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Friday, 25 October 2013

LIFE AS A PHD STUDENT

I value education in great extent and knowing myself better, I always knew I would try for PhD no matter what. Until my final year in Manchester, I didn’t know where I was going to end up but somewhere inside me I knew PhD was for me. My final year project was called ‘Heat Transfer enhancement of nanofluids’.  I don’t know why but I had found that project really interesting and therefore, wanted to continue PhD in nanotechnology. As expected, it was difficult to find the project. I was up to date with all the vacancies in UK universities because I wanted to go to different place but still, I kept Manchester as my last option. I also wanted to be more adventurous and started looking in other European countries like Spain (place I always wanted to go), France and Denmark. As one great person said - ' Where there is a will, there is a way', it was only towards the end of my University life, I found this amazing opportunity in Hannover School for Nanotechnology. The project is called 'Nanoparticles for Enhanced Photovoltaic, Nanoheating and Sensors' funded by Lower Saxony State, Germany. I couldn’t have asked for more.

To my surprise, I was selected for this scholarship and next thing I found myself doing is living my dream in Germany.

Before applying for this position, I had done some research on PhD in solar energy in Germany. The more I did, more tempted I was to come here. More than 40% of the worldwide installed PV systems are in Germany and Germans have set a goal of receiving 80% of their energy from renewable sources by 2050. Another plus point is, Germany is the highest PhD graduates producing country in Europe but only less than 6% of those graduates go to academic field after graduation. Rest go to industry. It looked perfect opportunity for me.

I remember every time I saw a PhD student, I asked her/him what PhD is like and how hard it is. Everyone gave me the same answer ‘it depends on your supervisor’. That never made any sense to me and because of that, it was starting to get annoying later on but now I understand what they meant. Now, if some students ask me the same question, my first answer would probably be same as I got from other PhD students. Plus, I would like to add a famous quote here – ‘PhD is neither student life nor working life but mixture of both’.

For my project, I am based in the Nanotechnology department of a research institute, Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. My first project is ‘Laser ablation in liquid’, which is to make nanoparticles using Laser. I love my project but the first step into PhD life made me realise how little I knew at University. First 2 weeks, I spent learning about the company and its products. First time I was in the lab, my supervisor said to me – ‘This is not a University where you waste materials to do some experiments. We make money here’. That day, I made 1000 ml of nanoparticles mixed in solution in two hours, which will be sold in 2000 Euros. So, technically, we made 2000 Euros in 2 hours. Nanotechnology is indeed a profitable business if you can do it right.

In the third week, my supervisor said to me ‘No one cares about your PhD but you’. He was right. PhD is a lonely life. I frequently remember my University life and wish I could go back. I miss attending lectures, talking and laughing with friends and organising social events. Ah! Those were the days. Every way I looked, friends were there. The only thing that hasn’t left me since University is stress and piles of work. Whole day, either I sit in my office doing research or I am in my lab doing experiment. Day and week goes by so quickly that I start stressing out about time gone so fast without learning anything. Still, end of the day, I get mentally so tired and that mental pain starts sending signal to whole body and guess what, my whole body starts aching. By the time I reach home, I don’t want to do anything but quietly dive into my bed. Forget the food!. Then I realise, I must have learnt something today.

Although PhD is challenging and hard, I have found great satisfaction in it because this is all I wanted to do. I am more excited than ever.