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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Michael Day

Michael was awarded his PhD in 2019 and is currently working as a Lecturer at Papa University, Thailand.

Why did you choose to study Web Science?

Through my work I became fascinated by the impact that digital technology, in particular the World Wide Web, had on society, particularly on young people and because of this, I was inspired to investigate further. At the time of my application, there wasn't a specific research field (other than Web Science) that allowed you to investigate a technical entity without for example, being a computer scientist. I was therefore really please when I found a programme and Doctoral Training Centre that not only supported, but welcomed a range of academcis from other disciplinary fields.

What was you PhD research topic?

Towards Principles for Web Education: I studied, through a multi-site participatory study, the impact of the Web on teachers and students, examining the curriculum modules and implications for learning that the Web has realised in different environments. I sought to answer, what a web specific curriculum inspired by the principles of Web Science taught to me could look like. Specifically, validation and influence from teachers and students to con-construct a model of Web Science in mainstream education. I hope that the impact of my research will offer a model for future education and Web Science researchers to follow and use in schools.

Tell us about the iPhD programme

The MSc year was one of the most demanding academic processes I have been through, particularly, the technical learning aspects. However, it was incredibly well taught and as such, I never felt out of my depth. The inspirational individuals in my cohort year ensured that everyone was supported and developed accordingly. I had high standards for my PhD supervision and since many of these programmes operate in isolation but this was never my experience. I was fully supported and had plenty of feedback and engagement opportunities to aid professional development, publication and academic advice.

What training did you receive?

Too many to list! From workshops, writing retreats, international collaboration trips, including a unique and career defining experience to present work at Stanford and Berkley Universities in the US. This opportunity gave me a chance to introduce my ideas and feedback to academics of the highest standard. Numerous guest-lectures and development opportunities of noteworthy academics, trips to high profile conferences and, of course, my own publication collaboration with tenure-level professors meant that i received too much training to list here.

What work experience did you get?

This wasn't a specific focus for my academic pathway, however i know from colleagues that the DTC offered numerous industry collaborations and internship opportunities that were unique, high value and professionally engaging.

What is your current role?

After working with Professors Susan Halford and Les Carr, I decided to follow their career path (or at least try to) and, upon completion of my degree, I gained a full-time lecturership straight out of graduating, which is something that rarely happens without years of assistant or research project service.

As one of the few western academic staff in SE Asia, I teach my subjects (Web Science, Education and Sociology) and have full control over my own research agenda, which focuses around taking what I was taught at the WSI and introducing it to SE Asia.

What were the benefits of being part of the CDT?

There are too many to list; obviously lectureships are fought over, and I have one. From the obvious, a top tier university, to resources, to the campus, to the fellow students and even the administrative staff, who are without a doubt the best I’ve ever worked with in Education

Ultimately, however, it comes down to the supervision. It’s unlike anywhere, in that it is 24/7 and of the highest quality. I was supervised by Professors Susan Halford & Les Carr and their doors were always open, and I gained a huge amount from their mentorship that exists even beyond just my academic guidance.

I developed hugely as an academic under their mentorship, the absence of which is something I didn’t realise how much I missed until I was, in fact, expected to be other peoples mentor as a Lecturer. I cannot make clear enough then, how the academic staff of the DTC took me from a slightly interested career teacher to a fully qualified career academic well versed in research practice and critical thinking.

Thanks to them, I can now navigate our field and I do endeavour, where possible, to reflect the heritage of their teaching, which is not something to be ignored in any way.

Any advice to prospective Web Scientists?

If you have the opportunity to study web science at the web science institute at the University of Southampton, or in any other form it may take in the future, it will be one of the best opportunities you will ever be given in terms of research quality and supervision.

This isn’t just because it has a reputation for high quality research impact but rather, the WSI takes this to a whole new level, with the notable staff who I worked with, such as Professors Les Carr, Susan Halford, and Drs Mark Weal and Nick Gibbins, to name but a few, offer some of the highest standards of professionalism, support and academic capability I have ever encountered in the he field.

The course itself is demanding; you are learning half sociology half technicality and require precision and skill in both to truly fulfil your research obligations and funding commitments. it is not an easy ride, but you will be a better academic for it,  yet, you are never out of your depth.

There are very few places in HE where you can find staff who care enough about your career that they will ensure and offer a weekly supervision meeting. During these meetings, the staff will not only have read your work, but will have prepared a transparent and clearly identified series of steps you need to take to advance it. When I examine the quality of research supervision in the universities I have worked alongside since taking up my lectureship, they are simply not comparable to the exceptional, innovative and research driven attitudes of the individuals noted above and the WSI itself.

There are very few places you will join a cohort of some of the best and most talented academic research students in the interdisciplinary field. The idea of a PhD student left alone in a dark basement writing a thesis is not the way it is done at the WSI.

Put simply, training at the WSI and learning web science is the equivalent of an academic golden ticket and you should fight any other applicants sat in the interview room with you for the opportunity.

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