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Being a PhD Fellow

Being a PhD Fellow

We have asked our PhD students what it’s like to be a PhD student at CNAP. Here are some of their answers:

Mauricio carlos henrich, fresco@cnap phd fellow from argentina

At CNAP, there are many PhD fellows, postdocs and professors with diverse backgrounds. Usually you have the opportunity to discuss your ideas with a group of scientists with expertise in robotics, engineering, and medical sciences. The outcome of this process is a rich approach to scientific problems in which you probably will get innovative ideas to further improve your research. I consider this a key feature of this Centre of Excellence.

Another important thing about being a FRESCO@CNAP PhD fellow at CNAP is that the center has connections with many laboratories around the world. Working with inspiring researchers at CNAP and at the same time collaborating with another lab for some months is essential to understanding that a problem could be addressed in different ways and with different resources.

The academic community at CNAP is highly multicultural. I have become part of a big international network and I consider this an essential factor for my development as an international researcher. I found it particularly interesting how different people from different countries and cultures can build a strong relationship based on trust and respect. Here in Aalborg, I always find myself talking and sharing with people from cultures very different from mine. I believe that these experiences enrich my life, showing me the value of respect and the strengths of diversity.

Besides, I love outdoor activities and I was surprised when I discovered all the things I can do in Aalborg during the winter. I enjoy a lot to walk around the city, taking pictures of amazing landscapes rendered by a little bit of snow, having a cup of hot chocolate in my house or going for beers with my family and friends.

Megan McPhee, PhD fellow from Australia

If you want to become a PhD that is self-motivated to work both independently and collaboratively, that has broad knowledge in pain neuroscience and well-developed critical thinking skills, and has a strong international profile and professional network within pain research, then CNAP is the place for you. If you also want to develop healthy working habits, a supportive personal and social network, learn a new language, and live in a vibrant yet safe and cozy little city (where it occasionally snows!) then Aalborg is the place to be.

The best thing about working at CNAP is that there is a strong sense of community, which can be difficult to find elsewhere in the world. You always feel welcome here and there is always someone around to ask questions or collaborate with if help is needed – but you also have the freedom (or responsibility) to drive your own research project and work independently under expert guidance. There are also many educational opportunities, so instead of just becoming an expert in the narrow field of your own PhD project, working at CNAP gives you broad knowledge across the pain and neuroscience research fields, and exposes you to many different research topics and methods.

Aalborg is a great place to live – the city is small enough to be safe, friendly and easy to get around by bike, but large enough to have lots of sporting and cultural events, concerts, classes and activities happening too. Generally in Denmark, PhD fellows and researchers are very well taken care of and, despite the long hours a PhD requires, there is still a good sense of work-life balance.

Dennis Boye Larsen, PhD fellow from Denmark

Our team at CNAP consists of people from a wide variety of different professions spanning from medical doctors, physiotherapists, to engineers and people with specialty in translational medicine. As such, we are able to offer insights on many different levels of pain, chronic pain populations, clinical experience, and novel approaches to the questions that remain to be answered. We are all friendly, helpful people and we work towards a common goal of understanding pain neuroplasticity. Our team understands that this is best achieved by sharing knowledge, helping each other, and through constructive criticism, to help each other develop skills that are necessary in the field of research.

CNAP offers a large diversity of different professions that all work under the same basic premise of understanding pain and its effects on neuroplasticity (and vice versa). How can we target and effectively modulate the maladaptive properties of pain, injuries, and other types of traumatic events that occur to a large amount of people worldwide? If we can push the knowledge we have on pain and neuroplasticity, it is possible that we in the future can enhance pain management and rehabilitation efforts. Starting at the basics, CNAP is working to improve our understanding of the central and peripheral nervous system, and how novel techniques (for instance targeted brain stimulation, novel pain models that allow us to mimic more ‘chronic’ pain conditions, and more) may be the way forward, to reverse pain-induced changes that may underlie the transition from acute-to-chronic pain.

Denmark and specifically Aalborg is a great place to live, given its many different opportunities, both professionally and personally. Given Aalborg’s focus on being an international welcoming city, there is something for everyone. The weather is not always the best, but something you learn to live with. Being a PhD fellow in Aalborg allows you to have the opportunity to work with internationally recognized researchers within the field of pain, neuroplasticity, training, and rehabilitative-focused research.