How to get PhD Abroad? In conversation with Ms. Srushti Gujar

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

I am working on the structural analysis of a membrane protein of Corynebacterium glutamicum involved in the signal transduction cascade of L-glutamate transport. This signal transduction cascade is conserved across the phylum of Actinobacteria which also harbors medically relevant microbe Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.

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

I will suggest browsing websites like Nature Careers or JobVector, as well as the PhD projects available in popular PhD programs such as IMPRS. If you have extensive lab work experience and are interested in a particular topic, I will suggest directly mailing the professors working on these topics. If you already have your CV ready, this will be a good way to ask for a position, as sometimes, these professors have a project ready that may not be advertised.

3. How did you come across your current PhD program?

I came across the PhD program I applied for through JobVector. However, I applied for the position not via it but via directly mailing the professors.

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

I think ‘SOP’ or ‘Motivation letter’ is very important to include in your application, even if it isn’t asked sometimes. It basically starts by introducing and selling yourself in the first half of the letter. What is more important is to include why you are motivated to work on this topic, what interests you regarding current projects of the lab you are applying (for this, read their latest research paper), and lastly, why you will be a good fit to them or what do you think you can contribute to the project based on your experience.

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

While having a research paper/ manuscript in progress is beneficial, this is a prerequisite if you apply for a ‘popular’ lab or a competitive PhD program. However, leverage to not having a research paper will be your convincing skills/ impressing them with your presentation/talking skills and knowledge in the topic as well as past experience.

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

Yes, I think it is necessary, especially in Germany; they expect you to know at least how to proceed with the experiments or the flow of experiments and have in-depth knowledge about your topic (it is not necessary to know ‘protocols’ these are easily provided in each lab). Therefore, I think it is important to be comfortable working in the lab for long hours and know how to plan your experiments independently. The proactiveness to reading its principle, coming to the lab the next day, applying it in practicality by taking the risk of failing, and then troubleshooting should be developed.

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

It easily takes between three to eight months.

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

Be prepared to enjoy your own company (there may not be any family or friends around). Learn the local language to get a professional edge. Also, be very, very confident all the time and speak out loud about what you need, and there is no need to be afraid – in the lab and outside. Lastly, do not procrastinate, find a way to stay motivated and make a reliable peer group.

Hi, I am Srushti. I am currently doing a PhD in Germany, working in collaboration with Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ) and Henriche Heine University (HHU).