Case study

Dominic Francis — MSc Cognitive Neuroscience student

University of Reading

Dominic explains why the decision to study for a Masters degree at the University of Reading is the best he's ever made

Why did you choose this institution and course?

The University of Reading is where I completed my undergraduate studies, so I had a really good understanding of what to expect from it as an institution. The campus is oriented towards creating a social and friendly atmosphere in the form of societies, coffee shops, social hubs, and a nightclub. This makes settling in easy and presents countless opportunities to make friends. When I first set foot on the university grounds, I was taken aback by how picturesque the campus looked and I have found it creates the perfect environment for learning.

The facilities on offer within the psychology department and the Centre of Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN) are state of the art. Being able to work with the latest scientific equipment was a deciding factor in me choosing to carry on my Masters study at the University of Reading. The staff are friendly and approachable and are regularly available to talk to. All staff have weekly open office hours, giving me the opportunity to ask questions and get advice from world-renowned academics.

How does postgraduate study differ from undergraduate study?

My course places emphasis on independent learning. You are not so much taught a specific topic, but taught to be able to teach yourself any relevant topic of your choice. This allows you to encounter a novel subject and feel confident you can independently gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic. This is an essential skillset to have if you wish to be employed within a number of disciplines.

Researchers and lecturers within your department communicate with you as a peer. I no longer feel like I am being taught by a specific department but that I am an active member within it. Staff will regularly seek your opinion and encourage you to actively assist with their research.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Once I have graduated I plan on becoming a researcher within the field of cognitive neuroscience. I have chosen my modules to provide me with the optimum skillset for future employment.

I have gained a lot of practical knowledge using equipment related to my discipline, for example an MRI scanner. The staff in the department have been more than helpful in teaching me how to use the latest relevant equipment and quick to respond to any questions that I might have. I also feel confident that I have made friends with a number of academics, allowing me to rely on their support for many years to come.

What advice would you give to those considering postgraduate study?

Postgraduate study provides an opportunity to study a particular discipline in depth. But I would advise anyone considering postgraduate study to think carefully before committing. It is considerably more difficult than undergraduate study and you really have to care about your chosen subject to be able to keep up with the workload, particularly during periods of pressure.

However, choosing to do a postgraduate degree is the best decision I have ever made. I now feel more employable and have learnt skills that will benefit me for the rest of my life.

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