11December 2021 ESRFnews
What about the social aspect? The new office will encourage the PhD student committee to organise social events (online since the pandemic) for students to meet one another. Such events not only help students to feel supported but can also help them develop professional networks that lead to fruitful collaborations in the future. With the help of the committee, the new office will also organise regular PhD seminars to give students the chance to present their work, especially to non-experts in their field. As a result, they will gain vital communication skills that they will need during their scientific careers for example, for writing papers and reports, or applying for funding.
What are the future aims of the new office? The ESRF already enjoys a reputation as a world-leading scientific facility; its location in Grenoble provides an exciting and attractive international environment for young students. According to Bruno, the ESRF can still be made more visible, however. Our aim is to ensure we keep attracting the best students by providing them with the best support, he says. To be the scientists of tomorrow, they need to flourish today.
programme, ENGAGE, will co-fund five PhD positions on projects related to data analysis and machine learning, in partnership with other institutes. The new Higher Education and PhD Programme Office will streamline the management of these programmes, promote the interaction of students of different specialities, and support them throughout their studies.
What support will be offered? One of the main objectives is to improve the follow-up of PhD projects. Projects usually last three years and, in that time, there may be difficulties that arise where students or supervisors need help to make sure that work progresses smoothly and students do as well as possible in order to go on to rewarding careers. The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased the stresses experienced by young students often they have moved from another country, so may be socially isolated while they start their intellectually and technically challenging long-term projects. Universities often have schemes in
place to monitor progress and address difficulties. At the ESRF, each student is assigned a mentor in addition to their supervisor who can discuss the progress of the project and any difficulties. The mentors report to the new office, where academic assistance or advice on more practical matters can be co-ordinated.
Michela La Bella, a student at both the ESRF and the University Grenoble Alpes, is working towards a PhD on the subject of concrete sustainability. In situ experiments at ID11 allow her to follow the reaction at unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution.
What is the role of the new Higher Education and PhD Programme Office? It has three main responsibilities. One is to manage the ESRF s international PhD programme, which is co-ordinated by structural biologist Montserrat Soler López and condensed-matter theorist Patrick Bruno, with the administrative assistance of Luce Chabert. It also organises the annual undergraduate summer school programme, run jointly by the ESRF and the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) on the EPN campus, in which students from member countries spend a month at the ESRF and ILL learning about the fundamentals and applications of X-rays and neutrons before they choose their graduate studies. Finally, it runs the ESRF colloquia quarterly high-profile conferences in which world-class scientists (including several Nobel laureates) present their field of research.
Why has it been launched now? Each year, the ESRF welcomes new PhD students from the member countries to pursue research projects in fields such as physics, chemistry, life sciences, earth and environmental sciences, cultural heritage and palaeontology. Many of these fall under the ESRF s standard PhD programme, which has been in place since the light source opened to users three decades ago. More recently, however, co-funded programmes have increased the number of PhD projects that are available. For example, InnovaXN is an EU co-funded programme of 40 PhD positions (20 ESRF, 20 ILL) dedicated to applied research with industrial partners. Meanwhile, another EU
The ESRF s new Higher Education and PhD Programme Office aims to nurture students throughout their studies.
Helping the next generation
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