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A PhD isn’t possible with three children, is it? Diane would argue otherwise

Originally from the Isles of Scilly, in 2009, Diane Coral Turner, 42, enrolled on her part-time PhD with The Open University, collaborating with Amersham Hospital and Medical Detection Dogs to develop techniques for diagnosing bladder cancer. After having a child in 2010 and twins in 2012, she wanted a break from study. When her twins started school in 2016, she went back to her PhD again, completing it in January 2017, proving that it is possible to achieve a PhD with a full-time job and a young family.


From the Isles of Scilly to coral reefs in Fiji

“I was born and went to school in the Isles of Scilly. I did my A-Levels in Cornwall before going to the University of Warwick to study a BSc (Hons) and then my Masters.

“I then moved to Cambridge in January 2000, after surveying coral reefs in the Philippines to support marine-protected areas, to start an applications laboratory at a small gas chromatography instrument distribution company, which was very successful. I left in 2005 – to survey coral reefs for the same charity in Fiji – and on my return started Anthias Consulting in June 2005.”

Diagnosing diseases and detecting bladder cancer

“I met Dr Geraint (Taff) Morgan in 2004. I started working with Taff in 2006 as a consultant for the OU, analysing samples and teaching PhD students how to use the laboratory instrumentation. In 2007, the OU started hosting my company’s training courses.

“Two years later, I decided to start a part-time PhD, funded by my company, carrying on the research into bladder cancer detection and disease diagnosis that I had previously supported Dr Morgan with. During my PhD, I worked with Amersham Hospital, Cranfield University, and the charity, Medical Detection Dogs, with Dr Morgan as my PhD supervisor.”

“My PhD had to be last on my list of priorities”

“Running a business, employing and managing colleagues, and doing lots of travelling to customer sites around the world left me struggling to complete my PhD. It was always third on my list of priorities, after my family and my business (especially as my business was financing my studies).

“It wasn’t until after my twins started school in September 2016 that I found the time to start writing up my thesis. This was a mission, as I had to complete it in less than two months – although I received an extension for a further three months – only working on it at weekends and during the evenings, as running a business with eight employees is a full-time job! I wrote 50,000 words in the first six weeks.”

“My three children are so proud of me for the ‘book’ I have written”

“I didn’t think that my PhD would help me so much in my career, but I have already been proved wrong as I have been doing some expert witness work, that wouldn’t have been possible without it. It also helps on the various committees and councils that I stand on, including the Royal Society of Chemistry Analytical Division Council.

“The Open University is so supportive and understanding – I would not have been able to achieve my PhD without that. My three children are so proud of me for the ‘book’ I have written, which is what I said I was doing when I was in the office above the garage writing my thesis at the weekends and not spending time with them. Yes, there were many tears during that time, but on the day that I submitted it I showed them what I had written and they now all want to write one too. They call me ‘Dr Di’.”

About Author

Christine is a manager in the Media Relations team within the Marcomms Unit at the OU. She is an experienced BBC journalist, sub-editor and news editor and has a background in regional newspapers. After moving to PR she worked as a press officer for the Zoological Society of London. She has a BSc in Social Sciences with Politics from The Open University; she focuses on STEM stories and widening access in HE. Chris swims regularly and has a pet Tortoise called Lightning.

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