Sunny Mediterranean beaches and exciting career perspectives

Nov ,10 2016

Pursuing a PhD is positively challenging and extremely rewarding in that one is constantly at the frontier of what is known in a specific field, where any new data is a small discovery. At the same time, the laboratory tasks can become monotonous and as a project evolves it is often the case that the pressure to achieve forces a student to narrow down their perspective to their specific topic within the cradle of their institute. The constant and intense focus required for driving a PhD project also does not leave much energy to explore career options outside of academia, where the skills acquired as a scientist can be extremely valuable and provide a competitive advantage over other applicants if one knows how to use them. Most doctoral students get an occasional break from the day-to-day lab work when they have the opportunity to attend a scientific conference. However, even then the exchanges are confined to the science of their projects with other academics.

Fortunately, in the course of my doctoral thesis, INBIONET gave me the opportunity to break from this template. Over the course of my 3 years within the realm of the network, I had the opportunity to attend workshops, training units and progress reports across Europe, where I was exposed to a broad range of cutting edge topics within the field pathogen host interactions while at the same time attending seminars on very practical issues such as grant proposal writing, ethics, public outreach and dissemination of science. These frequent meetings also allowed me to solidify personal and professional bonds with my fellows and their respective principal investigators, a key factor in the success of our collaborative work. In addition, I had the opportunity to interact with our industry partners and the EU officials in charge of our funding to gain an accurate perspective on the work environment outside of academia.

In this respect, the training unit on know-how transfer and entrepreneurship combined with the workshop on managing biotechnological companies, which took place in Palma de Mallorca in May 2015, were perhaps the most exciting. For this meeting entirely organized by ParcBit, Antonio Viader brought together a group of start-up executives from within but also from outside our network and the field of life sciences. We had the opportunity to partake in a crash course on start-up creation, from a hands-on exercise in developing a modern business plan to extensive information about different funding opportunities available for such endeavours within Europe. Moreover, the business leaders presented us with their on personal stories of success but also of failure and how they over came them. Most rewardingly, we also had to opportunity to engage in extremely positive exchanges where we were able to share our perspective as academic scientist on the labour market in Europe today.

As most of us are at the moment finishing up our PhDs and will be hitting the cold waters of the labour market rather soon, the information we gathered at the meeting in Palma the Mallorca will no doubt come in handy soon enough. Of course, the sunny beaches were also a nice bonus…