Finding a perfect PhD is somewhat like dating: there is no such thing as a soulmate-PhD, but some are still better than others; the number of options seems overwhelming at first, but most of them crumble once inspected carefully; and, of course, once committed, the choice will significantly influence the rest of your life. To make it even more challenging, the soulmate-PhD problem is also expected to be dealt with at the most vulnerable point in the lifetime of a student—as if by Murphy’s law, the deadlines usually land somewhere between the final in the sequence of many exams and the Masters thesis defense. Under such conditions, even the most genuinely motivated students might be at risk of falling into the trap of uncertainty and marrying a PhD that does not fully capture their interests and expectations.
This blogpost is meant to serve as a roadmap to your perfect PhD. It will push you to reflect on your intentions and research interests, introduce a simple framework for tracking your progress, suggest several common search engines for PhD vacancies, and walk you through the general process of writing applications and preparing for interviews. It is mostly comprised of personal experiences and insights, with occasional references to useful tools and resources. Importantly, the process described here primarily applies to graduate schools and PhD positions in (Western) Europe and in life/social sciences (primarily cognitive science and neurosciences); while steps 0–4 should be widely relevant, steps 4–8 might diverge for PhD applications in other academic systems or fields.
Being an undergrad is hard. With the days spent in lecture rooms and the nights devoted to catching up with essays and assignments, one wonders how is it even possible for undergrads to do any research – let alone publish it. While there is no expectation from undergrads to publish, a rough (and very anecdotal) approximation is that around 1 in 100 students publish during their undergraduate studies in either a peer-reviewed journal or other online outlets. (However, this highly depends on the field and publishing culture of the affiliated institution). There are also many benefits to publishing as undergrad; as illustrated by Griffith (2001), an early publication – regardless of the importance of the findings or prominence of the outlet – can increase student’s confidence and inspire a prolific academic career in the future. So how do these acclaimed one-in-a-hundred undergrads manage to publish amid challenges of the student life? Continue reading
Even though scientists are oftentimes lost in the ivory towers of their scientific work, academic research in any discipline – and especially psychology – is tightly connected to the society. It contributes to the improvement of the living conditions in the population. It supports the decision-making process of policy-makers with scientific evidence. And it is paid for by the tax-payers’ money. In an attempt to ensure that this natural relationship between science and society is always well-balanced, we make policies – governmental policies, international policies, institutional policies. The field at the interplay between science and policy-making – very intuitively coined ‘science policy’ – therefore concerns itself with topics such as the allocation of resources for scientific research, the careers of scientists, and the systems of efficient communication between scientists and policy-makers (Pielke, 2005). Continue reading