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How do you decide if you want to do a PhD? 

A PhD requires you to dive into an exciting new topic. For example, how deep brain stimulation can treat patients with stroke or how robots can enhance physical therapeutic outcomes. It can be rewarding and positive and challenging and frightening. There are usually multiple projects a student has to complete 

You must read and write a thesis about your research projects and, at the same time, complete your research studies and data analysis and write a lengthy literature review. There are usually loads of data to analyse, and time flies pretty quickly.

You will be allowed to publish your papers and present your research results at scientific conferences. There are many social opportunities too. However, overall, the PhD life can be pretty isolating and lonely. 

PhD students may also hold teaching and lecturing responsibilities. Some of them are required to mark undergraduate assessments and assignments. 

If you’re self-motivated, an independent learner, analytical and mathematical, and genuinely interested in the topic, you should go forward with this. It’s not easy. It’s a struggle for everyone. Nonetheless, if you have a passion that consumes your soul, you should be able to step over challenges and make your mark. It’s all about discipline, time management, and making progress towards items. It’s not about perfection. It’s all about progression. It’s also about consistency and self-awareness, and regulation. 

PhD programs are getting increasingly harder to get into, and it would be better to have a competitive edge. It would help if you had a relatively high GPA in honours or masters. Try and also get as much volunteer experience as you can, particularly in the research field. Researchers are always looking for volunteers to assist with their research. 

Some deep reflection on whether you want to put yourself through the enormous workload would assist. Refine and truly understand your justification for this pursuit. It will help you when you don’t feel like moving forward. 

For an exercise, Hop to PubMed and search for a topic you’re interested in and then read some literature about that area. See if you can summarise information and group information together in categories. It is a great exercise to see if you would like PhD life because that’s a pinnacle skill to develop in any part of academia. 

And lastly, if you have determination and grit, you can do anything. I genuinely believe that. Don’t give up 


Jerusha Mather is completing her PhD at Victoria University. She is investigating strength training and non-invasive brain stimulation in adults with cerebral palsy. Jerusha received a career development grant from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. She is a recipient of the Bridge Create Change Award and the prestigious L’Oréal -UNESCO Women in Science mentee program. She was also an outstanding finalist in the Women’s Agenda Leadership Award (in the Health category) and is a profound motivational speaker and poet who recently published her poetry collection ‘Burnt Bones and Beautiful Butterflies”. She is also a leading disability activist, particularly for medical students with a disability, inclusive immigration, and accessible packaging and fashion. The Australian Academy of Sciences acknowledged her as one of the STEM change makers. A portrait of her is on Questacon ( the National Science Centre) as one of the most outstanding female role models in medicine. Her petition on change.com regarding increasing accessible packaging received over 13,000 signatures. In her spare time, she enjoys music and travelling.

Author: Jerusha Mather

Jerusha Mather

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