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Thomas Maccreath - Warwick MIBTP

Name: Thomas Maccreath

1. What is your home university, what department and lab are you in?

I am based at the University of Warwick, working in the Warwick Medical School in Lab M116 under Dr. Meera Unnikrishnan with the aim to study into interactions between the host human body and the pathogenic bacteria, Clostridioides difficile.

2. What type of studentship are you on?

I am on the standard MIBTP programme.

3. How did you organise your accommodation for the first year?

Coventry is geared towards accommodating students with a wide variety of accommodation options available, ranging from University owned accommodation (Warwick Campus) to private lettings available to students only. Due to not being overly familiar with the area, I decided my first-year accommodation should be with a student accommodation provider which would let me budget easier as it meant I only had a single bill to pay each month and had the security that they offered. This has let me get to know the area, exploring where I could live in the following years and to make friends with people in the cohort who could become potential flatmates.

If you are new to the area and want to avoid student accommodation providers, it is worth using either student SpareRoom or Warwick SU has a forum called Housemates Wanted.

For my away mini project at the University of Birmingham, I stayed in Coventry and utilised the trains to get between the University and Coventry which took just under 45 minutes each way. As PhD students are classed as students, I was able to obtain a student travelcard that made this more affordable and less hassle than finding temporary accommodation.

For my internship, I contacted a student accommodation provider near to the site I was going to be working at which were able to provide a room at the property for the three-months internship. I struggled with most properties available for rent due to the short rental period required, although it is worth checking sites such as SpareRoom for any available properties in the area but filtering just for short-term lets for your own searches.

4. How did you manage commuting to UoW for the first term?

I own a car which makes the journey very easy to get to campus when required, with permit parking available to PhD students at most car parks on campus; where the taught lectures were held. There are also numerous bus routes from both Coventry city centre and Leamington Spa (two major student areas for Warwick Uni) which offer frequent, reliable service to the campus, so a car is by no means necessary and using public transport will likely save you a lot of your stipend. It is also worth mentioning that with limited parking spaces available on campus (particularly Gibbet Hill), you would need to arrive early to guarantee getting a parking space. Canley is also another major student hub which is within walking distance of campus, so if you end up living there during the first term/year then you’ll have no travel costs at all.

5. How did you organise your mini-project?

The MIBTP provide a lengthy list of supervisors which have offered mini projects in the past to previous MIBTP students which gave me a great starting point to make enquiries. I was able to get a contact from one of these supervisors that led to my away mini project at the University of Birmingham. It is also worth discussing with your PhD supervisor (if you have one) your requirements, as they may have contacts that you can use. Make sure that your project offers a benefit to yourself, look more to learning a new technique that could benefit your PhD project rather than the area of research. It’s a unique learning experience to take advantage of.

6. How did you organise your PIPS?

I was fortunate enough that I had an industry contact through my undergraduate supervisor which led to the arrangement of my PIPS near London (which, due to COVID-19 has been postponed). For your own searches, the administrator of the MIBTP is excellent at distributing any available internship opportunities that are aimed at students on programmes such as the MIBTP, so it is worth following up any of these that interest you. Your supervisor may have contacts that could be used to find potential PIPs. Apart from this, you need to just be proactive and contact any relevant organisations that are of interest to you.

7. Is there anything you wished you would have known before you started?

Although it was said from the start of the programme, it was hard for me to adjust to the jump in independence from an undergraduate to PhD student level. You will be given a lot of free time during the first term which needs to be used constructively. Start researching internship opportunities, contacting potential supervisors for mini projects (and a PhD project if you joined the programme without a PhD supervisor lined up) and timetabling revision for the R programming and statistics exams to ensure you can find areas that you are struggling with early on and then communicate with the teaching staff so you can arrange additional support if required.