There is more to PhD life than research!

As PhD students, there is no doubt that the majority of our time is spent on research. After all, that’s the main task we are being paid for. Many of us even sacrifice evenings and weekends for our PhD project, either out of our own interest or due to time pressure. While we focus on acquiring hard (technical) skills and knowledge from doing our research, we should not forget that its’s often soft skills, such as perseverance and sociability, that determine life success. Similarly, a study in UK reported that knowledge directly related to PhD research subjects is not valued as much in industrial world as in academia. What both sectors value, though, are general analytical skills and problem-solving capability.

Of course, these soft skills can also be developed while conducting research. Nonetheless, that is still considered our little comfort bubble with little diversity. Working together with non-colleagues can bring us to a completely different world. This series brings together seven PhDs who have explored this different world. Find their stories below!


“…the more activities I was involved in, the more people I met who could provide me

with additional perspectives and suggestions for improvement.”

Isadora Lopes Alves, who recently graduated, has managed to do a lot of extra-curricular activities despite her short PhD.


“When I was in Japan, I wanted to visit different disaster areas but did not have funding.

Being a tour guide allowed me to combine my work, hobby and passion into one.”

While some of us face a challenge in searching for our passion, Anna’s challenge seems to be the opposite – she has passion on so many different things.


“Some people may think I have to sacrifice my weekend, but I think I will enjoy my weekend.

So whether that’s a loss or a gain depends on point of view.”

During our conversation, Steven has reminded me of a famous quote by Aristotle, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”


“…at the end of the day,

all I learned from these activities are also beneficial for my research.”

While many of us think volunteering to do other activities means losing time for our research project, Zsofia thinks differently. While hard skills are specific to our research field, soft skills can always be applied anywhere.


We are not superheroes.

Being a scientist gives an ordinary person a (very) small chance to save the world,

though in a humble way


Haoqi could be a wonderful example of PhD students who place great important on their research and their future as scientists, yet did not neglect non-scientific skills and perspectives that could be acquired only outside working hours.


…doing my research together with other activities

helps me develop different skills at the same time,

and all these skills improve each other.

To my impression, Heleen is clear in what she wants, very determined, and resilient. I believe these characteristics will help leading her to a successful and fulfilling life.


“All these activities served as a distraction from my PhD work.

People think I'm crazy for being in 3 boards during the final year of my PhD,

but honestly, I needed it…”

Els has shown us that sometimes distracting ourselves by joining other non-work-related activities can bring even better benefits.

Hataitip Tasena