Are you considering pursuing a PhD and wondering what the experience of a Marie Curie PhD fellowship might be like? I’m a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow for almost 3 years now and I can tell you what it feels like. When I talk to other PhD friends I have, I notice that the Marie Curie fellowship is famous for providing a great salary and financial support to do research. But this fellowship offers so much more.
First, the networking opportunities are tremendous. I had the chance to work with different institutions and scientists across Europe. My research group is multidisciplinary, with people from ecology, geomorphology, neuroscience, social sciences, physics, computer science and other disciplines. This opened up a world of multidisciplinary perspectives on my topic, making my research more exciting. For example, I explored the similarities between river and brain networks in my research. This network creates collaborations with other scientists and you don’t feel very isolated during your PhD. Also, these other scientists are from elsewhere in the world and the cultural change is strong.
I also had plenty of opportunities to travel and visit these institutions. In my case, I met my research group in the Czech Republic, France, Austria, Cyprus, Germany and England. I lived in England for most of my PhD, but I also lived for a couple of months in Austria and Cyprus to work with other scientists there.
Another great advantage: The fellowship doesn’t just focus on academic research. It also provides training in employable skills and encourages practical applications of research. So it helps to pursue a great career, whether in academia or not. For example, in my case, we had training in how to deal with media (radio, TV, journalists and social media), entrepreneurship, outreach activities, writing newsletters (I interviewed a great scientist which was quite fun!), and other courses.
It’s important to note that the PhD journey with this fellowship can be challenging. The three-year timeline is short, and the workload is demanding. We often had to write long reports for deliverables related to the research project. I couldn’t always focus on only my own research topic and my thesis. I think I had more work to do than the average PhD student experience. This is exactly the most (maybe only?) negative side of this fellowship: the workload is heavy and it is quite difficult to finish the PhD in the funding period, which is 3 years. At least that was my experience, in which I had to face the global COVID-19 pandemic during my PhD. However, overall, the support and resources provided by the fellowship made it all worthwhile. I really recommend it!