Baby Brain to PhD, by Rhian Williams


CB Picture10


If someone had said to me, when I enrolled on my first Open University module eight years ago, that I would go on to study for a PhD, I would not have believed them. Yet here I am, aged forty seven, embarking on one.

I started a part-time Open University BA (Hons) degree in History when my eldest son started school full time and I was on maternity leave looking after my youngest. It gave me ‘me-time’ and was meant to stimulate my ‘baby brain’. However, I developed a passion for ancient history in particular and when I completed my degree in 2016, I immediately enrolled on the Master of Arts in Classical Studies, again with the Open University.

I only seriously considered undertaking a PhD when I started the second year of my two year Master’s degree; I simply wanted to continue exploring the ancient world. Whilst researching an article I was using for one of my assignments, I discovered the author was now a senior lecturer at my local university in Cardiff. I emailed her at the university simply to say that I found her article fascinating and thought provoking, that I was interested in undertaking a PhD and needed some help and guidance. She replied to say that I had just missed an open day for postgraduate researchers but was happy to meet informally to discuss any potential ideas.

Over a period of about a month I conducted some initial research into various topics I was interested in, before putting together a brief outline of one area that particularly fascinated me. I took this idea along to the meeting where I was given further advice on additional reading material, how to put a PhD research proposal together and the online application process for Cardiff University. The meeting was informal and relaxed; and the senior lecturer was extremely positive, encouraging and helpful. I was then tasked with putting together a final proposal, which the lecturer perused before submission.

The online application process was extremely straightforward. I had to attach my research proposal, a personal statement and two academic references. My tutors from each year of my MA were more than happy to oblige and encouraged me in my application, both taking the time to peruse my research proposal. Then I had the long wait: my application was submitted in April of last year and I finally got an offer in July.

Having completed my MA in October, the unbelievable became reality when I enrolled as a full-time student at Cardiff University on 2nd January 2019 to research fertility and birth rates in the late Republican and early Roman Empire.


Rhian Williams



Editor’s Note: congratulations to Rhian on her well-deserved success! 




One thought on “Baby Brain to PhD, by Rhian Williams

  1. Currently at this thinking stage as doing my dissertation to finish my MA in classical studies and have BA in history. Feels very daunting though to think about a PhD


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s