"Choose something that really interests you"

We’re checking in on Kalle Bunnfors who is on his last year of doctoral
studies in applied physics. His thesis will be on neutrophil extracellular
traps and nanoparticles.
- Neutrophil extracellular traps are a defence mechanism that neutrophils can deploy to fight off invaders. Nanoparticles are everywhere in today's society but there is a lot that is unknown about how they can affect us. We want to understand why nanoparticles trigger these extracellular traps and then to design nanoparticles that either take advantage of this or by smart design are able to avoid it. Understanding this will be needed to design better nanoparticles for therapeutical and diagnostic use, says Kalle.

How come you decided to study this?

I chose this as it is a combination of physics, chemistry and biology. I get to do a bit of everything and learn a lot of different techniques and explore many sides of the subject. I wanted to do a PhD because I've always liked to solve problems where you need to think outside the box and explore new territories. Academia is just the place for that! It's also nice to meet a lot of different people and experience new ways of looking at things.

What was your path towards doctoral studies?

I started directly after undergraduate studies. My supervisor was a teacher in an undergrad course I was taking. I asked her for job after I had completed my undergrad. I enjoyed studying at LiU a lot and it is a nice atmosphere and good people.

What were your expectations?

I expected doctoral studies to be quite a varying job. I wanted to do a lot of different things and learn a lot, have nice and friendly discussions but also disagree with people and learn how the academia works from the inside. I would say that my expectations have been met to a great extent. I have met more people than I ever expected, it is a very nice, friendly atmosphere at IFM. However, I thought that the PhD project would be a bit more structured and have a clearer goal.

What is it like to study on doctoral level?

Photo credit Kajsa UvdalIt varies heavily! One day I can spend the day at the lab, the next day analysing the data I got in the lab the day before. I also do quite a lot of teaching, attend conferences, discuss projects with colleagues, or at a Forum/Agora (doctoral programe) activity. On a daily basis I’m meeting new people that inspire me. I’m enrolled in both Forum Scientium and Agora Materiae graduate schools. I find membership in those very valuable in terms of building networks and encountering research in other fields at LiU.

What will you do after the degree?

I haven't decided yet what I want to do afterwards. I'm open for both paths, industry and academia. The only important part is that I get to work somewhere where I get to solve problems and use my knowledge and not only do things by routine.

Do you have any tips for those thinking about doing a PhD?

If I would give one tip it would be to choose something that really interests you. Don’t do a PhD just to get the title or study something that only feels OK. I believe it is one of the best jobs in the world if you find a perfect subject and a pretty bad one if your subject doesn’t interest you. This doesn't mean that it needs to be your passion in life but you must find it genuinely interesting.

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