PhD alumnus: Dr Marian Buhociu

Dr Marian Buhociu, CriminologyI came to Wales from Romania. Back home I graduated the national police academy (with a BA in Law) and worked as a drugs investigator in Bucharest for five years. I chose to come to study Criminology at USW (back then Glamorgan University) rather fortuitously. After working for five years in the police, I was planning to apply to become a prosecutor. However, my life changed completely in no more than a couple of months. Sometime in June 2010, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) decided to come to the UK to do a master’s degree and I happened to accompany her to the agency that was helping her to choose and apply to an appropriate UK university. When we arrived there, they called us both in and after half an hour I got convinced to join her to the UK and do a postgraduate degree. I chose to come to study Criminology at Glamorgan because the master’s programme included a module in substance misuse (which matched my expertise and interest in this subject) and because the Criminology department was ranked among UK’s top ten.

The MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice was an eye-opener for me. Not only did I enter a much more robust, fair, competitive, and better resourced education system than the one I experienced back home, but it also meant that I had the chance to be taught by UK leading academics in the fields of criminology and criminal justice. Their knowledge, openness and student-oriented approach were things I’d never had access to in Romania. Moreover, the excellent research methods module taught in my course and the fact that I managed to complete an empirical study for my dissertation opened my appetite for academic research.

After finishing my Masters (and due to my performance in the course and my professional background), I was given the opportunity to become an hourly paid lecturer at USW and deliver seminars for the substance misuse module at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I found this as one of the most rewarding experiences in my entire life. I knew from that point in time that USW truly values its best students and offers them guidance and support to further their professional and academic lives, something that I am happy to say is as valid today as it was back then. 

A year later I had the chance to satisfy my appetite for research when I was granted a bursary to conduct a funded PhD study focusing on the misuse of new psychoactive substances among problematic drug users in South Wales. Like any other PhD project which focuses on hard-to-reach populations, this was a challenging journey which ended five and half years later. However, the excellent support provided to me by two of my idols from my Masters degree - my brilliant supervisors Prof Katy Holloway and Prof Fiona Brookman – made all the difficulties I encountered along the way more manageable. 

Marian PhD Graduation DayAnother example of USW’s contribution to my professional development and its care for its students was the fact that toward the end of my PhD I was offered a position as a Research Assistant within the Criminology Department. This busy period taught me how to balance a variety of projects at the same time, while also allowing me to work alongside exceptional academics. This experience significantly enhanced my academic profile and my research skills.

After I submitted my doctoral thesis, I managed to secure a full-time position as a lecturer in criminology at USW, which in a way felt like closing the circle that began ten years earlier. In this role I will hopefully be able to guide some of my students through a similar path as mine and I believe that knowing about my journey would give them confidence that it is possible. 

The Criminology Department at USW is very active from a research point of view. This type of work not only legitimises our courses in front of our students, but it also means that we can influence policy and practice in the real world. In the past few years I have been involved in numerous projects which focused on a wide range of subjects, including gambling addiction, night-time-economy related violence in South Wales, misuse of prescription only and over the counter medication among drug users in community and prisons, and alcohol and substance misuse related harms among students at Welsh universities. More recently, I have been conducting extensive research to inform the Welsh Government on the impact of the introduction of a Minimum Price for Alcohol in Wales.   

When I first came to Treforest on a sunny day in September 2010, I never imagined how big an influence this place was going to have on my life personally and professionally. However, once I got to know the University, its academics, students and its culture, I quickly decided that I wanted this university to shape my future. I feel very fortunate that it did and still does.