By Stephanie Meeuwissen

From 8 until 11 July 2019, I was able to join the 2nd European Doctoral Summer School in Professional Development at the University of York, UK. The Summer School was organised by three collaborating universities: University of York, the University of Munster, and Maastricht University. Together with fourteen other PhD students (five from each university), I got the unique opportunity to learn in an interdisciplinary and international setting: it was an eye-opener to hear how much a PhD trajectory differs among countries and disciplines. Moreover, it was confirmed that we can be very lucky being a PhD student at our ‘own’ SHE!

The 4-day programme included different themes to develop professional skills: ‘pitching and public engagement’, ‘your career’, and ‘entrepreneurship’. On the first day, we created a poster to announce an upcoming, possible Oscar-winning movie about our PhD. My hobbies are everything but creative, so I was really surprised how much I eventually enjoyed this activity! It also really helped to translate my PhD research for a general audience. After presenting, many people said they would have liked to watch ‘When medical knowledge has become sum of the parts.. A story about teamwork’, starring Grey’s Anatomy’s April Kepner as myself – the comparison came up thanks to one of my former students.

We continued the Summer Course and had a look into each other’s CV, learned about online and face-to-face networking and how to explore career options in a global setting. Moreover, we learned about myths around personal traits of good entrepreneurs and what it takes to set up a realistic business.

A cool activity of the Summer School was the training and actual performance of a ‘Three Minute Pitch’ of our research. The training firstly focused on identifying our research’ stakeholders and the possible benefits of our research. Secondly, we were trained in developing a pitch to communicate with a non-specialist public how we want to change the world. The Summer School ended with pitching to a panel of funders, representatives from media, academia and industry, who provided feedback on our pitch. Maybe, we could do such a ‘Three Minute Thesis’ pitch during our next SHE Academy or SHE Presents: it’s both meaningful to prepare and great to perform!

The final, more-than-cool activity was a dinner with the Lord Mayor of York and Sheriff of York at the York Mansion House. The importance of international collaboration and networking was emphasized a lot. Of course we also had a lot of fun: we ended up finding a mummified cat in the cabinet of the dining room and the cook took me to the basement to show the old kitchen, which was still in use.

The whole experience was unforgettable and a real privilege. I would encourage all PhD peers to look out for such opportunities – it will enrich your PhD journey!