Tue. Apr 23rd, 2019

The scholarship that never came

La beca que nunca llegó

With my work in a shoe store on weekends he paid for my PhD. " Who affirms it, with regret but with forcefulness, is Laura Duran, a student of doctorate Catalan who has been living for more than a year Lund, in the south of Sweden, where he has achieved a scholarship in a research group in the Biomedicinskt Centrum (BMC), a leading center in investigation biomedical linked to University of Lund, which has about 170 groups and more than 1,600 researchers. He started his doctorate in Barcelona, charging barely 500 euros and, due to the lack of financial resources of her group, she was forced to look for options in other countries. "I had to get a scholarship that never came, and I had the feeling that it would never come."

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Lack of resources, precariousness, ridiculous salaries and, ultimately, few or no options to build a scientific career. They are the unanimous reproaches of those who have been forced to emigrate to Northern Europe, where they have found conditions within the reach of very few in Spain. It is April 12 and it snows in Sweden. It's cold and the sun is usually expensive to see, but ... "It's the price you have to pay, although I do not regret it." This is what he says without hesitation Ton Falqués, a Catalan biochemist who has also been working for a year BMC, where he got a scholarship from postdoctoral in a group that studies childhood leukemia. "In 2012 I was forced to leave the research, with the thesis to write, and to put myself to work because in the group of the UAB where he was there was no option to continue. But in 2016 I left the job and, without any income, I finished the thesis with the project of trying to return to research, "he says.

Many doctoral students in Spain finish the thesis without receiving any salary

That is the situation in which many of the doctoral students in Spain find themselves, that of having to finish the thesis without a salary. "It seems that the fact that doctoral students spend their unemployment benefit to write the thesis has been normalized, and this is not normal", recriminates Sara Bachiller, a woman from La Mancha who also does a post-doctorate at the BMC, where appropriate, studying Alzheimer's "I spent the last six months writing the thesis without a contract, like almost everyone, and I was still lucky because I had unemployment, but the vast majority of my colleagues did not charge anything," he explains.

Sara shares laboratory with Antonio Boza, Sevillian, who has become the dean of the Spaniards in the BMC. He arrived in January 2013 to do his doctorate, and he remembers that at that time he was practically the only one, while now there are dozens of Spaniards in Lund. Explains that, after the government cuts the PP, the groups that received the public scholarships for training for research personnel (FPI) they ran out of resources to hire staff. He worked for a few months without being paid, but he considers that he was lucky, because his boss in Seville had a collaboration with a Swedish group that offered him a PhD position, starting with a six-month trial with a salary of 1,400 euros. "Much more of what I received in my last year of doctorate! "exclaims Sara.

"When you come out you realize that there are more resources for research"

A different situation is that of Noelia Puente, who did the degree, the master's and the doctorate in Oviedo and has been in Lund for two months with a post-doctorate scholarship. "I could have stayed there," he says, but he was aware that opportunities outside of Spain were much better. "When you go out you realize that in Spain we have limited resources. It calls you to go out, to know new techniques, people who have more money to invest in research ... ", he says, and he hopes to be able to come back with a better curriculum.

It is what everyone expects. "I wish I could go back to Catalunya to return what the country has invested in me, in the school and the public university, "says Ton. Laura also, but admits that, if it were not for his partner is in Catalonia, would not consider returning. Sara also has it clear. "I did not want to leave, the worst thing is having to pack a life in a suitcase and leave it there to the family and the couple," he laments. She is convinced that she will return as soon as she can and finds "acceptable conditions", although she admits that they will probably be worse than what she has now in Sweden.

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