Researcher Focus: Joe Green

This month the Doctoral School spoke to Joe from the School of Psychology, whose work looks into how people’s moral values affect their attitudes towards Universal Basic Income.

This is the second instalment of a project designed to highlight the opinions and advice of doctoral researchers at Sussex, what they do, how they work, and who they are beyond their PhDs.

PhD Life

What do you enjoy most about the PhD and why?

Being able to really indulge your interest in a topic that fascinates you – in my case, moral psychology – especially in the early stages when you’re under less pressure and have plenty of time to read. There have always been topics that I wish I knew more about, but when I had a job I never had the time to do much more than read a book or watch the odd documentary to educate myself. When you begin your PhD, you can go beyond just having cursory knowledge and really dig into areas that intrigue you without feeling guilty, because that’s now your job… or part of it anyway.

What has been the most difficult element so far?

The isolation. It’s unlike almost any other kind of job (except maybe lighthouse keeper) as you’re almost always working on your own, and aside from your supervisor nobody has a clue what you’re doing. Also, you are working on something that your friends and family don’t know about or aren’t interested in, which means that you often don’t even end up talking about it. Obviously working in teams has its own set of problems, but after doing a PhD, I’ve really come to appreciate the value of group work and the support and insight that comes with it.

What do you think you do well?

I am pretty good at understanding theories and then thinking about what important questions they can help me to answer. This makes up for often being lazy, disorganised, and unfocused!

What piece of advice would you give to others doing a PhD?

Network! This might seem like a fairly generic thing that people just say (it did to me), but it can open up so many doors. Most doctoral researchers work really hard and are very conscientious, but don’t make the most of the opportunity to get in touch with professors or other important figures that could really help them. It’s so easy to send a polite email to someone whose work has influenced you, and you might hope to work with, or at least speak to. My advice would definitely be to get in touch. The worst that’s going to happen is they ignore it, but sometimes they don’t and opportunities present themselves.


What does a typical day look like for you?

I mainly just try to relax by seeing friends, reading, playing sport or working out. Obviously I do the less healthy things to relax too: drinking, smoking, and eating rubbish – I just try not to do that stuff too much.

How do you organise work, time, and yourself?

Badly! But in my better moments I try to at least make lists. I find that having things down on paper helps to organise my thoughts. Plus, for whatever reason, it feels rewarding to actually start crossing things off that list. Aside from that though, my approach lacks much in the way of formal structure.

What do you do when you’re stressed?

I’ve found meditating is helpful for me, but if it’s been a long day I’ll usually just watch reruns of Curb Your Enthusiasm or some other comedy show I’ve already watched too many times.

Beyond the PhD

What additional non-academic things help you?

I’m learning guitar at the moment, which is mainly just annoying because I’m rubbish, but it’s good to get annoyed at stuff that’s not related to the PhD for a change! I generally try to get into something that’s completely unrelated to what I’m doing at uni.

What do you like doing on a day off?

I just see friends and always make sure I get outside and do some form of exercise. I never have any money so my days off aren’t filled doing anything too exciting, but that generally suits me fine.

What makes you happy?

Smoking and listening to Khruangbin on my headphones. Or if I can’t say that, then just listening to Khruangbin on my headphones.

What piece of advice would you give to someone about life?

Try to take the time to try to learn from the people that have really dedicated themselves to answering this question. The book The Happiness Hypothesis by social psychologist Johnathan Haidt is a good place to start. 

Being pushed to give my own advice… if you really want to do something then go ahead and do it, don’t pay much attention to those inner doubts or those of anyone else. After spending time out in the US, one thing I’ve come to appreciate is how they are less cynical and self-conscious about having big aspirations, which is quite refreshing. It’s a lot more common here to feel as though you’re getting above your station if you have lofty goals or ambitions that are out of the ordinary, and this can be pretty stifling.