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Starting a PhD from Home

A short story of my PhD journey so far that started during the Covid-19 pandemic.

My PhD journey begins late winter 2020 when I got the exciting news that I have been selected for the ESR13 position within the PETER project affiliated with the University of Twente (UT) in Enschede, the Netherlands. As my official starting date was April 1st, fully excited, I booked my flight ticket from Thessaloniki, Greece, and immediately started looking for housing in the Netherlands. Little did I know that in mid-March, Greece got into total lockdown due to the Covid – 19 pandemic and so did the Netherlands. UT was closed and everyone was working from home. As things started getting worse in both countries, I had some discussions with my supervisors at the UT and it was decided to start working from home in Greece until the situation would get better.

Fig. 1. View from my window in Greece

Regular meetings with my supervisors and the entire Power Electronics and EMC (PE) group from the UT were very helpful as I had many questions, especially in the beginning. The first month was filled with a lot of literature study as well as some online seminars. In May, the first PETER Network Wide Event took place online and it was a great opportunity for me to get to know all the participants of the PETER project and of course, the fellow ESRs. The week was full of informative presentations and discussions as well as fun activities between the ESRs, which gave me the opportunity to get to know them better.

My work continued from Greece also in June. The situation in Greece and also in the Netherlands had started to get better so it was a great opportunity for me to travel to Enschede, which I managed to do end of July. Traveling during a pandemic with a mask worn the whole trip, a backpack and with two suitcases that weighted 40kgs in total, was a challenge I must say. After a six hour trip with one airplane and two trains, I arrived in Enschede.

Fig. 2.a) Traveling to the Netherlands

Fig. 2.b) Traveling to the Netherlands

After arriving in the Netherlands the situation was mild and I could go for long walks or bike rides around and outside the city. Especially the long sunny days of the summer really helped me to explore the city and found some favorite spots. Also, I had the opportunity to visit the UT a couple of times and see my fellow colleagues. The situation became even better early September where we had the chance to work half week from the university.

Fig. 3.a) Exploring the Netherlands

Fig. 3.b) Exploring the Netherlands

Currently, as the number of cases infected from the virus has started rising again, the measures in the Netherlands have become more strict and everyone is working from home. However, I have built a great working space in front of my studio’s big window so I can work and enjoy the beautiful sunsets. I do miss working from the university and meeting people daily but I would like to stay optimistic that the situation will get better soon.

Fig. 4.a) Great view from my desk

Fig. 4.b) Great view from my desk


About the Author: Vasso Gkatsi

Vasso Gkatsi received her M.Sc. degree of Electrical and Computer Engineering from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece in 2020. She also performed an internship at THALES in Hengelo, the Netherlands, where she concentrated on Shielding Effectiveness measurements using the dual VIRC.