From Internship to PhD – Alicia

Alicia Calé is studying for her PhD at the Laboratory of Biophysics at the Institute of Physics of the CAS under the supervision of Dr. Oleg Lunov. The Erasmus+ internship has opened up this study opportunity for her, allowing her to continue her work at FZU , which she enjoys.

What doctoral programme are you studying and why did you choose it?

The topic of my PhD study is the Mechanical Regulation of the Metabolism of Cancer Cells of Liver. I didn’t really choose it because, first I did the internship and then the team from the Laboratory of Biophysics offered me a PhD programme. They were satisfied with my work, and I liked what I did, so I took it.

Does the work differ from your previous internship at Radius Centre?

Yeah. When I was doing the internship, I was mostly helping the PhD students who were already in the team. They were teaching me how to do the methods and I was helping them with their experiments. So, the difference is that I carry on doing the experiments but this time it’s for my own PhD thesis.

Have you considered any other PhD programme elsewhere?

No, I didn’t come to FZU with the intention of pursuing a PhD afterward. My plan was to come here to do the internship and then go back to France and look for a job there. I didn’t even want to study PhD. I wasn’t opposed but it wasn’t the main focus.

What is the difference between a Master’s and a PhD?

The first thing I want to say is that you get paid when you do the PhD, which is nice. Doing master’s is mostly about classes. PhD is more about doing experiments, data analysis, writing and other things.

Was this change difficult for you?

I don’t think so. Maybe when I’m interpreting and writing articles, it will be difficult because I’ve never done anything like that. It’ll probably be harder than just doing the experiments.  But, for now it’s okay.

How do you like it so far at the FZU? Are you satisfied with your choice of doctoral studies?

I really enjoy working in the lab here. We have dedicated spaces for cell culture, microscopy, biophysics, and biochemistry, which is great. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t want to stay.

Would you recommend other students to do an internship before their PhD studies?

My situation was different, but I think doing an internship before starting a PhD can be useful because there is no pressure on you during the internship. You’re just helping with experiments and observing what’s going on in the lab. You also get to see the team dynamics and if you get along with other colleagues, which is important if you plan to stay there for a few years. This familiarity can make the transition to a PhD programme much smoother.  So, I think it’s a really good idea, and I’m glad I got the internship.