On April 1st 2008, I officially started my PhD student and research contract. So it has been two years since then. When my wife and I decided that I would enroll as a PhD student, we were living in my hometown Madrid, working for the private sector. It was a hard decision, as we love living in Spain and we were doing good. Maybe I could define it as a sacrifice, that is, giving up something good for something better. Supposed to be, at the end of the road I would have a PhD degree that would allow me the possibility to work for education. I guess it is the “neighbor’s yard is greener” effect.

I started my research and I got introduced to a complete new life. It’s hard to explain. Maybe one of the best ones to explain it is Jorge Cham with his comics, jokes that only researchers can understand, and that actually they’re not that funny. Although from my experience not as stressful as in the private sector, still is a stressful life, in which you by doing your math you know that there are very little positions in academia. In a few years, to have to make one perfect shot (phd thesis) or a few good shots (journal papers). Your supervisor is crucial for your success or failure. And also of course is extremely important how you develop your topics.

In my case all topics are related to Economic Geography theory. I had to research on several concepts such as Local & Regional Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. I also had to research the controversial concept of Experience Economy. The first two topics I love to study, a long with Innovation, Business, Economics and Policy (all quite related among them). The Experience Economy has become an interesting case, not so much for its actual academic relevance, but how it became part of my required issues to research.

I loved learning about these issues because I care about people. Now it’s the people of the municipality of Frederikshavn, Denmark (where I work for); but it could be the people of Spain (where I’m from) of Northern California (where I temporary live), or Latin America (where my father is from).

More than 10 years ago, when I was deciding what to study, my preference was Political Science. However, knowing that one day I would have a family to sustain, I didn’t think I could afford studying that. Most of the time I have always kept working in several jobs or starting businesses, but I wisely decided to enroll at the school of Business Studies & Economics. My main motive was to learn about the countries economic development*. That was in the late 90’s, now in 2010, after studying in various universities, a bachelor, a masters and a couple of years of full time PhD, reading and listening many wise people, I still have the same interest: Learn about economic development. It has evolved from a national perspective to a local-regional perspective, but in essence is the same.

Sometimes I think that the more I learn, I understand the less, but I should not be that negative. I have learned many things, even though it’s a controversial and highly complex topic.

So far I have a few clear ideas. Simple, but I am happy about them. During the next year I will test them. Unfortunately I can not openly write about them here. But if you’re interested about these topics, we can talk whenever you want. Now my email is carlos9900@berkeley.edu or carlos@plan.aau.dk

*All students from different disciplines think, people only study business & economics to become rich. That’s not my case, nor for the majority of people I have known.

PhD Comics

October 6, 2008

One of my collegues sent me this comic. It’s quite funny, and kind of happens to me once in a while.

You can find more real life comics of Phd students at Jorge Cham’s website.  He was here in Aalborg University a couple of weeks ago.

He, he. No, it’s not me. It’s Carlos Sastre winning the Tour of France. People again congratulate me, as I’m the only guy from Spain in the institute. The Eurocup, the Giro of Italy, the Roland Garros, Wimblendon and now the Tour of France.

The Danish were quite happy when Spain recently won the Eurocup, it was a strange coincidence Spain beat Germany of course. The Danes are also happy that the winning team was the Danish CSC Saxo Bank. Today my coworkers are joking with me that I’m the Spanish guy in the Danish team… kind of a high stake for a more humble Carlos.

Frontpage of one the books I will use

Frontpage of one the books I will use

My supervisor gave me the first book that I will be using to teach this Autumn Semester. I will be teaching things related to geography. Because of my background in Business and Economics I will be teaching in the geography group more things related to Economics. 

It’s not the first time I teach. I was an Spanish teacher for more than 2 years in Spain, in my early university years. That was a side job, not related with my studies but it was fun and well paid for a few hours. Then at the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech in the Autumn semester 2006, I was also a TA (Teaching Assistant) for a class that combined Science, Technology and Politics with Hans Klein. But anyways although I a little experience teaching, now I’m really excited.

I think this is one the better things for a PhD fellow to be able to teach other students. Now I need to learn by heart the first 6 chapters.  It’s going to be cool.

Oh, next week I will be in Spain for vacations. I have been really missing it this week with the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Now, let me tell you, that’s a real experience!!

I’m going now to Prague, Czech Republic, for the Conference. I’m quite nervous for my presentation. I will upload, later. I’m afraid I will be working on it till the last minute.
My conference paper, wanted to go on a direction I could not take due to my questions. It will be soon online too.
It’s quite exciting to go to a conference where I’m going to talk for the first time, it’s not my first presentation in public, but is the first one in a Conference.

How not to get a PhD

May 19, 2008

One of my professors suggested me the book “How to Get a PhD“. Then I run into this website who was talking about “How to not get a PhD.” Because I’m starting I really appreciated this information, the book I have no read it yet, but the article was quite fun.

It summarizes 7 ideas, that I would like to keep present: 

 “Be aware of the seven ways of not getting a PhD:
· not wanting a PhD;

· overestimating what is required;

· underestimating what is required;

· having a supervisor who does not know what is required;

· losing contact with your supervisor;

· not having a ‘thesis’ (i.e. position, argument) to maintain;

· taking a new job before completing.

It’s interesting to remember that there is a great number of PhD students who can’t or don’t want to finish their studies. One needs to keep these 7 things present.