Category Archives: Life in academia

Discussions about surviving as a scientist in academia

Is doing a PhD “just a job” ?

Gorka Zamora-López

During the last edition of the Complex System Society conference (Palma de Mallorca, October 2022), the Young Researcher Team organised a round table on “Challenges for young researchers: from mental health to precarity.” Much as expected, the session turned into a résumé of the many broken pipes of academia – whether you are a Ph.D. student or not. But nevertheless, I think the event was very valuable. That a group of students sat together with senior researchers and just talked about how they feel, that they question their working conditions, the pressures they endure, and that they bring into light the ups and the downs of their daily struggles, is for me a very encouraging sign. I really hope experiences like this will become more frequent in conferences because it is about time academia visits the psychiatrist for an inside-out therapy.

The highlight of the evening happened when, during the phrasing of an argument, a student suddenly said “… because doing a Ph.D. is just a job.” Wooow !! Murmuring propagated throughout the auditorium instantly and eyebrows were rosen (mine included). For about two minutes my mind got trapped in those words and I couldn’t listen to anything else. Continue reading Is doing a PhD “just a job” ?

(Re)connecting people at Jürgen Kurths’ 70th anniversary

Gorka Zamora-López

This is going to be a rather personal post but I thought it could be a good opener for a new section of the blog titled “Life in Academia.” I would like to write  (and I would like to invite others to write) about the daily experience of being a scientist and surviving (or struggling) through the academic system.

During the week of March 13 – 19, 2023, I returned to Berlin and Potsdam (where I lived for ten years and did my Ph.D.) for a visit with the occasion of the NDA23 conference to cellebrate Prof. Jürgen Kurths’ 70th birthday. The week turned into an emotional rollercoster for me. It was very touching to meet so many old colleagues and friends. And we certainly missed others who couldn’t be there.

I am aware Jürgen and his way of managing a large research group faced several detractors over the years. And surely he has been a tough person to negotiate with. Thankfully I rarely had to. But in the occasions he would reach to you and say “this or that needs to be done” you knew there was little margin. Those needs would range from basic things such as attending a talk or having a discussion with someone who was visiting the group, to help organising conferences.  As a student, I rarely felt those duties as an annoyance. Despite they would sometimes interrupt my flow, I could see the bigger picture behind. How that would help me become a better scientist and a better professional. Because, yes, science is not a hobby as many people tend to say. It is a profession and you need to learn to behave professionally. So, all in all, I am also convinced that many in academia simply didn’t grasp the human legacy that Jürgen was leaving and he still nurtures.
Continue reading (Re)connecting people at Jürgen Kurths’ 70th anniversary