My time at Sheffield made it very clear to me that I am passionate about research and that is what I eventually pursued to do.

Profile photo of Michelle Rodrigues
Michelle Rodrigues
PhD student at KU Leuven in Belgium
MSc Nanomaterials and Materials Science
Since graduating in 2020, with a MSc in Nanomaterials and Materials Science, Michelle has been studying for a PhD at KU Leuven in Belgium. KU Leuven is a world top 50 university with a motto of 'Inspiring the outstanding'.

What are your main responsibilities?

To conduct independent research, to supervise masters and bachelors students, to be responsible for technical instruments and to provide training and support on scientific equipment.

Please describe a typical day

My day starts with a big cup of warm coffee. Then I respond to emails and dedicate my day towards planning and conducting research on magnetoelectric heterostructures for my PhD project. Within the day I help and ask for help if needed from my fellow colleagues when I or they get stuck with something.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your current role or your greatest career achievement so far?

The most rewarding aspect for me is that I have the freedom to think and conduct my research independently. Making mistakes is of course bound to happen but learning from them is what really gives me in-depth knowledge hence deepening my interest in my area of research and expertise.

Are there any challenging aspects? If so, what are they?

Sometimes, not all plans are fruitful and we have to start from zero again. In that moment it can be quite mentally challenging but you have to push through and make it happen! Small setbacks are not the end of the road :)

Thinking back to your degree how do you think it prepared you for your current role - what skills did you learn that you put into practice? Are there any modules or other learning experiences which really stand out as being helpful? 

My time at Sheffield really made me passionate about research. It gave me hands-on experience on many scientific equipment that I use till today which has made me very confident in conducting my current research and also helped a lot in understanding of the related results and their interpretation. My MSc dissertation was therefore my main learning experience that prepared and gave me the starting skill set to grow into the researcher I am today.

How have these skills or your course made a difference in your career?

My time at Sheffield made it very clear to me that I am passionate about research and that is what I eventually pursued to do. It did not only make a difference but rather for me, it has defined me career path which I would not be so sure about otherwise.

Did you do any placements or other work experience as part of your degree? How did this influence your career choice and do you think it helped you in your current role?

I was an International student ambassador during my MSc degree at Sheffield. It did not necessarily help me in my career choice but it did help me a lot in terms of public speaking which is important in my PhD career as we participate in many conferences and talks.

Why did you choose to study at Sheffield?

Being an Indian, leaving my country for education meant for me that I had to go somewhere that made being away from home, friends and family worth it. Sheffield being a world top 100 university voted with the best SU was very enticing in that regard. The course modules, access to resources and world-class equipment all under one roof was what made me lock my decision to choose The University of Sheffield for my MSc studies.

What were the best things about studying in your department and in Sheffield?

The teachers are what make the department in my opinion! They are great at explaining things in the classroom and are super approachable. They try their best to make you understand something if you found it difficult the first time.

It is a very green city and there is a lot to do! Exploring the city by going on little walking trails or going to the Peak District was what my friends and I enjoyed the most! It is such an international little city that you can find all cuisines in a stone's throw which can make you feel less homesick. There is also a lot to explore in the City centre whether it is shopping for clothes or simply just going to the farmer's market or the Moor market was also very delightful and sometimes therapeutic in the early mornings.

Where do you see yourself in the future? 

I see myself as a Senior Research Scientist working on magnetic thin films

If you could give advice to current students who are starting to think about their future career what would you tell them?

Make the most of your time at Sheffield! Try to introspect and find what you really like and are drawn towards and pursue that!

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