Ph.D. Diaries
1st blog post

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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 their experience…

Mila Djisalov
Young Researcher – 3rd year of Ph.D., BioSense Institute

Is being a Ph.D. student too difficult?


To answer this question, I would have to tell you a few things about myself. Even though I’m still young, my life experience so far has somehow always been quite challenging, both when it comes to private life and when it comes to my career. This is why I considered my Ph.D. from the start as another challenge that I will overcome because that is me, that’s what I do. Of course, in that whole story from the very beginning, there was a huge passion for science and research, which I realized somewhere in the middle of my undergraduate studies. Therefore, I observed Ph.D. studies as the path I had to go through to become what I wanted to be – a great scientist who would use her knowledge to contribute to humanity, the people and the World in general.

However, the passion that drives you and awareness of why you got into all this can sometimes be unsettled. The situation with the Covid-19 pandemic is a proof that no matter how prepared you are, the plans can spiral out of control. In cases like this, it is extremely important to stay clear-headed and self-motivated. And if you happen to work with extraordinary people like I do, who are always there to support each other, things will be easier.

Although I do what I wanted and what I was ready for, I have to admit that there is one thing that worries me a bit lately. Namely, I noticed that harmonizing a “normal” life with the life of a Ph.D. student is becoming increasingly difficult for me. But that’s to be expected, isn’t it? Somehow it sounds impossible to be focused on all of this at the same time. The balance is the key. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s something that only worries P.h.D students, so I would call it “adult problems”. We all have to take care of that to reconcile our careers and private lives, in order to be a happy and fulfilled person.

Teodora Knežić
Young Researcher – 1st year of Ph.D., BioSense Institute

Given that many Ph.D. students in their senior years forget over time what the beginning of their Ph.D. studies looked like, can you, as a first-year Ph.D. student, tell us more about your beginning?


Every beginning is hard, but, as someone who has volunteered in various laboratories for a long period of time and thus gained and developed work habits and team spirit, I can say that the very beginning of my Ph.D. studies was not so difficult for me — I was ready. Of course, this would not have been possible without my “team” — my loved ones, my mentors, and my colleagues, who provided me with endless support, patience, and understanding. They are there to make work pleasant and I’m grateful for that.

However, I can’t say I haven’t had a hard time, especially while learning completely new things, such as writing research papers, participating in online journal clubs, practicing communication skills, increased use of English as a non-native language, and various administrative tasks. Also, it takes a lot of sacrifice to stand out and show your qualities. That being said, you need to learn how to multitask, as well as improve your organizational skills.

Besides my “team”, in difficult moments I was maintained by positive thoughts and the desire to become the best version of myself. Also, keep in mind that work and effort always pay off. It’s a fact!

Minja Mladenović
Young Researcher – 3rd year of Ph.D., BioSense Institute

Did you know you were ready for starting a Ph.D.?


Doing a Ph.D. can be difficult. There are many things I wish I’d known when I started. First of all, I would like if someone had told me it wouldn’t always go according to plans. And that is perfectly alright. However, in moments of struggle, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Certainly, good organization and clear goals make the path towards finishing the thesis easier. But, you are not alone on that journey! That does not mean a supervisor will do the whole job but he/she is doubtless there for a reason.

Secondly, although many jobs require continuous learning, as a Ph.D. student you do it in a much harder way. You are expected to learn as much as possible. It can be tough, but when you are encouraged in the right way, it can also be a real pleasure. I mean, praising any job well done, even a minor one, has an enormous effect on self-confidence and motivation. Criticism is also fine. As a Ph.D. student, I learned that constructive criticism is very important for success. Additionally, I learned to handle receiving criticism. From time to time, it is even good to feel overwhelmed. Afterwards, when I overcome those emotions, I often see things more clearly. I really appreciate the support from the colleagues in such moments.
Furthermore, working on a Ph.D. is not a regular ‘9 to 5’ job. Schedule is much more flexible, but you never stop thinking about the next steps. This means that research requires passion. The most important thing is to enjoy. If it really excites you, it’s worth every effort. As in life, learn to rejoice in small successes.

To conclude, I should have had a clearer answer to the question: “Why Ph.D.?” So, I was not completely ready.

We hope you enjoyed reading our 1st blog post from the IPANEMA Ph.D. Diaries series.
Stay tuned, new interviews are expected soon!