Suzanne Zaremba, 29, from Bonnyrigg in Midlothian, is undertaking her PhD as part of QMU’s Division of Dietetics, Nutrition & Biological Sciences and the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation.

Suzanne started studying at QMU back in 2008, and completed both her undergraduate degree (BSc (Hons) Applied Pharmacology, First Class) and Masters degree (Public Health Nutrition, with Distinction) at the University.

Following the completion of her MSc, Suzanne became an Associate Nutritionist (registered with Association for Nutrition) and worked with the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation at QMU, as a Research Assistant for seven months before beginning her Doctoral studies.

Whilst studying her MSc, Suzanne realised that research was her main interest, and wanted to explore this route more. Having gained invaluable experience working as a research assistant, Suzanne knew research was the career path she wanted to choose. She felt that applying for a PhD at QMU was the natural progression for her.

Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?

“QMU feels like my second home! Edinburgh is an excellent city to live and study in.”

What have been the highlight(s) of undertaking your PhD at QMU?

“The PhD ‘experience’ is like an apprenticeship to becoming an independent researcher. Since starting my PhD, I’ve been awarded an Associate Fellowship from the Higher Education Academy. I achieved this early on in my PhD after completing a Short Learning and Teaching course at QMU. Completing this course gave me a real insight into academic life and how I could develop my teaching skills.

“With regard to my PhD, publishing my first peer-reviewed article has got to be my biggest highlight so far.”

How did you find the workload?

“Doing a PhD is like having a full-time job, and more! There are many early starts and late nights. My PhD studentship was fully funded, which meant I did not have to work for the first three years of my PhD studies.

“At times the workload has been overwhelming, however I quickly adapted to academic life. As part of my bursary/stipend, it was mandatory for me to undertake academic duties for my department. This involved teaching and marking for undergraduate students on the Dietetics, Nutrition, Nutrition and Food Science, and Biological Science degrees. Having a fully funded PhD for three years was a huge relief as it eased the burden of working.

“Despite the high workload, teaching at a university level has been a great experience. Over the past three years my teaching skills have improved significantly. During my undergraduate degree the thought of standing up in front of a class is something I most definitely would have shied away from. Now I’m quite the opposite. I’ve become confident in myself and enjoy sharing my knowledge of science and research.”

How do you think your QMU degree has equipped you with the skills/knowledge to development your career?

“I’ve gained a great deal of academic skills, from both a research and teaching perspective. Becoming an independent researcher is the main outcome of carrying out a PhD – and even though I’ve not completed my PhD yet, I most certainly can say that I’ve become independent.

“My research studies have involved working with two companies - Nairn’s Oatcakes Ltd and DSM Nutritional Products to explore nutritional interventions in relation to appetite and food intake.

“I’ve made excellent connections with external academics working in research and industry as a result of this. Working with my external PhD advisor has improved my academic writing skills for publications.”

What top tips would you give future PhD students based on your own personal experience?

“Do your research! Talk to current PhD students to get a feel for the department and supervisors. A PhD is nothing like being an undergraduate or postgraduate student – you’re responsible for your research from the beginning to end.

“Motivation and patience is absolutely essential. A PhD is not plain sailing and there will be frustrating, trying and disappointing times. Your PhD will become your life and friends and family (unless they’re academics) will not really understand what you do.

“It will be the most character-building experience, but it will be an amazing journey, an intellectual enrichment and a personal development opportunity like no other.”

What are your plans after completing your PhD at QMU?

“I’d like to remain in academia and continue my research on to post-doctoral level as well as teach. I’d like to complete a PgCert Professional and Higher Education to further enhance my teaching skills.”

BSc (Hons) Applied Pharmacology:

MSc Public Health Nutrition:

 Applying For a PhD or Professional Doctorate at QMU:

Division of Dietetics, Nutrition & Biological Sciences:

Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation: