My reflections on the ETH PhD Academy

Invited author: Aisha Al-Sarihi, Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for Environmental Policy Imperial College
In the summer of 2014, I spent one week in the midst of the Swiss Alps to attend the ETH PhD Academy on Sustainability and Technology 2014. I was then in the second year of my PhD.

Recently, one of my friends asked to review this summer course. It is certainly a pleasure to reflect back on the experience that I had back then. In this blog, I focus on two aspects: the development of academic excellence and the opportunities to socialise.

The experience helped me in the quest for of academic excellence, in two outcomes I treasured: the interactive feedback I received and the opportunity to be in shoes of the reviewers. As an author, I was given an hour slot: 15 min to present my paper, 5 min for one fellow student to discuss and give feedback on my paper, 10-15 min for discussion with two professor discussants and the remaining 20-25 min for open discussion with all the attendants (students and faculty). Furthermore, as one of the audience members for other papers, I was a discussant for the work of a fellow student, for 5 min, and had the opportunity to contribute to the open discussion after each presentation. I appreciated this last part: it encouraged the hard work and generosity of all the participants to read and comment on all papers in depth.

Regarding the social activities, I particularly remember the dinner, which triggered discussions about those stylish Swiss dishes and offered room for extended talks, jokes and informal discussions between peers after a long working day. The ETH PhD Academy provides a unique platform that brings together like-minded people from all over the world. This diversity of participants and talks over the dinner table made me, for example, learn how different the PhD programmes are between the UK, the USA and Europe. There were plenty of opportunities for talking and networking while hiking and walking in the midst of the Swiss Alps, which is unforgettable.

A year and a half later, I think back fondly to that one week as a memorable and fruitful experience that has been the source of long-term friendships.

__________________

Information on the 2016 edition of the summer school may be found here.

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