How to get PhD Abroad? In Conversation with Ms. Somavally Dalvi

Updated: May 24

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

I am currently working on studying the life cycle of bacteriophages using STORM/PALM and Cryo-tomography. As a part of my PhD thesis, I will be capturing the structural details of host-pathogen interaction.

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.

Facebook page: Dolpages

Website: Find a PhD

For Germany: Jooble

Also, most European universities have pages advertising PhD positions

Facebook group: STEMpeers

Dolpages is one of the best pages for PhD vacancies. You can subscribe to the dolpages and they send you 2 emails every day for positions. This page covers master's, postdoc, PhD opportunities in Europe, the US, and Australia.

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

I found this position via a Facebook group called STEMpeers. My current boss posted an ad for the position.

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?

Don’t copy from the internet. Of course, you can use it as a reference.

My SOP which got my skype interviews contains the following sections:

1) When did I realize that I like research (Share your story in 2-3 lines. Please don’t write cliches such as I love nature or I want to cure a certain disease)

2) How did your research interest grow as you studied? (Include what subjects you studied, and what subject you liked the most. I would suggest mentioning that your favorite subject was the overall field of PhD vacancy topic

3) Detailed overview of your research (1-2 paragraphs)

4) Mention your publication/poster (if you are planning to submit a paper, mention that as well)

5) Paragraph about your technical skills

6) How your technical skills are relevant to the lab/ project you are applying to? Write about all things from the project/lab you would like to explore. Quote the lab’s previous paper for the project/position you are applying (This will give an impression that you have read their work)

7) What you will learn from them? (Praise the guide/lab, department/ university)

8) Future plans (post-doc and faculty position)

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

If you are applying immediately after your MSc then it's not necessary but you should have research experience (at least 1 year) and good recommendations. But having a paper or if you have presented a poster helps a lot. Also, manuscripts under preparation/ submitted/ in the review are also counted as a paper. If you are applying after 2-3 years of gap post-M.Sc. then the paper is necessary.

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

Yes. It's absolutely necessary. Because it helps you in deciding are you really interested in PhD. You will get a glimpse of how exactly research works (You will understand the problems such as the project doesn’t work out, the experiment fails, scooping of data, etc.), what are pros and cons of academia are, etc.

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

Minimum 6 months.

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

Food: especially for vegetarian people (it may be difficult to find vegetables/ vegetarian restaurants). Also, we are used to mess culture. You have to cook all your meals.

Adjusting to a new culture: Since I am in English speaking country, I don’t have many problems but it may be difficult to socialize if you are in a non-English-speaking country. But Indians are everywhere, you will definitely find friends. European people are quite friendly.

Lab culture: Compared to India, lab culture is very different but in a good way. So, I don’t think you will have much of a problem.

Money: Usually you get a decent amount of money. But some students here opt for part-time jobs.

Hi, I am Somavally Dalvi. I am currently pursuing PhD from the University of Melbourne, under the supervision of Dr. Debnath Ghosal. I will be studying structural details of the life cycle of bacteriophages using Cryo-ET and super-resolution confocal microscopy. I had 6 years of research experience before joining the PhD program.

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