Our full-time and part-time research students write about their experiences.
Geke Van Dijk
Human-Computer Interaction and Consumer Research. The supervisors for this project worked at the Open University in the Computing Department and The Business School. This combination of expertise seemed to be ideal for me, so I applied and got accepted.
I have never regretted this decision. Doing the PhD taught me the depth and rigour of academic research, and the combination of Computing and Marketing Sciences was a challenging field to work in. My supervisors have guided me through the project with empathy and good advice. I also appreciated the regular postgraduate research forums organised by the Research School and the Computing Department. These meetings offered an excellent platform for the exchange of experiences and debate among PhD students in various stages of their projects. Though we all had our unique topics and schedules, we always identified enough similarities to be able to learn from each other.
Since I completed my PhD I have started a new company together with my former business partner. We work as researchers and consultants for large corporations and cultural institutions, both in the United Kingdom and in The Netherlands. The PhD has helped me to work in more depth and with more authority on issues concerning methodology and theory. It has also brought my work to a more international level, which I enjoy very much.
I first thought of doing a PhD when my experience in the industry was letting me down. The lack of expertise in the field led me to the conclusion that there was a need to learn more before trying to apply anything in the commercial world
I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do but it was difficult to find academics that would share the same goal and passion. During my search for the right institution I came across the OU and felt that I would fit well within their culture and ethos. I felt I would be treated as a colleague rather than a student there. I was right, I treated my PhD as a job and my supervisors took me seriously and valued my effort and aspirations. I had the freedom to shape my research as I wanted but I also received challenging guidance on the development of it to ensure quality and continued progress.
My experience at the OU taught me how to manage others and how to be managed. I had the chance to interact with fellow PhD students and develop bonds through research discussions and sharing common experiences. The OU has an excellent student support system. The Department of Computing ensured the PhD students were part of all research activities. We were prompted to participate in training, seminars and taught how to collaborate and network. My supervisors graced me with qualities that proved essential for my career development.
When I completed my PhD I was head hunted and offered several jobs that I was in a position to choose from. I am now enjoying my position as Deputy Head of User Experience in an interactive media agency in the City of London. The PhD offered me all the knowledge I needed to come back and show real clients how to improve their products. To put it in a simple way, I learnt all the theories at the OU and now I am applying all that in practice. It gives me joy to feel that it was all worthwhile.
After 25 satisfying and successful years working in France and the US at companies such as Bell Laboratories, Rational Software, and Sun Microsystems, I wanted to give something back to the computing world. After thought and experimentation, I decided that I wanted to teach. Teaching at The American University of Paris, and my experience at the University of California at Berkeley in the '70s, made clear that to be most effective, I should pursue a PhD. Decisions now made, all that remained was to choose an institution. After considering many options, I chose the OU because the people were interesting and enthusiastic, because of the OU's international reputation for quality research, and because the OU's mission and philosophy fit well with my own goals.
The OU was a great place to do my PhD. My supervisors were proactive, there when I needed them. I had the freedom to start with one topic, discover that it wasn't for me, and then change to another. The OU has an excellent training and support program, designed to ensure that PhD students know what to do and how to do it. As a side benefit of the training sessions, we got to know many other students, and the support of so many peers was invaluable. Finally, the OU is centrally located; London, Birmingham, Cambridge, and Oxford are all easily accessible.
If I had to decide again knowing what I know today, I would happily make the same choice.