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What is being a PhD student like?
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”- Jean Jacques Rousseau
PhD defines a period when you spend few years on formulating questions and trying to find answers to them. PhD studies tend to have different duration depending on which country/ university you are doing it; it ranges somewhere between 3-5 years. I have been pursuing my PhD in Sweden at Lund University (https://www.vibrant-itn.eu/blog-post/mapping-group-a-streptococcus-pyogenes-and-human-plasma-protein-interactions/). In Sweden, generally the PhD studies is for 4 years and currently I am in my third year. In this blog post I would like to share some of my experiences as a PhD student.
My work mainly involves either working in the laboratory or in the office. When I am in the lab I am mostly performing experiments. This is what I enjoy the most! When I am working in my office I am mostly planning my experiments, writing protocols, ordering reagents or analyzing data. I must say the workload is quite variable. Some weeks are quite intense when I have very long days in the laboratory. This specially happens when I am trying to optimize a new protocol or performing multiple experiments. However, sometimes I don’t have time to work in the laboratory and this when I am quite busy working in my office on preparing presentations, reading and writing articles, abstract or reviewing papers. One of the challenging times in my PhD is when experiments fail. Overcoming these challenges can be quick but sometimes it takes long as well. I try to troubleshoot myself on the first go and if not I then discuss with my supervisors and lab mates to find a solution to it. This is when I try to be calm and patient and continue trying on different approaches to reach my objectives.
As a researcher, we are supposed to report our finding as articles in different journals. Articles can be of various types – reviews, research articles or protocols. Review articles are comprehensive summary of findings, ongoing research and advancements on a particular topic. During my initial PhD days, I published a review paper (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=sounak+chowdhury); and I think this was quite useful as I had to scout through many research papers which indeed gave me a deeper insight in my field of research. Novel findings are reported as research articles. I also managed to report some of my findings from my research in the form of research articles (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=sounak+chowdhury). I think this itself is an interesting exercise. I not only had to write the paper but it involved few other activities; like selecting an appropriate journal for my manuscript, selecting reviewers who can review my work and prepare cover letter for the editor explaining the importance of my work. Moreover, it is not always that the first journal that I send my paper in will accept it or it is accepted in the form I submit. I get rejected from journals and thus I have to keep on sending it to different journals till it is accepted. Moreover, the reviewers can also ask certain changes or additional experiments that I need to perform within a given time frame.
Conferences, seminars and congress are the platforms where researchers like us showcase their work. It is indeed a great experience to attend such conferences. It helps me understand and learn about the ongoing research in the community, discuss and interact with other fellow researchers. Lately with the on-going pandemic I have not been able to attend many conferences. I will be attending the World Microbe Forum 2021 (https://www.worldmicrobeforum.org/); where I have been given the opportunity to give an oral presentation on my research. I am quite excited about it and looking forward to sharing my research with my peers and receive valuable feedbacks. We as the ViBrANT team are also organizing a conference on viral and bacterial adhesion (15-16th, July 2021). Talks from invited speakers and the ESR’s will range from pathogenesis to microfluidics. Interested to be a part of this interdisciplinary conference; follow the link: (https://www.vibrant-itn.eu/vibrant2021-conference/)
During my PhD, I encounter numerous challenges but in the end, I learn new things every time I solve them. Therefore, I really enjoy pursuing my PhD!