Looking back at the second KNAW-NWO event for Chinese PhD’s

On June 5 KNAW and NWO organized the second PhD event for Chinese PhDs in the Netherlands. The aim of the event was to offer Chinese PhDs  insight in the Dutch academic system, the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences and to network with other PhD’s and Dutch scientists. This was achieved through an interactive programme with interesting lectures, disputes and workshops.

After a warm welcome by the Chair of the KNAW-NWO China committee Martin Stokhof and by Mr Fang Qingchao, education counsellor of the Chinese embassy, the first lecture was given by  Brigitte Hertz. She presented striking characteristics of the Dutch and the Dutch culture and gave the PhDs four commandments  for successfully obtaining your PhD.


PhD in the Netherlands

Ao Chen shared her experiences of doing a PhD in the Netherlands. Now a postdoc at Utrecht University, she knows her way around the Dutch academic system. She recommended to start writing early. She advised PhD students to plan a break in order to reflect and to learn from possible rejections. Ao Chen, like Brigitte Hertz, also stressed that a PhD is your own responsibility. And most importantly, to do something you are passionate about.


The group was then divided up for disputes and workshops. In the dispute on ‘expectations of PhD and promoter’ Guusje Bonnema, Bob Su and Zofia Lukszo had animated discussions about the differences between styles of promoters. PhD’s told about the difficulties they run into. Bart Gremmen and Edwin Horlings gave insights in how to deal with ethical questions in the dispute on “academic freedom and ethics”. They raised awareness and understanding of this difficult topic.

phd-event-140605Scientific writing

In the workshop on scientific writing for natural sciences Rene Geurts analysed the structure of an article published in Nature. The participants all gained experience in how to write an abstract. In the same workshop for social sciences, Jeroen de Kloet did a mapping exercise to discover problematic issues. Apparently many Chinese PhD’s already felt quite familiar with Dutch culture and academic culture in the Netherlands. So he focused on problems in the writing process, a suitable selection for journals for PhD’s and book publications.

Out of the box

In the ‘networking and presenting yourself’ workshop, Irith Koster let the participants introduce each other, based on first impressions and develop an elevator pitch. Petra Badke-Schaub and Katja Thoring helped participants during the ‘creative thinking’ workshop to think out of the box with very short exercises and practical tips.


Follow your heart

The day ended with plenary sessions, first by Helga Varwijk (NWO) and Anna Goedhart (RVO) about the possibilities to apply for grants to continue your academic career in the Netherlands.  Finally Hui Li, former PhD, now in business, inspired the audience. His message was to follow your heart and pursue your passion, invest in yourself and develop your career, and work on your communication skills.

Chair Martin Stokhof closed the very inspiring event and invited everyone for drinks.

Photography Inge Hoogland/KNAW