Tell us a bit about yourself – what was your PhD about and where did you study?
Hi! My name’s Harry – I gained my PhD in 2012 within the School of Engineering and Materials Science (SEMS) at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL). My research was focussed on better understanding how the ‘socket’ component of a metal ‘ball and socket’ hip replacement implant deforms and changes shape as the surgeon performs the operation on a patient. My project was funded jointly by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and DePuy Synthes, an orthopaedic implant manufacturer. The research involved a lot of finite element modelling and experimental work in the lab to validate the FE models.
What do you do now? What did you decide to do next after gaining your PhD?
After finishing my PhD I took a bit of time to work out exactly what I wanted to do next after seven years of university study. I explored options outside of academia, particularly in the financial sector and spoke to a lot of people within that industry – I soon realised it wasn’t for me!
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to continue working with a team of orthopaedic surgeons and engineers that I’d collaborated with towards the end of my PhD, at the time focussing on investigating why metal hip replacements failed in patients. I continued to develop my career in that space and I’m now the Implant Science Fellow at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) where I lead the engineering research into understanding why knee, hip and spine implants fail. I’m also the Engineering Director of the London Implant Retrieval Centre (LIRC) which continues to have a particular focus on metal hip replacements. Outside of this, I’m also one of the co-founders of DiscoverPhDs!
Has having a PhD helped in developing your career? If yes, what has been the biggest impact? If no, why do you think that is?
Having a PhD has definitely positively impacted my career development, especially as I’ve carried on working within the same research field. I learnt and developed a lot of transferable skills during my time as a PhD student, including getting better at strict time management and working with experts from different disciples (e.g. engineering and medicine). In terms of career development, a PhD has been a requirement to progress to each stage and it’s also meant that I’ve been able to supervise PhD students myself. I’d say the biggest impact has been in the number of collaborators that it’s helped me develop, both within the UK and internationally – this has helped us publish a lot of papers together but also makes the research fun!
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer prospective students considering a PhD?
I’ll give a few! Firstly, get to know your potential supervisors a little bit if you can before committing to the PhD. Whilst a PhD is definitely an independent body of work, your relationship with your supervisors will have a big impact on how fun a time it is – also be proactive as a student and make sure you regularly meet them! Be clear at the start that the three year (or more) commitment to this project is a big deal, both in terms of the academic demands it’ll place on you but also in that you’ll be living off not a lot of money for that time. Go into the PhD expecting tough times when data collection doesn’t go as planned but know that it’ll be worth it when you’re done!
And what one thing would you suggest that new PhD graduates should do next?
Pause! Take a few weeks away from anything work related if you can to recharge your mind and think freely about what you really want to do next. Travel if you want to or spend some quiet time at home – just don’t feel you need to rush into the next stage of your career immediately.
Lastly, what’s your favourite memory from your time as a PhD student?
I’d say having my research accepted for a podium presentation at the World Congress of Biomechanics – the first conference I’d submitted anything to and in fact the first conference I’d ever attended. The best part was that it was in Singapore! So my favourite memory is being able to travel by myself from London to Singapore to present my research and explore a great country which I’ve continued to visit often since then!
Want to know more about Harry?
Check out his website and ResearchGate profile and follow him on social media using the links below: