
  6. Help your assessors – make it really easy for the people assessing your application to put you forward for interview. Consider what they’re looking for. Evidence is a given (see 1), but also make your letter easy to read (normal size, readable font, well formatted letter) and not so long that you’ve set your assessor against you before they’ve started reading (see 2). If you’re aiming for a significant change in field, explain why and what you’re already doing to ensure that gap doesn’t mean you’re a poor fit for the role.  The assessors will need to see your motivation for this change – what have you done that you can write about, to understand the new field, organisation or role?
  7. Avoid jargon – most sectors have their own jargon, and there may be some words and phrases you need to include, as they show you know the area. However, an application needs to be easy to read. Avoid acronyms if you possibly can. Your assessor probably doesn’t know, or need to know, the structures and hierarchies where you work now.


If you bear all these in mind, you’re giving yourself a good chance of getting over the first hurdle, and being invited to interview. All the very best for your job applications.


Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Why PhD students should think about their entrepreneurial skills

Blog post by Emily Clements, PhD Student in the Neuroscience of Entrepreneurship.

PhD students and entrepreneurs are actually very similar in a number of ways.

PhD students are already very entrepreneurial by nature – there aren’t many roles you can go into and say ‘here is the gap, and this is how we are going to address it’. From the get-go you get to contribute novel findings and manage your own project. But the word ‘entrepreneur’ is something many of us may not relate to.

My PhD research explores the neuroscience of entrepreneurship. This is a collaboration between the Entrepreneurship Institute and Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s. My background is cognitive neuroscience, and I knew very little about business before beginning. Therefore, I understand that to most, the word ‘entrepreneurship’ can seem intimidating and off-putting.

But entrepreneurship is not just about starting a business.

In the same way we often do our PhD because we love the topic, entrepreneurs create ventures based on their passions. Entrepreneurial behaviour is that which provokes change, drives ideas forward and compels other to follow suit. Whether for economic or societal impact, its absolutely pivotal people exist that are able to do this.

However, one key difference exists between entrepreneurs and PhD students – while there is an existing and current issue in the measurable impact of research. Entrepreneurs are consistently creating measurable impact. I think helping PhD students improve their entrepreneurial skills would create an undeniable force of informed change-makers.

PhD students should improve their ability to get-it-done and compel others of their ideas.

While both PhDs and start-ups provide new ways of doing things, in research we spend more time thinking, planning, and hypothesising. This is key and necessary to ensure we produce meaningful and informed research; however, I feel this sometimes creates a habit-behaviour in us, in which we sit around talking about things, without getting it done, perhaps one of the most important skills to learn for success in any career.

What’s more, we produce such compelling and novel work. However, often we want the complexity of our work to speak for itself based on journal publications, which anyone outside of academia doesn’t respond to. Conversely, entrepreneurs are incredibly good at pitching themselves and their ideas to everyone – PhD students should be just as confident in their expert knowledge and be able to speak about in a way that compels people outside of their field to realise its potential.

This is why I now think PhD students could learn a lot from entrepreneurs and the skills they posses.

Research by the Higher Education Policy Institute has shown 67% of PhD students want a career in academic research but only 30% stay in academia three years on. Moreover, while PhD students feel confident in analytical, data and technical skills, we tend to be less confident in managing other people and finding career satisfaction. Up until completing a PhD, many of us have only experienced and developed skills for the research world.

By developing entrepreneurial skills, those of us who leave research would be equipped with a skillset with which we can drive ideas forward, compel others and create meaningful, measurable impact. Whether starting a business or working in any industry, companies at the moment are actively investing in people who have an ability to promote change in their workplace. So why not work on these skills now?

Meanwhile those of us who stay in research make up the future generation of academics. It’s important that this generation learns to promote its own research efforts, as well as address many of the current issues and challenges we are all so aware of today. Entrepreneurial thinking already exists and is evident with the rise of open research, however we can do more; such as speeding up the pace of our work, eradicating a bullying culture, and increasing the number of women and people from BAME communities in senior academic roles.


If we learn anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the speed at which studies and labs can be set up and whole departmental structures changed. This highlights that there is possibility for change – but it needs disruption and entrepreneurial minds to push it forward.

Learning entrepreneurial skills supply you with the means to get it done, be resilient, compel others and build teams to help you make an impact.



I recommend taking part in the Entrepreneurial Brain Challenge (EBC), a project I have just launched, which makes up the first part of my PhD. By completing the challenge you can get personalised feedback on your 7 Skills of an Entrepreneurial  Mindset (a framework developed by the Entrepreneurship Institute at King’s), your personality, cognitive strengths and weaknesses, as well as a pack containing resources to help you improve your weaker areas.



Emily Clements, PhD Student in the Neuroscience of Entrepreneurship.