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A strong scientific background is important but not enough for a scientific career as a young PhD student. Other very important skills can deeply change the situation and make the integration in a scientific training network much easier. These include the ability to communicate with others, to work in a team and to deal with important deadlines. A nice atmosphere is crucial for helping the less experienced to improve their performances in these areas.
Being in the PACE network is my first experience within a professional scientific training network. PACE is an Initial Training Network funded by the European Commission which brings together different principal investigator (PI) and their PhD students who are working on different projects. At first, it was hard for me to integrate and benefit from this network. I found myself looking at other students, wondering how they could be much better organized and be involved in different events. Then I became familiar with some very useful skills which I like to share with other young students who may be about to join a scientific network.
Communication is one of the most important tools to get benefit from these networks. For instance, my project is similar to that of other PhD students. Thus, I can easily benefit from their experiences or on a higher level I can talk to other PIs about potential problems and try to find the solution much more easily and quickly. However, one of the most important application of good communication is conversations between supervisors and PhD students. A PhD student who cannot communicate with his/her supervisor in a good way, without any doubt will face main issues in his/her work. For instance, if a problem occurs, the best solution would be to talk to the supervisor directly. Explaining directly the problem and trying to find a solution together. A lack of communication between student and supervisor may lead to a waste of time and to stressful and suffering situations. Talking to our supervisor, we may realize that the problem is completely different from her/his point of view. So, understanding his/her opinion on the issue is a necessary step to solve the problem.
Another feature which can greatly increase the performance of a network is teamwork. It’s true that everybody in a team has his/her own project but we shouldn’t consider ourselves alone or as someone who must do everything by themselves. Being in a professional team or network means being among people who are specialized in many different fields. For instance, getting feedback on my work or ideas by other members of the team or network and getting comments is a very practical way to be sure that I am on the good way.
Timing is also very important. Consider a project which must be delivered within one month. If it is part of a teamwork, all the team members must do their part. For instance, when I joined the INT (Institute de Neuroscience de la Timone, Marseille) I participated in one of my colleagues’ project. Working on this project taught me a lot about being on time. At first, I easily missed the deadlines of the project and I could see how my bad performance affected the project. Then I realized that it is everybody’s job in a team to be respectful to his/her duty in a project. In general, having a timeline with some specific deadlines may help a lot to improve the quality of work. For instance, one could benefit from the deadline of different conferences by planning to present a poster or a talk and thus going at least one step further in the project.
In science, as probably in most work environment, good communication, team working and good timing improve your performance and allow you to introduce yourselves much better in the eyes of the colleagues. Without a good communication, potential ideas behind someone’s mind are like hot fire under the cold ashes. So, blow the ashes and let you be yourself!