The COVID-19 pandemic rages across the world for over a year already, restricting many face-to-face activities in FONTE and other projects. Nevertheless, on 24 March 2021 FONTE ESRs Stenio and Vladislav, together with the Project Manger lead an online Outreach Activity with 95 invited MSc student in three photonics-related ERASMUS MUNDUS JOINT MASTERS DEGREE (EMJMD) programmes:
- SMARTNET, coordinated by Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AiPT) at Aston University, is a collaborative two-year (120 ECTs) Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees programme with the goal to provide training in the inter-disciplinary fields of photonic and 5G wireless technologies for data communication, sensing and big data processing.
- PIXNET – The Photonic Integrated Circuits, Sensors and NETworks – is also a two-year programme (120 ECTS) Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree and aimed at training talented students in the design, creation and assessment of innovative integrated devices based on photonic technologies, coordinated by Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Pisa/Italy) with Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AiPT) at Aston University a partner in the consortium.
- EMIMEO – Erasmus Master on Innovative Microwave Electronics and Optics – offers a 2-year programme centred on microwave engineering and photonic technologies which ensures that students acquire advanced and cross-disciplinary expertise. the programme is coordinated by the University of Limoges (France), with Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AiPT) at Aston University a partner in the consortium.
As all three programmes train EMJMD students in photonics and communication technologies, this presented an oportunity to discuss post-masters degree options with programme students, and in particular introduce them to the EC-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).
MSCA – opportunities for more than ‘just’ a PhD
The first part of the outreach session focussed on the unique opportunities available within MSCA Innovative Training Networks and the characteristics of the three sup-types within: European Training Network(ETN), European Industrial Doctorate (EID) and European Joint Doctorate (EJD).
The team outlined the benefits of obtaining a PhD through MSCA ITNs versus traditional PhDs, in particular
- MSCA ITNs are fully funded PhDs with a generous salary and full tuition fee bursary
- MSCA PhD students have meaningfull exposure to industry lasting between 1 and 18 months of their PhD, and collaborate with global companies in Europe, developing their own research and contributing to industry
- An industrial co-supervisor is closely involved, especially in EID projects
- ITNs have a comprehensive and meticulously planned individual and cohort-based training programme with frequent guest lectures, workshops and conference attendance as part of the scientific training
- Successfully recruited ESRs work with top researchers across Europe
- Employment possibilities increase because of exposure to business networks
Participants were introduced to the crucial concepts of Early Stage Researcher (ESR), MSCA Mobility and Eligibillity criteria. The team covered MSCA working conditions, enhanced training framework and MSCA ESRs’ obligations towards outreach and science dissemination. Participants were familiarised with EURAXESS as an efficient tool to research positions available under MSCA and the Project Manager lead a discussion with individual students interrogating their elegibilty and mobility status in a hypothetical future MSCA application, in particular in view of the upcoming MSCA PhD studentships in ITNs coordinated by AiPT.
The view from within
FONTE ESRs Stenio M. Ranzini and Vlad Neskorniuk shared their views about being part of an EID, highlighting the value of industry placements, winter and summer schools, conferences, language support, workshops and seminars and shared their experience about the outreach activities they have undertaken to inform and inspire the general public and future optics students.
Positions available in MENTOR-EID
In the final part of the outreach event the Project Manager of MENTOR – Machine LEarning in Optical NeTwORks – introduced participants to the newest of AiPT’s 8 ETN projects and PhD positions currently available within.
The presentation givens during the outreach event have been made available to all three student cohorts in the EMJMD programmes, thus reaching a potential audience of 190 masters students.
SMARTNET included this Outreach Activity from FONTE on their own website