Forward to now, the first year of my degree is over, and I'm starting to work on my thesis: I’m working with a yeast that, feeding off waste from the dairy industry, could produce a natural sweetener that is safe for diabetic people to consume. So, for you who are wondering what it’s like to jump from having courses to focusing full time on a project of your own creation, here are the things I'm glad I chose Chalmers for this:
Liberty of choice
What I like the most about Chalmers is the freedom you have in your own education. For example, many programmes allow students the choice to write either a 6-month or a year-long thesis. There is also not only one way you can choose where to write your thesis: some friends have directly emailed companies to ask whether they have master thesis positions. Other people have found their opportunities on LinkedIn, others have asked their professors whether they have a project they can participate in, and some have gone the traditional way by applying to projects that are announced on the webpages of their department.
In my experience, the freedom hasn't stopped there. Before starting, my supervisors and I had a meeting where we discussed at length what techniques I wanted to learn. They made it very clear that I was free to give my work any direction I wanted.
One of the things you will notice coming to Chalmers is that you will learn to lose the fear of answering a question wrong. Teachers will, in most cases, work with you towards a correct answer instead of just correcting you. In a thesis setting, it has translated into more confidence in my decisions. It's hard to develop innovative ideas and be creative when you're worried that your supervisor will think less of you! This brings me to my next point:
You become part of a community, not a hierarchy
In Chalmers (and most Swedish workplaces), hierarchies are not really a thing. Yes, you have superiors who are more experienced within the field and they do give you direction while working. Still, the interactions are always on the same level: I can call my supervisors by their first name and talk to them as colleagues. This was a first for me because, back in Mexico, using titles like "doctor" or "professor" while talking to a superior is considered respectful (even though on a deep level, it makes you feel like you're approaching an unreachable Biotech deity).
By removing these titles from the conversation, I have realized that an invisible obstacle is also removed, and ideas flow more easily. Communicating this way makes me feel like I'm a part of the general lab community, not just like a wee master’s student trying to stay afloat among all the PhDs and postdocs who have many awards and years of trajectory. It makes it easier to benefit from working with all these experimented researchers by learning from them through casual conversation. Just like student ambassadors Nathaly and Sena wrote in their blog Call me by my first name
: "Your professional title doesn't define you as a person, and Chalmers has proven that to me".