Republic of Poland

Interdisciplinary doctoral studies for the best

10 October 2017

As part of Wrocław Biotechnology Centre, the Leading National Research Centre title holder, an area unifying all universities and research institutes has been created. The result: creation and realization of Environmental Interdisciplinary Doctoral Studies aimed at 30 doctoral students.

The Interdisciplinary Environmental Doctoral Studies program within the partnership of the Leading National Research Centre in the area of biology and nanotechnology at Wrocław University of Science and Technology – the project leader – and University of Wrocław, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, and Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, took second place (out of 48), which was qualified for financial support in the competition announced by the National Centre for Research and Development.

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Two chemistry faculties – Wrocław University of Science and Technology’s and University of Wrocław’s, the faculty of biotechnology at University of Wrocław, Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy and faculties of Biotechnology and Food Science, Biology and Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine at WUELS (all of them holding the Leading National Research Centre title) are going to carry out a 4-year curriculum for 30 doctoral students. The studies are going to begin in October 2018 and finish in September 2022. The partnership of Wrocław Biotechnology Centre, part of which are the units involved in the project (PWr – Faculty of Chemistry, UWr – Faculty of Chemistry and Faculty of Biotechnology, WUELS – Faculties of Biotechnology and Food Science, Biology and Animal Science, Veterinary Medicine, Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy), the Leading National Research Centre title holders, through the realization of high-quality new Interdisciplinary Environmental Doctoral Studies on Biotechnology and Nanotechnology called „BioTechNan”, is going to offer the possibility of conducting a variety of interdisciplinary research work in the area of exact, technical and environmental sciences, through motivational scholarships allocated for that particular purpose. 

– Since the very beginning of this term of office, there have been negotiations at the university-authorities level on how to engage in the collaborative activities. In case of this particular project it’s relatively easy as there’s a defined thematic area. We have a title of the leading centre in this area – biotechnology – explains the vice-rector for science and foreign cooperation prof. Jarosław Bosy, adding straight away that the offer to join the POWER (Operational Knowledge Education Development Program) program was presented during the meeting of Wrocław Biotechnology Centre Council. The next step, obviously, was a discussion, then a control comittee was created  made up of representatives for all the leading Wrocław universities in that particular area, Polish Academy of Science institutes, and also Wrocław Research Centre EIT+. It was clear from the beginning that the project leader was going to be Wrocław University of Science and Technology which has experience in running this kind of projects.

– We collectively chose a leader, we decided that the app itself was going to be written by a specialized company. We created a program which will allow us to operate and develop in a reformed area of science and higher education. The fact that our project was rated so high, putting it in the second place out of 48, shows some good decisions were made. Surely we are dealing with a breakthrough – we’re reversing the attitude philosophy – says prof. Bosy, making it clear: interdisciplinarity means that there are two thesis supervisors from two different universities, from a university and a research institute, or a thesis supervisor and a foreign co-supervisor. – This is what the new approach to doctoral issues is about – two supervisors have to fight for a doctoral student and not the other way around. Today it’s simple: one mentor and one doctoral student who are on their own; with good or bad results. In case where there’s two supervisors it becomes a competition as we don’t know which path the student will go down or which academic discipline will become their main. That student is obviously interdisciplinary but according to the regulations a doctoral degree can only be awarded by one faculty council. We currently don’t know which one but it will be chosen as a result of this process. At the same time we are gaining an elite doctoral school, a better environmental one.

The participants of those studies will have access to the best scientists from different universities. Furthermore, we have funds to invite the best scientists from abroad.

The money for studying at the elite school which we’ve already acquired, and for running projects which we are going to acquire, will let us catch up with Europe – especially in terms of breakthrough research – explains prof. Bosy, not hiding his confidence in the fact that these studies are going constitute a new quality of education, and its graduates will be groomed for making scientific breakthroughs as this is the goal of research work.

Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, WUELS,
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The Interdisciplinary Environmental Doctoral Studies program in the area of biotechnology and nanotechnology allows the students to go on short- and long-term academic internships, connected with the doctoral dissertation’s area of research, in the leading global scientific and research institutions, so that they can acquire unique research skills impossible to get in Poland, and in order to make the project’s doctoral studies more international. The organization of studies within the project will allow all participants to interact with doctoral students from different scientific units conducting research in different areas, it will also allow to conduct research in an international environment thanks to the cooperation with foreign scientific units. The mobility of the students will be carried out through participation in specialist scientific conferences pertaining to subjects of their doctoral dissertations. It will allow them to present results of their own research, to directly familiarize with newest scientific achievements, to have discussions and make new scientific connections, which will have a significant influence on scientific development and quality of doctoral research.

It’s a breakthrough because we are beginning to look differently at the development of scientists’ careers. It needs to be done in a way so that the candidate for a scientist has contact with the outside world and can perpetually compare themselves to others. We’ve brought up too many doctoral students who can’t communicate with that outside world and that’s why we don’t have international achievements. So far we’ve had the strategy of „upbringing under a dome”, a sheltered upbringing, so to speak, and in a global reality it’s an activity that does not lead to success. Nowadays knowledge is based on information exchange, interdisciplinary activities, rivalry but also cooperation. While analysing the situation we came to a conclusion that the university isn’t capable of generating a new trend on its own. Obviously there are some individual cases, I myself don’t have experience with programs grooming students for foreign internships, but this is how I know that the model of a scientist’s career in this area needs to be changed – admits prof. Jarosław Bosy.

People applying to a university need to meet strict requirements – apart from having a Master’s degree compatible or connected with the field of doctoral studies, they should have an initial project of a thesis. Diamond Grant beneficiaries can also apply. Obviously, the project will be run in a capable unit; the merit coordinator on behalf of our university will be prof. dr hab. Krzysztof Marycz.

During the course of studies it is expected to implement new interdisciplinary courses, integrating modern knowledge and skills from different areas, and allowing to disseminate it outside of areas of sciences from which they come from. New courses will fit in the education improving academic and technical skills, and the education developing scientific research methodology (practical classes on specialistic software used for computer simulations). Furthermore, courses on methodology and the ethic of scientific research (as per Salzburg recommendations), and doctoral seminars are still be availalable in the university’s course offer. Potential thesis supervisors from individual  faculties have been appointed: dr hab. Krzysztof Marycz, prof. nadzw. (Biology and Animal Science), prof. dr hab. Maciej Ugorski (Veterinary Medicine), dr hab. Magdalena Wróbel-Kwiatkowska, dr inż. Zbigniew Lazar (Biotechnology and Food Science).

– With this project, I think, we are beginning to work on creating a scientist model that will be necessary in the market of the future – sums up the vice-rector for science and foreign cooperation.

Dr hab. Krzysztof Marycz prof. nadzw, coordinator for interdisciplinary doctoral studies at WUELS. Doing a doctorate under the guidance of two supervisors from two different universities and two different areas is a breakthrough. Doctoral students undertaking those studies will have to exhibit creativity as we’ll be looking for people that are innovative, brave, with achievements at Bachelor’s degree level. Teaching methods are going to change: currently a doctoral student at WUELS spends four years at one faculty. In the course of these studies they will have courses at different Wrocław universities, they will also have bundles of very specialistic courses. I will be searching for cellular engineering students who I’ll be teaching tissue engineering, they will also  be taught creating biomaterials at University of Science and Technology. The possibility of undertaking specialistic studies organized by, for example, EIT+, which has top-shelf apparatus, but also mandatory international internships during the course of studies, is going to be an asset. Apart from that, the project provides for attractive doctoral scholarships allowing the best students to focus on what’s most important – science.