I’m so sorry for not writing a blog in such a long time! I have been very busy settling into Uni and so haven’t had time for a proper sit down and write a post.
I thought I would give a bit of an insight into how PhDs work in HK as it seems very different to how PhDs in the UK are done. As I understand from my friends who have done/are currently doing PhDs in the UK, the majority of the PhD is research based. The PhD student spends most of their time in the lab/doing research and then there is some teaching assistant duties too, but mainly the bulk of the PhD course is spent doing research.
Here in HK (as I have recently found out), it is so much more than that.
Here are the different sections of the PhD in Chemistry course here at UST:
- Qualifying Exam: There is a written and oral part to this exam. The written part includes exams which are set every month by different professors. The topic is known beforehand and each exam is worth 2 credits. In order to pass the written part of this exam, we must obtain 6 credits in 2 years. (Therefore, we must pass 3 exams minimum) The Postgraduate Studentship (PGS) amount is increased after the exam is passed. The oral part of the exam is a presentation on the proposed thesis.
- Complete 12 credits of courses: Most courses/classes are 3 credits each so in general, I need to take ~4 classes over the course of my PhD. These classes do not HAVE to be in the Chemistry department but I must obtain a 2.85 CPA (Cumulative Point Average) to remain on the course so it would be best if I had some background knowledge on the course.
- In addition to the 12 credits, I also need to take an english for science students course. The credits earned here do not count as part of the 12 credits above.
- Professional Development Course (PDC): I must take courses to develop my skills not only in Chemistry but also in other things such as presentation skills etc, I must take these courses over the course of my PhD.
- Chemistry Seminars: Unlike in Cardiff where the seminars are mainly optional (although they recommend you to go), here at UST, attendance at the seminars is taken and I have to submit a 1 page report after the seminar to show that I understood the seminar. I must submit 8 of these reports every semester except my last one.
- Teaching Assistant duties: On average 36 hours per month will be spent on TA duties. (This is included in the amount of PGS I get so if I didn’t do these duties, I would get a smaller amount)
- PhD thesis research: This is the most important part of the PhD.
There you have it! Not only do I do research, but I also have classes and seminars to attend, TA duties to do and exams to do. There are actually even more rules and regulations but I have stated the most simple things here.
The higher workload means that I have lots of things to think about, but it also means I have more ways to fail. In fact in our first week, we were told all the different ways that we could fail and be kicked off the course. These include:
- Failing to complete the qualifying exam (written and/or oral) within 2 years.
- Failing to complete the required amount of credits over the PhD course.
- Failing to adhere to the 2.85 CPA minimum.
- Failing the English course.
- Failing to complete the required amount of hours of PDC.
- Failing to submit 8 seminar reports per semester.
- Failing my PhD thesis or oral defense.
You can now see why I am so busy and stressed. I knew from the very start it would be tough but it really is so much tougher than I thought. However, I am determined to pull through and to get through to the other side. This was the reason I chose to come to HK, in order to push my limits, so even though it will be stressful and my working hours will be tough, I am sure I will complete my course. I hope I haven’t put any of you off doing a PhD, or off coming to HKUST. It really is a great place and I love it but being HK, the high workload is to be expected.