Uday Kurien graduated with a PhD from McGill University in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences in 2018. In his thesis research, he studied the uptake and reactions of mercury in the atmosphere. Following his PhD he worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the same department. He worked in the field of cloud physics, researching the effects of turbulence on precipitation processes.
Q: What made you interested in doing a PhD?
One part of it is an abiding interest in science. The other part, if I’m being honest, was a childhood curiosity of what it must feel like to be a scientist.
Q: What was the biggest challenge for you in finishing your PhD?
I think the biggest challenge in finishing my PhD was the uncertainty associated with research work. Progress is typically not uniform. There are times when experiments repeatedly fail and progress stalls. It can be frustrating and difficult to get out of the rut.
Q: What communities were you a part of during your PhD studies?
My primary community was the research group that I was a part of. We were a tightly knit group of friends and we got along very well, both inside and outside the lab.
Q: What kind of career advising did you receive?
I did not seek career advice, but my supervisor was very supportive and open to discussions on careers in and outside of academia.
Q: What are your current career goals?
My immediate goal is to transition into the field of patent law and become a registered patent agent.
Q: What kind of financial support did you receive during your PhD?
I received funding from my department, which I am grateful for. The terms of my funding did not stipulate any teaching responsibilities, even though teaching assistantships were optionally available. This allowed me to focus exclusively on my research. With the aid and encouragement of my supervisor I was also able to secure partial financial support from the NSERC Mines of Knowledge program, for the latter half of my PhD.
Q: You are currently a postdoc in the Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. How did you end up in your current position?
Right after my defense, a member of my examination committee informed me of an open position in his group, and asked me if I wanted to join. I enthusiastically did.
Q: What is a typical day like for you as a postdoc?
It’s great! I wake up in the morning, have breakfast, head out to my office, do my work, head out for coffee with a friend before heading back home in the evening. After returning, I spend some time with my flatmate, watch something on netflix, play guitar, have dinner, get a good night’s rest and repeat!
Q: Is there something you wish you knew before starting the PhD?
I wish I knew how much older I’d feel by the time I was done!
Q: What advice would you give to someone currently doing their PhD?
Don’t be disheartened if it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Know that you aren’t alone in this. Many of us have experienced the same, and still come out the other side just fine. You will too.
Many thanks to Uday for sharing his PhD narrative!
This interview took place in February 2020. Interviews are edited by the TRaCE McGill Editorial team for length and clarity before publication.