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Alejandra Consejo Vaquero
Doctorado Marie Curie

PhD position by Marie Curie in Europe

Alejandra, 27, from Zaragoza, writes about her experiencie as a scholarship for an ITN PhD position by Marie Curie in Poland.

My name is Alejandra, I am 27 years old and I was born in Spain, Zaragoza. Two years ago I was lucky  enough to get a scholarship for an ITN PhD position by Marie Curie in Poland. I studied Physics and  obtained a master degree at University of Zaragoza. I started working as a researcher for the Photonic  Technologies group and I worked in development of more efficient solar cells. When I received a random E-mail from a former professor with an offer for 10 open PhD positions with the European Union, I thought  it would worth trying despite my chances being low, and sure it was! Four months after I moved to  Wroclaw.

Wroclaw is a medium size city in the south west of Poland. It is full of history, antique buildings, many parks and green areas to have a walk in sunny days. There are lots of restaurants and also cultural  activities to enjoy weekly. Even though the language is still a problem for me, it is a place worth living in.

But, I didn ́t decide to change my comfortable life and nice work, leave my family and friends behind only  to live in a pretty city. It was the challenge that had made me choose this place. Challenge of learning  about a new culture, language, food and most importantly a new job which was completely a new world  to me. As soon as I landed in Wroclaw and realized that the water in the river wasn ́t moving, because it  was frozen, I knew that the challenge had already started and I was no longer in Zaragoza my warm and  comfortable home, in all senses.
Over 20 people (10 PhD students, 2 Postdocs, 8 professors and several collaborators), 6 countries (Spain,  Poland, United Kindom, The Netherlands, Switzerland and France), 5 academic centers and 4 private  partners, with an overall budget of 3 million euros are involved in this European project. All these human  and financial resources have a clear aim: to study how the human eye changes with aging. My particular  role in this project is to design mathematical models to describe the shape of anterior eye. This corresponds to the ocular elements that we can observe every time we look into an eye. The main structures that describe the shape of the eye are the cornea and the sclera. The cornea is the clear front  part of the eye that covers the iris-color part of the eye- and pupil. The cornea is a curved surface, like a  glass dome. The sclera is the  ́white of the eye ́. Together, cornea and sclera form the external part of the  globe. Describing and understanding an age-related changes of these structures is the goal of my research  project. This is important in applications such as contact lens design and fitting. One of the things I like  most about this project is its applicability. A trustable mathematical model that is able to describe accurately the shape of the anterior eye, will facilitate the fitting of all different kinds of contact lenses.

This means saving time, money and increasing comfort for the user.

The ‘ITN’ from ITN Marie Curie projects stands for ‘Initial Training Network’. Those are another three remarkable characteristics of the project. Firstly, it has designed specifically for researchers in their early careers.  Secondly, the scholarship is thought to be a ‘researching school’ for the involving fellows. I have  taken many specific and various courses, not only on scientific subjects but also language courses. Thirdly,  the network -which enables to connect and to network- is another great aspect of this project. Having an  opportunity to work in such a big team and being able to attend various worldwide meetings and conferences is essential to learn, it also help me to stay up to date with the scientific community of my research field. This is always more pleasant than just reading papers or reports from the computer. In addition, it is also an open door for the future collaborations. Well, as my supervisor taught me, being an academic is not a job, it is a way of life. It means that there are no fixed working hours, therefore you cannot fully disconnect, and that you will be paid while you have a grant or a  cholarship. The periods of ‘drought’ are almost impossible to avoid but the best thing about it  probably is that you can work for yourself. I only needed to write my CV and a motivation letter to change my life and I highly recommend to anyone that has the chance to try!

Alejandra Consejo Vaquero
PhD student in Wroclaw University of Technology

Written by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Zaragoza