How I chose my specialization and university, and what I got out of it

18 Jul

Saikiran Tharimena recently got his PhD from the University of Southampton in the UK. Here he tells the story of his journey from South India to Southampton. Read on to find out how he chose what and where to study, what he got out of it, and what he plans for the future.

Coming from the land of Nizams, dreaming big is what I inherited from my accomplished family, where my dad works as the General Manager (HR) in the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, and my mother and sister are reputed doctors. I did my schooling from Visakhapatnam, and studied engineering in Nagpur. Then I moved to England to pursue my Master’s at the University of Southampton. After completing my MSc, I continued my studies at the university and got my PhD in 2017 in Ocean and Earth Science, with a research specialization in Seismology / Geophysics.

As a kid, I was always fascinated with the functioning of celestial bodies. Humans have come a long way in advancing science and technology to explore the stars and the universe beyond. But the most mysterious object is the Earth itself, and we are yet to understand what makes it so special.

I want to understand the deep structure of the Earth, and possibly apply this knowledge to other planets. Hence I chose Seismology as the core subject of my higher education –  it offers one of the best tools to investigate the Earth, and combines the two fields that I am most passionate about –  mathematics and physics.

When it came to choosing the institution, I picked the University of Southampton as its Ocean and Earth Science Department is one of the best in the world. It is based at the National Oceanography Centre and offers a unique working environment. The infrastructure and facilities provided by the University cater to all needs of the students.

Unlike at some other universities, where departments usually exist as separate entities, the National Oceanography Centre houses many research groups from deep earth seismology to ocean studies to marine biology. This offers an excellent opportunity to students for interdisciplinary research.

We have the largest PhD community, with over 200 active PhD students, with our own clubs that organize activities throughout the year for the postgraduate community. The university and the Students’ Union also organize activities throughout the week that keep you engaged.

As for the future, I plan to continue my research in Earth Science, exploring the depths of the Earth and staying at the forefront of scientific discovery. The immense exposure that I have received at the University of Southampton has brought out the best in me and helped me accomplish so much. I am sure it will help me in my career.

The University is very supportive and motivating, and aided me with the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship for my PhD. During my tenure here, I was elected Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and Fellow of the Geological Society, London. I now use the post-nominal titles FRAS and FGS.

I received the Sustainability Action Award from the University of Southampton in 2015 for educating schoolchildren about climate change, sustainability and environmental management. I also received two travel grants and a project grant from the Royal Astronomical Society.

I would highly recommend the university, as it offers quality education, a modern approach to e-learning, as well as activity-based learning.

It has been five years since I moved to Southampton, and my experience has been exhilarating and unforgettable. Academically, the standards are superlative, and that has certainly led me to strive harder. To take a break from academics, I indulge in photography, music and travel. This charming and peaceful city has turned from a strange land into home over the last few years.

By Saikiran Tharimena

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