🌍 Oh, the places you’ll go! ✈️

anonymous tourists showing us passports on street on sunny day

Outside of science, one of my passions is to travel and experience new places, cultures, and food. While it may not seem that a career in the sciences or signing yourself up for more school by pursuing a PhD would allow the time or means to explore this interest, I have found that my scientific career has led to many opportunities to travel that I may not have had otherwise. So let me tell you about a few of the ways I have been able to travel within my PhD.

One of the most obvious ways to travel throughout your PhD is to attend conferences or workshops that allow you to enhance your professional development and scientific knowledge, but also give you the opportunity to explore new places. Attending scientific conferences and workshops in different cities or countries can be a catalyst for networking and collaboration. These events bring together researchers, scientists, and scholars from around the globe, creating an environment conducive to knowledge exchange and fostering professional connections. Conference travel has taken me from places like Washington, D.C all the way to Lausanne, Switzerland. One of my favorite conferences took me to Parma, Italy! This conference was very specialized for my field of study and allowed many chances to network with companies pursuing similar lines of work, present my research during the week, and receive some of the best feedback on my project. Outside of the conference, I could explore the city, take in the wonderful sites, and fill up on pasta topped with Parmesan cheese from the source! This was the perfect blend of professional development and personal interest. While not every conference takes place in remote, idyllic places, there are plenty of amazing conference opportunities that can also align with your travel interests.

Another way I was able to travel during my PhD was through a collaboration with two labs in Rome, Italy. Through this project, I traveled to and worked in Rome for three months, learning new skills and working on a really cool project. This opportunity was packed with new experiences. Outside of the progress I made on the project, the best takeaways from this opportunity were experiencing a new mentorship style from the PIs there (and further understanding what I would look for in future employers!), making friends in a different country despite language barriers, and fully immersing myself in a new lab culture. The sights I saw and the excursions I went on were unbelievable and without this collaboration, may not have been possible.

While these are the experiences I had during my PhD, there are many other ways for you to get out and see the world. Two other examples that I want to highlight are looking at international PhD programs and post-doctoral positions in cities that you want to experience long-term. I have seen many peers thrive in these types of environments and it may be the best way for you to combine your passions for science and travel.

One big question in all of this is, “How do I pay for it?” My experiences were funded through my research grant, since most grants allot funds for travel related to the research project. Additionally, many PhD programs and research institutions offer funding opportunities for students to present their research at conferences or conduct fieldwork abroad. Take advantage of these resources by exploring grants, scholarships, or fellowships specifically tailored for travel-related expenses. Keep an eye out for departmental or institutional travel grants that can support your scientific and personal exploration.

Sometimes a science career can become overwhelming or monotonous, but having the opportunity to travel within your career, often on someone else’s dime, can re-spark your passion for science, like it did for me. It’s crucial to strike a balance between academic commitments and personal growth. Visiting new places, immersing yourself in different cultures, and experiencing diverse perspectives can broaden your horizons and enhance your understanding of the world. Exploring scientific conferences, research facilities, and collaborating with experts from different regions can provide fresh insights and open doors to new research avenues. So, get out there and enhance your scientific knowledge while seeing the world!

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