Every year, thousands of Indian applicants aspire to get a fully-funded PhD position abroad. Getting a PhD position with a full scholarship as an international student is always competitive. Moreover, when it comes to a PhD in the biological or biomedical sciences abroad, it’s even more competitive. In this post, Chintan Bhavsar, who got a fully-funded PhD position at the University of Queensland, one of the top-50 universities in the world, writes about his journey.
Fully-Funded PhD in Cancer Biology in Australia for Indian Applicant with Pharma Background
Q&A with Chintan Bhavsar
Tanmoy: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Chintan: I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Cancer Nanotherapeutics in Ovarian cancer at the University of Queensland.
In the past, I completed my Masters and Bachelors from Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati College of Pharmacy.
In my master dissertation, I have worked on the synthesis of metallic nanoparticles with a unique microstructure for stimuli triggered drug release in cancer, which was later granted funding by SERB.
The project is an extended collaboration with BARC and we hope to get it into a clinical setting to benefit the patients suffering from glioblastoma.
Tanmoy: What made you interested in Cancer Biology field?
Chintan: Cancer is a complex disease with a cocktail of cells apart from the tumour itself. The crosstalk to tumour with the stroma makes it an intriguing challenge to explore. The research in these dysregulated metabolic, signalling and immune crosstalk help gain insights into the cancer biology and help shape the future of cancer therapy. This complexity intrigued me to explore this ‘organ-in-organ’ concept via my Ph.D.
Tanmoy: How did you end up with the projects at BARC and BNCP? Could you please provide some info on those research projects?
Chintan: A passion for research is the rate-determining step in your success. I networked my way through the seminars and conferences and discussed my research ideas with the scientist with similar ideas. This led us to collaborate with BARC to extend the reach of our research. This later turned as a research training ground for me.
Simultaneously, with my masters’ advisor, we were successful in procuring industrial collaboration for the screening of potential anti-cancer agents provided by industry compounds for their potential anti-cancer therapy.
Tanmoy: Tell us about the University of Queensland and Brisbane city? How has been your experience after arriving in Australia?
Chintan: The University of Queensland (UQ) ranks among the top 50 universities over the world and has state of the art facilities right where you need them. Brisbane city is very welcoming with people willing to help you settle down. The climate is just apt, just as you find it in western India!
UQ is well connected with major suburbs via Bus, Ferry, and train services. The students are privileged for a concession when using public transport. Brisbane is the city that will not let you down!
Tanmoy: How did you start shortlisting countries/universities for PhD? How did you work on building your profile since PhD positions are very competitive?
I was keen on pursuing my Ph.D. in cancer with a project that aims to enter the clinical setting. I browsed through Mendeley, NatureJobs and a range of university website for potential Ph.D. positions. I emphasized on the projects and professors with a similar profile. I shortlisted the projects and professors I found interesting and later emailed them describing my research background and interest in pursuing Ph.D.
I think the best way to get through the inbox of the professor is to refer back to his/her profile, put forward your findings, and justify the skills that you will be adding to their lab. Because, a Ph.D. is all about teamwork, alongside building your research career!
Tanmoy: How was the application process? What were the challenges of finding a fully-funded PhD position as an international student?
The application process was quite simple and straightforward. The key thing here is to get all your documents ready before you begin to apply.
Speaking of securing a fully funded PhD position is quite challenging. You have to run through hundreds of profile of professors, read their papers, find a common ground to being a discussion and lastly, convenience them to fund you!
I guess it will be a lot easier for securing the position if you are published in a journal of international repute. And, finding the PhD position is an ongoing process, till the time you find what you were looking for.
Tanmoy: Do you think any particular advice from me help you with to get the PhD position?
Chintan: Your blog articles (on MBA Crystal Ball, Careerizma and Stoodnt) and email conversations were really helpful.
Since it was my first time; the visa process was really something that I was not experienced. I think that’s where you have assisted me most, which helped me breeze through my transition from India to Australia.
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Tanmoy: What made you apply to the University of Queensland?
Chintan: The primary driver for UQ was the project availability followed by the skills and learning that my project and supervisor will bring to my desk. I guess, if you are in love with your project and have a supportive supervisor, the college ranking is not a question anymore!
Tanmoy: Could you please also provide a little more details about your communication with your potential PhD supervisor? How did you find and approach her/him?
Chintan: I made sure that I email my potential supervisor at her convenience, which I had identified through a series of trailing mails with her. In my communication, I made sure to give all the details of my previous research experience and extrapolated my skills that would be an asset in her lab.
Tanmoy: What would be your advice to the prospective students looking for fully-funded PhD abroad?
The prospective candidates looking for a funded Ph.D. position should make sure to contact the potential supervisor before applying for the Ph.D. position. The Ph.D. admission is not the same as for masters. Here, the supervisor plays a major role in deciding on the candidate that fits his lab.
Thus, if you have contacted the supervisor and he/she agrees to train you for Ph.D., your application would be a lot easier. Having said that, that will not increase the chances of you securing the funded position, as it will still be a competitive one.
Tanmoy: What are your post-PhD goals? Have you got anything specific in mind?
Post Ph.D., I plan to continue as a Post-Doc in cancer research.
About Chintan Bhavsar: Chintan is a PhD student, currently working on exosomal biology in Cancer Progression at the University of Queensland. Chintan did his Bachelors in Pharmacy and later Masters in Pharmaceutics & Drug Design. You can connect with Chintan on LinkedIn.