Starting up a PhD


After hearing how it ends, it’s your right, dear reader of the ArcTrain blog, to ask how it begins. After Lera’s text (https://arctrain.de/finishing-up-a-phd-thesis/), I’m now worried that I will not give you a text with as much wisdom. But after all, I’m only in the beginning of this PhD, maybe I will reach this point of erudition after 2 years and a half. “How to start a PhD? ” This would be a good question, and there are already a lot of articles all over the Internet to answer this question. The very existence of this articles shows how much of a struggle this phase seems to be all over the world. Nevertheless it’s a bit early for me to answer this question, I will leave this point to professors.

Jeetendra working on the plan for is phd schedule for the next 3 years during the ArcTrain retreat in the Harz mountains.

Here, the question would be : “How does a PhD start in ArcTrain? ”, or, since objectivity does not really exist, “How did I start my PhD in ArcTrain?”. I still guess and hope that the experiences as an ArcTrainee are not so different between the two cohorts, but can’t talk for the first one. I could tell you about the scientific start of every PhD studies: The pile of research articles to read, the review articles to scrutinize, and the discussions with the supervisor and the team to choose and start the project. Let’s focus on the human side of the PhD studies.

But before, let’s give you a glimpse of who your humble servant is : I am born in France, studied in Switzerland and currently am at the Alfred Wegener Institut (AWI) in Bremerhaven, working about Sea Ice Modeling (to be excessively short, you can read Mischa’s text for more details: https://arctrain.de/what-is-a-model/ ). I studied physics, meaning that when I arrived at AWI, except the fact the ocean was mainly made of water, I didn’t know anything about oceanography – “The salt is that important in the climate system!? ”. But all of these are new exciting things to learn! .

Ryan, an ArcTrainee from Canada, is discovering the cold Germany climate during the ArcTrain retreat in the Harz mountains. Because Canada is such a warm country.

So to go back to our sheeps, as we say in French: As a PhD student, I arrive in a new place, coming from the warm cocoon of the university, excepting the short master thesis I did in an astronomy lab. I arrived in a lab, with all the people it includes, but this time, it is not just as a short time visitor for an internship or a summer job. I am now part of the lab and need to take up my place in it. I also joined the ArcTrain 2nd cohort, a group of people in the same situation, a bit lost, but really excited to start this new step in their life. The great chance ArcTrain is giving us is surely the network of young scientist and PIs. With the other PhD students of our German cohort, the associated PhD students, the one of the first cohort, and the PhD students of the Canadian ArcTrain, it’s already more than 60 PhD students I might be in touch with in the next 3 years, not counting the one at my own institute! We are not working on the same project, not at all – as a physicist I honestly have trouble to understand what the biologists are doing. But a data treatment technique that is good for one, might also be good for another. Finally, what the ArcTrain program offers to us all is an exciting potential: To collaborate with Canadian colleges, to work with the other students in Bremen or Bremerhaven, to discover other subjects, other points of view.

This article is also a tribute to the first cohort students, who, despite the pressure and the difficulty of the end of their own projects, took the time to share their experience and disseminate advices among us. This is a help they didn’t have when they started 3 years ago.

Let’s see what we – the 2nd cohort – will write in 2 and a half years.

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