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So they've asked me to write this blog about my PhD-hunting experience. Let me first draw you a picture: I am sitting here behind my computer after another unfruitful search on Academic Transfer and reading on Facebook how Bill Gates is defeating polio in Afghanistan. And what am I doing? Not much. Although giving blood reminds me that I am useful to society, I still have the feeling I could be more useful. Participating in MRI experiments helps me to keep connected to research, but that only takes you so far (sidenote: I think the people in medical research have a rather different conception of informed consent than we have. An experiment imaging my aorta also gave me a free abdominal workout. Would like to have been informed about that beforehand.). So what do I do to keep myself occupied?

 

As I spent the past two years on a research master and want to become a Philosophiae Doctor, I thought it was time to read up on some philosophy of science. Could be useful to know what empirical science is based upon, I guess. Turns out I quite like Popper and his Logic of Scientific Discovery. It helps with thinking about problems, in particular how to think about problems. This will help both with my hobby (which is basically dissing pseudoscience) as well as my future career in science. So that was time spent wisely.

Next to catching up on reading I have begun some courses on Coursera.org which is a cool platform to learn new skills. I am taking a statistics course and an introduction into mathematical thinking. The mathematical thinking class is taught by Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin who also happens to have written about misconceptions surrounding the golden ratio. As I am interested in myths and bunk of that sort reading his blog kept me busy for quite a while. Again; time spent wisely.

But the actual hunt for a PhD has already begun earlier. I have been looking around for a PhD position for two months or so now. I have been to Groningen, Leiden, Nijmegen and Amsterdam. Plus a recent interview on Skype, which was a new experience for me. From those interviews I have learned a number of things that I would like everyone to know before starting their PhD-hunt. Besides all the obvious rules of how to dress and how to behave during an interview I have a few research specific suggestions that I would like to end this first blog with (as I am so busy; still have to watch Obama's address to the United Nations in its entirety and then there are those pictures of pebbles that Curiosity has sent).

The most important tip of all is CV-building. A psychiatrist in Groningen told me he missed output from my resume, which meant publications. So I e-mailed my first and second year project supervisors and as it turns out they are both planning to publish what I have been working on. That immediately gave me two publications [in preparation]. What more to put on my CV? Basically; anything that has anything to do with research. So I added my membership from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, poster presentations and conferences that I attended.

Another tip is to make it clear that you did all the work during your research project. Make sure that it doesn't look like your ordinary internship where you just tailgate someone and learn from what they are doing. Show that YOU did all the work. That reminds me; I just heard from one of my second year's supervisors that I might get first authorship. Guess that is a useful thing to mention on my resume. So I'm off to CV-build some more and hope you continue to follow my journey towards academia!

Steven