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Personal Journeys

Maria Sklodowska knew the value of international mobility to a scientist's career. In 1891 she left her native Poland to study physics in Paris, and for her work there she won two Nobel prizes. So it is appropriate that Maria--or Marie Curie as she is better known--has given her name to a fellowship programme that today helps hundreds of early career researchers experience mobility and develop their careers at the same time.

The Marie Curie fellowships continue to evolve with each of the European Commission's new framework programmes (see box), but one factor is constant: to qualify you must intend to spend time in another country. And whereas once only intra-European mobility was funded, under the current Framework Programme 6 (FP6), European researchers can choose to travel anywhere in the world, and scientists from outside Europe are eligible for funding to come to the EU.

Marie Curie Actions in FP6

Get the low-down on the different types of programmes available under the Marie Curie banner under the current framework programme in Alie Kwint's series for Next Wave:

Part 1: Host-Driven Fellowships

Part 2: Individual-Driven Fellowships

Part 3: Promoting and Recognising Excellence

Part 4: Reintegration Grants

So what do these fellowships offer? How can they boost your career? What should you be aware of before you apply? And what are the pleasures and pitfalls of living in an unknown country?

Who better to tell us than the people with firsthand experience, the Marie Curie fellows themselves? Next Wave is delighted, in partnership with the Marie Curie Fellowship Association, to present this new feature. Here you can read the stories of fellows from a variety of backgrounds, who have been awarded the different kinds of fellowships available. The idea is to help you find the fellowship that is right for you and to brief you on the issues that you might face in preparing your application and carrying out your fellowship. To help you plan for the adjustments necessary when integrating into a new culture, we're grouping them according to the host country in which their fellowship was or is held.

Marie Curie Fellows in Spain

Undertaking part of her PhD research in Valencia has enabled mechanical engineer Cliodhna Lyons to extend and accelerate her project, while also being exposed to industry-directed research and new cultural experiences.

An individual fellowship allowed plant scientist Petra Kidd to stay on in Spain, moving to Galicia after a nine month stint in Barcelona. And even though her Marie Curie funding has now ended, she's still there.

Also an individual fellow, Bernhard Baumgartner describes how he went about choosing the lab for his fellowship, and how he got the most out of his two years in Barcelona, from both a personal and a professional point of view.

Marie Curie Fellows in Germany

Gianluca Lattanzi thinks that Germany is a great place for Italians to live and work, and he recommends the career-development opportunities that the scientific freedom of his Marie Curie Fellowship provides to anyone--but look out for the bureaucrats.

Being a Marie Curie host development fellow means not only helping to develop the expertise in your host institute, but great personal development opportunities too. Jaroslav Mysiak describes what it means to be a Marie Curie host development fellow, and the benefits and challenges resulting from the experience.

Afraid of becoming part of the old furniture of her department in Rotterdam, Monique Verstegen decided it was time to both get a change of scene and learn some new skills. Applying for a 12 month individual fellowship was her ticket to Hannover.

Marin Bodale is a pioneer: the first Romanian medical physicist to have found a job in the field. But without much home-grown expertise to learn from, things can be difficult. The answer was to spend a year at the Marie Curie training site for medical physics in Tübingen.

Christina Vidinova also spent a year at a Marie Curie training site in Tübingen, and as she tells us, it was a year of great personal and professional development. But moving abroad is never a piece of cake, she warns, as she advises on what to expect of Germany and the Germans.

Marie Curie Fellows in Sweden

After a brief taste of Swedish research life, Anu Reinart decided to bite the bullet and apply for a Marie Curie Fellowship. This gave her the opportunity to work on a dream research area, environmental remote sensing, and to gain confidence and independence as a researcher in her own right.

Going to a world class lab may be daunting enough but what if it is also in a foreign country with a new language? Sassan Hafizi decribes how and why he took on these challenges as a Marie Curie Fellow in Sweden and why almost five years down the line he is still there.

Marie Curie Fellows in Italy

German researcher Petra Schaaff ventures to the Joint Research Centre at Ispra, a small town in a beautiful area of northern Italy, and finds a very rewarding and independent postdoc experience and an interesting taste of Italian life.

Marie Curie Fellow Maria Bostenaru was already benefiting from international mobility by moving from her native Romania to Germany to study. When she saw the opportunity to work at the European School for Advanced Studies in Reduction of Seismic Risk (ROSE), a Marie Curie Training Site, during her PhD for 6 months in northern Italy she jumped at it. At ROSE she benefited from working in an international research environment and the bonus of experiencing life in Italy.

Marie Curie Fellows in Australia

UK immunologist, Hannah Cullup, was interested in working with a world expert in her research area of interest. With the help of an "outgoing" Marie Curie Fellowship, she took the plunge and left the cold north east of England to do her postdoc on Australia's gold coast in Brisbane.

What? I hear you say: do Marie Curie fellows also venture outside Europe? Indeed, the so-called Outgoing International Fellowships allows European based researchers take their EC funding to work outside Europe. Alain Rival explains why he choose to take his fellowship to Canberra, Australia and his desire, as a 44-year old research manager, to get back to the bench.

Marie Curie Fellows in Greece

Environmental biotechnologist, Jana Kadukova, says that just a few years ago the concept going abroad to do research "was only a dream." Little did she know that soon she would be embarking on a postdoc adventure--a scientific and personal adventure--to the Greek island Crete.

Geologist Carmen Vázquez-Calvo tells Next Wave about the 4 month period she spent in Heraklion, Crete as part of her doctoral training using a Marie Curie Early Stage training grant.

Marie Curie Fellows in France

To get a taste of what it is like to go and work in France, we asked three European researchers--all funded by the European Union Marie Curie Fellowships scheme--to tell us about their experiences. All recently moved to France and are going through the teething pains and joys of living and working in a new country.

The Marie Curie Fellowship Association

Anyone who has ever been awarded a Marie Curie fellowship may become a member of the MCFA. The association acts as a networking organisation for mobile researchers at all stages of their careers, and it is also active in policy discussions relating to career development and career structure for European scientists. And, if you are interested in submitting a fellowship proposal, the Association's listserv is a source of advice and help.

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