Elham’s PhD experience

This is my last post for the ITN-RAMP blog. I want to use it to talk about life during my PhD, and to say thank you to everyone who’s helped me over the last few years, and come with me on this journey . I’ve shared some precious moments, both happy and sad.

It’s been almost 3 years since I embarked from the plane at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, France.  I began to study for my PhD in September 2017, at the University of Grenoble Alpes (UGA) under the supervision of Dr. Monika Budayova-Spano. If you’ve been following my blog posts, you’ll already know the title of my PhD, which is “Optimization of crystal growth using a (micro) fluidic technology-based crystallization bench” (you can read my previous post for more information). As one of the students in this network, I’ve had several secondments. The first of these was in November 2017, at Nat-Xray. It was a really good experience for me, because I had the opportunity to observe a professional working environment during the first few months of my study. I think it will really help me to decide logically whether I want to stay in academia or move into the industry.

I went to another 3 secondments – one at Aarhus University, one at Maynooth University, and one at the University of Surrey.  I spent one month at Aarhus University in Dr. Poul Nissen’s lab, learning the HiLiDe method. I want to thank him, Sofia T and everyone else at the lab who helped me during that month. Afterwards, I spent 2 months at Maynooth University in Dr. Jennifer McManus’ lab, where I learnt about light scattering, and how we can use it to study protein structures. I’d like to thank Jennifer, My, Alessandro and all of the other lab members for their help and guidance, and also for making my third secondment enjoyable. My final secondment took place at the University of Surrey in Dr. Richard Sear’s lab. I’d like to say a big thank you to Richard and Virginia for helping me during that period.

We’ve also had some visitors in Grenoble, including Diogo, Swati, Virginia and Sam. It was really good to have them in the lab. They taught me some new techniques, and I’d like to thank them for that.

I met all of the PhD students in our network during the workshop in Maynooth university and Trinity college Dublin. These group meetings occurred again in Germany (Hamburg) and England (London and Guildford) and I had a great time learning different techniques and skills with them. I think one of the advantages of these networks is that there are several students working in different aspects of a subject, and because of that they can share ideas. Being in this network makes me feel that I am not alone on this journey. As part of our PhD, I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant in some workshops and schools. I want to say thank you to all the people in Grenoble – Monika, Sofia J, Marta, Jean-Luc, David, Frank, Yoann, Remi and so many other people who have helped me so far.

Unfortunately, as well as all those good memories, we’ve had some sad moments too.  One of those was when we heard that Jean-Luc would no longer be working with us. He will be greatly missed. You can click here to find more details about his work:


Another thing that not only affects our PhD, but also the everyday life and health of all of us, is the covid19 pandemic. Lack of access to the lab when you have to be there to finish your work is one of the negative aspects of it but when I compare it to the number of people who lost their lives, I see that missing lab work is not as disastrous. I really hope in the near future the scientists find a way of solving this problem. Whilst trying to find a positive perspective on this pandemic, I’ve noticed how people have become more connected with their friends, families, and local communities. I could hear them every night at 8 p.m clapping for health workers and all the people who’ve been working during this time to keep us safe.

All in all, being in this network has been an important turning point in my life. I’ve gained invaluable educational and life experiences that I know will help me throughout my career. And last, but by no means least, I’d like to say thank you to the European Union for funding this scholarship. It’s had an incredibly positive impact on my life.

Thanks again, and goodbye for now.