By the end of 2023, the first ten EuroTechPostdoc2 fellows have finished their fellowship. In the 24-month period of their fellowship, they worked on their own research projects both at their host and co-host institutions, attended two bootcamps and followed additional courses linked to their Personal Career Development Plans.

In this interview, we look back at their fellowships with five of our fellows. Let’s first introduce them!

Anke van Oosterhout, TU/e
Photo: Bart van Overbeeke Fotografie

Anke van Oosterhout was the first ETPD2 fellow to start in August 2021, and therefore also the first to fully complete the programme. She worked on a project titled ‘Modelling Movement and Materiality through Modularity in Interaction Design’ at Eindhoven University of Technology.

Anke will continue her journey as an Assistant Professor in the Industrial Design department at TU/e. “This role presents a great opportunity for me to further my research in haptics and shape-change technology. Additionally, I am excited about the prospect of educating and inspiring students on the intricacies of actuation within interactive devices and systems”.

In November 2021, both Isidro Badillo-Ramirez (left) and Yafeng Wang started their projects at Technical University of Denmark, albeit in totally different fields. Yafeng worked on ‘Topology optimization of energy-efficient adaptive structures’, while Isidro’s project was about ‘Point-of-need sensing platform for therapeutic drug monitoring of antiepileptic drugs with integrated sample pretreatment’.

In the last six months of the fellowship, Yafeng received an offer to become an assistant professor at Zhejiang University, ranked among the top three universities in China (QS ranking 42), where he is currently employed in the College of Civil Engineering and Architecture. Isidro will continue his career as a postdoctoral researcher in the same host research group at DTU. “I will bring to a more applied level some of the key milestones involved during my ETPD2 project. This will help me to advance the technological development of medical devices to a more tangible application for end users and with benefits to society“.

In October 2021, Rima Zein Eddine started her research project at École Polytechnique, working on ‘DNA repair and resistance evolution in Mycobacterium tuberculosis’. Thanks to a call for extension within the ETPD2 programme, Rima had the opportunity to extend her project for an extra 3 months.

Rima obtained significant results during the fellowship and has received further funding to continue working on the same project. “The programme has allowed me to obtain another fellowship for two additional years funded by the French government. Later I would like to apply for the ERC starting grant, I hope that the expertise and results obtained during these years of postdocs will allow me to obtain this grant.”

Morteza Kafshgari started his fellowship at Technical University Munich on 1 January 2022. His project was titled ‘Site-Specific Gene Editing with Biomimetic Cell-Membrane Nanovesicles Fabricated in a Microfluidic System’.

Upon concluding the fellowship, Morteza plans to return to Canada and continue his academic research there.

EuroTechPostdoc2 fellows have the freedom to develop their own – multidisciplinary – research project

An important aspect of the EurotechPostdoc2 programme is that we give fellows the opportunity to develop their own research projects. The fellows recognize this as one of the things they liked best about their ETPD2 fellowships.

Anke: “What I cherished most about the ETPD2 fellowship was the chance it offered to advance my personal research interests and skills to develop my academic profile, which is not always self-evident during the postdoctoral stage in academia”. Rima agrees: “I have learned a lot over the past two years of the fellowship, but the first thing that comes to mind is that I have learned how to build my own research project. This was my first postdoctoral experience where I gained insight into the practical application of leadership concepts and how to approach real-world research problems. Building my project has been a challenge and it is easy to get discouraged when faced with obstacles. I learned that perseverance is essential to overcoming challenges and achieving my research goal. By breaking the project down into smaller, achievable tasks and focusing on the end goal, I was able to overcome obstacles and achieve the objectives of this project”. Yafeng adds: “Applying for the ETPD2 fellowship prompted me to conceive a completely new project that integrated my prior research background with that of my Host supervisor. Successfully securing the fellowship allowed me to delve into a novel research topic, acquire cutting-edge technology and research skills, and broaden my research horizons. This experience provided fresh perspectives on my research and encouraged a more expansive view of my future research career”. Morteza states: “I like the integrative nature of the ETPD2 fellowship, particularly the emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and the opportunity to engage with cutting-edge technologies. The fellowship’s commitment to fostering an innovative research environment provides a platform for professional growth”. Anke continues: “The fellowship also actively encouraged new collaborations, which opened doors to interdisciplinary work, increasingly vital as various fields become more intertwined. This is immensely beneficial as I progress in my academic career, especially in my research domain that is becoming more interdisciplinary“. Morteza summarizes: “The ETPD2 fellowship has played a pivotal role in shaping my independent career”.

At European top universities

The EuroTechPostdoc2 fellows perform their research at one of the EuroTech Universities, all leading European universities of science and technology which join forces to build a strong, sustainable, sovereign, and resilient Europe.

Isidro starts: “I really liked the opportunity to be involved in a very dynamic, multidisciplinary, and multicultural research group at my host university, where I had the chance to learn and exchange fascinating ideas, make great colleagues, get inspiration and support to achieve my academic postdoc goals”. As Yafeng adds: “The fellowship provided a fantastic opportunity to work in top-tier labs and collaborate with leading researchers in my field. Collaborating with my supervisor and other leading researchers enhanced my scientific research thinking, guiding me on what constitutes good research and how to excel as a researcher. Securing a job opportunity of this calibre (the assistant professor position at Zhejiang University) would have been exceptionally challenging without the fellowship”. Anke adds: “I was fortunate to collaborate with an exceptional group of researchers at both the host (TU/e) and co-host (EPFL) universities, who played a pivotal role in enabling me to seize the opportunities offered in this programme effectively”.

In collaboration with other EuroTech Universities (and beyond)

Besides working at their host university, fellows have an active collaboration with their co-host institution, one of the other EuroTech Universities.

Anke starts: “What I truly value is the experience I gained while working on diverse projects and collaborating with fellow researchers. These projects and collaborations have been instrumental in broadening my skill set and deepening my knowledge, crucial for my growth as an academic researcher in my field”. Isidro adds: “I also liked the opportunity to perform my researching with cutting-edge techniques and lab facilities at the host and co-host institutions. It was also really exciting having the opportunity to be physically in the co-host intuition to expand the vision of my project, getting fresh input and growing my networking”. Rima agrees: “The programme allowed me to establish different collaborations in two countries in different research areas. I am very grateful to my supervisors and collaborators in France and Denmark for all their help. Without their scientific input and discussions over the past two years, I would not have developed this research idea and this particular way of proposing it”. Yafeng continues: “Throughout the fellowship, I collaborated with leading researchers on cutting-edge topics, achieving notable results, such as publishing articles in top-tier journals and presenting at international academic conferences. These accomplishments significantly elevated my visibility in the field. The research outcomes and the invaluable experience gained through international collaborations have made me more competitive in job applications, ultimately leading to the offer for my current position”. Morteza adds: “The ETPD2 fellowship has played a pivotal role in shaping my independent career. It has provided me with opportunities for networking with experts in the field”.

Not just the research collaboration, but also the networking opportunities were valuable to our fellows.

As Anke says: “The fellowship furthermore afforded me the invaluable chance to build an academic network. This was achieved through collaborative endeavours with a talented team of researchers from the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at my co-host university, EPFL, and taking part in two enriching and enjoyable bootcamps with a remarkable group of postdocs participating in the ETPD2 programme”. Rima states: “The fellowship also allowed my name to spread among researchers in my field, which opened the way to numerous scientific collaborations and numerous recruitment opportunities. So we can say that this research project/fellowship has boosted my goals in every possible way”. Isidro summarizes: “The fellowship was also an excellent platform for networking and to establish research collaborations with several groups within and outside academia”.

While receiving training

The fellows followed a unique training programme in the form of the EuroTech Postdoc Academy, including two ‘bootcamps’ (workshops focusing on soft-skill training, strengthening the fellows’ network and preparation ahead of their careers).

Isidro tells: “The contribution of the ETPD2 fellowship was wide positive in several aspects from academic to personal development. The fellowship brought me new and advanced research skills that will definitely have a positive effect to boost the growing on my next academic level”. Rima continues: “I loved the different bootcamps/training sessions, it was a wonderful experience where the programme managers surrounded us with all the necessary support and training sessions. We were truly surrounded by attention at all levels. I enjoyed the different tasks required by the programme such as making videos to explain our research, I would never have thought of making a video to explain my research, and this tends to be a good opportunity”. Morteza adds: “The bootcamp was an enlightening experience, bringing me into contact with numerous creative and intelligent colleagues. It proved to be highly beneficial, particularly in terms of developing essential soft skills”. Anke: “I am grateful to the people who made the ETPD2 programme possible and the effort that they have invested in organising two memorable bootcamps. These events facilitated opportunities to meet fellow participants in the ETPD2 programme and provided insightful workshops. The diversity among the group of fellows, spanning various disciplines and research interests, offered a unique window into the varied methodologies and perspectives different researchers and faculties employ to tackle research challenges”. Rima continues: “It allowed me to acquire many skills at different levels. This skills pool paid off as I wrote another research proposal and got funding for two more years, so this fellowship allowed me to secure another research position“.

But also the other trainings were of added value.

As Anke states: “The fellowship offered me opportunities to enrol in additional training and courses, which were instrumental in improving my presentation skills. Furthermore, it facilitated the development of my academic profile and personal research direction. These experiences contributed to my development as academic researcher and played a pivotal role in obtaining my position as an Assistant Professor at the Industrial Design department”. Isidro adds: “These were two intense but exciting years full of learnings and experiences. I had the opportunity to be involved in the entrepreneurship process of migrating the technological development of my project, from the lab to the market, with a close benefit to the society. This was a rich experience where I got several skills through seminars, workshops and meeting visionary minds. This programme helped me to expand my vision for a wide range of applications where my research profile could fit to make a positive impact to the society”.

Are there some final notes to conclude?

Rima starts: “It was a great experience/opportunity overall. Above all, it allowed me to restart my career as a researcher. This research project also allowed me to publish again, which is very important in our field, in order to obtain a permanent research position“. Anke continues: “As previously expressed, I deeply value the independence and opportunities offered by the ETPD2 programme”. Morteza: “I acquired the skill of being fully independent, establishing numerous collaborations, and yielding scientific outcomes”. Yafeng adds: “I am confident that the knowledge gained during this two-year experience will profoundly impact my future career and life”. Isidro: “I am really grateful for this programme and for providing several opportunities for researching in leading technical universities in Europe“. As Rima concludes: “I am extremely proud and happy to be a Marie Curie fellow. These two years have been full of successes at different levels. I would like to thank the European Commission for funding the ETPD2 programme. I am incredibly grateful to all the programme organisers/leaders as they have allowed me to share key elements of my research journey on numerous occasions and have encouraged and supported me over the past two years”.

Four of the other fellows who have completed their fellowship will continue their careers in research. Besides the ten fellows who completely finished their fellowships, another ten fellows resigned the programme before the end of their fellowships, since the next step in their career came on their paths earlier: 4 fellows resigned from the EuroTechPostdoc2 programme to continue their journeys in industry, while 6 fellows got a tenure track/permanent position in academia.