After spending three and a half years as a PhD Candidate in the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, Didem Civancik-Uslu (b. Turkey, 1989) is about to embark on new projects in Belgium as a postdoctoral researcher.
Now, as she takes up her new position at the research group on Sustainability Systems Engineering (STEN) at Ghent University and becomes a member of the ESCI-UPF Alumni Network, she has found time to look back on her years with us as a PhD Candidate.
What was your first impression of the Chair?
The Chair was the place that I wanted to work when I came to Barcelona. Even, I had discovered it before moving to Barcelona. It was the perfect combination of the topics that I had always wanted to focus on my career: Life Cycle Assessment, LCA, and climate change under the name of UNESCO Chair.
“Doing a PhD abroad helped me to develop myself not only professionally, but also personally,” says Didem.
What was your first day like at the Chair versus your last one?
When I first started at the Chair, I had a strong interest and appetite for learning. On the other hand, I was in a new culture surrounded by different languages. At the beginning, it was difficult but finally doing a PhD abroad helped me to develop myself not only professionally, but also personally. In addition to the technical and scientific knowledge I gained, I had the chance of discovering a new culture and learning a new language. And at the end, I see myself with more knowledge, expertise and self-confident in both my personal and professional life.
During your research, what has been your biggest challenge? How have you solved it?
During my project at the Chair, I worked with a private company and some of their partners. Although I was very happy to be a part of this kind of project and perform an industrial PhD, there were moments that I needed to communicate my research to non-LCA people to be able to gather the data I needed. Because sometimes, very simple things for you can be very complicated for another person from totally different backgrounds. So, in these moments, I tried to keep calm and keep the things simple as much as possible and repeated the same information again and again. And of course, developing good relations also helps them to be more patient about your data request.
While you prepare yourself for the next chapter on your career, can you tell us about something you have learned at the Chair that may be particularly useful for your new position?
In my new position, I will be working almost in the same research area. Therefore, all the technical information I have learned will be useful for sure.
What three words would describe your PhD three-year journey?
Discipline, hard work and patience.
Reflecting on how you got here, what advice would you give to those thinking about embarking on a PhD?
I think doing a PhD is quite a challenging process. Therefore, one should have full concentration and be passionate about it. Because, for sure, there will be moments that one will feel very hopeless and tired of his/her work, and in those moments, it is important to be able to see the whole picture and focus on the final goal.
What do you think your postdoc position is going to be like?
I am very excited to continue my career as a postdoc in a new research group by working in different projects. I expect to work in an international team in two European Projects. I am looking forward to developing myself further through this experience.
What are your long-term plans and how do you aim to achieve those plans? Do you want to stay in academia or to join the industry?
I would like to develop my career as an LCA expert in an international organisation where I can collaborate with other experts. I see this postdoc opportunity as an important step to get closer to this goal. Finally, I can say that I am open to both being in academia or in industry, as long as I have my goal reached.