My Understanding of the Doctorate

Xinhui outside Tsinghua University
Xinhui outside Tsinghua University

Before I start this blog, I would like to thank the “SIMPPER_MedDev – H2020-MSCA-ITN-2020” project for giving me this valuable opportunity to pursue my PhD and to meet a great group of scientific researchers!

Back in 2018, after I failed to apply for a PhD at Tsinghua University, I began to reflect on my shortcomings and was determined to pursue a PhD; as the Chinese proverb says, “Where you fall, you rise.” So to be able to re-enter the path of a PhD is not only a path of study for me but also a path of finding myself and pursuing my dreams.

My postgraduate studies were at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, where the research for my master was focused on IC semiconductor-based micro and nano measurements. In contrast, my PhD research direction is Micro-scale structure manufacture and 3D bioprinting based on DLP technology. There is still a giant leap in research direction for postgraduate students compared to PhD, but I feel very excited. It means that I can design and assemble custom precision instruments. Before that, I had built two sets of equipment, and as a mechanical student, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the equipment you designed working correctly. Although I need to learn and familiarise myself with many areas that I had not been exposed to before, is that not the beauty of the PhD? I started reading reviews on DLP 3D printing like crazy, checking patents and learning about the companies involved. It seems very difficult to start now, but which is easier? from undergraduate to postgraduate, to apply for ITN programs? Is not a PhD about pushing yourself and challenging the impossible?

So far, I have completed the first year of my PhD, and this year I have learned a lot, slowly starting to understand research, and most importantly, I have begun to try to understand myself and communicate with myself. Everyone has different reasons and motivations for choosing to do a PhD. For me, doing a PhD does not mean going to a university, a company, or just being exposed to research. Doing a PhD means challenging myself to realise my values. In high school, my grade was always at the bottom of my class and at that time, I had no plans or expectations for the future; in other words, I did not have a clear goal. My parents, relatives and friends around me, including myself, have accepted this mediocre me.

Why did I become the way I am now? I wanted to get out of this role when I went to university and tell myself that I could. So, studying became the only path I could choose at that time. Even though it may seem like an impossible task, I became the top student in our mechanical engineering course, and for three years in a row, I was number one. I do not think learning has only changed my grades and rank, as it has made me realise that I can do things I did not know were possible. I love the feeling of challenging myself because constantly challenging myself keeps breaking my perception of myself and refreshing this new height one after another.

When I started doing my PhD research in this direction, my supervisor Dr Nan told me that it would be difficult, that I would encounter a lot of problems and that I would need to face them alone a lot of the time. I laughed at the time and said to Dr Nan that this is what I was looking forward to, is not that what a PhD is worth? So, I want to say that first, studying for a PhD was an important choice I made for myself, not fundamentally to get a job but to allow me to break through to myself. Finally, thanks to the support of the ITN project, I have had access to such cutting-edge topics and met a group of highly ambitious people!

Xinhui
Xinhui Wang