Natasha Willoughby

I enjoyed working on my PhD because the project was interesting and stimulating, and my two academic supervisors were very approachable.


How did you decide on your degree choice? What appealed about Manchester?

I studied Mathematics and Physics (3 Years) [BSc] followed by an MSc in Applied Fluid Dynamics at Manchester and was very happy with the teaching I received. I was also happy living in Manchester. When it came to applying for a PhD I was keen to continue working in the School; I was aware of some of the ongoing research projects that members of staff were involved in through my undergraduate and postgraduate projects. 

I was extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to undertake a CASE PhD studentship at the University, in partnership with Thales Underwater Systems. The research is in the area of acoustics, elasticity and solid mechanics. It involves working jointly with two academic supervisors at the University and also a supervisor at Thales.

What are you most enjoying about your course?

My PhD project was interesting and stimulating and my academic supervisors, Prof. David Abrahams and Dr. Will Parnell, were very friendly and approachable. They were understanding about issues relating to the work itself and also about other problems I experienced while I was a PhD student that impacted on my ability to do my work.

The time spent at Thales was valuable. I experienced life at an industrial company and saw the way they tackled research there. There were many opportunities to attend conferences both in the UK and abroad, to give talks and to present posters. 

How do you think you are benefiting from studying at Manchester?

My BSc from Manchester gave me a good grounding in mathematics and physics. This enabled me to specialise in the branch of mathematics I was most interested in for my MSc and, finally, to go on to study for a PhD in Applied Mathematics.

As a direct result of my PhD I gained employment with Thales UK and have now been working there for nearly six months on areas of research closely related to my former project. Obtaining this job would certainly not have been possible without my PhD training, nor would I have become aware of the work at Thales without the valuable experience gained during my course.

What advice would you give to students considering applying for the same course that you took?

The Waves in Complex Continua Group that I was part of has several PhD students and is a very friendly group that gets together for regular meetings. There is lots of interaction amongst the PhD students, and between them and the staff.

I believe that Manchester itself has something to offer everyone, with things going on to suit all sorts of interests. It is certainly not possible to get bored living in this city!

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