What is it like to pursue a PhD within MSCA?

Hello everyone,

After having been working in the FoodSmartphone project for over half a year, I have started to realize a couple of special characters to be within a MarieSkłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) PhD fellowship program.

Firstly, I would like to say that researching and learning how to do scientific research are common characters of a PhD journey. If we symbolize the entire knowledge of our mankind to date as a circle as shown in the image below, then what we are trying to do is to push very hard until a dent on the circle is created. In another word, we are working very hard to push the boundary of human knowledge forward. Yet we shall never forget that the dent we are going to create is just a small portion in the big picture. In the case of our FoodSmartphone project, I believe that the dent we are going to contribute is the smartphone and cloud services based biochemical sensing systems for on-site food analysis. And in the case of my individual project, I am trying to make a dent on smartphone-based optical system for food analysis. If creating a dent is the process that all PhD students will experience, what makes a MSCA project so unique is that it provides opportunities to work closely with amazing colleagues with different academic and culture backgrounds, which will help us to expand the size of the dents that we are going to create. Hopefully, in the end of our PhDs, we will leave our “dents” on the circle of human knowledge.



Another essential skill that we are learning during our PhDs is communication in a clear and understandable way. As Prof. Chris Elliott once tweeted, the quote “Science isn’t finished until it’s communicated” emphasizes the importance of communication in scientific research. Publication is one way of communication with the scientific community that almost all PhD students are expected to go through. However, the MSCA supported FoodSmartphone project provides unique opportunities to travel around, disseminate our projects and researches, and participate in tremendous amount of training activities. In this February, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to introduce the concept of our FoodSmartphone project and some of my research progress in the Food Integrity Workshop organized by IGFS at Queen’s University Belfast. Even though I was super nervous during the presentation, I had learnt a lot about food integrity background knowledge during the workshop and best practices of presenting such as body language and speaking speed in the Confident Communication Workshop afterwards. Thanks to these trainings, I can better present the projects and ideas now. As a result, when I introduced our research project and objectives, I had received maximized help, for instance, on borrowing lab equipment, from colleagues and even people that I had never met before.

Dissemination during the Food Integrity Workshop


During these two months, my wife and I have left our footprints in a couple of famous attraction spots in Northern Ireland including the Gobbins, the Glens of Antrim, the Dark Hedges, and Antrim. The splendid sceneries of Northern Ireland are nothing short of breath-taking, especially those coast views on the road up to the north. I have to admit that the sceneries impressed us are the ones among the best to date. And the travels relaxed me from the routine works in office, which brought me enough energy to move forward on daily jobs and researches.



I have also gotten a chance to visit Leister and Cambridge in England. The peaceful cities fulfilled with culture, history, and knowledge. While appreciating the Gothic architectures, I was absorbed by the amount of effort the ancestors had put into. Knowing University of Cambridge was founded by a group of people from University of Oxford stimulates my incentive of visiting the latter in the future. Through the windows of trains traveling across the land of England, there are huge and verdurous grass lands everywhere where sheep, goats, and horses are enjoying their lives on. On tables of local restaurants, delicate food not only tastes yummy but also looks gorgeous. The only regret that I had after visiting these two glorious cities was the lack of time on exploring more.



In the end, thank you for reading this blog and hope you all are doing well. My special thanks to Karen, who has been tremendously supportive during the past couple of months. Also, wish time could pass faster so that we would meet sooner in Prague this summer.

Best regards,


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