MSc, Paris, PhD

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With some exceptions, 2018 was a hell of a year.

The year was going just fine in my academic and professional life. I had obtained some nice results for my masters and managed to get very interesting advancements at work. In parallel, at the beginning of the year, I had applied to a PhD position, though I had little hope to be selected. Months passed due to the lengthy process, and I kept following what I had planned for the year. For a week in May, the institute funded all applicants that reached the last stage of the selection process to come to Paris for several interviews, among other activities. By this point, I was already happy, regardless of the result. The experience allowed me to open my eyes to several subjects that I today deem very important and it also gave me an opportunity to meet some amazing people. I’m sorry if I’m missing some country, my memory is not the best, but if I recall correctly there were people from the United States, Chile, Uruguay, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, China and Taiwan.

Most of the applicants that came to Paris in May, 2018.

In a turn of events, I get selected to the Marie Curie Fellowship (funding) to do this PhD in Paris at Institut Curie, affiliated with a doctoral school from Sorbonne Université. Great news, not only for my approval but also for the approval of all the Latin American applicants that reached the last stage (Uruguay and Chile). I was very emotional, indeed, but at the same time, my life turned upside down. I mean, it had to, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to go to Paris.

In few months, I managed to finish the main tasks I was deeply involved at work and then I quit my job, a place I had been involved with since the very beginning of my under graduation. Tough choice. At the same time, instead of 9 months to finish my masters, I had only 3 now. The position required that the applicant must have a master degree by September, 30. Quitting my job as soon as possible was imperative, otherwise it would be literally impossible to finish my masters, but at the same time it would not be fair to quit all of a sudden, letting all my duties unsolved. To be honest, even without working at a different place from the very beginning of this period, without the endless support of Rodrigo Dalmolin, my masters advisor, I would not have made it. He was indispensable in this journey, as Ricardo Valentim, the head of the laboratory where I worked. They both contributed enormously so that I could do these two missions in parallel. Besides, I had submitted an abstract to the 3rd North and Northeastern Symposium of Bioinformatics in Brazil. Surprisingly, I was informed by the scientific committee of the symposium that among all the submitted abstracts from graduate (master and PhD) students (~130, IIRC), mine was selected to, instead of a poster presentation, be presented in a full presentation at the end of the symposium. The best graduate work submitted to the conference would be awarded the Young Bioinformatician Award and a laptop. Second and third places would get other products (a kindle and then an external hard drive, if I’m not mistaken). Of all the things I had to do, this one extra thing popped up. The conference was very nice, with some practical courses and great networking, and it also enabled me to strengthen the friendship with some colleagues that I met during my masters. At the end, the surprise: I got the award and the [rosé, lol] laptop as the best work submitted to the conference. It was a very tough year in my personal life, and achieving these goals was not only good to me, but also for the dearest ones close to me. In a way, I was able to contribute with happiness and hope, for people that were surrounded by lack of both, but that were always cheering for me.

In short, I managed to obtain my Master of Science degree in time, along with all the documents and bureaucracies required to go to France. A few days later, I was in Paris. I was told to keep my expectations down, an advice that we should usually take and so I did. Nonetheless, it was even more surprising than I thought. So far, I have been here for two months and for what I can say, Institut Curie is a great place to work at. I won’t start talking about the benefits or how well we’re treated as scientists and other details, otherwise it’s gonna be an endless post. For now, I will sum up that it surpassed all my expectations. Maybe more in a future post 🙂

I say my goodbyes with the picture below, one of the rare moments in Paris where I am not eating cheese (like now, while writing this blog post). 

Very rare cheese-less meal of Marcel in Paris. Most of the time, there is cheese <3.