Careerpath - PhD candidate

Koen van de Ven

Koen van de Ven

Job title: PhD candidate
Company: Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)
Highest level of education: MSc. in Biomedical Sciences

The Dutch Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM in Dutch) is an independent agency of the Dutch government that aims to promote public health and consumer safety. As a PhD candidate my main responsibility is establishing and further developing my own project, which should lead to the publication of multiple papers within four years.
What I like most about my work is the freedom and responsibility for scheduling and performing your own work. As a PhD candidate you have a large say about the direction of your project and after a year you really know more about your subject than anybody else.
I have found out that the “perfect” scientists does not exist. I have many fellow PhD candidates at my department and we all have very different personalities and skills. However, two of the traits that I find important for PhD candidates are perseverance - because not all experiments work out - and responsibility, because you determine the direction of your project.

How did you encounter this job?
I saw an advertisement for this position on a job board.

Can you tell a little bit about the application process you went through?
It started by sending my CV and a motivation letter. When I passed this round, I was invited for a meeting which included the actual job interview and a tour of the labs. Approximately one week later I was officially offered the position.

What was challenging for you when you started in this position?
When I started I kind of felt lost in all the literature that is out there. Besides that, everybody around you seems so knowledgeable about science. It took me a while before I really felt like I had mastered my own project.

What are your tips for wannabe PhD candidates?
Find a lab that suits you and your ambitions, internships are perfect for this. If you want to achieve a Nature publication by the end of your PhD, find a lab that matches that ambition. Whichever lab you choose, the most important aspect is that you and your daily supervisor are a good match. He or she will be the person with whom you primarily discuss your project and experiment. In my opinion, the interaction between a PhD candidate and his/her co-promotor can make or break a project.


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