Mariana Bustamante is almost half-way through her doctoral studies at Linköping University.
“I am at the Center for Medical Image Science and Visualisation, CMIV, which is part of Linköping University Hospital. My research project is about visualising and analysing the blood flow in the cardiovascular system, using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).”
From Venezuela to Uppsala
Mariana came to Sweden from Venezuela in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. She had been working a couple of years, but then she got bored.
“As a computer scientist in Venezuela, the jobs you are most likely to find are in consulting or telecom. But I wanted to do something more fun, so I found a place to do my master’s.”
That place was Uppsala University, which has an exchange programme with her university in Venezuela. One day towards the end of her master’s studies, she spotted an ad from Linköping University.
“They were looking for a PhD student for a medical image analysis project. And that was the topic of my master’s thesis, so it was perfect for me!”
Publications more important in Sweden
Mariana says she felt a bit lost at first when she arrived in Linköping. Most of her fellow PhD students had completed their master’s at Linköping University and so were familiar with the organisation, but she was never given a proper introduction. She also misses the social life and the student nations in Uppsala.
“But I get along well with my supervisors, and I love my topic. That is the most important!”
She says there is a significant difference in the structure of PhD programmes in Sweden compared to other countries.
“In other countries your dissertation is essentially a thick book that nobody is going to read. It is usually not as important to have publications. But at this department, it is normal to have four or five publications. In the end, what you have to write is a short book with all your publications, and then you write sort of an introduction. This book, nicely presented, is like your business card, and people may actually read it. I think that is a big advantage.”
Meets her family half-way
According to Mariana, it is very popular among Venezuelan students to do a PhD abroad. A majority of them go to the US. How does a Swedish PhD stack up in comparison?
“I would definitely say that a Swedish PhD is equally valuable. Linköping University compares pretty well with other universities, at least within my field of research. However, of course, if you go out in the world, most people do not recognise the name Linköping, as opposed to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) or Oxford.”
She does not have the time or the money to visit her home country every year, but she tries to meet her family somewhere in the middle, like Spain. And then there are of course the modern means of communication.
“My mum was not very good with technology before I came here, but you should see her now – she can use Skype and WhatsApp, she can chat!”