After returning home from the recent PSSRC meeting in Düsseldorf, I did some reflections on the outcome of these meetings. It made me wonder whether we as PhD students are doing enough to facilitate collaborations across PSSRC.
I am about to enter the third and last year of my PhD and I have attended the past two PSSRC meetings. The difference between my first and second meeting was my own focus. At my first PSSRC meeting, I focused primarily on my own presentation, including what questions I would be asked and how people would perceive my research. At my second meeting, I realized that my focus had changed to pursuing collaborations across universities, which is the purpose of the cluster:
“The cluster was formed to catalyze research activities in the solid state by sharing facilities, collaborating on specific projects and giving research students the possibility to engage with other researchers in the area.” (PSSRC homepage)
Both PSSRC meetings were very fruitful for me in terms of gaining knowledge and new ways of looking at research topics as well as having a great time with fellow students. In addition, during the second PSSRC meeting I spoke with two potential collaborators and we have now established collaborative projects, which both will commence within the next six months.
My own experience with pitching research ideas and pursuing collaborations taught me a lot. I was happy about the openness and positive attitude of the professors, and I felt that I was being listened to and taken seriously. At the end of one of the meetings I said “Wow, that was easy!” His reply was: “That is what we are here to do”. After attending the previous two PSSRC meetings, my impression is that a lot of PhD students within the cluster are content by staying within the comfort of their own labs and see collaborations as time consuming and question its benefits.
The meetings made me think that if we as PhD students were more willing to take the chance and pitch research ideas to other members of PSSRC we could achieve even more than we do now. I think it is important to acknowledge the fact that collaborations can foster even better research. Furthermore, we as PhD students are the owners of our projects and it makes sense that we act proactively in fostering collaborations to progress and improve our research.
The aim of this short article was to share some of my reflections and hopefully inspire other PhD students to take an active role in fostering collaboration by pitching their research ideas to others. This will in my opinion lead to better research and grow collaborations across PSSRC. However, I believe it is important that we realize that PhD projects are not only about publishing novel research. It is also about growing as professionals through collaborative engagements and thereby preparing ourselves for what will follow.