EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training
in Molecular-Scale Engineering
- a Centre for Nanotechnology
You are here: Centre for Doctoral Training in Molecular-Scale Engineering > Our Students > Scott Bird

Scott Bird

Scott Bird

Where did you graduate and what did you specialise in?
I completed a four-year MPhys course at The University of Sheffield in 2011, with a masters project studying the physics of LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes). It was an easy degree choice for me, as it was what I really enjoyed and knew I wanted to do. I fully enjoyed the course and after finishing I knew that I wanted to continue my studies at postgraduate level.   

What previous lab experience do you have?
Physics is very much a lecture-based course that gave me a firm grounding in science and mathematics, but which does not contain as much laboratory time as some other science degrees up to the third year. However, I was taught the basics of performing scientific investigations and partook in an extended research project into the Physics of LEDs in my fourth year. Although this was not new breakthrough research completely relevant to this course, this was not an issue as it was the experience and knowledge that was important and ultimately transferable.   

I also gained a Nuffield Bursary to perform a summer research project in 210 developing Organic LEDs with Prof David Lidzey in the Electronic and Photonic Molecular Materials Group at the University of Sheffield. This was not only fantastic experience, but provided confirmation that a PhD was a career path I wanted to pursue.

What attracted you to the CDT in Molecular-Scale Engineering?
I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do a my postgraduate studies in. I instantly ruled out doing a theoretical physics PhD, it just wasn’t me and this course fell into the field I was most excited about. I think the first thing that attracts people to CDT courses is the ‘try before you buy’ prospect, with the opportunity to partake in many different research projects and make the final PhD project decision a little easier. However, this was not the only draw for me. The extra support from the CDT directors and year of development, the interdisciplinary nature and the chance to develop a wide knowledge base and the fact that other like minded people would be performing the course with me made it my first choice.     

I hoped that this course would provide an added layer of support, allow me to develop a wider knowledge beyond my degree course and open my eyes to PhD programs I would otherwise have not considered. So far the course has ticked all these boxes. 

What are the best aspects of the programme?
It is not the programme that I have most enjoyed, but mixing with the other people who are new on it. If you choose and are lucky enough to be selected for this program you will be a member of a cohort of like-minded students, often with different backgrounds and experiences to you and who you perform aspects of the course with such as lectures and group projects. Mixing with your peers is often the best way to learn, but also has other benefits such as talking over project choices with people in the same position. These people have also become some of my best friends and it has made the whole course a much richer experience.    

What benefits do you feel you get from the interdisciplinary nature of the course?
If you chose this course you will be in a cohort of students and most will have done different science degrees to you. I have attended lectures that have been extremely boring as they were a repeat of my degree course, but most of the time on this course I have been out of my comfort zone and covering new material. You also get the chance to choose research projects in a range of departments and work with people with various specialties. There are not many opportunities in science where you will get this chance, especially as fields such as Nanotechnology are inherently interdisciplinary and scientific collaborations are becoming more important in general.

Over my first year by talking to my peers, going to lectures and in the projects I have undertaken, I have learned that biology is not just drawing pretty pictures and I have really enjoyed studying aspects of the subject. I have no doubt that my PhD will involve me applying my physics knowledge, but I am looking forward to working with people with other specialties such as chemistry and biology and furthering my own knowledge of the subjects.       

What have you found most challenging about the CDT course?
The balancing act between performing research projects and all the masters aspects of the program such as lectures and exams can be hard at times. It can feel as if you are neither a PhD student nor a masters student and the workload can pile up. However it is worth sticking at it, as ultimately being pushed is what drives your progress and looking back I am amazed with my development over this year. It has left me with a much greater knowledge of the field in which I undertaking my PhD, more confident as a scientist and much better placed to begin my PhD.   

Picking your PhD project from the huge choice available on this course, in a wide range of departments, between two of the countries top universities, with the chance to work with some fantastic supervisors, can be a surprisingly hard choice and actually also turns out to be one of the most challenging aspects of the course.      

What other activities do you participate in?
I enjoy road cycling, I often take part in sportives and take every opportunity to get out on my bike (which recently has not been enough!). However, I enjoy playing and watching most sports having played many at a high level (particularly football and cricket) in my youth. Football was one of my first loves and I am still a passionate follower, but I am thinking of giving it up being a long-suffering Spurs fan!