Barbara Duffek

Doctoral programme
Year of graduation
Barbara Duffek
Barbara Duffek, Doctoral programme
“The best thing about the Doctoral programme is working with my supervisors and academics from other universities on topics that interest me. I feel lucky every day that I can work on something that is truly my passion, and that I get all the support from my supervisors to do so.”

Choosing the Doctoral programme at Imperial

Why did you decide to study the Doctoral programme at Imperial College Business School?

I decided to come to Imperial for various reasons; firstly, I wanted to work with my current supervisors, Professor Andreas Eisingerich and Dr Omar Merlo. Having read their research papers and been taught by both Professor Eisingerich and Dr Merlo during my Master’s, I was convinced that I wanted to work with them in the future.

Secondly, I wanted to do my PhD in a university that values research, but also innovation, and has the facilities to provide support to its PhD students. Imperial gives us access to other departments of the College, so we can always take some modules from the wider college, rather than just the Business School. Furthermore, Imperial offers an MRes program, which equips students with the necessary skills to progress onto the PhD. The quality of this MRes programme and the module availability also contributed to my decision in coming to Imperial.

What is your previous academic and work experience and how did this prepare you for the programme?

I was keen to do a PhD for a long time before I decided to apply for the programme. I have always had a passion for academia – having finished top of my class in my bachelor’s degree, and winning the award for the best thesis, I was already playing around with the idea that this path may be for me. Having finished the MSc Strategic Marketing at Imperial and an LLB, these two degrees gave me a different, more practical perspective on the field of marketing, business and law.

The Doctoral programme experience

What is the best thing about the Doctoral programme so far?

The best thing about the Doctoral programme is working with my supervisors and academics from other universities on topics that interest me. I feel lucky every day that I can work on something that is truly my passion, and that I get all the support from my supervisors to do so.

How did the MRes prepare you for your doctoral research?

During the MRes year, we had opportunities to take various research methods classes which are of great help when it comes to doing research. By having the ability to choose classes that equip you with invaluable skills, you are getting ready to do research, and it also helps greatly in the understanding of methods-based research papers.

Furthermore, we were not only learning about different methods, but the professors were keen to share with us their PhD experiences, their advice on publications and doing research, and research best practices. I think hearing these tips from professors working in various fields also prepared me enormously for doctoral research.

What did you enjoy most about the MRes?

I really enjoyed the classes- MRes classes are conducted in small groups and last three hours, so they are definitely challenging – I even had a module where I was the only student. You really need to make sure you are prepared, and that you have engaged with the material critically and not superficially. These classes are there for you to discuss academic papers and research methods with your classmates and professors and get to know how researchers think. These MRes classes are very different from MSc classes – professors treat you as their colleagues rather than their students now that you are on the path towards your doctoral degree. They are truly interested in your research, your opinion on the topics, and want to help you as much as possible.

What area of research will you be doing your PhD on?

Marketing has different subfields; I am working on brand strategy, in particular, I am looking at why customers decide to stand up against brands and initiate attacks on various online and offline platforms. We are working on the conceptualisation of consumer toxicity, as a process model of such harmful behaviours. In a separate project, I am also looking at the impact of product recalls in secondary markets. In the future, I would like to explore these brand transgressions and product recalls in more depth, utilising various marketing models and experiments.

Opportunities at Imperial

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?

The greatest opportunity I received so far is going to a marketing conference in my MRes year! It is not common for PhD students to attend a conference in their first year of study, however, with the support of my supervisors, and the Business School, I was able to attend the American Marketing Association’s Winter academic conference in San Diego in February 2020 and present our research there. It was an amazing experience; meeting some of the top scholars in the world and being able to get feedback on our research at such an early stage – I will never forget it.

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

It is definitely beneficial in terms of networking with other PhD students from other top London universities. We have a marketing PhD community that meets up on a regular basis – PhD students from various other London institutions and Oxbridge, occasionally meeting up for dinner and getting to know each other.

Advice to prospective Doctoral students

What advice would you share to prospective students considering the Doctoral programme in marketing at Imperial?

I would suggest prospective students to start thinking about their research interests early on. Once the MRes year starts, students are expected to work on the modules and their research simultaneously. Students need to submit the MRes research project by early July, and since the modules are usually running until April-May, there is not much time to left for research. Therefore, I think prospective students should start reading up on the research in their field from early on. I would also encourage students to familiarise themselves with a few programming languages before the start of the programme, as it will save up loads of time when it comes to research.

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