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Niall Geraghty – The benefits of doing a PhD


Niall Geraghty

Niall Geraghty. Credit: Sam Mather

Niall Geraghty completed his AHRC doctoral award in 2015, from the University of Cambridge. The topic of his study was Contemporary Argentine Literature. Since then, he has held various positions at the Institute of Latin American Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Niall’s doctoral thesis was recently published with the University of Pittsburgh Press, which has a very strong list in Latin American Studies. He is also currently publishing a series of articles on film. Niall was awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship that he started in August 2018.

Niall spoke about how it became clear that he wanted to undertake a PhD while studying for his Masters. He then started looking for funding opportunities. He explained that he was drawn to applying for AHRC funding as it is “one of the best known funding bodies and is very prestigious”. What appealed to Niall was the fact that, in his words, “the level of funding is really great for being able to live and concentrate on your studies. I also knew there would be funds available for research trips, which when working on Latin America is really important. I remember looking into the training provision with the AHRC as that was also important for me”.

Niall continued to talk about the fact that he couldn’t have undertaken his PhD without funding. He explained that he wasn’t from a particularly wealthy background and would have found self-funding “incredibly daunting”.  Although there were other funding opportunities to which he could apply, the AHRC was always his first choice. He said “The AHRC provides a level of support that is particularly good. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to do it without funding. That is the bottom line”. He made clear that having the funding and being able to dedicate yourself to the project was essential to him. “Having that time to get to know your material, and really know it, was fundamentally important”.

The conversation moved onto the skills that were learnt during his PhD. Niall described the importance of the transferable skills he acquired. He highlighted the importance of learning a lot about time management, organisational and administrational responsibility, and how that is crucial for both an academic career or in a role away from academia.

Niall also highlighted how being a part of a cohort was advantageous. “I did my PhD at Cambridge with a sizeable group of doctoral students. It was very beneficial for learning about working in partnerships and how to collaborate. We self-organised some reading groups and had a presentation club, where we would take it in turns to present some of our work. Retrospectively you realise you have learnt a lot of skills”. Niall is now based at a centre which has a research promotion and facilitation remit, and it is here where he has found these skills incredibly useful. He has found this element of his doctoral experience extremely valuable when organising events and public engagement, and generally when needing to collaborate with a lot of people.

When asked about what advice he would give current or prospective students, Niall referred to the advice that his supervisor, Dr Joanna Page, gave him during one of their first meetings. “Keep in mind that the PhD is an academic apprenticeship. Take advantage of the range of training opportunities available and make the most of the possibility to learn about other things beyond the thesis. That way you can develop the skills you require to move onto your next post. On a practical level, make sure to be organised from the start!” Niall finished with:  “Enjoy it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to have that length of time to dedicate solely to one project. It really is wonderful and it won’t be repeated in the same way again!”

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