International experience thanks to Uva385 Grant
PhD student Mostafa Dehghani
In honour of the University’s 385th anniversary, the UvA385 grants were introduced for UvA PhD candidates last year to enable them to gain international experience. The grants are funded in collaboration with the Amsterdam University Fund. PhD student Mostafa Dehghani used the grant for a research visit to an institute in Montreal.
What difference did the UvA385 Grant make for you?
I always had the idea of visiting a research lab in another university from the beginning of my PhD, but arranging this visit was a little bit hard, mostly due to the financial limitations. The UvA385 was kind of a surprise support in my PhD as it magically appeared right at the point that I was ready to take a chance of a research visit. The grant facilitated this for me and the visit turned out to be a great experience. I am in the last year of my PhD now and I feel I can do a much better job in the remaining part of my PhD because of the experience I achieved.
What do you think of the initiative to launch a grant especially for PhD candidates?
It was truly awesome that the UvA decided to celebrate its 385 birthday by giving out grants to PhD students for expanding their international experiences. I would say it is very thoughtful of the people in charge. I really appreciate this kind of initiative and I wish we can see more of this kind of initiatives in the future.
How is the situation for young researchers at the UvA?
The UvA provides a great ecosystem for doing research for young people like me. There are many opportunities for collaboration and senior researchers are really great at both helping young researchers and making them involved in research projects. This actually increases the self-confidence of young researchers like me to present our ideas and helps us to effectively contribute to our research field.
What – in your opinion – are the advantages of international experience?
Diversity is one of the main factors of evolution and progress in many areas. Research is one of them. Learning how different people in other universities and other countries think about problems in the field and how they approach the solutions is, of course, a unique chance that researchers can get during the course of their research. Researchers from other countries have a different set of problems to solve and the way they think about problems is completely different. In my opninion, being among researchers from other countries, talking to them, attending their meetings and even having lunch with them can broaden our horizons in the research we do. If not necessary, having international research experience is a great factor that can make a person a successful researcher.
Why did you choose this subject for your doctoral research?
Artificial intelligence is a field that is growing fast and it is helping people to have a better life. I really wanted to be part of this and contribute to it. So I have chosen to work on machine learning for natural language understanding and I should say I am enjoying it a lot.
What are your plans for the future/with this research?
I am an industry lover. My ultimate plan is to start my own startup as its both challenging and adventurous. I am pretty sure not only my research in PhD will apply to my future job, but also the experience I achieved during my PhD and general skills that I acquired, like problem-solving, decision-making, etc. will come in handy in my future plan.