PhD Coffee Chat with University of Glasgow Doctoral Researchers by Mukund Mohapatra

At some point, many law students have often wondered about the prospects of a career in academia. On 3rd February 2022, the Glasgow University Intellectual Property Society (GU-IPS) organised its first virtual coffee chat via zoom. It was a perfect opportunity for LLM students curious about pursuing a PhD. The idea of the coffee chat was essentially an open-ended interaction with four PhD researchers at the University of Glasgow Law School (UofG). They talked about their experiences and answered questions ranging from the application process, funding opportunities, a PhD student’s life, and career opportunities. The researchers who joined the coffee chat were Amy Thomas, Jie Liu, Bartolomeo Meletti and Aline Iramina.

University of Glasgow’s Doctoral Researchers:

Amy is a Lecturer in Intellectual Property and Information Law and PhD Candidate (CREATe/CMS collaborative scholarship) at UofG. Her research focuses on the relationship between copyright, usership, and private ordering systems, with related interests in IP-related aspects of video games and eSports.

Jie’s research interest focuses on collective copyright management and licence models in the digital environment. She is passionate about the interplay between competition law and intellectual property; and has long-standing interests in private law content within copyright rules.

Bartolomeo works as a Creative Director for CREATe, the UK Copyright and Creative Economy Centre at UofG. His research interests include copyright policy and exceptions; and the process of re-using copyright-protected works. He played an active role in facilitating the accessibility of UK Copyright Law for everyone through the development of an independent online platform. Bartolomeo has been working part-time as well has been pursuing his PhD. He worked with CREATe before starting his PhD.

Aline is a qualified lawyer at the “Brazilian Bar Association” (OAB). She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Brasilia, Brazil (UNB). Her research at the UofG is on Copyright Governance by Algorithms: Towards a More Transparent Regime. While working as General Coordinator at Brazil’s Copyright Office (2018 to 2020), she was consecutively a guest lecturer for WIPO courses.

Motives to pursue PhD

The Chat opened up with Researchers talking about their journey and motivations for pursuing a PhD. Jie spoke about how she commenced her PhD shortly after completing her LLM degree. She already had a strong interest in academia before getting into PhD. Her professor inspired her to engage with topics that interested her, which motivated her to apply for her PhD.

As a second-year, Aline stated how when she graduated from law school, and she did not know that she would be doing a PhD. While working in regulations, she realised she did not have an adequate research background in her area of interest.  She enrolled for her LLM first and then applied for her PhD. She’s currently on a scholarship.

Amy’s route to get into PhD was unusual, as she felt that when she left school at the age of 14, she never considered that PhD could have been an option for her. She finished her undergraduate and then worked at a law firm, only to realise she did not like it and applied for a PhD sponsored by the law firm. She has just submitted her dissertation.

Questions raised

An exciting range of questions was put forth before the PhD researchers, who answered with depth, much-needed nuance and clarity.

Amartya asked about the actual process for applying for a PhD at UofG.

Jie stated that the application process was dependent on the particular university. She had contacted many universities, and with regards to the University of Glasgow, it was vital to attach your research proposal to get potential supervisors. They would take a look at it, which was an informal process. She advised mailing professors to express one’s interest and how it was necessary to plan one’s timetable well. Aline mentioned how she was already established contact with Martin before she applied. Amy pointed out how it was a two-part process, where it was essential to get a robust proposal, reach out to supervisors and then figure out the funding. Bartolomeo advised on choosing a supervisor wisely and focussing on the research proposal.

Mukund made enquiries about the format of a research proposal. Aline answered that format is not the primary concern and that the actual problem lies in finding one’s topic of interest. Bartolomeo stated that there is a standard format- which is background topic, research questions, methodology, timeline, and bibliography. Amy noted a standard format but stressed the need to show research skills and demonstrate the ability to research the topic rather than prove why it is interesting. Mukund then asked whether it would appeal to a potential supervisor if an organisation has expressed an interest in the research proposal. Bartolomeo specified that your proposal would be more robust if the organisation had given you access to resources that would aid your research.

Michele raised three questions. The first was whether one should apply for PhD immediately after LLM or was it better to gain work experience before applying. The second was whether a PhD would be compatible with external work, and finally, what is the life of a PhD researcher?

With regards to the first, Bartolomeo advised that if one is sure of their ambitions and interests, then it is better to apply soon to expedite the process.

Bart answered that it was possible but had its challenges regarding compatibility. His advice is that it is best to set work in a way that informs your PhD; it is best to combine external work and PhD as much as possible.

Concerning the life of a PhD researcher, Amy’s answer struck an exciting note. She pointed out how it is flexible, where the schedule could be left at the individual’s discretion. It was not like a law firm, with a rigid timeframe. It was essential to stick to the structure that worked best for an individual.

Erin raised the question of whether anyone published anything before starting a PhD. Jie said she did not, but publications could be essential. Amy responded with no as well, though blogs could be a publication if you were part of the society. Bartolomeo stated that there is no pressure to focus on publications. An unconventional addition to one’s application could be creating videos of one’s research.

Oswald enquired about the methodology common to researching intellectual property and how much supervision is given to the candidate. Amy replied that CREATe tends to favour empirical methods, but honestly, there is no prescribed method. It all depends on one’s research question. Bartolomeo added a course on research methods that could be taken in the first year of the PhD.

Michele finally asked about what it is like to Study PhD abroad whether there are any differences?

Aline spoke about her PhD experiences in Brazil, where she had to take taught courses. There are no minimum credits in the UK, whereas there are minimum credits in Brazil. Bartolomeo stated he had positive experiences concerning Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Sweden. Still, the UK is a good place to do PhD if one wants to pursue their research agenda. On the other hand, Italy means working under the professor and is contingent on how well you know the professor.

Jie finally commented on how the following factors are essential when successfully applying for a PhD. First is motivation, followed by a research proposal that shows one’s contribution and creativity, thirdly, the application timeline, and finally, being organised and having a clear plan about where to apply and secure funding.

Concluding remarks

All in all, it was a very informative session, with prospective PhD applicants being provided with helpful information on applying for a PhD. This informative session was an invaluable resource for anyone interested in pursuing a career in academia.