Student Blog: My first week as a PhD student

Darel Cookson

Darel Cookson, a new PhD Student in the Department of Psychology and the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, blogs about her first week at Staffordshire University as a PhD Student:

It is hard to believe that this time last week I was (not so) quietly fretting about starting my PhD, excited at the enormous opportunity I had been offered and nervous about the level expected of me, but also anxious of doing something super embarrassing on my first day. However here I am a week later, still alive, and the most embarrassing thing that occurred was dropping my handbag on the floor and watching the contents scatter down the stairs in front of me, (I can live with that!).

I thought I would write a blog post to give some information and insight to anyone who is thinking about starting a PhD, or starting one in the near future, of what you might expect in your first week.


My first day, I arrived at 8:30am on Monday morning and met my primary supervisor (Dr. Daniel Jolley) who had very kindly prepared me a programme for the week ahead. As someone who likes a good ‘to do’ list this was very much appreciated. My supervisor gave me a tour of the campus and the rooms I will need to locate and then we proceeded to the library where I received my student card (its official!). My next meeting was with Dr Richard Jolley. He and the psychology technicians gave us (myself and a visiting PhD student) a tour of the Science Centre and we learned about some of the fantastic equipment available to use.

At lunch I met with two of my supervisors (Dr. Jolley & Dr. Robert Dempsey) and we talked about the project, discussed different ideas and they gave me some advice on where to start my reading. I spent the afternoon in my office, which I share with another PhD student and a post-doc researcher, I sat at my desk and actually began my PhD!

Its official, everyone buys you a new notebook when you are a student…


After my first day nerves, Tuesday began with a coffee, reading, and researching the training programmes available through the Staffordshire University Graduate School to decide which would be best for me to attend. The series looks fantastic. That afternoon I booked a meeting with the Academic Skills Tutor who helped me navigate the library website, definitely worth doing if you are new to an institution.


In the morning I observed the seminar class I will be teaching next week which was really exciting. I enjoy teaching so had been looking forward to meeting the students and they were all really engaged and showed impressive critical thinking. Let’s hope they are just as focused when I take the class!


First thing on Thursday, I made another appointment with the Academic Skills Tutor who was so helpful in guiding me through my reference management options, it was reassuring to have the foundations to manage the literature I will be reviewing. I met with my supervisory team for a lunch meeting (Drs Jolley, Dempsey and Povey) and we again discussed project ideas and have agreed to meet weekly for the initial few weeks.


I am actually working on my PhD; it is still sinking in! It has been wonderful today to get stuck into the work and to reflect on the previous week. Thank you for everyone at Staffordshire University who have been so welcoming this week, I feel that my next few years here are going to be very special.

The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire Centre. The Centre is home to a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines. The Centre has two overarching research streams: Health and Behaviour Change and Applied Perception and Cognition.

The Centre provides training for PhD students, Research Masters degrees, as well as Professional Doctorates in Clinical and Health Psychology (click here for more details). The Centre also provides bespoke training to private and public organisations, as well as expertise for consultancy research opportunities. For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).