Dawid Surdeko, ESR9 of the UCOM project, wrote an article for the social media platforms. He talks about his own experience as a Marie-Curie PhD student and gives useful links:


The Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD fellowship

The dilemma

During the last year of my master studies in acoustics I was wondering what I should do afterwards: find a job or enrol into a PhD programme? The latter grew on me while I was working on my thesis. Thanks to my supervisors, I had a chance to study an unexplored problem and participate in an international conference, presenting my poster. I found myself enjoying what I was doing and thus the decision was made. However, that was not the last dilemma I would face. Now I had to choose whether I should stay at my alma mater or move somewhere else.

Weighing the circumstances

Me with some of the colleagues from the previous group

On one hand, the group I worked with specialised in medical applications of ultrasonics – the topic that I found extremely compelling. In addition, the atmosphere was great, and I already knew the people I would work with. Besides, I would stay in the city where I had studied for the last couple of years and would not leave my friends behind. However, having participated in an international conference, I recognized that the level of funding of science in my country, Poland, is far lower than in western European countries. Since my work was experimental, I knew that having access to the right equipment is the key for doing great science. In addition, the basic PhD fellowship in Poland is relatively low – a lot of the times students work on the side and thus they are unable to fully dedicate themselves to scientific endeavours.

Ceasing the opportunity

I discussed the dilemma with my supervisor as well as with other group members and though I started leaning towards doing my PhD abroad, I had no idea how to begin my search.

My new workplace at the University of Twente

Fortunately, one of my lab mates was a PhD student who came to Poland from India. He shared his experiences with me and suggested I should check a few websites that publish research job offers. The one that I came to rely on was the Euraxess portal, due to the considerable number of open positions and frequent updates. I found some intriguing offers and started to apply for them. Truth be told, all of it was easier than I thought – I only had two interviews, with one of them resulting in a job proposal on a project concerning acoustic cavitation. A month later I was at the University of Twente, making first steps towards achieving the PhD title.

A welcome surprise

Spending free time with other UCOM PhDs: consortium meeting before the COVID-19 pandemic

At the moment I agreed to the offer, I was not aware how prestigious the project I was going to work on really is. It turned out to be funded by the EU via the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) programme. Apart from me, there are 14 other PhD students of varying nationalities, based in multiple European universities, specialising in different scientific disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, or biomedicine, working on topics related to acoustic cavitation. The network offers scientific and personal development seminars, supports the mobility of the researchers by secondments to partnered institutions and facilitates cooperation of the fellows. However, the most important part is that we get to work with the greatest specialists in their respective fields. This gives us an amazing chance to learn and an ideal way to kickstart our scientific careers.

A fellow’s obligations

Being granted the Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD fellowship means that I have some obligations to fulfil. Apart from obtaining the PhD title, I must publish my papers open access, which means that the articles must be accessible to everyone without any payment required. I am also obligated to promote the results of my research to both the scientific community and the lay audience. Additionally, I need to endorse the ITN programme, which (full disclosure) I am doing by publishing this article.

Find out yourself

These benefits and obligations are not specific to my particular network – they apply to all the ITNs in general. I could continue talking about them, but I figure it’s better to invite all those interested to dive deeper into the topic. To that purpose, I leave here some links so that you can further explore the subject yourselves. I strongly encourage you to do so, even if you are not searching for a PhD position, since the EU offers diverse opportunities for researchers under the umbrella of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. Thus, if you are, for instance, pursuing a post-doc position, you may find something suitable as well.

   • Euraxess portal: https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/

   • LinkedIn profile of the Euraxess portal: https://www.linkedin.com/company/euraxessofficial/

   • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions website: https://ec.europa.eu/research/mariecurieactions/node_en

   • Twitter profile of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: https://twitter.com/MSCActions

A year as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie researcher

To close this article, I want to give some testimony about my experiences so far. It has been a year since I started my work and I have already learnt a lot, because I was given plenty of opportunities to develop my hard and soft skills. I got a chance to work with brilliant people, both experienced and early-stage researchers.

I am not going to say everything is easy; if you choose to pursue a Marie Skłodowska-Curie PhD, prepare for a lot of hard work, high expectations and quite a bit of stress. That being said – do not take it as a discouragement. Your supervisors are there to help you and, after all, achieving ambitious goals requires challenging yourself. I encourage you: do not be scared to apply – there are plenty of opportunities and you do not need to be a genius to get accepted for a position.

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