James Mason, PhD Media and Communication student

James Mason

Why did you choose to study your PhD at the University of Leeds? 

While studying for my Masters at the University of Bradford I attended a talk by Professor David Hesmondhalgh. Sometime later I contacted him about my idea for a PhD project and he put me in touch with Simon Popple, who went on to support my application and acted as my co-supervisor alongside Dr Ian Macdonald. And frankly, I already lived in Leeds and didn’t want to uproot myself or my husband to somewhere new!

Tell us about the opportunities you took advantage of at Leeds. 

I returned to academia aged 29 determined to take advantage of the opportunities I didn’t take as an undergraduate, so I helped revive the Postgraduate Society in my first year, spent 3 years as PGR Representative for the School, contributed to LUU’s Postgraduate Advisory Board, and undertook work as a Teaching Assistant, Conference Assistant and proofreader for my fellow postgraduates. 

How has your experience of studying a PhD helped you in your career? 

My extra-curricular activities and experience as a postgraduate researcher helped me to get a job in the newly-launched Leeds Doctoral College within 2 weeks of submitting my thesis for examination. Leeds Doctoral College has a remit to enhance the postgraduate experience at Leeds, and signposts researchers to the plethora of academic and pastoral opportunities available across the University. 

I very much enjoyed my PhD experience at Leeds, and I received so much support and encouragement from within the School. Unusually, I submitted my thesis within 3 years of starting my research, as well as managed to enjoy a great work-life balance, being involved in campus life, and even got a publishing contract before I’d finished. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the supportive environment provided by the School and the University.

What advice would you give to future PhD students? 

In your first year make sure you take the time to make friends within your cohort – attend lectures and seminars that interest you, explore campus and the Union, look for connections both within and without the School – but most of all, find someone to bounce ideas off, to commiserate and celebrate over lunch, to read your work, and to share the experience. Don’t try and do it alone!