Interdisciplinary Opportunities and Experiences Available at Surrey

As a PhD student at the University of Surrey, there are countless interdisciplinary opportunities and experience available. I am pursing a PhD in Tourism and Hospitality Management which as a social science is interdisciplinary by its very nature. Research in hospitality and tourism draws on theories from a wide range of disciplines including psychology, sociology, business, economics, geography, and more!

Here are just a few of the ways to develop interdisciplinary connections and knowledge as a PhD student at Surrey:

1) Research

Some PhD research projects at the University are interdisciplinary from their initial design.  That may be a fully funded studentship that has a topic crossing multiple disciplines, or it may be a student-lead research topic that pulls from different knowledge areas and requires supervisors from more than one discipline.

Or in my case, my topic of ‘how pet ownership affects tourism and leisure’ has led me to be in contact with the School of Veterinary Medicine, Surrey Business School, the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and a professor in the School of Psychology.  All of the people I have been in contact with across these disciplines have been helpful, friendly, and provided extremely valuable information and guidance!

2) Workshops

Opportunity to attend a wide range of workshops and sessions about research in other disciplines are plenty. They might just inspire your research or business ideas!

A huge variety of interdisciplinary workshops are available as a PhD student. Different disciplines frequently offer webinars or talks to present their recent research.  Plus, departments often try to bring together industry and academic speakers to talk about current issues. 

Recently, one such workshop organised by the University that I enjoyed focused on how satellites can be used to improve animal welfare. This interesting workshop featured speakers from government, the agricultural industry, and tech companies. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn from others.

Plus, the British Library’s series of Open Days has allowed me to connect with attendees from universities all over the UK. It has been fascinating to discover all of the resources the British Library can offer, and also to ‘meet’ other PhD students and learn about their wide ranging research interests.

Lots of opportunities exist to connect with other PhD students outside of the University such as the British Library’s Doctoral Open Days (online in 2021).

3) Organisations & Special Events

Student Enterprise connects students from across the University who are interested in pursing entrepreneurship.

There are lots of organisations that you can be involved with at Surrey. I have been a part of Student Enterprise for the past 7 months where I have participated in various workshops, bootcamps, and 1:1 sessions. I have met many students from different programmes and from different universities. Many of these students I now see regularly at events and have connected with on LinkedIn.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Student Enterprise 3 Day Bootcamp with 18 other talented students from across the University. This Bootcamp helped us to hone our business pitch and prepare to pitch for funding. My pitch was successful and I have received funding to explore my idea further!

Last summer, I was also able to participate in the interdisciplinary PetHack 2020. This event was created to generate ideas about how to improve the lives of companion animals and their owners. This special event brought together two universities, multiple organisations, and people from different disciplines and locations. It was a great chance to connect with others, generate ideas for innovation, and compete for prizes.

PetHack 2020 was a data hack competition focused on improving the lives of companion animals & their owners affected by COVID-19. It was sponsored by a wide range of groups.

4) Mentoring

There are lots of opportunities to be involved in mentoring through the Doctoral College. The Transitions Mentoring Programme pairs first year PhD students with later stage PhD students. I had the chance to be paired with a 3rd year Biomedical Engineering PhD student.  Our interdisciplinary pairing also allowed me to learn about her experiences of doing her degree in a different department. Plus, she was able to answer my general questions as a new PhD student, provide me with resources, and reassure me.

In addition, I have also had the chance to be involved in the STARs Mentoring Programme where PhD students mentor 3rd year undergraduates who have an interest in pursuing research degrees. After training, I was matched with a fantastic undergraduate in Creative Music Technology who is in the process of applying to graduate school programmes. I have enjoyed learning about her research proposal topic and supporting her.

5) Socialising

The Researcher Café run by the Doctoral College brings together researchers from across the University for a chit chat on Wednesdays at 11 am.

Finally, the University offers lots of opportunities for interdisciplinary socialising even if it is a bit more limited in these times of social distancing. One of my favourite opportunities to meet other PhD students and early career researchers is at the Researcher Café run by the Doctoral College.  It takes place every Wednesday at 11 am (usually in person, but now via Zoom).  It is a chance to talk about your research, things going on in the world, or just chat.

Whether it is through your research directly, workshops, organisations, special events, mentoring, or socialising, as a PhD student there are numerous ways to develop interdisciplinary connections and gain interdisciplinary knowledge at the University of Surrey!