It is interesting how one word, “science”, can bring many different thoughts to various people, for some it might associate with undeniable truth, for others with non-ending experiments, yet for me science is self-actualization – my personal key to use all my abilities to achieve and to be everything I possibly can.
Due to my ongoing interest in science I have gained admission into the MSc program of Neurobiology at Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania, where I am completing my research thesis on experimental models of glaucoma. Half a year ago in order to challenge myself even more I have decided to apply for Ph.D. position at The ORBITAL network, which is an EU-funded Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovation Training Network. The decisive determinant why I have chosen to participate in The ORBITAL programme was my desire to do a meaningful contribution in one of the most prestigious and interdisciplinary projects in Europe, and a possibility to conduct my research at Experimentica Ltd., Kuopio, Finland made my desire even greater.
I prepared and completed my application in 20 grueling days, stating all my previous academic experiences, learned techniques, collaborative skills and awards that I have gained in the past. However, the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit, thus the only thing left after sending my application was to wait. Although I knew this position is highly competitive I tried to stay as optimistic as I can, and finally not long after I got the letter of congratulations!
DO NOT CALL IT A DREAM ANYMORE – CALL IT A PLAN.
Once my desire to get Ph.D. position in ORBITAL came true I felt thrilled and frightened at the same time because I realized that filling the application was the easiest task in this adventurous road. Thus, I have decided to go forward step by step – first, to meet my principal supervisor. The moment I came to Experimentica Ltd. I felt supportive atmosphere immediately, which I believe is a truly important factor for a foreign student. Almost everything in this company starting from high quality techniques and scientific experience, ending with teamwork and communication, exceeded my expectations.
Nevertheless, although I joined Experimentica newly, I already master multiple futuristic methods in biomedical research, including intravitreal injections, microsurgery, confocal microscopy, in vivoimaging and complex non-linear data analysis. Second important step in this road was to prepare my Personal Career Dvelopment Plan (PCDP). Thus along with my principal and two academic co-supervisors we prepared a detailed plan on how to accomplish the main goal of this Ph.D. project, which is to develop a novel rat model that recapitulates the pathophysiology of diabetic retinopathy and incorporates the contribution of a high-caloric diet. While filling the PCDP I realised that in this Ph.D. position all the future experiments I will conduct, skills and techniques I will gain will satisfy my need of competence; all the future conferences, workshop attendance and teaching activity performed by me will satisfy my need of autonomy; and last but not the least, the opportunity to be in international environment and to establish intercultural contacts will satisfy my need of connectivity. Thus, looking at my PCDP right now I understand it will be extremely tough, yet exciting coming years.
I would like to conclude this blog with my favourite psychology theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He was the pioneer of positive psychology and studied the creative process of the painters. Csikszentmihalyi noticed that when the artists are drawing, they do not think about hunger or thirst and they are “drowned in the moment”.He named this behaviour the “theory of flow”: the state when the brain is fully involved in the process of doing.This is how I imagine myself in this Ph.D. position; it will grant me the feeling of the flow, it will challenge me and, most important, it will help me to achieve all of my plans and career goals.