Student writer inspired to creat blog by his son

Student writer Jonathan Downie was inspired to create a blog for anxious students by his son Joshua, one. Pic: Jon Savage
Student writer Jonathan Downie was inspired to create a blog for anxious students by his son Joshua, one. Pic: Jon Savage
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A STUDENT has become an overnight blogging sensation – after his one-year-old son showed him that completing a PhD can be as easy as ABC.

Jonathan Downie – in the fourth year of a PhD in interpreting studies at Heriot-Watt University – has credited carefree Joshua with lifting him out of his writer’s block.

Now the 30-year-old dad-of- two is on his way to becoming the “Carrie Bradshaw” of the Capital’s PhD community – after penning a blog aimed at other anxious students.

It is based on his son’s ­spontaneous and fun-filled encounters with the world.

And the step-by-step guide – entitled The Toddler’s Guide to doing a PhD – has proved an instant hit with aspiring intellectuals across the UK and overseas, attracting thousands of views and striking a chord with scores of students in a similar situation. Mr Downie, one of only a handful of researchers in the world who specialise in Church-based interpreting, said: “When I wrote the blog I was thinking about a time when I was facing a major review for the PhD, which is when you have to write up to 15,000 words and your supervisors interview you to decide if you can continue.

“It was a hard time but watching Joshua just carry on without a care in the world – feeling a hedge, running around the supermarket and falling over – made me think he knew something I didn’t.

“He taught me to slow down, to learn from everything and just enjoy life.”

The blog has sparked a series of comments from current ­students and those who have completed their doctorate.

Tamara Cumming, a PhD student at Charles Sturt University in Australia, is a big fan.

She posted: “I think that toddlers show us that there are many ways of looking at things, and of putting things together - which is good for us researchers to remember.”

Leaders at Heriot-Watt have praised Mr Downie for providing the online guide, which they predict will help thousands of other Edinburgh students as they face the challenges of advanced research.

Professor Gillian Hogg, deputy principle for external relations, said everyone can learn from toddlers. She said: “Jonathan has been inspired by his son to step back from the world that we too often get caught up in and take time to appreciate the people and things around us.

“Seeing life through the eyes of a child is a great perspective. Why shouldn’t we apply it to how we learn and work? I hope others take inspiration from his blog in their own career paths.”