The big draw

Usually, a bird can’t wait to fly the nest. Students can’t wait to wrap up stints at one university and jump to another. Yet, contrary to the trend in other parts of the world, TU Delft seems to be an exception to the rule.

In recent years, more and more students who have graduated from the university have chosen to stay on here, either to work on research projects or do their post-docs. At any given time, there are approximately 2,000 PhD students enrolled at TU Delft. That’s a wealth of knowledge the university is quick to tap. And it’s not just international students; Dutch students also opt to stay on as well.

“There is a lot of collaborative work going on between TU and technology-based companies. So, a researcher here gets to experience both worlds in a way,” says Abhigyan Singh, who worked with the Multimedia Information Retrieval Lab of EWI for a year. During his tenure, Singh found that a lot of research in the field of his interest was going on at the university. Despite job offers from several companies back in India, Singh chose to stay on at TU. He recently started a PhD with the Industrial Design faculty of TU and the NHL University of Applied Sciences, Leeuwarden.

Sten Vollebregt has been associated with TU for almost a decade. He has done his BSc, completed his MSc and is now wrapping up his PhD here. “I am currently working on a project proposal for a 3 year Post-Doc position, and one year of this has already been arranged,” says Vollebregt. The exciting aspect for him is his new line of research. “I found a new topic which interests me a lot, and will be quite challenging. But if we can pull it off, we will have some unique production capabilities in the cleanroom.”

Will he stay at the university even after? “After that, who knows? Maybe I will go to another university abroad for a few years to get some more international experience. After that I might come back to try and pursue a faculty position.”

The fact that TU makes it easier for scientists to pursue academia is a big draw for prospective employees. “In a lot of countries, funding for any kind of research is always a big question. Here, PhDs and researches are treated as employees. They can sign 4 year contracts and not worry about constantly asking for grants, which is how it is in the US and UK,” says Singh.

While a re-run at TU is a top choice for anyone interested in staying with academia, the pay scales are still not comparable to the industry. “If I look at my classmates who went into the industry after finishing their PhDs from TU Delft, the pay is not competitive,” says Dang Doan, who also did his PhD at the university. Doan, who is from Vietnam, has been with TU since 2006. Though back in his country now, he will be working on collaborations with his former advisors in the Delft Centre of Systems and Control for a year.

On the subject of pay-scales, Vollebregt agrees that there are no comparisons between the industry and academia, but points out that the salaries at TU are far better compared to other PhD positions globally. “Still, don’t start a PhD if you’re only interested is earning money, you will have to like doing research.”

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