October 17, 2022

“The tree of patience has bitter roots, but its fruit is sweet”

Author: Jorge Torres


No one can deny the hindrances that people cope with to reach a dream job. Personally, starting a career as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) has been one of the most challenging achievements throughout my life. Nowadays, after one year of landing in a new country and what it attaches itself such as a new culture, food, and people, I am just figuring out how fast time flies. To be honest, I still cannot believe thoroughly how much my life has changed last few years.

To begin with, I would like to mention the obstacles as a foreign student I have had to deal with. Certainly, it is my firm belief that people pave their way toward their goals by working hard as things do not come in easily. Accordingly, when I started the application to pursue a Ph.D. during the Covid-19 outbreak, with all the mess of that difficult times, I found myself frustrated by receiving many rejections and shortlist interviews that turned out soaring my desperation. Afterward, I finally got an opportunity as an ESR with a fellowship within INsTRuCT Consortium. I could not believe it. It came across like the light at the end of the tunnel. However, the story had only begun. You see, I faced another issue with my visa which resulted in a time-consuming process. As such, it represented the second big cumbersome as a foreigner. Despite everything, I could finally travel and join the lab thanks to my beloved ones and the supportive team of INsTRuCT who encouraged me to not give up along the wait.

But what would be life if it does not challenge you? In essence, despite all the experiences in different Research Centres where I have stayed for internships, I have confirmed you never know enough about science and things run differently between workplaces. I felt like starting from scratch in my new lab. After finishing my master's, I was not aware at all how hard is to be entirely responsible for your research project which is truly one of the main learnings of this Ph.D. journey. In effect, it has been like jumping in a pool without swimming skills. Nevertheless, I would regret nothing as it really moves me to see the steps walked so far.

On the other hand, after plenty of Teams and Zoom meetings, one of the best memories of this year certainly has been meeting face-to-face with the other ESRs and supervisors of our Consortium. I am recalling while waiting for any news about my visa, we had a lot of lab meetings, game nights, and attempting to be proactive from my side, supporting our Twitter social media. Therefore, our first in-person Annual Meeting at Antwerp increased the motivation of everyone I would say because we knew each other more deeply about our feelings, personal stories, and dreams. And as you know, motivation is essential in life for success.

Additionally, being involved in an international setting not only within INsTRuCT but also in my lab has been something definitely helpful in terms of cultural exchange as well as future collaborations. What I have realised is the fact there is no possibility to progress in your career without the feedback of your peers and establishing networking with other groups working in the same field. Certainly, working as a group is easier than going alone to achieve your goals.

Finally, I would like to open up my feelings and motivations as above-mentioned their relevance in life, for giving some advice to those who are trying to build up a career in science, from the humbleness of my short experience so far. When I initiated my path from a small country in the middle of the world, I noticed that thinking about your success is important, but helping others to grow up expands the frontiers to positively impact your society. Hereby, my advice would be: look up for internships during your bachelor, be proactive, knock on thousands of doors (as a matter of increasing your probability to get opportunities), learn and interiorise from your mistakes, and surround yourself with inspiring and motivated people, believe in yourself and your capabilities, and the cherry on top, think of those many people you could aid with science because from a personal point of view, that makes the difference between a scientist and a human being.

Although things do not turn out as expected, do not lose hope. Patience is another skill to develop throughout your life. As a proverb states: “the tree of patience has bitter roots, but its fruit is sweet”.

Cheers from London!