PhD student Tom Graeme-Drury speaks to the PGR Studio about his Brilliant Club experience and the challenges of teaching a course entitled ‘Pain, the brain, and a good excuse to electrocute people’ to secondary school pupils.


How long have you worked as a PhD Tutor with The Brilliant Club?

 I’m on my 4th placement, technically! This is my third term, but on my second term I had 2 placements simultaneously.

 How do you find our pupils engage with your subject? Has this been challenging? 

Luckily I am teaching a course that everyone seems to engage with! Talking about the brain, neuroimaging and neurostimulation seems to resonate with everyone on some level.

Tell us about your highlights as a PhD Tutor?

The highlight of my tutoring so far was very recently – when receiving their grades, several of my pupils said “thank you for everything”. It was really satisfying to feel like they’d appreciated the extra hours I’d put in, and that I’d helped them grow.

 Has anything about your experience as a PhD Tutor surprised you?

At first I was surprised by how well my KS5 group grasped the topics I was discussing. Then I was surprised by KS4 students grasping those same topics. Then I was surprised by KS3 students grasping those topics!

 Do you think your experience as a PhD Tutor is beneficial to your work outside The Brilliant Club?

Absolutely. Teaching isn’t always the easiest thing to get into in higher educations – some institutions require certificates, observations etc before you can run sessions. The Brilliant Club’s training weekends opened my eyes to some really helpful teaching perspectives and techniques, as well as dropping me right into teaching.

 How do you balance your work as a PhD Tutor with your PhD studies?

I tend to have my tutorials on the same day every week, so it’s easy to set the rest of that day aside for things like admin work or emails. 

How did you find the training? Do you feel it prepared you well for teaching the pupils in the Key Stage/s you work with?

The training was really helpful. It’s genuinely enlightening to be given masterclasses by people who’ve mostly already taught the key stages you’re going into – especially when in HE we’re often not given the skills to teach so much as we’re expected to be able to do so already. Nothing can quite prepare you for sitting in front of your students, but they came close!

 Would you recommend The Scholars Programme to fellow PhD students?

Definitely. I regularly recommend it to colleagues. I personally love teaching, so “rewarding” doesn’t really cover it. I get to practise teaching with support, consolidate my own understanding of my topic and I get paid? Yes please!

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