Interview with Shane McLoughlin - PhD Student at University of Chichester

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i-studentglobal spoke to Psychology PhD student Shane McLoughlin about his experiences of changing universities, coming to study in the UK and receiving a scholarship to fund his studies at University of Chichester.

Why I decided to study a PhD

I decided to do a PhD for an odd reason, but one that I think is legitimate. I hated my undergraduate degree! That sounds dramatic, and odd, but hear me out. My degree was in Applied Psychology. In the first year, we got an overview of the field, touching on abnormal behaviour, perception, the main theorists, and so on. We also did some IT subjects. I enjoyed that. My grades were good; I got a mixture of 2.1s and 1sts. Second year was a disaster though. We studied cognitive psychology, which I thought was disjointed (an area that has literally hundreds of theories with no parsimony). Other subjects that year and throughout the four-year degree were applications of cognitive psychology in sport, education, business, IT etc. and I started to wonder: Why not figure out the basics in psychology first, before presuming to apply it well? It turned out that relatively few people were questioning the basics – philosophy of science, assumptions, what statistics can’t tell us. It’s like studying physics while everyone else is studying alchemy. If we get the physics right, we could end up with a chemistry of psychology in the future. That’s exciting to me. I wanted to be part of that agenda. My undergraduate thesis was on critical thinking. None of the core staff were willing to supervise that project, so I was assigned the guy who tended to get the “miscellaneous” projects. He was and is a gentleman, but his expertise was e-commerce systems. He put in lots of time with me and I ended up with a 2.1 in my degree.

Why I chose to study abroad

I decided to study human intelligence, the cognitive faculty that applies to everything else we do. After not being awarded a scholarship at my undergraduate university, I had to look for a researcher who was willing to supervise a project that looked at the fundamentals of thinking itself.

I first looked at local universities back home in Ireland, checking the expertise of various lecturers and professors. I made contact with a number of professors of Psychology, but because of promotions and retirements, there was nobody suitable to supervise my project from start to finish. I finally found a suitable supervisor at the National University of Ireland, Galway and spent around 5 months visiting the campus each week to work on my proposal and develop my knowledge of Psychology for the path of study that laid in front of me. I was unsuccessful in applying for scholarships to support my PhD studies at Galway so I was working full-time and studying part-time in the evenings. It was exhausting but somehow I kept it up for a year and a half. 

It happened that, as a part-time student at the National University of Ireland, Galway, I became one of a handful of people in the world who could do what I do. After a year and a half, I was rubbing shoulders with my heroes, who were the top academics in the world in my field, in my opinion. I was working very hard. Even though I was part-time, I was ahead of where I would expect to be if I had been a full-timer. In March of 2015 I presented some research at a conference at University College London, where I met my future supervisor at the University of Chichester. We had mutual interests and he was a graduate of the university where I was studying at the time. I found out that he had won funding for a project that was very similar to what was going to be the rest of my PhD, and would be advertising it in the summer of 2015. I applied for the position and now here I am studying full-time without having to work full-time as well.

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