In the eighth article as part of community voices for international grants and fellowships, Shvaita shares her process of acquiring a fully funded Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) research grant and lessons learnt during the journey.
I will quote “mind over matter” is an attitude that we scientists develop over years of our educational training while in school and college. Further advanced in life, we are at a junction to go for research or a job (which by the way comes back again after a PhD).
Like any other student after a double Master’s, I was standing at the crossroads deciding my future. I learned about the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) fellowship during my M.Tech at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, which at that time I wasn’t sure of pursuing because it was an ‘international grant.’
I said to myself, “Shvaita, do you think you have what it takes to even stand a chance at an international level for a fully funded prestigious PhD program?” Gulping down my fears and pessimistic attitude, I started to make myself aware of the necessities of the program. This was a life-changing experience, as I realised that, according to DAAD eligibility criteria, I have everything, even a gold medal from my Master’s Program. Gathering my self-confidence and learning to be optimistic, I applied to DAAD Research Full Grant for PhD program in October 2015. Later, I found myself through the first scrutiny of applicant pools, into the interview process at New Delhi in Feb 2016.
My confidence level was boosted as I had made it to the interview, but now I had to get through the interview as well. I started preparing for my interview. Got myself thorough of the PhD project that I had applied for in Germany. Brushed through basics of biology, physics and chemistry, because every answer lies with the basics (another attitude to become a scientist, I guess).
It was the D‑day – interview at the DAAD office in New Delhi. There were questions related to my previous thesis work and potential PhD project. To my surprise, I was pretty confident, because of preparations.
In late February, 2016, there popped up an email from DAAD, India congratulating me with the offer of a fully funded PhD program at Germany. I experienced euphoria in that very moment. I had learnt my biggest lesson of life, “mind over matter” is indeed an attitude and optimism is one step close to success. I came to Germany in October 2016 and completed my PhD in Molecular Biology by October 2020, to call myself a proud scientist. I continue to work in Germany.
In retrospect, had I given up even before applying or understanding the eligibility criteria to apply, I wouldn’t have been able to do science. The lesson from my story – never give up before trying.