How to get PhD Abroad? In conversation with Mr. Naythan Jordan Dchuna

Updated: May 24

1. In brief tell us about your PhD/Research work.

My PhD is based on the switch of miRNAs during B cell development and its dysregulation in B cell lymphoma.


2. If someone is looking for PhD opportunities abroad then what are the ways (websites/social media platforms etc.) by which one can come across such advertisements.

Sites such as scholarshipdb.net, EURAXESS | Researchers in Motion (europa.eu), and FindAPhD (findaphd.com) in this order are the sites I used to search for vacancies. These sites are very user friendly and are more or less up to date. For countries such as Norway and Sweden, the universities use a single site Search for vacancies in Norway | Jobbnorge.no and Varbi applicant tracking system for Sweden respectively. These sites are one stop applications for the position and require you to upload all relevant information to their site. The site will promptly update regarding your process and also offers you the option to store information to send you relevant opportunities when they arise.


3. How did you come across the PhD program you are/were enrolled in?

The PhD program I am enrolled in happened completely by chance. Applying to Israeli institutes requires you to look for a PI that matches your field or works in your field of interest. You are then required to write them an email application with an SOP and your CV, after which you will need to be patient. Personally, I heard back after 4 months of the email (be patient!).


4. One thing that we hear a lot while applying for PhD abroad is ‘SOP’. So, what can be the best practice one can apply to build the SOP?

The best strategy is to first give yourself enough time (minimum 3 months) to build your SOP or cover letter. The SOP makes or breaks your application. The SOP is an introduction of yourself to a complete stranger and is very different from your CV. The way I went about is by watching youtube and using my friends’ and senior’s SOPs as templates. The first line must express that you are interested in joining the lab or working under the PI. The follow up paragraphs need to display the skills you have learnt over the years that make you suitable for the lab or you think you could contribute to the lab. The last paragraph is very crucial as you must explain how your experience makes you the best fit as well as also express why you wish to join the lab in terms of what you will gain from the lab.

(The trick is to be as brief as possible but at the same time put as much of selling points about yourself as possible)

Very Important: Do not reuse the same SOP for all your applications, tailor the first and last paragraphs as per the lab and the field.


5. Is a research paper essential to get enrolled in a PhD program?

It is not very essential, it does help as it gives the impression that you have done quality work and also are aware of the publication process, but it isn’t essential. During the interview, they may ask if you have a publication and why not, here just be honest about the work or whatever the reason is.


6. Similar to research papers, is prior lab experience/internship as project fellows or trainees essential/helpful to get a PhD position abroad?

Prior lab experience/internships are not essential but they do give you an edge, as you know what it takes and you also have a referee for your recommendation. Plus, it is preferred to not have a gap between your Master’s and PhD. Also, some countries like Norway/Australia require you to have completed 6 years between Bachelor’s and Master’s degree as a minimum for a PhD, the internship/training would be beneficial.


7. How much time should one expect while applying for these PhD programs from the date of application to enrollment?

A minimum of 6 months at least, maximum depends on luck. This is a huge game of chance, so apply as much as possible to increase your chances, but you need to be patient. This is a very frustrating time period, but there is no other alternative, so hang in there.


8. What are the challenges one should expect while doing PhD abroad?

· Time Zone

· Living expenses

· Living alone (away from family)

· Language barrier

· Cultural shock

· Fear of Missing out


Naythan D’Cunha: I am a PhD candidate under Prof. Melamed Doron, Department of Immunology, Technion Israeli Institute of Technology. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology & Biochemistry and a Master’s degree in Lifesciences. I quit my PhD in the Department of Cancer Immunology, ACTREC after 3 and a half years, once I was offered the position in the aforementioned lab. During my BSc and MSc, I developed a huge liking towards Immunology and Stem cell biology which drove me to pursue a PhD in this field. I am available to help and answer any doubts that you may have.

You may reach me at dcunhanaythan@gmail.com

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