Ready, set, go! The start of ‘Mission becoming a Doctor’
6 February 2017 - By Marthe Möller, PhD candidate Entertainment Communication: 'One could think that, for a geek, the transition from being a Master’s student to being a PhD student is not that big - both involve performing statistical analyses.'
Sometimes I can be a bit of a geek. For instance, when faced with a challenge, I like to give it a geeky name. When I was working on my Master’s thesis, I named this ‘Mission becoming a Master (of Science)’. When I started the application process to become a PhD student, and people told me that getting a position is very difficult, I called this ‘Mission Impossible’. One could think that, for a geek, the transition from being a Master’s student to being a PhD student is not that big - both involve performing statistical analyses. But actually, there are some differences when it comes to day-to-day life.
To start with, there are the small differences (both positive and negative) between being a PhD student and being a Master's student. On the positive side: As a PhD student you get to go to the many lectures that ASCoR organizes for researchers. You can attend any lecture for free. Even better, sometimes lunch is provided! On the negative side: You forfeit all your rights to student discounts because instead of a ‘collegekaart’ (student card), you now have an employee’s card. Then again, this card provides you with free coffee from all the UvA coffee machines. To cite the Dutch football legend Johan Cruijff: ‘elk nadeel heb z’n voordeel’ (every disadvantage has its advantage) - or was it the other way around?
But the biggest difference of all, I discovered on my very first day as a PhD student. During the Master’s programme, the teachers tell you exactly what you should do. So, I expected the same to happen now. Instead, at my first PhD meeting, my supervisors looked at me and said “So. What do you want to do?”. I stammered something about ‘research’ and left the room confused about what I had to do now. By then, I had learned that as a PhD student, I am in charge of my own project. I get to create ideas about what to investigate and how to do that. The initiative comes from me. This has two consequences. First, I like communication science even more than I already did because I get to focus on the specific topics that I like best. Second, it makes me develop a new skill: I am learning how to conduct, perform and write down a research project all from scratch.
To some extent, this difference creates a feeling of being lost. As everything is up to me, where do I start? But during difficult Master’s courses I sometimes also felt like this and that brings me to another similarity. I still like challenges and giving them geeky names. So, when I closed the door after my first PhD meeting, I knew that ‘Mission becoming a Doctor’ had now begun!
Marthe Möller (25) is a PhD candidate in Entertainment Communication at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), examining the effects of user comments on young people’s entertainment experiences. She graduated from the Research Master's programme in 2016.