I have just finished the last courses within the EPFL ENAC doctoral school, thus I’d like to tell you how it works in here.
During the doctoral studies, which last for four years, the candidate is obliged to obtain 12 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) points. One ECTS is equal to 25-30 hours of work, so 12 ECTS can be understood as 8.5 working weeks - seems easy.
During the first year (so before the candidacy exam that I have passed in December) at least 4 credits need to be obtained, and one of the core courses has to be passed. The core courses are meant to be universal, applicable for researchers of various specialisations and teach how to conduct the good research, analyse the data etc.
The 4 credits per year does not seem to be much. But I have noticed, and this is my personal view, that the difficulty of obtaining the points varies from university to university. In here, it is particularly difficult. In fact, if you want to transfer the points for the courses you’ve been attending somewhere else, you obtain less credits than people in the other places! This happened to me, when for the summer school at DTU I got 5 ECTS instead of 7.5, as all my other colleagues who took it with me did. All in all, getting 12 ECTS is harder than it seems.
The first year at EPFL is sometimes treated as a preparatory year. During this time the PhD candidate should deepen the knowledge, prepare the research plan and present it during the candidacy exam. I have decided that during this preparatory year I’ll take all the necessary courses, so that I can profit from this knowledge. So far, I have passed the following:
· Introduction to digital signal processing using Matlab, applied to environmental sciences and civil engineering (2 ECTS) – for better analysis of signals obtained during monitoring of structures
· Design of experiments (4 ECTS, core course) – for optimal design of experimental campaign
· Fracture Mechanics and Fatigue of Structures (2 ECTS) – for better understanding of fatigue phenomena
· New Concretes for Structures (2 ECTS) – for better understanding of UHPFRC
· Uncertainty and Sensitivity Analysis of Numerical Models (Summer school at DTU, 5 ECTS according to ENAC) – for producing better models of concrete and UHPFRC in fatigue, including stochastic models
· Two INFRASTAR training weeks (1 ECTS each) – to get the overall view of fatigue problem. The third one is scheduled for June 2018
So, in total I have obtained 17 ECTS, more than enough during the doctoral studies. Thanks to that, and being supported by the knowledge I have gathered, for the next three years I can focus on the research only!
I will keep you updated during that time.