In this article, Dr Asya Barutcu, former Loughborough Doctoral Researcher in Sport and Exercise Sciences, tells us about her experience as a self-funded Doctoral Researcher, her current job and what she wishes her 15-year-old self knew.
What department and school you were part of when you were a Doctoral Researcher at Loughborough.
I was in the Sport and Exercise Sciences department within the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS).
When did you graduate?
I got my official confirmation in July 2020. I’m yet to graduate! Covid-19 has put a pause to all graduation at the moment, so not sure when that’ll be.
Did you do an undergraduate and master’s degree? If so, was it in Loughborough?
Yes, I did my MSc in Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Loughborough. Before that I completed by BSc in Fitness and Health at University of East London.
Did you work between the time you finished your undergrad/master’s and the time you started your PhD?
I went straight into my MSc after I completed my degree at UEL. I worked for a couple years after my MSc and then started my PhD.
Can you give us a quick layperson description of your PhD research?
I investigated the effects of a planned exercise session on eating behaviours, specifically energy intake, so how much people ate before and after an exercise session. The idea stemmed from the long-term exercise intervention studies which were using exercise training to induce weight loss with sedentary individuals. Most of the research in this context (i.e., exercise, energy intake, appetite) investigated what happens after an exercise session. The common conclusion is that food intake does not increase after an exercise session compared to a rest control. What we found was that there are compensatory behaviours taking place before an exercise session even takes place. Most people would plan their exercise training and with that anticipation, we observed increased energy intake at the meal immediately before the exercise session. There may be various reasons for this behaviour, but I’ll stop myself there as I could go on…
Was your PhD funded? If not did you manage to get any external funding?
I did my PhD self-funded. I won some additional funding from the British Council in Cyprus, which just about covered my PhD fees. Apart from that, the subwardenship opportunity at Loughborough and some other part-time roles within the university helped me cover my living expenses.
Did you get involved with any societies or clubs and did you work outside of your PhD during your time at Loughborough?
I always loved the freshers’ week when we had the freshers’ bazaar for sports clubs and societies. It was a good distraction from the PhD, and I tried various things each year. Unfortunately, I was too busy to keep it up for the remainder of the year. I did some IMS in my first year with the hall I was a subwarden for, but again it got too busy for me to keep it up after my second year in the PhD. So, as I was a self-funded student, I had two-part time jobs. I was working in the SSEHS as a university teacher covering 6-8 hours of teaching a week. And I was also working as a receptionist with the Sports Development Centre. Plus my subwarden duties, so I was fairly busy as you can imagine!
Can you think of one skill that you developed or improved during your PhD?
Project and time management, definitely.
What advice would you give a Doctoral Researcher reading this article?
If they are already on the boat, do everything you can to not rock it overboard and just survive. Have fun along the way if you can. If they’re thinking about doing a PhD, don’t do it unless it is funded or you have a stash of money somewhere!
Can you tell us more about your current job?
At the moment, I work as a technical officer in exercise physiology at Loughborough University, which is a temporary role. I also work as a Health and Wellbeing Coach for the NHS Low-Calorie Diet Programme to help patients put their type 2 diabetes into remission.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
I will answer this in relation to my role with the NHS. The best part is actually working with people who are willing to do something about their predicament and take charge. Type 2 Diabetes runs in my family too and it is something that I am fearful of in the future. Perhaps this is why I choose to work within this population. I find it very positive and inspiring when people are able to do something about it and get their quality of life back! Consequently, the worst part is that you can’t help everyone. There will always be someone who is not able, for whatever reason, to make that change in their lifestyle. It is heart breaking to see that. And also, the admin side of things is not great!
What is your biggest achievement so far?
Completing my PhD, the way I did it was definitely a challenge so it’s definitely my biggest achievement so far!
What is the biggest hurdle that you managed to overcome so far?
Being unemployed. I was on a maternity cover contract when the first lockdown hit with the Covid-19. All the potential job opportunities I had unfortunately disappeared. But I was lucky enough to find my current positions within 5-6 months. Those 5-6 months were hard though and made me realise that ‘work’ provides me with more than I imagined.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Don’t believe everything you think!
What is that one thing you’re good at that is not related to your work?
I’m told that I’m good with people. I am also a keen student, which means I am always looking for opportunities that allow growth in some way.
Thank you for creating a platform to share my experience. I hope it is helpful or amusing to the readers 🙂
Are you a former DR? Would you like to talk about your time at Loughborough and give some advice to fellow DR or event undergrad and postgrad students? Email us at Pfirstname.lastname@example.org.