Bringing interests, passion and expertise together: why I chose IDO for my PhD

Samantha North talks about moving from being a writer living abroad to doing her PhD in our Information, Decisions and Operations Division.

Samantha North smiling in front of an Information, Decisions and Operations (IDO) logo in their office.
Sam benefits from flexible working opportunities, and often works from home or cafés

My career has taken me all over the world. I’ve lived and worked in Turkey, Qatar, China and the United States, but I feel like I’m back at home now in Bath. I’m originally from Devon, which is not unlike my new surroundings, and it’s been great to bring back passions I’ve developed while away to integrate into my PhD.

‘Frontline’ to research

I’m interested in online propaganda, ‘fake news’ and negative views about minorities online. Within this, I’m focusing on how hateful messages spread. I look at what makes people susceptible to interacting with, believing in, and sharing these messages.

My interest in this started around 2014 when I was in Istanbul working as a freelance writer and web developer. This was, of course, during the rise of ISIS, and being on the ‘frontline’ was really interesting. I felt immersed in what was happening.

Finding the right supervisor

Professor Adam Joinson initially attracted me to the School of Management and the Information, Decisions and Operations (IDO) Division. With an idea for a PhD proposal in mind, I saw Adam on Twitter talking about subjects and topics that matched my research interests. Because of this, I approached him to discuss my idea. As luck would have it, a PhD studentship was available, and Adam is now my supervisor.

Adam and I have a great relationship, and I enjoy the freedom I’m given. I don’t need to be at my desk nine to five and instead have a flexible approach, where I often work from home or from cafés. Having worked remotely before, this is what I’m used to, but it still shows the trust Adam and IDO have in me.

We meet regularly to catch up on my work and I always feel like I take lots away from these meetings. If I’ve been struggling with an idea or have reached a point where I’m stuck, Adam always has advice. Knowing this is really helpful.

A relaxed environment in a great city

I’ve been a part of the Division for around six months and I really like the atmosphere. The vibe is relaxed and friendly, but at the same time things get done efficiently.

We work in an open plan office that reminds me of the tech firms I used to work for. We regularly socialise in our breaks and sometimes during the evenings down in the city.

Bath is a lovely place to live and work. The pace of life is different to London or Istanbul, but that’s by no means bad. The campus is also brilliant. Everything you need is really close by and having the Sports Training Village is great. I often use the gym there, which is handy.

Advice for a PhD candidate thinking of joining IDO...

The most important thing is to choose the right supervisor. Meet them in person and make sure their research interests align with your own.

It’s more than that though. You need to be able to see yourself working productively with them and know that your working styles and expectations are similar to theirs, especially if you’re coming from a professional setting.

‘I’m interested in online propaganda, ‘fake news’ and negative views about minorities online. I look at what makes people susceptible to interacting with, believing in, and sharing these messages.’
Samantha North