PhD Day: ‘We want to be honest about how things really are’

| Michaela Nesvarova

‘It’s easy for PhDs to become isolated, to drown in research. Through this event, we want to show them that there is support and many opportunities,’ says P-NUT president Roberto Cruz as he describes the upcoming PhD/PDEng Day, held on the 21st of November in DesignLab.

PhD Day is an annual event by P-NUT (the official PhD Network of the University of Twente). However, this year’s edition aims to be ‘the most ambitious one yet’, according to the organizers. It will contain the largest number of workshops and keynotes so far. For the first time, there will also be an Information Market, which should directly connect PhD and PDEng candidates with companies and associations.

‘PhDs: Slaves of science?’

One of the event’s workshops is titled ‘PhDs: Slaves of science?’. It will be held by Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) and Academic Union (VAWO) and will focus on working conditions of PhDs. ‘Some PhDs might get the feeling that they are being used,’ clarifies Rob Bemthuis from P-NUT. ‘They might also think that their situation is the norm. That is why it’s important to get together with others and ask questions. That is the main goal of the event: to connect all PhD researchers at the UT.’

'We can all be very busy and stressed, we can feel pushed around'  

‘We want to raise awareness and be honest about how things really are,’ says Cruz. ‘As PhDs, we can all be very busy and stressed, we can feel pushed around, so it is important to have a special space where all of us can meet and discuss the good and the bad aspects of our lives as researchers.’

To cover both sides of the story, the programme is full of often contrasting talks. Everything from ‘What I learned from my depression’ by Erik Kemp to ‘How to be a happy and successful PhD!’ by Julia Wijnmaalen, the author of ‘The PhD Survival Guide’. In the first keynote speech, Nolen Gertz will discuss nihilism, while the second keynote will be given by a so called ‘Happiness Professor’ Paul Frijters.

For the first time, the event also includes a creativity competition. ‘We invite participants to submit a picture that captures their PhD story. It can be either a photo from their life or a picture related to their research,’ explains Bemthuis. The most creative submissions will be framed and showcased during the PhD Day.

Plant the seed

The organizers are hoping for 100 attendees. ‘This year is all about increasing our reach as P-NUT,’ says Roberto Cruz. ‘At the event, we want to show all PhDs that there are many ways to make an impact and be active. Because we believe that any PhD can do whatever they want as long as they feel supported.’

His colleague Rob Bemthuis adds: ‘Not to mention that, even though you might not realize it now, all these young researchers will most likely have prestigious positions one day. They are the future professors and leaders. So this event is a good moment to plant the seed and start your network.’