Doctoral candidate experiences
PhD candidate Eleni Papadonikolaki
Faculty of A+BE, Section of ‘Design & Construction Management’
"I mostly enriched the discipline-related knowledge during my PhD. Because my research was inter-disciplinary, input from other domains was required, such as management and social sciences, given that my background was from architectural engineering. Therefore, I had the opportunity to enrich my knowledge base in areas pertinent to my desired area of research.
Concerning the research-related skills, the Doctoral Education programme, offered a variety of research design and methods courses, to support my decision-making in research methodology. At the same, the greatest contribution of the framework was the opportunity to interact with fellow PhD candidates from various Faculties and backgrounds, for networking and exchanging ideas. Subsequently, the PhD process was occasionally a shared experience, which is particularly helpful (and potentially necessary) for PhD candidates, such as me, who were not part of an overarching research project. Looking back, I would not change a thing in my PhD process!"
PhD candidate Noeska Smit
Faculty EEMCS, Medical Visualization
Strength lies in knowing oneself: Before even starting a PhD, ask yourself why you even want to do this. Do the daily tasks you will be doing align with your personal values and skillset? When you lose motivation at some point during the four year process, either due to endless paper rejections, personal circumstances, or things just getting boring, knowing why you are doing this can help you regain your momentum.
Plan early, and plan often: Four years seems like a long time, yet somehow it is over quicker than you might think. For this reason, it's good to have a plan at several levels. Define several major milestones (perhaps these could become the core chapters of your thesis?) and the steps you need to take to achieve them. On a smaller scale, I like starting the day by defining three important, yet manageable tasks I want to complete today, and add them as post-it notes under my screen. Make sure you spent most of your time working on the things that add most value.
Skills to pay the bills (or finish your PhD at least): Your PhD provides an unique opportunity to develop your skills, so try and make the most of this. Don't pick 'easy credit' courses, or pick things you're already good at and enjoy doing, but get out of your comfort zone and work on things that need improving the most.
Share your path: Even though a PhD is your path in the end, you do not have to travel it alone. So enjoy some nice coffee breaks with your fellow PhDs, collaborate with cool people you enjoy working with, and make good use of the advice and guidance that your supervisors have to offer you from their experience and knowledge.
currently senior R&D Engineer at Allseas
Looking back, Eric is pleased that, in 2015, he finally obtained his PhD after 9 years. Completing his doctorate took longer than usual because he was working full time while writing his thesis and he had to do the writing during the weekends and holidays. Additionally, there were three parties involved in his project, all with a different focus and view on his research topic. This also slowed down the completion of his thesis. When he realized this last factor was his biggest stumbling block in finishing his PhD, he had to learn how to cope with different viewpoints, learn to stick to his research goals and closely collaborate with his promotor.
When starting his PhD, he already knew he wanted to pursue a career in industry. The PhD was something he wanted to do for himself to acquire new knowledge. The competences that he developed most as a doctoral candidate are analytical thinking and self-management. Although his romanticized view of a PhD turned out to be incorrect, Eric is very proud that he persisted and obtained his degree and developed himself in many ways.
currently Lead Engineer at Allseas
Yanrong came to the Netherlands together with her husband. When she arrived, it made her realize that there are so many cultural differences and new things to learn. For starters, the Dutch and English language. Next to that, she became pregnant during her PhD. Nevertheless, looking back, during her PhD she was in a team with other PhD candidates and they shared a lot together. Now, 20 years later, they are still in touch and from time to time she still works together with one of her fellow PhD candidates to supervise MSc students from TU Deflt for their master thesis’s. During her time at university, she really learned how to collaborate which was very helpful to her when she started her job at Allseas.
The mentality in industry is really different than what Yanrong was used to in academia. The biggest challenge as an engineer was to be a leader and to manage projects, as time is quite limited and the objectives are high. Her main advice to doctoral candidates is to develop skills like leadership skills and project management skills as much as you can during the PhD.