Case Study - Dr Alistair McTaggart

Case Study - Dr Alistair McTaggart

Alistair McTaggartWhat was the name of your PhD/project?

Systematics of the Ustilago-Sporisorium-Macalpinomyces complex.

When did you complete your PhD?

1 January 2008 – 31 December 2010.

Who were your PhD supervisors?

Dr Tanya Scharaschkin, Dr Roger Shivas and Dr Andrew Geering.

What was your supervising institution?

Queensland University of Technology.

How did you hear about PhD opportunities with the CRC?

Through my supervisors.

Why did you commence a PhD with the CRC?

Because I didn’t have much else on.

What did you enjoy most about undertaking your PhD through the CRC?

The CRC was great for training workshops and travel opportunities. It was nice to see what else was happening in plant pathology and where my project fit in.

What were the benefits of completing a PhD with the CRC?

Extra money, support, travel opportunities and training workshops.

What were your key achievements while/since completing your PhD?

I was awarded the Allen Kerr prize by the Australasian Plant Pathology Society for my thesis. I also received a grant from ABRS to work on the rust fungi of Australia.

Since completing your PhD, where have you been working?

First post-doc: Louisiana State University, USA.
Second post-doc: University of Queensland, Australia.

How easy was it for you to find work in your desired field once you completed your PhD?

Really, really, really easy!

What advice would you give anyone considering a PhD?

Talk to other PhD students to find out if the supervisor is good or see how many PhD students have finished with that supervisor. Make sure the project has boundaries. Show the project to other people, maybe those who have done a PhD, and see if they like it. Administration seems annoying, but it is there to help you. Spend time on the confirmation to find weaknesses and take ownership of the project.

What did you find the most challenging aspect of your PhD?

Red herrings and writing. Make sure you have more than eight months to write it all up at the end.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Success will come to those with good mentors. Make sure you are nice to everyone, especially those that can help you. In three years, something will probably go wrong, so you need support to get you through a disaster. Once you have a PhD, you are a valuable addition to any lab. Researchers are lucky to have you working for them. Be selective; choose someone to provide mentorship and whose work you admire. Start this process in the last six months of your PhD and you will have incentive to finish.