13 May Ph.D. Diaries
from the perspective of recent graduates
(blog post header photo source: www.pixabay.com)
Ph.D. studies can be exciting, inspiring, challenging, as well as difficult, and exhausting at the same time, even in the regular times, and especially so during the global pandemics.
Our young researchers talk about how they experience finishing their Ph.D. studies…
Dr. Jovana Stanojev
Postdoctoral Researcher – Ph.D. in Materials Engineering, BioSense Institute
Now that I have finished my Ph.D. studies and successfully defended my Ph.D. thesis a few months ago, I can say that had asked me the same question one or two years ago, I would’ve given you a completely different answer. I would’ve said that it is an exhausting, nerve-wracking, never-ending loop and I suppose many Ph.D. students would agree with this statement. However, there are many more positive aspects of Ph.D. studies. In my opinion, the period during the Ph.D. studies is vital in the professional and personal development of each individual. This is the period when you develop new skills that are going to help you to progress in your future career, however, you also gain valuable experience that helps you develop yourself as a person and build a character. You learn how to be patient, how to work in a team, how to accept criticism, how to deal with failure, which is perhaps more important than learning how to write a paper or give an astonishing presentation (of course, you learn those things as well along the way ☺). Pursuing a Ph.D. degree is a long and difficult road, with a lot of setbacks, confusion, happiness, and ups and downs in general, and everyone who has voluntarily chosen that road should know that at the end, everything pays off. Maybe you don’t see it now – I for sure didn’t two years ago – but try just to trust the process.
I obtained my Ph.D. in a period of five years. Five years is not that long period of time, but when I look back and think of all the things that happened, I can saythat a lot has changed. I became much more confident in my knowledge and gained a lot of valuable skills. I became an independent researcher capable of conducting my own research. I suppose gaining independence is the most important part of Ph.D. studies, that every student should keep all the time in the backof their mind as a note to self – I have to be an independent researcher. There is no easy way of becoming that, but with a lot of persistence and intelligence, as well as with a bit of stubbornness and audacity, you can uncover your way and find your niche. Trust the process and you will see that “all the long working hours and working weekends at the end pay off “ (Me giving a motivational talk to myself every Sunday on my way to the lab 😊).Of course, the career of a young researcher only begins when a Ph.D. thesis is defended. Learning is a never-ending process in the life of a scientist and I guess that is a beautiful thing. I am eager to learn new things and can’t wait to encounter new scientific challenges.
Dr. Priya Vizzini
Postdoctoral Researcher – Ph.D. in Food and Human Health, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
It’s been a year since I defended my Ph.D. thesis in Italy and now I’m preparing for a new adventure, a year as Post-doc in Israel. I’m leaving but I want to write
my experience as a Ph.D. student in the lab where it all began and where I moved my first steps.
I hope that it can help those who are already undertaking this path as well as those who are thinking to start it.
Looking back, I can say with certainty that resourcefulness and hard work are essential, but the most important thing is the passion for what you are studying. The passion leads you to carefully observe the phenomena that nature seeks to conceal, to ask yourself questions, identify a problem, and be tenacious in trying to solve it.
There are many challenges to face, but it’s nice to look back and see that you have overcome them, although tears and despair (just kidding, but not that much 😊).
At the beginning, the planning of my research project was quite tricky, as it came from different student works that were not exactly on the same topic. But my efforts were rewarded with the first thesis as a supervisor and many thanks from the student!
Another moment that taught me a lot was the first time in which I was a speaker at a congress. I was quite worried about not being sufficiently prepared and professional, or even not able to give answers, but also, in this case, the only thing to do is to be self-confident and treasure your previous experience.
Again, during the last 6 months of my Ph.D. I started experiments at sunrise or I finished them very late. I was tired and sometimes bitter because, despite all my efforts, the experimentation did not give the expected results. Now, I smugly smile because the results of that hard work were super satisfying.
My last challenge was to write a text for a patent with industry specialists and think about how to communicate our idea to the companies, I would never say that I would have the chance also to learn these aspects too.
The Ph.D. is an individual path: you have to learn to work alone and solve your problems. But, while thinking about your path, you should take into consideration that having colleagues at your side is an incompatible value. I was quite lucky in finding colleagues and friends in the lab. We belong to different research teams, but we are open to discussion, we supported ourselves in difficult moments and we celebrated together the successes achieved. For this reason, I suggest candidly to be collaborative with everyone and, in case you have a competitor, to always be a fair one.
Therefore, I suggest to young Ph.D. students and aspiring Ph.D. students that they should not be afraid of not knowing or being inexperienced. On the contrary, the humility of acknowledging not to know prompts us to study more deeply and to proceed with greater attention. You become an expert over time so be patient and indulgent with yourself. Take advantage of what the Ph.D. experience can offer. For example, my research topic is highly interdisciplinary and involves different fields such as chemistry, physics, engineering, materials sciences, and molecular biology. This involved a collaboration with other national and international universities or research centers, allowing me to enrich myself from a scientific and also cultural point of view.
So, young future researchers, don’t be discouraged by failures, don’t stop studying, be constant, ambitious, passionate, and do not ignore your instincts: whoever lasts wins it!
Good luck to everybody!
We hope you enjoyed reading our 3rd blog post from the IPANEMA Ph.D. Diaries series.
Stay tuned, new interviews are expected soon!