PhD Individual Sandwich Programme
I started my PhD programme in July 2015, as part of an EU Innovative Training Network called Euroleish, hosted at ITM. Having been a field humanitarian doctor working with Médécins sans Frontières for many years, the opportunity to come back to ITM (after having done my MPH there in 2010), to work along the best scientists in the field (in this case for leishmaniasis, a neglected disease) really excited me. I never really imagined myself to be an academic, but the PhD programme was designed to really enhance the skills and rigor to be an ‘independent researcher’, while also providing strong support network through mentors and cross-learning between different PhD projects. The PhD helped me to plan my research from A to Z, design the proposals, work with international partners, all essential components of a career in science.
I really appreciated the dedication of my PhD promoter (late Prof Marleen Boelaert), who was unrivaled in her commitment and kindness. What stood out for me during the years was the opportunity of networking and collaboration, within ITM departments and beyond. ITM annually organises various trainings for doctoral candidates and PhD days, which are great platforms to connect and help to not feel alone in your PhD journey!
I defended in 2019 in University of Barcelona, and never regret the hardship of that four years. Having done a PhD has enabled me to widen my horizon and possibilities in my career – which is a real advantage in the increasingly complex landscape of global health. With the PhD degree and after some post-doctoral experience, I feel well-equipped to tackle challenges and do my job as Operational Research Advisor at MSF with confidence and grace, thanks to ITM!
ITM’s mission to “promote the advancement of science and health for all” provides the perfect opportunity for me to combine my love of scientific research with my passion for (tropical) infectious diseases.
Before coming to Belgium, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar where my time in local clinics and hospitals shaped my perspective on global health and inspired me to continue my career in malaria research. After completing my master’s thesis research at ITM in the Malariology Unit, I knew this was also where I wanted to pursue my PhD.
ITM provides a unique setting to do doctoral research because it encompasses a travel clinic, academic studies, and scientific research all as integral parts of the same institute – something I have yet to find elsewhere during my 7 years living abroad. This ideal combination allows for high-quality, innovative research and extensive and meaningful international partnerships without losing sight of the importance of our goal to better the health and lives of those communities most-affected by tropical diseases.
Over the past few years, ITM has provided me field research opportunities, grown my scientific network, and shaped me in ways I never dreamed possible. By the end of my PhD at ITM, I know that the connections I have made, the mentoring I have received, and skills that I have learned, will have prepared me to succeed in a scientific career, whether that is in Belgium or around the world.
Nguyen Thi Thuy Man
I studied the Master of Science in Tropical Animal Health course at ITM from 2014-2015 which was supported by a DGD Scholarship. What has influenced my decision to choose ITM for my studies? I had senior colleagues at the National Institute for Veterinary Research (NIVR) who had done their PhD at ITM, and I saw how happy they were to study at ITM and how successful researchers they became at NIVR later.
I really liked the teaching style of the professors who gave us the lectures, including theory and practice. I got strong support from supervisor, Pierre Dorny, and felt that the working environment at ITM has always been very encouraging to the students.
I have worked at the National Center for Veterinary Diagnosis, Department of Animal Health, Vietnam since 2008, where I acquired good team working and team leading skills. Throughout my PhD studies at ITM (I obtained my degree in 2022), I had the opportunity to put my epidemiological skills to practice and to further improve them. I worked on pig-transmitted Taenia spp. tapeworms in Vietnam, their epidemiology and risks to the human population. In Vietnam, pork is the most commonly consumed meat, and appropriate implementation of regulations to ensure safe meat is often lacking. I really liked the format of the sandwich PhD because I could combine field work in Vietnam with lab work at ITM, although I had to carry out some of the lab work in Vietnam due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing travel restrictions. I had a truly amazing life in ITM: I had the chance to participate in cultural events, in the New Year’s party of ITM, and I made many new friends.
I believe that the knowledge and experience I acquired during my studies will help me a lot in my future. I hope to work in projects using the One Health approach and on food safety which is not only important in Vietnam but also in the world.