In the modern age it is quite common to come across people with mental disease. Or, at least this is how the society define them. Indeed we need to label (or maybe we should use “to tag” since we are in the era of the social network!) the others, we need to find a “name” which can allow us to distinguish between ourselves and the rest of the world. However, although I am not a huge fan of the current society, this behavior is something peculiar of the human beings, it has been always like that and it will always be. So, this is not a criticism of the modern society, the aim of these words appearing on this text is to try to come a bit closer to people we judge completely different from us, a way to reduce the gap between “us” and who we classify as unstable, precarious, which sometimes turn into freak!

Most of us attended a meeting, workshop, conference or an event that brings people together. Yet only few get to look behind the scenes of event organization. A few months ago I had exactly that possibility when I have been organizing an event for the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) at the University of Bristol, UK. My expectations and the result were different and surprised me in many ways. One thing is sure, it was a great experience and a lesson to learn.

Next week I will travel from Antwerp to Girona for the training course and meeting that we have within the project two times per year. Today, the majority of people would without thinking opt for the plane for such a trip. Cheap flight tickets have made Europe within reach for city weekends, one-day business meetings, and escalating emissions of greenhouse gases.

Narrow streets, fascinating churches, medieval walls, cheap-but-at-the-same-time-tasty food, a river with lovely bridges, independentist flags in almost every balcony, the sea very close and high mountains nearby as well… To me, it seems the right mixture of ingredients to be used as a set of the last Season of the TV series “Games of Thrones”.

Writing! That thing nobody told you was 50% to 80% of your time in academia. And seriously, somebody should have. Especially in Spain, where there is this terrible habit of classifying career paths into “letters” or “sciences” (aka “numbers”). No matter what you choose, in the end, writing skills are amongst the most important abilities in a scientist arsenal - yes, arsenal, because academia is like war in way too many senses.

A model is a representation of a system using concepts, equations or rules. Almost everything can be modeled today: the revenue and growth of a company, the flight performance of a new aircraft wing, the air pollution and, of course, the amount of pharmaceuticals present in our rivers. You can need them to simulate scenarios (what if….?), forecast the future or extrapolate information. Moreover, when you need to make a decision (a difficult one) you may also need a model to compare the benefits and drawbacks of one alternative decision against another. For my research, a model will be especially useful to compare different strategies to reduce the level of pharmaceuticals in rivers. Who else needs a model to make a decision?

Three papers in three years, and at least one of them in a first quartile journal. That’s what me and my fellows are supposed to produce in return for being well-funded and pampered during the course of our PhD. However, publications are not only the way out of the doctorate, but are the measurement of scientific success today. In fact not only individual scientists, but also institutions, journals and of course papers are ranked according to their importance, partly reflecting the scientific community’s struggle to handle the ever increasing numbers of researchers and published papers [1]. For the rookie all these metrics can be confusing, so, here comes, as much for my colleagues in the project as for myself: an attempt to a guide to the most common ones.

My PhD project is spread across three countries and four institutions which often requires me to pack my livelihood into two bags and move to another place. And guess what, it makes my life an exciting experience. Life on the move is not romantically peachy, but it is one that right now I choose not to trade. The many moves changed me and shaped me to become, I choose to believe, a better person. Taking my stuff and planting it somewhere new is not always easy, however I will try to convince you that it is very much to consider.

If you are in Belgium, sitting in a pub, most likely you are holding a “beer menu” in your hands and you are reading very carefully all the different types of beer you can taste. If the pub is a good one, this choice may be very difficult. There are indeed plenty of beers covering a wide range of characteristics, you can have the sweet one, called Kriek, opting for something more sour, meaning a Lambic or a Gueuze, or choosing for the “big classic”, one of the thousand abbey/trappist beers. So, there is an entire world behind the “cold” statement : “Belgium is famous for beers!”… Actually an abbey beer is different from a trappist one, so in order to not underestimate the real value of this typical local product, we should all attend a course. And a single course, would never be enough.