“Academic Positions helped me find the right PhD project.”

3 min read · Advice & Insights / Interview · Published 2 years ago

In 2021, over four million job seekers visited Academic Positions to look for PhD, postdoc and faculty positions, including Oldouz Nejadi-babadaei. 

Oldouz is an urban and regional planner in Iran, and this September she will be moving to Stockholm to start a PhD in sustainability pathways and challenges at Södertörn University. Her PhD project, which she found on Academic Positions, will look at how people in marginalized communities are affected socially by climate change. 

She talked to us about her experience using Academic Positions to find her dream PhD project. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A selfie of Oldouz Nejadi-babadaei taken in a sunny garden.

When did you decide you wanted to do a PhD? 

I was always interested. Even when I was studying for my master’s at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, I was applying for PhDs. I wasn’t successful so my husband (who was also a master’s student) and I went back home to Iran. We thought that once we got back to Tehran we would start working and continue to apply for PhD positions in sustainability pathways and challenges. Then we both got really involved in projects in urban studies–our field of study. But still, I looked at PhD positions just for fun. However, because of the pandemic and some changes in the social, economic, and political atmosphere in my country, I had more time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I thought maybe it was time to try applying for PhDs again, and, happily, I was successful. 

Were you always interested in going abroad again for your PhD? 

Yes. My priority was Sweden and I preferred to be in Stockholm because I enjoyed living there during my master’s at KTH. I know the place and I have friends there and so forth. In general, I was looking for positions in Europe where I could study in English, so countries like Britain, the Netherlands or Belgium which have programmes in English. But mostly I was focused on Sweden.

What websites did you use to look for PhD opportunities? 

The main way that I was looking for them was with my list. I had a list of favourite links to universities which I knew had programs related to urban studies that I was checking regularly. But I was also receiving job alert emails from Academic Positions, I think since 2012. I never stopped them all those years. I liked to check them to see what positions were out there. That’s how I learned about Södertörn University. I didn’t know that Södertörn had departments and programs related to my field of study. My impression was that they were more focused on other areas. But then I got the job alert and looked them up and applied. 

It’s great to hear that you were able to use our job alerts to not only find the type of position that you were looking for, but also discover a new university that you didn’t know was doing work in your field. 

I thought that in Sweden, or at least in Stockholm, I had everything under control. But apparently I didn’t. I didn’t know about Södertörn so it was good to have Academic Positions. My keywords were sustainability, development, and urban planning. And sometimes there would be a position that included these keywords, but it wasn’t relevant to me at all, but at the same time I also learned about other positions in departments that I hadn’t thought of that were a good fit.

Oldouz is holding a backpack and standing in front of an ivy-covered red brick building.
Oldouz on the KTH campus during her master’s.

What are some of the advantages of using Academic Positions to search for PhD positions? 

Academic Positions has so many offers in one place which allows you to find positions that you wouldn’t have expected or that you wouldn’t have come across on your own, because you just couldn’t know that they exist. For example, I came across a few interesting PhD projects in Italy and France. I usually don’t look there because most of the time their programs are not in English. But through Academic Positions, I found some and applied. 

Do you have any other advice to share with other people who might be looking for a PhD?

You think that you will find the research project that fits you in a specific department, but nowadays, that’s not the case. Because of the multidisciplinary aspect of research projects, it’s really good to use Academic Positions, which gives you the opportunity to discover PhD projects in a variety of departments. Maybe there’s a project in your area of interest that really, really fits you, it’s just a department you didn’t expect. Academic Positions gives you more chances to find the right project.


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