‘Make internships mandatory for PhDs’

Published on
April 17, 2020

Text: Tessa Louwerens

PhD candidate Kim van Noort spent one month of her PhD period in Oxford. This collaboration brought real benefits and she thinks more PhD candidates should get some experience elsewhere. Her proposition: An internship should be an integral part of the PhD programme.

PhD candidates have to include some propositions with their thesis. In this section, they explain their most thought-provoking proposition. This time, it’s Kim van Noort of the Laboratory of Nematology, who will be obtaining her PhD later this year (because of the coronavirus) for her research on the production of worm proteins in tobacco plants. The proteins help combat autoimmune diseases and allergies in people.

Kim stelling.jpg

‘At the start of my PhD research, I attended a summer school. I met someone from Denmark there who told me that Danish PhD candidates have to spend a couple of months working in a different research group, possibly in a different country. A couple of years later I came across her again when she was doing her internship in Wageningen.
I think that is a good idea as it lets you make new contacts straight away. That has benefits not just for you personally but also for your research group.

"It was valuable for me personally and the group"

In my own research, I got stuck at one point because I wanted to use a certain technique in microscopy. I contacted a professor in Oxford where they have a lot of experience with such microscopy experiments, and I ended up working there for a month. That gave me the opportunity to set up an experiment that would not have been possible in Wageningen. At the same time, my supervisor wrote a new research proposal with the Oxford professor.
This collaboration was incredibly valuable for both me personally and the group. That is why I think it would be a good idea if everyone got the chance to work in a different group for a few months. At present that is not likely to happen unless you organize it yourself, which is an extra hurdle.’