“Hi, my name is Mirren and I’m…” a project manager for an EU-funded project called iPLACENTA.
I should really relearn the sentence, because most of the time people don’t know what that means. What usually follows is that I explain what iPLACENTA is about: it’s a training network of 15 PhD students with quite different backgrounds and approaches who do research on the placenta and placental disease. But how do I go on?
Work Institution: University of Dundee, Scotland
Research Interest: Biomedical engineering
Tea or Coffee?: A cup of tea please!
Hi, my name is Lukas and I am an engineer from Switzerland. Right now, I am pursuing my PhD degree at the University of Dundee in Scotland. In this blog I want to give an insight about my professional background and how this influenced my decision to work on a biomedical project as a mechanical engineer. This shall be a report from an early-stage researcher to young adults taking the next step after the studies at the university. And I might have included a few cultural spoilers and interesting facts about countries…
When people think about PhDs they directly think about academia. And rightly so, a PhD is by deﬁnition a “title conferred by the highest university degree” (Britannica, 2019). Just like any degree, a PhD is directly linked to the institution that confers the title regardless of whether the project is developed in institutions outside the academic environment. However, nowadays there exist scholarship schemes which require the involvement of partners unrelated to academia. An example of such is our iPLACENTA project which is part of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Networks (ITN). Innovative Training Networks foster the collaboration of beneficiaries (institutions which host PhD students) from academia as well as the non-academic sector (in iPLACENTA’s case: universities, clinical research institutions and industry). Even if ITNs have been around since 2014 , not many people know about this interdisciplinary form of PhD.
As we are both enrolled in this type of PhD, this blog is an opportunity to share our personal experiences of Early Stage Researchers in the private sector, and, specifically, what it means to be one at Mimetas. Chapter after chapter, we will explore the life-enriching experience that is doing a Ph.D. outside the academic world.
In November 2018 I received the news that I had obtained the Marie Curie scholarship to do my PhD in Valencia, Spain.
It was a mixture of emotions because I was so happy about this, but on the other hand, I was going to live in another country for the first time in my life.
Industry for researchers, academia for industrials… Have you also heard a lot about “the other side”, and maybe not so positive thoughts? Have you ever come across a general feeling of disdain, or even distrust, between those two worlds? By going through my (novice) experiences of research in academia and industry, I will try to explain you why I actually enjoyed going from one to another, and how I finally decided to go for a PhD which was quite an unusual path coming from an engineering background.
Nationality: Luxembourger and Portuguese
Work Institution: Aston University
Research Interest: Molecular Biology, Genetics, Placenta
Tea or Coffee? Why not both? Coffee in the morning, tea in the evening.
Everyone has a dream, a passion, a goal, a determination to do what they dream of. Some people aspire to be millionaires, others aspire to develop a new technology, others aspire to win the Nobel Prize, others aspire to have a family of their own and others aspire to have both an incredible career and an incredible family life. Over the years all these aspirations and/or these goals have changed and evolved and what used to be the aspiration of a woman can now also be the aspiration of a man and vice versa. For instance, 80 years ago, regardless of which country, it was unthinkable for a woman to choose a career over a family, not to mention to have both. Today, although not accepted in some countries, in many it has become completely normal and acceptable. However, that being said, I’ve been asked multiple times “Why are you always moving from one country to another? Do you not grow attached to people? Do you not love your family? Don’t you think it is time for you to settle down and grow your own family? Aren’t you tired of studying?”.
Work Institution: St George's University of London
Research Interest: Preeclampsia, preterm delivery and fetal congenital heart disease
Favourite Hobby: Tasting new and delicious food. I am a foodie ;)
In September 2018, after working as a junior doctor for 5 years at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, I completed my Obstetrics and Gynecology training. Then, I had to answer the question: What next, what could or should I do? There were two opportunities I had to consider.
The first logical option was to start the job I trained for, as an Obs. and Gyn. specialist in Italy. But, as I love a challenge, and as I thought this would have been the safer option, I decided to pick the second opportunity, to apply for the iPLACENTA project as I thought that it sounded more exciting and rewarding in the long run. I then took the plunge and moved to London to commence this incredible experience as a PhD student at St George’s University of London.
St George’s University Hospital of London
Work Institution: St George's University London, England
Research Interest: Preeclampsia, early pregnancy
Favourite Movie: About Time
The UK has been the third country I moved to within 2018.
Although I grew up in Vienna I have never really lived in the same place for more than 2 years since I was 15.
After spending a few months in Boston after medical school, I moved to Vienna to start my residency there. But after a few months of working, and to my own surprise, I got an offer for my current PhD position in London.
Although I really enjoyed my previous job, working with a lovely team and spending some time in the city I grew up in, I didn’t need to think about it twice: I accepted the offer, quit my job and moved to the UK for this once in a lifetime opportunity!
Work Institution: Maastricht University, The Netherlands
Research Interest: Sequencing Techniques, Programming, Systemsbiology, Bioinformatics, Epigenetics
Favourite Animal: Dogs & Tigers
This blog post is about me and my personal experience on my way to uncover the black box called ‘bioinformatics’ or‘computational biology’. Many molecular biology researchers retreat upon hearing these words, because it is out of their expertise and also follows other rules than traditional lab work. I experienced that myself and I was one of them, until I took the risk to explore the ‘black box’.
The Miracle © Sidney Harris
“ There must have been a mix-up”
“ ...maybe there was another candidate named Julia, and they confused us - it is such a common name”
“ ...maybe they had a stack of applications on their desk- then a gust of wind came - threw the stack off the desk- and suddenly the last application was the first - mine”
“What happens when they find out?”
These are some of the things I heard myself say on the phone, talking about my new position. It took some time until I realized how crazy that sounded. The following is not an article, but a summary of my thoughts.
About the blog
Being a PhD student in a European training network is a life-changing adventure. Moving to a new country, carrying out a research project, facing scientific (and cultural) challenges, travelling around Europe and beyond… Those 3 years certainly do bring their part of new - sometimes frightening - but always enriching experiences.