Last weekend I was in Singapore for my first PhD student Su Lin Lim’s graduation ceremony.  Dietitians often ask me should I do a PhD, or what things do I need to consider before embarking on a PhD?  Some people think you need to have really good grades to do a PhD.  The reality is that you need what I call the three Ps – passion, patience and persistence!

I asked two of my PhD students who have completed their PhD for some tips.

Su Lin advises that you should consider the following before doing a PhD  (I can also hear myself saying these points as well!):

  • Begin with the end in mind – know what you want to achieve in your research project and PhD, or at least have a rough idea about it.
  • Do a topic that you are passionate about as you will be more likely to do well and be motivated to carry on even when the going gets tough.
  • Choose supervisors with whom you can work well, as their support and guidance are of utmost importance to the success of your PhD.
  • Take ownership of your PhD. Your supervisors may be available to guide you but finally it’s up to you to run with your research and thesis.
  • Do not idle. For example while waiting for ethics approval, you can start writing part of your thesis; or while waiting for your supervisor to review your thesis, you can work on your publications.
  • Don’t do a PhD because of title or prestige… you will end up being frustrated. Do it because you truly believe in and are passionate about the subject.


Ekta Agarwal offers the following advice:

  • Choose your PhD supervisors wisely, as they will be the most important relationship outside of your immediate family!  Talk to previous students about their experience with their supervisor
  • Be open and flexible regarding your PhD topic
  • Investigate your funding/support options, including grants and employment opportunities
  • Your attitude matters and self-motivation is critical
  • You need to have lots of patience and perseverance!

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


If you are considering a PhD, I say go for it, you will not regret it.  A PhD will be extremely rewarding, open many doors, and if you like traveling, you can end up presenting your research around the world. What’s not to love about that!

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