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A Day in the Life of a PhD Student – Ian Pogson

Guest post by Ian Posgon

06.00 to 07.00

Normally, I take to my glorious motorcycle, which is a paragon of PQ (Perceived Quality). Everything about my matt green, Triumph Street Triple 675cc is an object lesson in how to present and execute good PQ. The machine drips detail that pleases the eye, excites the ear, has tactile joys that pleasure the fingers, but is a bit chewy to taste. My PhD is looking at how PQ can be measured and controlled.

07.00 to 08.00

Having beaten the traffic blues I arrive at work and PQ shouts out at me from the vehicles parked at the front of my building – a brace of JLR’s best. Jaguar Land Rover produces some of the finest, most appealing vehicles on the planet.

08.00 to 09.00

My work for JLR has me sat within a group of nearly 2,000 Electrical and Software Engineers, where I provide a specialist service on Mechanical Fixings.

The subject of PQ does not come into my daily fixings responsibilities too much, not directly anyway. A vehicle’s perceived and objective product quality will however be affected directly should a fixing fail.

09.00 to 10.00

The meetings continue, the daily grind of administration and paperwork that forms an increasing part of working life and yet I am always on the look-out for something that will support my work as a part-time PhD student. Wait… What’s this? An article catches my PQ-sensitive eye. Someone in the Electrical community is looking for volunteers to assess the new fault diagnosis software.

So I volunteer, as I can see a possible journal article looking at HMI (Human Machine Interface). This would promote my employer as producing a new and improved piece of kit for its Dealership Technicians and give me an interesting PQ angle on an HMI subject. As I am trying to have an abstract approved to present at a Doctoral Symposium for an HMI conference, this could prove invaluable.

10.00 to 11.00

I arrange a meeting with the Marketing team who have close contact with our customers and assessment clinics that are run to gauge PQ reaction to new or forthcoming vehicles. There is a wealth of knowledge and information on tap. I must also consider confidentiality and JLR Company IPR (Intellectual Property Rights).

11.00 to 12.00

Another brief discussion on PQ and its relevance to our work here in a premium car manufacturer, before driving to the University for the Faculty Symposium.

12.00 to 13.00

I look excitedly around the room (yes, at the age of 57), for my poster. I meet some other (much younger!) students from an excellent University course I attended (the week-long M31AAE – highly recommended). Finally, I see it lurking at the back, here in full A0 size as it should be and so I take up station beside it. Note-book ready to take down names of visitors and any useful contacts, as well as a couple of Finstall Engineering (my Company) business cards in case anyone wishes to contact me later. All ready.

13.00 to 15.30

It is always useful to mingle and network, as with a subject such as PQ, there is a strong cross-over with other disciplines such as psychology and HMI, both subjects in which Coventry University specialises.

As my retirement plan involves using my PhD to seek part-time lecturing opportunities in Universities, I am very much on the look-out for new ways of engaging students and to see students trying to engage their fellows is quite an education in itself.

15.30 to 16.00

Prize-giving and feedback time for the Symposium sees our diminutive Dean and hard-working Student Representative giving out the prizes. Naturally some old, bald middle-aged bloke droning on about PQ won no prizes, but that is OK.

I get a huge kick out of moulding a shapeless, hopeless idea for a technical paper into something that I can present for critical review by my peers, not to mention the weird joy I find in reading up on a subject, following the leads and not straying too far ‘off message’ to ensure that all the reading and writing effort I do expend is targeted and worthwhile. Out of my 150+ items of reading (books, papers, blogs, etc.) I have only rejected 10 or so for being of no or limited value. Over 80 have been worth my typing a structured critique (thanks to the Lanchester Library Centre for Academic Writing for the process and format help).

16.00 to 18.00

Drive home, but interrupt the journey at “Biker’s Paradise” in Coventry. This is a motorcycle garment design, test, manufacture and sales outlet in the Canley area. Now there is a Company with an eye to PQ and the confidence and experience to deliver. PQ has to be a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for them; I wonder if they consciously know it.

18.00 to 19.00

A possibly PQ-free hour, unless I count a most excellent dinner with a lovely, quality lady. As I wash the dishes I contemplate the PQ of our new kitchen, but groan inwardly at the lack of functionality of certain aspects of it. Did the PQ overwhelm me/us when we purchased it? Oops, PQ again. A PhD takes over your life – are you ready?

19.00 to 21.00

Time to buckle down to some PhD stuff. I am still on a high from the Symposium.

Tonight’s study task is to register on a conference website, for whom I want to write a paper and present it in Amsterdam. I scribble down ten or so titles and create a framework, based on some learning from the M31AAE course.

Studying alone is my default setting; after a day’s work. I have to keep the rhythm going; an hour to 90 minutes a night, with 6 to 8 hours at a weekend is all I can do. I try not to work beyond 21.30 as I need some R&R before hitting the sack to face that infernal alarm at 05.20 again. I’m all blogged out.

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