Postgraduate researchers come from a variety of backgrounds and bring a range of experiences, interests, skills and motivation to their work.

Undertaking postgraduate research is a transformative experience for many and by the time you complete your degree, it is likely that you will feel you have become a different person. This is a change in identity from being a ‘student of …’ to becoming an ‘expert in …’.

The expectations for conducting postgraduate research are very different to those of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The goal of doctoral research is not simply to write a thesis, but a much broader activity of becoming a credible and expert participant in your research community.

This professional or academic identity may take different forms but will serve as the basis for the next stage of your career. Identifying your goals, and taking the opportunity to develop your skills, networks and experience are key to becoming and being a researcher.

Your research and your own personal development will not occur in isolation: your identity, research competence and the ability to communicate will be built and developed through interaction, e.g. attending conferences (internal and external to Imperial) that will allow you to build networks, gain confidence, contribute and become part of the established disciplinary community.

The development of your academic and professional identity is also advanced through:

  • Communicating your research through the writing your thesis, and presenting and discussing your research outputs in meetings, seminars and conferences.
  • Teaching within your discipline area provides an extremely valuable opportunity to develop yourself as a researcher.
  • Supporting the supervision of undergraduates or master’s students, which can offer you the possibility to develop and practice your independence and leadership.

For more information and support regarding your research identity, go to: