Interview: Isadora Lopes Alves

Isadora Lopes Alves, who recently graduated, has managed to do a lot of extra-curricular activities despite her short PhD. She was part of the BCN PhD Council and represented it within the GSMS PhD Council. She was also part of GRIN, which represents all PhDs in Groningen and participated in regular meetings at the PNN (Promovendi Netwerk Nederland). For a year she was a member of the BCN Newsletter Staff, writing interviews and opinion pieces. In 2015 she was a volunteer for the Groningen’s PhD Day, and in 2016 she was part of the PhD Day Board as Advisor. Last, but not least, Isadora once participated in FameLab, the international competition for 3-minute science talk, which she highly recommends!


Q: What did you gain from participating in those activities?

Isadora: Everything! From research I gained resilience and knowledge, stress and wonder. From all these other activities I gained social, organizational and political skills. I learned how to manage my time and understood what I enjoy the most in my days. I also met PhDs from many other fields and learned we all go through the same struggles – which can be quite a relief in the middle of a deadline storm.

Q: What were your main challenges while participating in these activities and how did you overcome them?

Isadora: I think there were two main challenges: time management and teamwork. In your PhD you already have to face those, but mostly within your field. These activities push your boundaries on how to deal with them beyond your little research bubble. Time management moved from being able to meet all deadlines towards managing research priorities with my personal ones. Teamwork changed from working with multiple supervisors and showed me how to compromise and get the best of everyone in a heterogeneous team. How to overcome the challenges? For me it was always about talking to people about how they see them and how they manage it; and the more activities I was involved in, the more people I met who could provide me with additional perspectives and suggestions for improvement.

Q: How do you view your future after your PhD study?

Isadora: I already finished my PhD and have started a 5-year contract as a postdoc in Amsterdam. This postdoc is very challenging and rewarding, because in addition to my own research, I am a project manager for an European-wide Consortium – a position I could only achieve by having participated in so many extracurricular activities during my PhD. Although it seems I have it figured it out for the 5-year span, I still don’t know if academia will keep being my home, despite how much I enjoy what I do. This does not worry me, however; if there is one thing doing a PhD and all the other activities taught me is that skills are transferrable and anything is interesting when you study it in detail.

With positivity as her strength, I believe Isadora will find her happiness and make people around her happy regardless of where she is or what career path she chooses.

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