Name: Stephen Morgan
PhD Project title: North Korean Security
What made you want to pursue a PhD?
Although my decision to pursue a PhD was motivated in large part by my career ambitions, I also wanted to complete a PhD for its own sake. It has always been a lifelong ambition to make an impact, no matter how small, on a topic that I have dedicated many years of my life avidly studying.
Why did you decide to do your PhD in Sheffield?
The field of Korean Studies in the UK is growing rapidly, but there are still only a handful of universities that have departments dedicated to the study of the Korean Peninsula. Fewer still are institutions where there is a specialist research focus on contemporary political and security issues in Korea.
Sheffield therefore stood out to me not only as a leading centre for Korea related scholarship with well-established Korean Studies programmes, but also as a place that could best support my research through the Power, Cooperation and Competition Research Cluster.
The research cluster connects me to a huge community of fellow PhD researchers and academics at other universities in related fields. As such I felt that Sheffield’s status as a hub within the White Rose Doctoral Research Centre (WRDTC) offered me personally an unparalleled opportunity.
Can you give me a brief description of your research project?
My research seeks to understand the historic role of environmental issues in cross border relations between North and South Korea. An additional aim is to examine to what extent environmental cooperation can be used to reinvigorate engagement with the North and contribute to the development of normalized relations between the two Koreas.
How did you find the PhD application process?
The application process was a little daunting at first as obviously there is stiff competition for places and funding, but I found that I was able to obtain clear information about what I needed to do to submit my proposal from the online system and more complex questions were answered promptly by the department.
Indeed, my communication with the department itself meant that I always knew what steps I had to take next and the online system was very straightforward.
What is it like to be a PhD student in SEAS? (support and guidance, research culture/community)
It is unavoidable that as a PhD student you feel a great deal of pressure to achieve, but it is very clear from the start that the department wants to help you succeed in your studies and takes their responsibilities to you very seriously.
I have a particularly unique status as a part-time student living outside of Sheffield, but both administrators and my supervisors have been very willing to advise me as to how best to fulfil all the necessary requirements.
I would also say that there is a very strong focus on developing your skills and experience as a researcher with a mind to future career opportunities. The department is very good at recognizing that one of the principal motivations for studying at this level is to enhance your career opportunities after the PhD.
What are you planning to do after your studies?
I would like to pursue a career in academia or in a related sector, although that sounds slightly vague I think that is the true value of a PhD in that it can prepare you for several different careers. For me though I would like to be involved even in a small indirect way with education as I have also spent many years as a teacher.
Do you have any advice for aspiring PhD students?
The only advice I feel qualified to give would be to say that though the prospect of committing to such a long and arduous course of study can feel intimidating, at SEAS you are supported not just by the department, but a wider network of fellow PhD students. As such I would recommend that when applying for a PhD you look very carefully at what the university offers in the way of career development, training in research methodologies and support for your research specialism.