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Vishal's story of coming from India to study in Cambridge

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Tue, 07 April, 2020

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a PhD scholar within Industry? Is it fun? Is it stressful? How challenging is a PhD in the UK?

I know there may be numerous questions in your mind regarding higher education life within industry. One year ago, when I was offered my PhD by the National Structural Integrity Research Centre (NSIRC), my mind was full of hundreds of questions. Today, I am sharing my story and experiences of being a full time PhD student with NSIRC.

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I am Vishal Vats, a student from India doing my PhD research with NSIRC and Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK, but I am based at NSIRC in Cambridge, which is a subsidiary of TWI Ltd.

My Masters degree is from the National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK Surathkal) and I am an industrial sponsored student by TWI, working on the PhD topic 'Hexavalent Chromium in welding fumes'.

Vishal Vats, NSIRC PhD student with Teesside University, sponsored by TWI Ltd. Photo: TWI Ltd / NSIRC
Vishal Vats, NSIRC PhD student with Teesside University, sponsored by TWI Ltd. Photo: TWI Ltd / NSIRC

Research topics based on the needs of industry

My industrial PhD scholarship is very different from a normal academic PhD because I need to work on my research with aim to fulfilling the expectations of my sponsor. That means my thesis topic was pre-decided before I joined NSIRC, and assures that I am working on a current problem that industries are facing.

My PhD will have a great impact on the Industry, knowing this is sometimes stressful but has become more compelling.


Arriving in London from India

When I joined NSIRC I had mixed emotions, from being excited to being fearful, as that was the first time I stepped out of India in my life.

I can still remember that ten hour flight from Delhi to London. It was so exhausting, and on top of that I was bit nervous travelling to an entire new world. When I stepped out in the UK, I realised it's not a different world, it's the same as India, as the people here are helpful and welcoming.

Vishal Vats (right) PhD topic examines Hexavalent Chromium in welding fumes. Photo: TWI Ltd / NSIRC
Vishal Vats (right) PhD topic examines Hexavalent Chromium in welding fumes. Photo: TWI Ltd / NSIRC

Working alongside the pioneers of welding

As the days passed and I became more confident and started getting to grips with my PhD.

NSIRC is a really great place to work. There are a lot of advantages doing a PhD in industry. First and far most important is the industrial experience and connection.

At NSIRC, I work with the pioneers of welding technology. TWI has the people who write the Standards for ISO. My Industrial supervisor himself is chairman of IIW Commission VIII.

Every day I learn something new from 600+ employees of TWI. People at TWI are very knowledgeable and experts in their field. On top of that, they are modest, down to earth, and always ready to help you out, irrespective of your section or department.

Apart from such nice people on-site, NSIRC and TWI is filled with state of the art infrastructure for research and the laboratories have the latest instruments.

The best part of TWI is that it’s a member based, independent research organisation, which means it puts profit back into improving the world-leading research facilities.

 

Studying in the UK amongst an international community

Doing a doctoral degree here at NSIRC not only improved my technical knowledge but it also helped me to understand a different culture and how to respect each other from different ethnicity.

We have more than 100 students at NSIRC, and we are from different religions, countries and races. I have never felt alone. We go for nights outs, bowling and many other different occasions.

NSIRC is a family for me away from my home. We work together and we learn together, so there is always someone to help you with academic or personal issues.

I enjoy and learn every day. My hope is that by the end of my PhD, I will have grown as a researcher, and a human being.

Vishal.

Vishal and some of his fellow students from NSIRC on an evening in Cambridge. Photo: VIshal Vats
Vishal and some of his fellow students from NSIRC on an evening in Cambridge. Photo: VIshal Vats