Please tell us about yourself

 Dheeraj shares his experience of studying for his PhD in Ireland with University College Dublin and Teagasc – from why he chose Ireland as a destination to advice on applying for fully funded research and  scholarships…

It’s been four years since I first arrived in Ireland; however the memory is so fresh that it seems like it was just yesterday when my supervisor welcomed me to Ireland in the arrivals hall of Dublin airport. As a student ambassador, I’ll be sharing my experiences at University College Dublin and with Teagasc in Carlow (the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority) while giving you an insight into life as a study abroad student.

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What do you do?

Iam working as a molecular plant pathologist at TeaGasc, Ireland assessing the disease resistance enhanced due to mutations in BRI1 in barley lines viz., Akashinriki Uzu and Bowman Uzu compared to their parental lines Akashinriki and Bowman under Irish agronomic conditions.

I have a strong background in Plant tissue culture and transformation, I am interested in the development of new methods for the successful plant regeneration and transformation of crops and their elite genotypes. I have been working on projects that involve optimization of the methods for plant regeneration and transformation of different genotypes of barley, potato and oil-seed rape crops. It has always amazed me that how different genotypes of same species respond differently to same regeneration and transformation process. Thus, I would like to elucidate the molecular basis of such variations.

So, why Ireland? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

I did my BSc in Agriculture from Junagadh Agricultural University, India and master’s from University of East Anglia in the field of Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement.

While pursuing my masters in he UK, I started looking for a PhD in the field of genetic engineering and discovered that this was offered in Ireland with full funding at UCD. Pursuing my PhD with UCD Ireland made a lot of sense. Firstly, Ireland is one of the only two English-speaking countries in Europe and moreover, it’s one of the friendliest and safest countries in the world. Lying at the very western edge of Europe with its stunning landscapes, heart-stealing views, amazing countryside and unexpectedly generous people; Ireland became a destination to invest my time in. I never missed India as much as I would have, if I was in some other country. There are so many similarities that I see a developed India in Ireland; even the Indian flag has similar colours to the Irish flag with a chakra in the centre, and there have many links and close bonds developed between India and Ireland over the years.

How was the experience working at Teagasc (the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority)?

It was an honour to receive full four-year funding for my PhD in Ireland under the Teagasc Walsh-Fellowships Programme and this support has allowed me live off-campus in Carlow (a small and beautiful town for a peaceful life with just enough spice!). The PhD itself is a commitment and requires a lot of patience. It’s more like being pregnant for four long years and the baby is born when the thesis is delivered. Nonetheless, the end is worthy enough…you change the title to Doctor.

Choosing off-campus research centre for my PhD study is a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore more, collaborate more and manage more. I have the chance to live in Carlow or Dublin, work in both labs UCD or Teagasc, enjoy life as a researcher in academia or non-academia, and manage both supervisors at UCD and Teagasc. I am a bridge between UCD and Teagasc. I have the privilege to demonstrate at UCD for undergraduate labs, which not only helped earning a few bucks but also adds teaching experience to my CV. Also, I get time to hit the gym at UCD’s world class sport facilities – always a bonus.

University College Dublin: Ireland’s global university, UCD is the largest campus in Ireland and one of the top universities in the world. The research at UCD is top-notch and the new science district is an example of extraordinary facilities and state-of-art laboratories. My supervisors are internationally renowned for their work to improve crop production.

My school provides courses on improving scientific and communication skills, and personality development. These courses formulate a better people and an outstanding scientists. The commute from Carlow to UCD is quite handy with direct bus and trains running all day long. A student card makes the travelling way cheaper too.

Tips for prospective students looking for a fully funded research degree?

Before you start reviewing your bank balance and paying fees to study abroad, consider applying for a fully funded research degree in Ireland. Ireland offers several scholarships to international students on a competitive basis. To compete, make sure your CV is the best it can be and show your talents in your cover letter but be aware not to be over enthusiastic! Instead be precise and concise, and go through the criteria checklist making sure you have addressed each point fully. In order to get called for an interview it’s important that you have touched on all the requirements mentioned as essential and some of the desirables noted in the application instructions.

Once shortlisted for the interview, start preparing for it with reading from the lab you will be joining and other peer reviewed papers relevant to the topic. Be optimistic and confident and give it your best shot.

It’s an amazing feeling when you are selected and it’s easy to think the highest mountain has now been climbed and conquered! That’s where most of us go wrong as getting an offer to do a research degree is not the summit but just the start of a steep climb with several peaks to reach the top!

It is worth considering seeking further information from friends and from the International Ambassadors here at Education in Ireland to make an effective application. Leave a comment below to ask me anyway study abroad related!