The SKIES are the limit – Career workshop for astronomy PhD students

 The SKIES are the limit – Career workshop for astronomy PhD students

After a few months of preparation and much anticipation, the local SKIES (SKilled, Innovative and Entrepreneurial Scientists) training finally took place in the Netherlands. On April 1 and 2, twenty students from Dutch and British institutions gathered at the the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship in Rotterdam to learn about open science, entrepreneurship, science communication and open innovation.

Career development and entrepreneurship

Trainers Giovanna Pugliese (University of Amsterdam) and Michelle Willebrands (Leiden University) started the first day with a session on career development, open science and entrepreneurship. Students worked on an exercise diving into the European Union’s Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntreComp model) to get an insight of 15 entrepreneurial competencies and how they relate to skills that astronomy PhD students have and can transfer to different settings. 

There was also a session focused on innovation and entrepreneurship theory, business models and the mission model canvas. As an exercise to bridge astronomy and business, the group analysed the business model for the James Webb Telescope.

SKIES participants talking about business models (photo: SKIES)

Career Mentoring

During the mentoring session, several mentors talked about their careers and afterwards students were paired individually to mentors to foster discussion on career development. “It was very informative to hear mentors talk about their career path because they were once at the point where I am now and they chose the things that make them happy and it’s not necessarily only in academia,” said one of the participants.

Work in the Dutch Space Industry

The training also had a session focused on the space industry in the Netherlands and Europe. Representatives of the Dutch industry provided insights in various aspects of the space sector and opportunities for graduates. Representatives of the Dutch association of space companies SpaceNED, NL Space Campus Noordwijk, AviaSpace and DotSPACE shared their insights on the most needed skills and tools for the space industry.

Why not start your own business?

To close the programme on the second day, students gathered in teams to work on their own business ideas – which they were encouraged to relate to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the notion of social entrepreneurship. “I really liked the exercise on building our own business idea on the second day and it was fun to work together in a group,” says another participant.

“We would like to thank all trainers, mentors, speakers and students who have made this training a valuable experience,” says Michelle Willebrands.

SKIES career workshop Rotterdam
SKIES career workshop participants learn about entrepreneurship (photo: SKIES)


Please find all information about the SKIES programme on the project website.

The SKilled, Innovative and Entrepreneurial Scientists (SKIES) training programme is a project within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under grant agreement No. 101006212

SKIES Project Logo

Remco Timmermans

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