Professional Futures: Internationalising your PhD, 18th January 2017

Charles Laing is a Research Scientist at DLR – the German Aerospace Centre. He specialises in space physiology, cardiovascular physiology and spaceflight countermeasures. He undertook his PhD in Space Medicine at King’s College London and began working internationally in 2012. Charles will provide his insights into working internationally and about how his research is understood and valued in different contexts.

Charlie spoke about:

  • The different work cultures in the UK and Germany. In Germany everyone is very business focussed and will expect quick, clear and definite responses to issues. Saying you think you can deliver on a project will make your German colleagues wonder if you can, whereas in the UK this would be a clear commitment to doing so.
  • Finding international opportunities to continue your research can be done through networking, placements and conferences. Charlie was on placement in Germany as part of his M.A. and this helped him create the necessary links.
  • The approach to research at DLR (the German aerospace agency) is very different to pure academic research on a PhD, being much more like a regular job with fixed hours and projects.
  • DLR is huge – over 7000 people on one campus – but has very little profile in the UK. Charlie recommended researching organisations in your field as you might be surprised at the level of activity and opportunity.
  • Having publications helped Charlie secure his role in Germany as these are compulsory in the German research system to gain a research job.
  • A PhD is much more respected in Germany than in the UK. Germany can also be much more formal – it’s unusual to address a Professor by first name until you are well acquainted.
  • The chance to gain skills beyond research – Charlie said he learned a great deal about budgeting and budget management that he wouldn’t have had in an academic lab in the UK.
  • The chance to learn the perspectives of other cultures as well (in his case) learn German from scratch.
  • Funding systems for research can be very different abroad and are worth researching.
  • Research in Germany is growing rapidly, thanks to their government investment and there should be many opportunities available for those who are suitably qualified.