Joanna Elvy

Joanna Elvy

What are you researching for your PhD and what motivates you to study this area?

I am looking at public participation in transport planning and the ways in which socially excluded groups and individuals are engaged in those processes. Specifically, I am interested in the role of social capital, both in terms of the processes themselves and in terms of what participants could take away from being involved in those processes.

Why did you decide to study at ITS?

I had previously completed an MSc in Transport Planning in ITS and really enjoyed my time here. I was also aware of the reputation that ITS had as a leading centre in the UK for transport research. As it was also a part of the country that I already had personal connections to it made the decision really easy for me.

What did you do before you were a PhD student?

After my undergraduate degree, I got a job as a senior technical officer in the geography and environmental sciences department at the University of Hertfordshire and spent nearly 10 years in my post. I used to provide support for staff and students in areas such as GIS, geography fieldwork, recreation management and transport geography. In that time I also carried out more of an academic role as a visiting lecturer, a role I continue to have within the department to this day.

How would you describe the experience of being a PhD student?

It feels almost like a form of self-employment for me. I am entirely responsible for the nature of the research enquiry and when I get the work done. I would say it is both a challenging and rewarding process quite unlike a taught degree programme.

What kind of support do you get?

I have regular meetings with my supervisors who provide lots of helpful advice and support. I have my own workspace which is very important to me and I also gain access to useful training opportunities through the Institute, Faculty, White Rose Doctoral Training College and the ESRC. My fellow PhD students are also an invaluable support network and we like to sit down often to talk about research and life in general.

How are you financing your studies?

I was awarded an ESRC +3 studentship which pays for my fees, a research training grant and a maintenance grant for me to live on. Without it, I would never have been able to give up my full-time job to pursue a PhD.

What do you aim to do once you’ve completed your PhD?

Whilst I understand that an academic career is hard to get into, that is still something I would love to pursue as I used to find being able to teach and support students very rewarding. I gained a lot of teaching experience in my previous job but just didn’t have the research profile to support that experience.

Do you have any advice for prospective PhD students?

I have three pieces of advice. Firstly, be honest with yourself about your ability to manage your own time and workload. Secondly, go into the PhD process with an open mind, an open book and a desire to critically engage with a research topic. Finally, make sure that you don’t lose sight of the other things in life that you enjoy and that make you happy.