Frequently Asked Questions about the WIMEK Honours Research Programme

1. For who is the program interesting?

  • WUR MSc students with a strong interest in a scientific career in the broad field of Environmental and Climate sciences (see for chair groups that are part of WIMEK here);
  • With an interest in writing their own proposal in the Research Master Cluster course in period 5;
  • 2nd year WUR MSc students WUR MSc students that started in the year 2021-2022, or MSc students that started early 2022;
  • Planning to graduate before the end of the year (2023)

2. I started in February 2023; can I join?

It is possible if a chair group wants to nominate you. Two things you need to take into account:

  1. The chair group needs to think you are a talented MSc students. Most chair groups are only willing to do so when they see you in action during your MSc thesis. There, they can really evaluate your research skills.
  2. The course Research Master Cluster (RMC) has as a requirement that you have completed writing your thesis; or are quite far with it. The reason being that RMC is a very intensive course that requires a high level of writing skills. People with low experience are known to find the course difficult to follow.

3. When should I want to participate in the WIMEK honours program?

  • When you have an interest in doing a PhD / want to figure out if this is something you would really like to do;
  • If the thought of focusing on a specific scientific topic for four years excites you;
  • If you want to learn who to write a scientific proposal;
  • When you want to learn how to embed your research into the context of sustainability;
  • When you want take initiative in creating your own PhD project;
  • When you really enjoy your current MSc thesis topic.

4. The program does not easily fit within doing a
internship, now does it? Can I follow the program next to doing an internship?

No; our experience of the last years is that it really does not work. Both the PhD course and the RMC are intensive courses
that need to be followed in full. People that dropped out were often people struggling with managing their internship or other obligations they had with the program. So, we do not allow part time participation. This is really why we hope you take the time to discuss your planning with the study advisor.

5. When NOT to apply

  • When you are sure a career in science is not the way to go. People that find research very interesting, but do not yet know for sure whether a PhD is something they want to pursue can apply. Finding out whether the PhD is something for you is one of the goals of the program.
  • When the timing of the workshop, PhD course and RMC does not fit into your schedule; have a good conversation with your study advisor on the planning of this program!
  • When you feel that you want a change of place and topic.
  • When spending 4 years “on a single topic” is not appealing to you.
  • When you are not intrinsically curious about other people’s research.

6. What is the purpose and the learning goals of
the different parts of the WIMEK honours program?

The overall goal is to learn how to write a scientific project proposal for doing a PhD in the Environmental and Climate sciences.

We do that by:

  • 3 short workshops on doing the Why and how of doing a PhD:
    I) Expectations from a PhD candidate;
    2) Doing a PhD;
    3) From interest to research motivation
  • Putting your research into the context of Sustainability, and helping you with narrowing down the scope of your research: what will be in, and what will be out of your research. We do this in the PhD/PdEng course Grasping Sustainability;
  • Learning how to get from idea to proposal: writing the proposal in the Research Master Cluster.

7. Under which course codes will the program be
registered in Osiris?

Under two codes: parts i. and ii.
Under a 3 ECTS capita selecta code of ESA (ESA50403);
and YWU-60312, the code for the RMC course.

8. Why not just do RMC without the whole program?

  • Well, in order to be eligible to apply to one of the WIMEK PhD grants, you need to take part in the whole program
  • But there is of course also good reasons for us to organize a program like this. For one, it takes time to develop a great idea into a good proposal. The (in)formal contacts you will have with your writing coach before they nominate you and once you are accepted to the program, will help you create more focus and clarity before the RMC starts. In addition, Grasping Sustainability will help you draw a bigger picture which is needed in proposal writing (i.e. develop the context); but it will also help you narrow down what you will do during your research.
  • And by going through the whole process, you will have a better idea whether you would like to do a PhD, on the topic you write your proposal on, and whether your writing coach and their chair group is a good place to do it.

9. Who nominates you and why?

The chair group holder of the chair group and a staff member of that chair group.

Each chair group holder can nominate one talented MSc student. The reason is that the chair group needs to be willing to pay for the research costs if your proposal is excepted (the WIMEK grant only covers the salary). So they need to be convinced that you are a talented student that warrants such an investment by the chair group.

By limiting the number of nominations, we as WIMEK are sure that you are seen as a talent by the chair group; and it gives all chair groups an equal chance of being able to hire a new PhD candidate on WIMEK funds.

In practice, you will have to collect all the documents for the nomination yourself (see 25. What documents need to be submitted for the nomination? And 12. Can I nominate myself?)

10. I thought you need to do a project with two
WIMEK chair groups involved?

No; you are encouraged of course to combine groups if that is beneficial of your research proposal; but this is not a requirement.

11. What are the selection criteria?

The chair groups needs to see you as a talented candidate. We tell them that we expect an average grade during the MSC of 7.5 or higher; or a strong motivation by the chair group holder and the potential writing coach that you are a very talented student.

12. Can you nominate yourself?

No; but you are responsible for getting all the recommendation letters; making sure you have discussed how the program fits your planning with your study coordinator; and that the nomination is send to WIMEK in time. In most cases, you send the email with all the documents attached, and put your writing coach and chair group holder in the cc of the email.

13. Is it okay if I send the documents for the
nomination myself ?

Yes, as long as your writing coach and chair group holder are in the cc of the email, and all documents (including their recommendation letters) are part of the email.

14. What is a writing coach and a chair group

A writing coach is a staff member of the chair group that has agreed to supervise you during the writing of the proposal. They are expected to supervise you for one hour a week from the start of the program (February) until the end of the RMC; or if you submit your proposal to WIMEK, until the final presentations (Juli). In the latter case, they are expected to help you with a rebuttal, and prepare you for an oral defense for the WIMEK committee should you be invited to do so. All these aspects will also be trained during the RMC.

A chair group holder is the person leading the chair. They only have to state they are willing to support you financially if you are awarded the PhD grant, and state they also think you are a talented MSc student. However, you could really use more thinking power when going from idea to proposal; so try to involve them (or other researcher for that matter; of course in close agreement with your writing coach) in the brain storming and writing phases.

15. Can you include more people as supervisors/
staff involved when writing your proposal?

Yes, this highly encouraged. Do make sure you discuss first with your writing coach; and make sure you communicate clearly the role you see for anyone involved. This to prevent any disagreements later on who’s idea was who’s and who was meant to do what for the proposal (and later on in the PhD trajectory).

16. If you are not doing your MSc thesis at a WIMEK
chair group, can you join the WIMEK honours program?

Yes; but you need to find a WIMEK chair group to nominate you; and you still need to have an idea for a PhD topic.

17. Where do I find a list of chair groups that
belong to WIMEK?

On the WIMEK website, here.

But please, also ask your thesis supervisor whether they are part of WIMEK.

18. Where is the honours program held?

Everything takes place on Wageningen Campus.

19. Is the program run more than once a year?

No; we have no resources to run the program twice year, unfortunately.

20. A salary-only grant, what is that?

A salary only grant means WIMEK only funds the salary costs. Any costs related to training and doing the actual research (such as field work costs; lab work costs, IT requirement etc.) need to be covered by the chair group that nominates you. When chair groups nominate you, they agree to cover these costs. So, it is just something for you to discuss while writing the proposal; but nothing to worry about.

21. Normally, more experienced staff writes
proposals? Why does WIMEK think it is a good idea to let MSc students write proposals?

Simple; because WIMEK is looking for new and novel ideas. Why should they not come from MSc students? We are not the only ones funding MSc students, so it is perfectly accepted way of stimulating new ideas from talented MSc students.

In terms of the expected quality of the proposals: we do take into account that MSc students are not the most experienced people in writing grant proposals.

We also think it is very cool to be able to work on an idea of your own, rather than a professor or staff member doing the thinking for you ;). Of course, they will think with you....

22. What is in it for me?

Many things: a great way of exploring whether doing a PhD is something for you. Additional writing skills to show off on your resume. A high percentage of those participating in the program will end up doing a PhD somewhere.

But also if you find out that doing a PhD is not your thing, it is a great way of being better able to explain to others (including potential employers) what motivates you. In addition, the skills and competencies it teaches you (proposal writing; critical thinking; systems thinking in a sustainability context) are very valuable.

23. Why does the program formally end one week
before the deadline for submitting the grant to WIMEK?

The program ends when RMC ends. The reason being we want the program to focus on the skills of writing the proposal, i.e. a focus on the personal development of the participants. Participants can then still decide not the apply for the grant when they believe doing the PhD is not the way to go for them at this time. So, submitting the final proposal to WIMEK, and the following procedure of rebuttals and defending is not part of the honours program.

24. What are the procedure and requirements for
getting the WIMEK grant?

  1. Participation to the whole program (program ends when RMC ends; 12 May 2023)
    Note: all dates in de sections 2-6 below are estimates and not determined yet; they will be determined before RMC starts.
  2. Submitting the proposal one week after RMC (likely to be 19 May 2023)
  3. Submitting a Rebuttal about a month later when reviews have come in (around 19 June; deadline for submitting 6 days later)
  4. Invitation to defend the proposal orally (most likely to be= 6th July 2023).
  5. Decision; usually the final decision is made within two weeks
  6. Being able to start in 2023

25. What documents are needed to be nominated for the program?

  1. Letter of recommendation by a WIMEK staff member (assistant, associate or full professor) containing:
    a. motivating that you are a potential PhD student;
    b. a statement that they will be your writing coach before and during Research Master Cluster in period 5, and stating they have enough time available to discuss your proposal at least one hour per week; at minimum starting February 1st.
  2. Letter by chair group holder confirming the nominee is seen as a high potential candidate by the chair group.
  3. Letter of motivation for a research career and participation in the WIMEK Honours Research Program, also referring to WIMEK’s Grand Challenges, written by you, the MSc student (max 500 words).
  4. Your exam results (transcript of your BSc and MSc grades).
  5. Your CV
  6. Confirmation by the study advisors that you have talked through your planning (WIMEK will ask this for you once you have applied; make sure that you have discussed your planning with them before you apply!). Note that due to the late deadline, you have time until February 1st to discuss your time planning in detail with your study advisor.