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Tonye Irabor

PhD in Planetary Nebulae

Which year of PhD are you currently completing?

2nd year

What is your research project about?

My research is focused on Planetary nebulae (evolved stars) and I am working with a radio selected sample from the CORNISH (Co-Ordinated Radio 'N' Infrared Survey for High-mass star formation) survey. I am using a multi-wavelength technique to certify the true nature of my sample, which in turn will be compared to model predictions.This should allow me make certain conclusion or/and ask some questions, which should trigger further research.

What makes you passionate about what you are studying?

The fact that I have an opportunity to contribute to the knowledge of evolved stars in general (their evolution and formation sequence).

Why did you decide to do a research degree?

I have a big curious mind and I am motivated by the prospect of research. It allows me escape the boring life of a routine job. I want to be able to critically analysed a situation, come up with questions and provide answers to them. I look at a problem and I want to solve it from an analytical and critical point of view – satisfying my curious mind. I love to ask the "whys" and can only get answers through research. I look into a future where I can contribute independently and as a team member in the sciences, especially in astrophysics. I decided to do a research degree because it will point me in the right direction and train me to achieve these.

Why Leeds?

The first reason is my supervisor and the data I will be working on. Additionally, Leeds has a strong team in astrophysics. The second reason is the University and the city. I did my masters here and find the environment relatively accommodating to do a research in.

How would you describe an average day in the life of a Leeds research student?

Personally it comes with mixed feeling, depending on what I am working on. There are times when I feel like I am getting somewhere and other times when I feel like I should  surrender and just RUN!
On the average, I define goals I think will help me solve the present problem at the start of the day and I try to follow it. Most times I do not get to finish the first one on the list due to the chain of papers I have to read. Sometimes I run into more problems trying to fix one. At other times, I just stir at my screen for hours or write about something not related to my work to refresh my brain. The next day I redefine my goals and start all over again.

What do you like best about your School?

My research  group mates.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your PhD? 

As a researcher, I get to demonstrate in the lab experiments, attend meetings, prepare for meetings, attend seminars, attend trainings, write reports and produce results at certain times. Managing all of these and meeting deadlines is what I find most challenging. At the same time, I find it interesting in a way.

What has been the hardest thing about living abroad?

I struggle to understand what is socially and formally acceptable in terms of jokes or fun in the UK. It is different back home.

What have you particularly missed back home?

Food, family and friends

What are the main skills which you have developed?

Critical thinking, time management and problem solving skills

What have you enjoyed most about your PhD?

The ups and downs. The beauty of being faced with challenges and getting to think about it, understand it and design a means to solve them provides me with a big satisfaction.

What would you say to other international research students thinking of coming to Leeds University to study for a PhD?

Leeds is relatively quiet and they have good support system in place for students. You can always have a home away from home with the help of the large international student community. Spend time to get a good supervisor because he or she will be your boss for the next 3 to 4 years of your life. Be sure you love you proposed research field. Finally, be ready for 3 or 4 years of your life where you will enjoy STRESS (depending on the project and research field).