Interview with international PhD student, Christos Theodorakopoulos: Dietetics, Nutrition and Biological Sciences
Christos Theodorakopoulos, 31, is from Kalamata in Greece. He is currently studying for a PhD in the Dietetics, Nutrition and Biological Sciences Department at QMU.
Christos completed a BSc (Hons) Nutrition at Kingston University, London, in 2010 and an MSc Applied Sport & Exercise Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University in 2011.
After graduating, Christos worked in the nutrition and fitness industry in London as a nutrition advisor, performance nutritionist and fitness coach.
How did you come to choose this course and why QMU?
“One of my career ambitions is to promote public health through exercise and nutritional interventions. Considering the amount of misleading information around food and exercise, I’ve always wanted to do research in this field. In particular, I’m keen to help society’s most vulnerable groups, including the very young or old and perhaps those who do not have access to proper information and means of improving their diet and lifestyle.”
“QMU gave me the opportunity to fulfil this goal through my PhD studies and I’m really grateful for that. QMU is also involved in many community-based research studies aimed at improving people's lives, which coincides with my goals.
“My research is focusing on the effects of nutrition and exercise on body composition and function of older people with low muscle and obesity, which is a growing public health concern worldwide.”
Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh?
“First of all, Edinburgh is one of the best places to study and do research. It offers plenty of jobs and research opportunities, networking and collaborations with nearby universities and research groups.
“Before coming to QMU I’d only been in Edinburgh once in order to take a connecting train to another Scottish city. That gave me the chance to spend one hour wandering around the city centre. I was honestly amazed, it was one of the best places I’d ever seen, and still is.
“It’s a small but vibrant city and welcoming to international students. Having spent most of my time in London before moving to Edinburgh, one of my top priorities was to live in a place with reasonable commuting times. Edinburgh ticks that box too since travelling from QMU to the city centre takes only 6 minutes by train.”
Tells us more about your PhD…
“Doing a PhD means that you are responsible for everything around your specific research project. Essentially you are the manager of the financial sources and budget, the participants of the study, the research methodology, the research outputs, the timelines, the people around you and of course a manager of yourself. There will be many good days when everything flows smoothly, as well as a few of the bad ones.
“It literally feels like being on a roller coaster, but you have to persevere and things will get better (or at least that is what I keep telling myself everyday). Although it feels - and to a certain degree it is - a personal race, postgraduate students at QMU can always get help and support from their supervisors. They are the people who can support students efficiently and help them stay on the right track. In addition, QMU has established a graduate school in order to support the postgraduate students.”
What financial support have you had to help you with your PhD?
“In addition to the PhD bursary (see below), QMU offers various funds and awards towards research costs and/or to attend and present at international conferences, which is a great way of networking and disseminating your work.
“I was lucky enough to benefit from the QMU Vice Chancellor's Fund (see below), which gave me the opportunity to attend and present my work at ESPEN (European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism) - an international conference which is one of the most influential and prestigious in the area of clinical nutrition. My abstract finally received the highest score of all abstracts submitted from the UK by a first and presenting author below the age of 35, which was a major personal achievement and a great recognition of the work conducted in QMU.
“In terms of financial assistance, receiving a monthly stipend is more than enough to cover the monthly life costs and provides you with a sense of financial stability and peace of mind.”
What are your top tips for future PhD students?
“Research the area and the department that you will be working in. See if the research topics match your interests and make sure that you contact the person leading the project to get a more informed insight of the requirements, methodologies and planned outcomes.
“More importantly, you need to make sure that the research area and the project you will be conducting is something that you really enjoy because realistically speaking, that project will be your life for the next few years. In other words, a PhD is not a 9-5 job, it’s an everyday 'marathon' and you need to be sure that you like ‘running’.
“Having said that, it certainly has its nice and fun moments. You get to know other people and cultures and make friendships that will last for a lifetime. As long as you try to mingle with other PhD students and members of staff, you will have a made a first step towards success. Setting small goals and achieving them one by one can give you a psychological boost and a great sense of achievement.”
What are your plans after graduation?
“Ideally I’d like to continue with research in the field of exercise nutrition, but my first and only priority right now is to successfully complete the PhD and I’m very confident that once I’ve done that there will be plenty of opportunities in terms of career development.”
QMU Vice-Chancellors Fund
Set up by QMU’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Petra Wend, the annual bursary of up to £500 per applicant, aims to fund travel, either wholly or in part for suitable overseas academic, professional or vocational initiatives.
Some of the awards that have been made by the Vice-Chancellor’s Fund in the past have been to support a range of activities, including fieldwork for a research project and Masters dissertations, professional placements, attendance at international conferences and summer schools, as well as visits to overseas universities for collaborative research purposes. Such projects actively benefit QMU, the wider community and have led to publishable papers.
For more information on the Vice-Chancellor’s Fund and to apply, visit Our Funds. Completed application forms should be returned to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants are asked to supply a statement of support from their QMU supervisor with their application.
QMU international students
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